Garden of Companionship

69214738_2422001804745469_1136586519914479616_n

 

Makoto Shinkai’s 2013 anime film, The Garden of Words (Japanese: 言の葉の庭, Kotonoha no Niwa) combines motifs of rain, poetry, Japanese garden, and shoes to weave a wistful yarn about an unlikely relationship that blossoms between the two protagonists. The film meditates on and poses questions about loneliness, the need to belong and connect with others, introversion, and departure from social norms, during its brief run time of 46 minutes. 

The need for love and belonging are highlighted in different ways in the film through its protagonists, Takao Akizuki and Yukari Yukino. According to the humanistic psychologist, Abraham Maslow, the need for love and belonging involves receiving acceptance and love from others as well as developing a sense of trust towards others and doing the same towards others, forging relationships, and  having a sense of affiliation with a group such as friends or family. [1] [2]

Takao Akizuki is a fifteen-year-old high school student who yearns to make shoe making his profession. Through glimpses of his life at home and at school, the viewer discovers that Akizuki is a loner and feels like he does not belong. On the other hand, Yukari Yukino, a twenty-seven-year-old teacher of Japanese literature, also feels equally isolated. Thus, they both struggle to fulfill the need for love and belonging. However as the film progresses, they slowly become each other’s confidantes and source of support, across their meetings on rainy mornings in the Shinjuku Gyo-en National Park.

In relation to their struggling to fulfill their needs of love and belonging, loneliness pervades over the lives of both protagonists to a large extent. Loneliness is defined as a  feeling of distress that accompanies the perception that one’s social needs are not being satisfied  by the quantity or especially the quality of one’s social relationships. When neglected, loneliness can have serious implications for cognition, emotion, behaviour, and health. [3]

In spite of having friends and family, Akizuki does not really seem to connect with them and ends up experiencing loneliness. His solitary hobby of shoe making is not encouraged by his elder brother who sees it as an ephemeral teenage obsession, and is not shared by his friends.  Yukino, on the other hand, lives alone, away from her parents, and is forced to quit work after being severely bullied. Having no one to support her or stand up for her, Yukino feels extremely isolated. Like Akizuki, the few social relationships that she has are rather unfulfilling and only exist to further her feelings of loneliness. However, when they find each other fortuitously, their unlikely camaraderie serves to slowly alleviate the heart-wrenching loneliness that pervades their lives.

Introversion also colours the  characters in the film. As Yukino says towards the end of the film, Akizuki tends to live in his own little world. He also prefers solitary pursuits to interacting with people with the sole exception of Yukino. Akizuki can be, thus, said to be an introvert. As defined by Carl Jung, introverts prefer being their own rich world of thoughts and dreams to the company of people and that derive energy from being alone. [4] It may have been Akizuki’s introversion that initially leads him to seek out the quiet comfort of a garden on a rainy morning in contrast to the boisterous populated environs of his high school.  Even Yukino can be said to be an introvert to a certain extent as she is shown to have hardly any friends, although that may also have been due to having malicious rumours spread about her.

Deviating from social norms and subverting social roles is another theme that The Garden of Words touches upon. Social norms are implicit rules that dictate an individual’s behaviour in society while social roles are the specific parts played by members of  a social group.[5] Takao Akizuki and Yukari Yukino are both seen skipping classes and work frequently thus choosing not to follow the dictates of their social roles.  Akizuki’s unconventional hobby of making shoes is also atypical of the norm as is his choosing to completely devote himself to his part-time job over the entire duration of his summer break unlike his friends who enjoy while their time away at the beach. Through their interactions, Akizuki being the student, offers support to Yukino, the teacher and thus subverts their social roles in a certain way. Most importantly, the relationship that blossoms between Akizuki and Yukino throughout the film, culminating in Akizuki developing romantic feelings for Yukino, also shows a marked departure from what is conventionally accepted and challenges social norms.

Addressing such varied questions, The Garden of Words is a film that stays with its viewer long after the credits have rolled, be it for its astoundingly realistic and extremely beautiful scenes as well as its deeply sensitive take on human relationships.

