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Audra's picture

Mixed Feelings

I felt like some of what Bettelheim suggested was valid, but I also thought a lot of it contradicted itself. Bettelheim suggests that fairytales show that a child needs to learn that s/he must do something to change his/ her negative situation to a positive one, but he generally talks about girls in the passive voice: "he wins the princess" vs. "she can only be won by the man who gives the correct answers". He tries to reconcile this flaw in the fairytales' effectiveness by saying that Rapunzel's hair, which comes from her own body, enables her freedom, but I'm disinclined to accept his argument as the hair also enables her imprisionment. Also, growing hair is hardly an active choice a girl has; we all grow hair whether we try to or not. Thus, fairytales don't lend themselves as well to such a flawless lesson for all children, boys and girls, as Bettelheim argues.

Another problem I had with Bettelheim's argument is that there are no exceptions in the BROAD realm of traditional fairytales. You'd think there'd be at least one example that doesn't enrich a child's unconscious psychological help, but Bettelheim fails to propose this option.

Also, the author's use of Freudian psychology, which psychologists of the time believed, weakens the arguments' strength for me. Freud is fascinating to study (I think he's hilarious), but very few people still subscribe to his theories. The constant reminders of the oedipul complex made otherwise believable arguments seem old-fashioned and silly.

That said, I liked how Bettelheim focused on the child's perspective and gave their "immature" beliefs and feelings validity. Older people tend to dismiss the seemingly silly actions or emotions of younger children, which is utterly unhelpful in my opinion. I also like how he separated a person's fantasies from what s/he would actually do-- we all think about terrible things and can't help it. Lastly, I like the idea that fairytales can soothe the unconscious, although I'm not sure I believe it.


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