Who is Bettelheim?


So most people have at least heard of Freud, but who's this Bettelheim guy? Here's a brief summary of the things you need to know to understand my paper.

Bruno Bettelheim wrote The Uses of Enchantment in the late 1970's. In it, he proposes a theory about Fairy Tales; that they are a way of transmitting unconscious role models to children. (If you don't know much about Freud, now's a good time to brush up on your freudian theories.) Basically, Freud said that children grow through stages of "psychological development", the end result being that their unconscious minds function properly and harmoniously. This means that the super-ego is in control, chanelling the Id's energy so that it can express itself and not feel repressed, but express itself in more suitable, subverted ways, like through the performing or visual arts, or through music, or sports. So Bettelheim says that the true fary tale or folk tale is devised to help children through their stages of psychological growth. Through reading about these heros and heroines, then acting out the stories in their play, children learn strategies for dealing with different problems along the way, like detachment from their parents, or living up to expectations, or making it through puberty.

Symbolism, of course, plays an enormous role here. Like in dream analysis, where Freud identified landmark symbols in peoples' dreams in order to understand what the Id was saying, Bettelheim picks apart well-known folk tales to expose meaning in both the characters and the plot of the story. For example, the fact that the hero of the story is the youngest and the smallest means just as much as his/her actual adventures, for the young child can certainly learn much from someone as young and small as he or she feels themselves.

Again, I have to remind you that this is just a theory, and in fact, it's extremely subjective. Bettelheim's interpretations of fairy tales depended entirely on what he thought they meant, not on any inherent truths. Because the assignment here was to create a Bettelheim-style analysis of a fairy tale, I have followed his method closely. This means a lot of reliance on his theories and also on Freudian thought. I have tried to supplement the reading with quotes and explanations along the way, to explain my interpretations of the characters and events and general meaning of the Trilogy. For a complete understanding of Bettelheim's ideas, you should pick up a copy of The Uses of Enchantment. It's a really interesting read, especially because it's so neat to see what he does with the fairy tales when he gets into the in-depth analyses.

Star Wars: A Twentieth Century Fairy tale, as an analysis, is just as subjective as any of the Bettelheim ones just as any one person's experience of the Trilogy is also subjective. After reading The Uses of Enchantment, this is how I interpreted the theory. I'd love to hear what you think as well!!