 

Afterword

I first watched The Garden of Words in June, 2018. It was during my second year university examinations, the day before my final Honours paper. I had been feeling rather depressed about my prospects of facing the paper, having sat a disastrous practical examination a mere two weeks ago. I watched the film over breakfast and I still remember how I sobbed during the climax scene. Since then, it has become an absolute favourite of mine.

 

References

[1] McLeod, S. A. (2018, May 21). Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

[2] Maslow, A. H. (1943). A Theory of Human Motivation. Psychological Review, 50(4), 370-96.

[3] Hawkley, L. C., & Cacioppo, J. T. (2010). Loneliness matters: a theoretical and empirical review of consequences and mechanisms. Annals of behavioral medicine : a publication of the Society of Behavioral Medicine, 40(2), 218–227. doi:10.1007/s12160-010-9210-8

[4] Praveen Shrestha, “Carl Jung Personality Theory”, in Psychestudy, November 17, 2017 https://www.psychestudy.com/general/personality/carl-jung-theory.

[5] McLeod, S. A. (2008). Social roles. Retrieved from https://www.simplypsychology.org/social-roles.html

 

 

Advertisements

An exploration of the mosaic of identity, cultures, and developmental stages in The Namesake

images (5)

 

The Namesake chronicles the life of a Bengali family, the Gangulis, living in the United States. The protagonist, Gogol, named after the author of Ukrainian origin, struggles to come to terms with his unique name, as well as his identity. His parents, Ashima and Ashoke, deal with the experience of being immigrants and raising their children in a foreign country, as well as the cultural and language barriers faced by them.

The concepts of independent self and interdependent self have an important implication for the Ganguli family. The independent self is a bounded, unique, more or less integrated motivational and cognitive universe (Gurtz, 1974) whereas the interdependent self is a sense of self that is variable, flexible, and connected to the social context. The independent self is found across individualist cultures while the interdependent self is seen in collectivist cultures. [1]

The parents, Ashima and Ashoke, who were born and raised in a collectivist culture have interdependent selves. This is particularly evident towards the beginning of the novel where Ashima is confined to a hospital bed, awaiting the birth of Gogol, and it is stated that had she remained in Calcutta, she would have had the baby at home, surrounded by family. Ashima misses the company of friends and family rather frequently during the early years of Gogol’s life and slowly acquires a large circle of Bengali friends and acquaintances to serve as a replacement for the ones she has had to leave behind. Being influenced by other Bengali people and being associated with them is important to them. Their selves are linked very closely to their close circle of Bengali friends.

Although their parents belong to a collectivist culture, Gogol and his sister, Sonia, seem to posses independent selves. Although, they have friends and acquaintances, their traits and identities are very much their own creation. This becomes rather apparent in Gogol’s decision to attend Yale instead of conforming to parents’ wishes of attending his father’s alma mater, MIT, and more importantly, his decision to change his name aged eighteen.

To the adolescent Gogol, his name  belongs to him and can only have implications for his identity. He feels encumbered by the name of an eccentric genius and grows to increasingly resent his unusual moniker throughout high school. However, for his parents, a name for their child has a greater connotation. It is not only the child’s own but is linked to those who gave him the name or will address him by it. To Ashima, Gogol’s name is a reminder of the letter sent by her grandmother that had got lost in the mail and unexpectedly lead to her husband naming him. To Ashoke, the name is a reminder of the terrible accident he had been in, and Ghosh, the man who had encouraged him to go abroad. Thus, the contrast between the parents and their children, and the impact of culture on self is witnessed at length in The Namesake.

Gogol and his struggles with identity formation is also a theme that the novel devotes itself to. Throughout his high school years, Gogol seems to be in a state of identity moratoriuma state in which an individual explores various options and has not yet made a strict commitment to his identity. [2] During his adolescence, he faces a growing sense of resentment towards his unusual name. He does not know the full significance of his name yet, how a page of The Overcoat by Gogol had saved his father’s life in a tragic accident. Thus, his name casts a pall over his attempts to commit to an identity and he struggles with committing to an identity. By the end of his high school, feeling encumbered by his strange Russian name, Gogol decides to formally change his name.

