If you see a wallet on the ground and discover there is an enormous amount of money in it, what would you do? Do you think you’d return it, or possibly keep the money for yourself? How would you feel about it emotionally afterward? For the sake of an argument let us say you would keep the money. How would you then feel if someone you hate also had the same circumstance happen to them? Would you feel like them keeping the money would further prove why you dislike that person? Did you not also keep the money yourself? In the book Psychoanalysis Terry Eagleton states that “Lacan permits us to explore the relations between the unconscious and human society… the unconscious is not some kind of… private region ‘inside’ us, but an effect of our relations with one another”(Eagleton 150).
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The unconscious is part of your “self” and can be negative or positive; the negative side that we produce is part of our ego.
Ego is defined as “the complex factor to which all conscious contents are related” the ego is only one half of a whole and that whole is the “self” (Jung 139). Our ego is broken into three sections and the section most apparent in this case is the shadow. The reason why your peer keeping the money creates resentment in you is because of the shadow, it is a part of you that you keep in your unconscious, a part you don’t like and when it is revealed to you through someone else you exchange the inward hatred and replace it with outward disdain for the person that has committed the act.
Self is best described as the combination of your conscious and unconscious becoming one in a balanced state. In Coraline by Neil Gaimen and A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin the shadow becomes a physical thing, an actual entity. The genre itself, fantasy, has its own identity crisis which further adds to the lack of self in the novels. This should not make these stories any less real, the premise of both stories, of battling the shadow and overcoming the lack of identity to find the self is still a very real thing as explained by J.R.R. Tolkien “fairystories deal largely… with simple or fundamental things, untouched by fantasy, but these simplicities are made all the more luminous by their setting” (Tolkien 20).
The self being fragmented by not knowing one’s unconscious is a recurring theme in both stories. The shadow becoming and entity in the stories further explains the concept of your conscious latching on to an outward vessel to express disdain for. The conscious and unconscious meld together to form one’s identity, the conscious mind uses one’s life experiences and natural behavior as an identifier while the unconscious mind creates the ego and the shadow, both of which create the idea of self. In order to gain an identity you much overcome and accept your shadow as part of you, then and only then will you truly discover your “self”.
In Coraline a lonely and ignored little girl is an only child of two, negligent, parents. She has just moved into a new house and while exploring her new home she finds a door which sometimes, and progressively more while the story continues, leads her into an alternate world where her desire for excitement is fulfilled. While in this world the narrator states, “There were all sorts of remarkable things in there she’d never seen before… this is more like it, thought Coraline” (Gaimen 30). This is Coraline’s conscious self, her excitement, her explorer, the one that doesn’t mind a new world, a girl who accept the oddities just so that she can discover all of them herself. This world was created by the other mother, a witch, who at this point has not revealed herself to Coraline as a soul consuming entity.
Her brand new home put up an image of perfection that clouded her judgment. These illusions created by the other mother make it harder for Coraline to discover herself because she is only seeing what the other mother is allowing her to see through the filter of Coraline’s conscious. Jung states that “The more projections are thrust in between the subject and the environment [the other world in Coraline’s case], the harder it is for the ego to see through its illusions” (Jung 147). Because of this, Coraline’s newly found freedom into the other world is nothing more than an attempt by the other mother to keep her in the dark while thinking she is in control. This false sense of security doesn’t allow for Coraline to discover her own self.
The main plot point of the story is the more Coraline realizes she’s being held back and the more she feels her sense of self coming to fruition the more the illusions put in front of her begin to dwindle until the world is revealed to her for what it really is.
Although it is the other mother’s world and she created it, it is the fact that Coraline hasn’t come to terms with her shadow or better yet hasn’t been forced to face it that allows her to succumb to the illusion, “it is an unconscious factor [the shadow] which spins the illusions that veil [the] world” (Jung 147). As Jung states here, the shadow, and this other world that has been created is her unconscious being warped through the eyes of the other mother, and her warped vision is the veil that the world hides beneath.
