snow white

“Whether openly stated or only hinted at, oedipal difficulties and how the
individual solves them are central to the way his personality and human
relations fold. By camouflaging the oedipal predicaments, or by only subtly
intimating the entanglements, fairy stories permit us to draw our own
conclusions when the time is propitious for out gaining a better understanding
of these problems. Fairy stories teach by indirection.” (201)
This is an excerpt from Bruno Bettelheim’s “Snow White” essay fro the text
Uses of Enchantment. The essay itself describes the sexual and oedipal
undertones of the popular fairy tale and how the psychological aspect of the
story is based on human emotions. Through this essay, I wish to establish my
analytical view on “Snow White” and reasons why I do not agree with some of
Bruno Bettelheim’s works.
Growing up, fairy tales were a part of my everyday life. As a child, I’d loved
leaning against my father’s arm as he flipped through our family’s dusty, blue
copy of “Grimm’s Fairy Tales”. I could’ve listened forever to the ageless
stories of princesses and elves and all those other magical elements, which
weren’t a part of the normal human being’s life. Never did I think that someone
out there in the world was dissecting these beloved stories and making a
psychology project out of it. And that is exactly what Bruno Bettelheim has
done. Not only has he made a project out of harmless fairy tales, he has
triggered a unnatural response from scholars and feminists all over the world
who come to argue and dissect the stories even more.
Bruno Bettelheim, asserts in The Uses of Enchantment (New York: Vintage, 1989)
that fairy tales have a psychological function for children in that they gain an
understanding of nature not through rational comprehension of it but by making
it familiar in imaginative play. Bettelheim writes: "[The child] can achieve
this understanding, and with it the ability to cope, not through rational
comprehension of the nature and content of his unconscious, but by becoming
familiar with it through spinning out daydreams--ruminating, rearranging and
fantasizing about suitable story elements in response to unconscious pressures.
Fairy tales offer new dimensions to a child\'s imagination and suggest images."
While some of the text that Bettelheim writes may have some insight into the
child’s mind, after all the man was a child psychologist, it also ruins the
simplicity of fairy tales. Is it so wrong to leave it as a simple story,
originated to make children happy, scared, entertained etc?
I believe that stories were originated to make children happy and occupied, not
to be dissected and made a mockery of. Many people associate their childhood
stories to memories of the past or as a guiding light for future plans. I, for
one, have always associated “Snow White” as a lovely story, filled with
enchantment and adventure with a wonderful ending. This story will always bring
back the good old days when I used to dress up and pretend I was a princess
under a spell who awaited her prince to awaken her with love’s first kiss. But
alas, even this memory was marred when I read part of Bettelheim’s essay which
states, “Snow White’s story teaches that just because one has reached physical
maturity, one is by no means intellectually and emotionally ready for adulthood,
as represented by marriage.” Can’t a lovely princess just be awakened by a
magical kiss instead of having to get into all the gory details of physical
maturity, rites of adulthood, sex, and marriage?