Erik Erikson’s stage of identity vs. role confusion has a particular significance for Gogol. During his high school years and subsequently his college years, he continues to experience role confusion, which is the consequence of a failure to establish a particular role within society. [3] He visits India, the homeland of his parents, for eight months with his family. Shuttled between the places of various relatives, the Ganguli children, particularly Gogol, find it difficult to fit into a society that he is linked to only via his parents.

Although his identity is shaped more by the country of his birth and residence, India, particularly Calcutta, continues to influence his sense of identity throughout. He settles into an identity that he creates for himself, distancing himself from his parents’ instead of settling for an identity that would have been shaped by them. He chooses to forgo a state of identity foreclosure – a state in which adolescents conform to the expectations of others with regard to their identity – in favour of identity moratorium, initially and later, identity achievement, to a certain extent. [4]

Another one of Erikson’s stages impacts Gogol in his twenties and thirties – intimacy vs. isolation.  The major conflict in this stage focuses intimacy resulting from establishing and maintaining close relationships with others while isolation results from an inability to do so. [5] Gogol forms romantic relationships with Ruth, then Maxine, and finally, Moushumi. These relationships eventually end and towards the end of the novel, when his sister is engaged, Gogol faces the prospect of isolation.

Generativity vs. stagnation, another stage proposed by Erikson, is seen among Gogol’s parents, particularly his mother. Generativity occurs when individuals in their middle adulthood are able to prepare the next generation for life and leave lasting impressions on the world, stagnation results from being unable to do so. [6] Both his parents experience the need to play a significant role in their children’s lives and in their community, as seen by Ashoke’s sense of fulfillment through his teaching, Ashima’s buying gifts for her family and later, working at the local library or initially, even selling samosas at the local coffeehouse on Fridays.

The Namesake is a thus a beautiful study in the struggle of committing to one’s  identity and exploring some of the various stages in Erik’s stages of development.

 

Afterword

I first read The Namesake when I was in eighth grade and a few months shy of thirteen. A classmate had brought it to school and I dived into the inky black lines with a burning enthusiasm that faded fast over the course of the first twenty pages or so after which I gave up and pitifully returned the book to its owner. After my fourth unsuccessful attempt at reading the book, I found that I simply could not  bring myself to like the book. This acute dislike was further bolstered by the fact that I had seen the film and found that rather exasperating as well.

It would be two years until I would discover and fall in love with Jhumpa Lahiri’s writing. I was in tenth grade when I came across a copy of Unaccustomed Earth in the school library and ended up borrowing it. I had read an excerpt from it in a weekly magazine as a child and I found a strange, comforting sense of familiarity in reading the same words as a teenager. In the years that followed, I went on to read all her published works with the only exception of The Namesake.

Yesterday, nearly eight years later, I read The Namesake for the first time.

My verdict? I loved it.

 

References

[1] Markus H.R., Kitayama S., (1991) Culture and the Self: Implications for Cognition, Emotion, and Motivation. Psychological Review. 98(2), 224-253.

[2] Marcia, J. E. (1966). Development and validation of ego-identity status. Journal of  personality and social psychology, 3(5), 551.

[3] Erikson, E. H. (1968). Identity: Youth and crisis. New York: Norton.

[4] Marcia, J. E. (1980). Identity in adolescence. Handbook of adolescent psychology, 9(11), 159-187.

[5] Erikson E. H . (1982). The life cycle completed. New York, NY: Norton.

[6] Erikson, E. H., Paul, I. H., Heider, F., & Gardner, R. W. (1959). Psychological issues (Vol. 1). International Universities Press.

 

 

 

 

 

Psychology in Divisionism

2231998413_75ba3cff27_b

‘Some say they see poetry in my paintings; I see only science.’

               — Georges Seurat

 

What do you do when you paint?

You most probably mix a few paints together and apply it over the surface on which you’re painting, painstakingly filling in the areas with strokes in an attempt to cover the surface as efficiently as possible.

But would you think of separating colour into visible strokes and dots? Would you think of leaving it to the observer’s eyes and brain to interpret the specks of colour into a cohesive assortment of hues?

You probably wouldn’t.

However, that is just what some artists in the late nineteenth century did. In fact, they lead to the genesis of an entirely new practice in painting known as Divisionism. It involved separating colour into individual dots or strokes of pigments. A specific technique that was part of this practice was Pointillism which involved the use of dots to segregate colour. Both were an important part of the Neo-Impressionist Movement which flourished in France in the late nineteenth century.