Coraline’s conscious mind is her adventurous side “her first two weeks in the house [were spent] exploring the garden and the grounds” this is the basis of the other world, a place full of wonder and excitement, a place full of adventure (Gaimen 6). The shadow that Coraline must face is her fear. Coraline’s conversation with her guardian, the cat, is about her confusion of bravery and being naive. Coraline thinks that she is very brave without knowing what bravery actually is. She tells the story of her father who gets stung by a nest of hornet’s and in the process discovers true bravery, which she embodies as her father going back for his glasses, “it wasn’t brave because he wasn’t scared… going back again to get his glasses, then he knew the wasp were there, when he was really scared.
That was brave… when you’re scared and you still do it anyway, that’s brave” (Gaimen 58-59). Once she goes through this point the world shifts for her, she sees everything for its eerie similarities of the real world but with a malicious twist. The final proof of the discovery of self in Coraline is the fact that once everything is said and done she goes back to her life exactly the way it was.
Her parents still pay no mind to her and her life is just as dull now as it was when the story started but her perspective changed. She is no longer oppressed by her status because she defeats the other mother and overcomes her shadow, becoming whole. She is complete, by learning, understanding, and overcoming her unconscious she finds her “self”. The beginning of her journey is much the same as Ged in A Wizard of Earthsea, looking for her self and being too naive to find it.
Ged is a boy who discovers his divine talent for witchcraft at an early age. From the moment that he saves his village from being decimated by savages he was told that he would be a great and powerful wizard by one of the great wizards, Ogion, “I send you one who will be greatest of the wizards of Gont” (Le Guin 48). This creates Ged’s conscious self, which is a hero complex, thinking that he can do whatever he wishes without consequence. Ged although very powerful is very arrogant and prideful, in an attempt to impress a women he learns to summon a dark spirit from the dead that almost kills him. He once again out of anger and pride summons the spirit of the dead in a competition of strength with a boy, jasper, one year his senior.
The shadow is shown to him in many forms, these forms are of his character flaws, “Like a clot of black shadow, quick and hideous… it was like a black beast, the size of a young child” the young child reflecting back on him when he first revealed himself to the darkness, while the beast is Ged’s vengeful personality taking shape (Le Guin 85). The shadow was born out of Ged’s arrogance, pride and narcissism. He constantly becomes angry at himself for not being stronger and as he succumbs to his anger the shadow becomes stronger, “it rankled at his heart he should die, spitted on a Kargish lance, while still a boy… raged at his weakness, for he knew his strength” (Le Guin 11). His fear and his constant flaws give the shadow its strength putting those he knows in danger and further hiding his self from him. As Ged tries to run away for the last time the shadow manages to kill Ged’s pet.
This is the last straw for Ged and he, as Coraline did, discovers his unconscious, his identity and seeks out to defeat the shadow. He begins to chase the shadow and becomes stronger from it, facing his inner demons and overcoming his fear. Ged learns of the connection he has with the shadow in order to defeat it, “it wills to work evil through you. The power you had to call it gives it power over you: you are connected. It is the shadow of your arrogance, the shadow of your ignorance, the shadow you cast.
Has a shadow a name” (Le Guin)? By being told this and through all the trials Ged faces he becomes humble and learns his way through the barriers he has put up on his darkness. Through the hunt Ged finally realizes what the shadow is and even though it has his misguided qualities it has brought out the good qualities in him. Ged finally spoke the shadows name and the shadow repeated it, Ged and the shadow became one and Ged became one with his unconscious and becomes aware of his self, “I am whole, I am free” (Le Guin).
Coraline and Ged went through hardships in order to become one. Coraline learned true bravery and defeated her other mother and though her life did not change she accept herself and her life for what it was. Ged through his hardship lost his arrogance, his pride, his ignorance and actually physically became one with his shadow. Through the hunt of their shadow they found themselves. They stopped running away from who they always were and just embraced and learned to become what they were trying to run away from. Coraline’s ignorance and Ged’s pride were defeated by the hunt for their unconscious. Their true enemy was themselves and the only thing that could defeat that was their new found sense of “self”.