Divisionism resulted from the influence of colour theories, particularly the work of Charles Blanc who opined that instead of going by the long-established process of mixing pigments, it should be left to the viewer’s eyes to blend the colours which would result in the production of more vivid and refined hues. Blanc was influenced by Michel Eugène Chevreul and Eugène Delacroix. Others who shaped Divisionism included Hermann von Helmholtz, Charles Henry, Ogden Rood, to name a few.

Divisionism also made use of additive mixture instead of the conventional subtractive mixture, by blending coloured light instead of mixing pigments. Artists made light operate in one of the following contexts:

Local colour
As the dominant element of the painting, local colour refers to the true color of subjects.
Direct sunlight
As appropriate, yellow-orange colors representing the sun’s action would be interspersed with the natural colors to emulate the effect of direct sunlight.
Shadow
If lighting is only indirect, various other colors, such as blues, reds and purples, were also used to simulate the darkness and shadows.
Reflected light
An object which is adjacent to another in a painting could cast reflected colors onto it.
Contrast
To take advantage of Chevreul’s theory of simultaneous contrast, contrasting colors might be placed in close proximity.

Artists such as Georges Seurat and Paul Signac were major proponents of Divisionism and Pointillism. Seurat’s works were Impressionist in style but later on, he adopted the Divisionism in his paintings, beginning with La Grande Jatte. After Seurat’s demise, Signac became the prime advocate of Divisionism. Other artists such as Hippolyte Petitjean, Camille and Lucien Pissarro, Robert Delaunay, Charles Angrand also made use of Divisionist techniques in their works.

Perception plays an important role in art. After all, artists use many of the perceptual cues in order to capture the essence of a three dimensional object in a two dimensional format or to create illusory effects. Psychologists belonging to the Gestalt school of thought propounded a set of six principles in perception which elucidates their observation that we perceive in terms of organized configurations or patterns rather than as elements as was previously proposed by the Structuralists. In fact, the word Gestalt is German for form or configuration. With regard to Divisionism, I think two of the six laws proposed by them are of particular significance. The laws are – as follows:

The Law of Proximity

Objects or shapes that are close to one another appear to form groups.

The Law of Similarity

All else being equal, perception lends itself to seeing stimuli that physically resemble each other as part of the same object, and stimuli that are different as part of a different object.

Although the Divisionists believed that their practice strongly espoused scientific principles, some are of the opinion that they may have wrongly deciphered colour theories. Their belief that the unique technique of painting followed by them allowed for greater vibrancy of their works was not justified and optical mixture without actual physical mixture as stated by them is, in fact, unfeasible.

However, their paintings still occupy a significant position in nineteenth century art and continue to delight aficionados art even today.

 

References

Wikipedia – Divisionism, Principles of Grouping;

Britannica – Divisionism

A psychological picture of Dorian Gray

images (9)

‘Basil Hallward is what I think I am: Lord Henry is what the world thinks of me: Dorian is what I would like to be—in other ages, perhaps.’

                                                                 ― Oscar Wilde

 

Oscar Wilde’s sole novel The Picture of Dorian Gray Oscar chronicles the life of the eponymous protagonist whose wondrous beauty enraptures the artist, Basil Hallward. He captures it in a full-length portrait and introduces Dorian to Lord Henry Wotton, referred to as Harry, who endorses a life of unrestricted hedonism. Wishing that his beauty never fade and his portrait age instead, the narcissistic youth, Dorian is plunges head first into a profligate lifestyle, bolstered by Lord Harry’s licentious views.

Soon enough, Dorian coldly rejects the love of his life, Sibyl Vane, which drives her to commit suicide and later, murders Basil and disposes off his corpse and his portrait begins to bear telltale signs of his cruel nature. By the end, the picture becomes completely hideous as if to reflect Dorian’s psyche.

He takes the decision to be free of the evidence of his crimes and the last fragment of his conscience and stabs the portrait with the same knife that he used to murder Basil. The next morning, a ghastly decrepit corpse is found by the servants of the house which is identified by the rings it is wearing. The extraordinary youthful beauty of the portrait is seen to have been restored.

Having first read the novel about eight years ago, I have been intrigued by the three major characters in the novel – Lord Henry Wotton,  Dorian Gray, and Basil Hallward. To me, they represent the three elements of the personality as stated by Freud (1923) – the id, the ego, and the superego.

The id is the only part of the personality that is present at birth; the others develop throughout the early years of an individual’s life as he interacts with the world around him. The id consists of the most basic urges  such as hunger, thirst, and sex and the life and death instincts (Eros and Thanatos, respectively) and is governed by the Pleasure Principle which is defined by immediate gratification.

The ego, however, takes into consideration the external reality and tries to mediate between the burgeoning demands of the id and the external world. The ego is ruled by the Reality Principle which is characterized by delayed gratification.

The superego is the last of the three parts to develop. It is governed by morality. It consists of the conscience and the ego ideal.

Freud said that attaining harmony between the three parts of the personality was the key to a healthy personality. However, an imbalance or a dominance by any of three parts results in a dysfunctional personality, according to Freud. If the id becomes dominant, the individual may become impulsive and be unable to control his urges and in some cases, he may also become criminal. Such an individual is completely ruled by his urges and has little or no regard whether such behaviour is legally or socially acceptable or appropriate.

In The Picture of Dorian Gray, Basil Hallward symbolises the superego. Out of the three, Basil is the most concerned with morality. He is scandalised by Dorian’s licentious hedonism and implores him to ask for redemption. Basil’s murder represents the disintegration of the superego and the ego completely giving in to the demands of the id.

Lord Henry Wotton is a metaphor for the id. He is a libertine who is ruled by the Pleasure Principle. When Lord Henry’s influence leads Dorian to become, it is the id becoming dominant.

Lastly, Dorian Gray represents the ego. He tries to mediate the influences of Basil (superego) and Lord Harry (id), but ultimately ends up being dominated by the latter.

Unraveling the Aesthetic Voyager

images (8)

‘If we admit that human life can be ruled by reason, then all possibility of life is destroyed.’

       — Christopher McCandless (Into the Wild, 2007)

 

I was recently recommended Into the Wild (dir. Sean Penn) by my best friend. Trusting her usual great taste in films, I agreed although I was a little unsure of what my experience of watching the film would be like. However, I was absolutely enthralled by the raw beauty of the film, the magnificent cinematography, and the beautifully apt soundtrack. I was rendered speechless by the film even though as the credits were rolling, I found myself with a few questions swimming around in my head which I have tried to answer in this post.

1. What made the protagonist decide to spend months living in a remote area near Denali National Park, Alaska, away from the rest of humanity? What could really motivate a person to make such a drastic lifestyle change?

People tend to make momentous lifestyle changes as a result of life-changing events. Chris had discovered several facts relating to the troubled relationship of his parents and the existence of him and his sister which had come as a violent shock to him as mentioned in the film. This could certainly be classified as life-changing event that may have motivated his decision.

Getting inspired by people, books, films also serves as an important factor that drives individuals to change their lifestyles. The film shows that Chris was inspired by writers such as Henry David Thoreau and Jack Kerouac.

Lastly, the film also shows Chris becoming increasingly disillusioned by the fact that his parents, and the rest of society, lived off pseudo personas, and had continuously tried to pass themselves off as this seemingly perfect pillars of society when, in reality, they were not. They were busy feeding off specious concepts such as wealth and fame. Chris’ act of burning all his money and abandoning his car are metaphorical representations of his determined rejection of this kind of superficiality. Chris had grown increasingly frustrated with the superficiality of people surrounding him and as a result, he may have decided to liberate himself from this kind of specious atmosphere by choosing to live out his life in isolation, amidst nature.

2. Throughout, the film we see Chris systematically sequestering his ties with his friends and family. Towards the end when he seems to realise the value of these ties when he comes to one of his final yet extremely crucial realisations — ‘Happiness only real when shared’. Did he really not realize the value of human relationships until it was too late or had he simply been deluding himself into thinking that he did not need people around him? Or is it both?

Erik Erikson’s theory of development spoke of basic trust which is dependent on the quality of relationship with the mother and develops in the first eighteen months of life. Achieving basic trust would increase the likelihood of the individual forming lasting relationships. If basic trust fails to develop, basic mistrust results and the child grows up to view the world as volatile and conflicting. Erikson was of the opinion that this early stage strongly influences the establishment and maintenance of relationships and interactions with other people throughout life.

Relating this to Chris, he may have been unable to establish basic trust in the early years of life and as a result, this influenced his interactions and relationships with people which again may have proved to be less than satisfactory experiences for him and thus he may have convinced himself that he never really needed to be around people to be happy.

Also, his exasperation with the general shallowness of the people around him may have exasperated him to such an extent that he had himself thoroughly convinced that his ties with other people needed to be severed.

3. Chris has an alter ago known as Alexander Supertramp. When he decides to go on this incredible trans-American journey, he goes by this alternative version of himself. To what extent did this alter ego influence his journey?

In Psychology, an alter ego is considered as another personality, an other Self, that resides within us that may be a contrasting version of our conscious self or is opposite to the personality that we generally display in interaction with others, the personality that is overtly displayed. It is said that the alter ego is the truest version of us, our most natural and honest Self. An alter ego is not constrained by the cultural context and can also find expression in conflicting ways.

Throughout his journey, Chris makes use of his Alexander Supertramp persona, his alter ego, while he is on the road and is interacting with other people. It is this alter ego of his that allows him to do the things that he does on his journey because this personality is not restrained by the cultural and social context and therefore, he can be truly free. When he ends up in Los Angeles, he leaves as soon as possible because he senses that his alter ego, his most honest Self, is being polluted by societal restraints and finds that he must leave in order to preserve the authenticity of his alter ego.

Thus, his alter ego thus has a massive influence on his journey.

On a final note, I would like to share another quote from the film —

Two years he walks the earth. No phone, no pool, no pets, no cigarettes. Ultimate freedom. An extremist. An aesthetic voyager whose home is the road. Escaped from Atlanta. Thou shalt not return, ’cause “the West is the best.” And now after two rambling years comes the final and greatest adventure. The climactic battle to kill the false being within and victoriously conclude the spiritual pilgrimage. Ten days and nights of freight trains and hitchhiking bring him to the Great White North. No longer to be poisoned by civilization he flees, and walks alone upon the land to become lost in the wild.

Alexander Supertramp, May 1992

Influence of psychoanalysis on Egon Schiele

36966115_2133850613560591_5840298363051835392_n.jpg

Art cannot be modern. Art is primordially eternal.

Egon Schiele

 

Egon Schiele (1890 – 1918) was an Austrian painter who is considered to be an early proponent of Expressionism, a twentieth century movement in art. Schiele’s career was marked by the genesis of an avant-garde works characterised by their ferocity, expressive lines, twisted body shapes, and its unabashed and unvarnished depiction of sexuality. As a painter, Schiele did not shy away from depicting the grotesque or the unpleasant aspects of reality. In fact, his works are marked by his refusal to idealise his subjects.

At sixteen, Schiele was one of the youngest entrants ever at Vienna’s Academy of Fine Arts. However, the strict artistic confines of the Academy did not have much influence on the development of his mature artistic style.

In 1907, Schiele became familiar with the daring artist, Gustav Klimt and he became a mentor to the young artist. Influenced by Klimt, who got him acquainted with his circle and the Secessionist movement, Schiele began to experiment with his style of painting and gradually began to move towards developing a style that was uniquely his.

He left art school by 1909 and formed a group with his friends, Max Oppenheimer, Oskar Kokoschka, and  Paris von Gütersloh. By 1911, Schiele’s characteristic artistic style had evolved. It was characterised by figures that had cadaverous and languid appearances and were often marked by strong erotic connotations.

Another important influence on Schiele was Sigmund Freud, who was testing the limits of the moralistic Vienna society with his pioneering yet rather controversial theories. Freud had established psychoanalysis which constantly challenged the contemporary social conventions. He notably attributed the causes of psychological conflict and disorders to socially unacceptable desires that were mostly sexual or aggressive in nature.

Later, Freud also spoke of the concepts of a life instict (eros) and death instinct (thanatos) in his psychoanalytic theory. According to Freud, sex and death were co-existent. The afflicted figures in Schiele’s work foreshadowed these concepts.

Schiele may also made use of the defense mechanism of sublimation (also mentioned by Freud) to partially channel unacceptable urges.

Today, Schiele is most known for his self-portraits and female nudes. As a painter, he sought to explore the psyche of his subjects, rather than representing the external reality. The complexity and the richness of lines is what continues to fascinate many about Schiele’s work, no matter how bizarre or brazen they seem at first glance.

Deciphering Lucy

36963168_2132680060344313_1947373691385937920_n.jpg

The Lucy Poems are a collection of five poems  by William Wordsworth, which were published between the years 1798 and 1801, that speak of the elusive eponymous character whose presence looms over them.

The poems, which were classified as a series together by literary critics on the basis of their similarity in theme, language and style, furnish us with a strikingly vivid descriptions of a simple English girl named Lucy. Her fleeting existence affects the narrator to such an extent that he chooses to recount fond memories of her existence through these poems which lends them a plaintive tone.

The identity of Lucy has been much debated among critics and  literary historians, especially since Wordsworth did not reveal the identity of his muse nor did he confess any significant biographical detail with regard to Lucy. Thomas de Quincey (a friend of Wordsworth’s) stated that the poet maintained an enigmatic reticence concerning who Lucy was.

Some critics have suggested that Lucy is entirely a fictitious creation spun out of Wordsworth’s imagination. Others opine that Lucy’s existence does indeed have some basis in reality as Wordsworth’s own experiences generally gave impetus to his poetic works and all the verses contained in Lyrical Ballads, the anthology that four of the five Lucy poems were published in, all have their roots in some experience or memory of Wordsworth’s.

Mary Moorman, a biographer of Wordsworth, was of the opinion that Mary Hutchinson (Wordsworth’s childhood friend whom he eventually married) spurred on the poet’s genesis of Lucy. The question which arose out of this suggestion was this  —

Why would the poet choose to present the persona of Lucy as someone deceased if he had indeed found a muse for Lucy in his wife?

This query has been duly answered by those who suggest that it was not Mary Hutchinson but rather her deceased sister, Margaret, who inspired Wordsworth’s creation of Lucy.

Contrasting the aforementioned views, Hunter Davies and Richard Matlak opined that the poet’s sister, Dorothy, served as the inspiration for Lucy. Matlak even went on to disclose his reason for doing so citing Dorothy’s financial dependence on the poet, which consequently sequestered ties between him and Coleridge, as being the causative factor for him subconsciously associating his sister with a character who suffered an unfortunately early demise.

With due respect to the views of those aforementioned, I have also attempted to uncover the identity of the elusive girl of Wordsworth’s poems. My view with regards to the identity of Lucy, has been thoroughly influenced by the theory of identity postulated by Carl Gustav Jung which deals with archetypes.

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, an archetype is defined as –

A primitive mental image inherited from the earliest human ancestors, and supposed to be present in the collective unconscious.  

One such archetype is the Animus, the feminine of which is the Anima which are representations of one’s true self as opposed to the mask or the presumed identity that one assumes in his or her daily life. The Anima or the Animus is presumed the source of one’s creativity.

While men may generally possess an animus and women, an Anima, the reverse does occur with both men and women being in possession of both a masculine and a feminine side. Members of both sexes tend to project the attributes of the opposite archetype onto prospective partners. This process begins from infancy with infants projecting onto the mother. Jung observed that men generally have one preeminent Anima while a changeable, manifold animus is prevalent among women.

Having explained Jung’s theory of archetypes, I would like to state that Lucy is none other than a literary expression of Wordsworth’s Anima. The context of Lucy’s death throughout the poems is simply an expression of the end of one of the phases of Wordsworth’s Anima development and the beginning of another.

Jungian theory states that the Anima and the Animus both have ‘dual aspects: They can bring life-giving development and creativeness to the personality, or they can cause petrification and physical death.’  In my opinion, Wordsworth through his Lucy poems successfully highlights the former.

 

References 

Wikipedia – The Lucy Poems;

William Faulkner’s Yoknapatawpha: “a Kind of Keystone in the Universe” By Elizabeth M. Kerr