Friday, June 1, 2012

Archetypal characters versus archetypal settings

As we embark on to the island and think more clearly about how to shape the experience on the boat, it is useful to think of the island, as well as the boat, as archetypical settings. Settings that are loaded with a significance that permeate history, time and culture. In western culture, the island is a very strong archetype, whereas in Chinese literature the corresponding archetype would be that of the mountain. According to Edward John Federenko, "the typical island story involves a character in many, if not all, of the following: removal to a remote island; awakening to, and taking stock of, strange surroundings; initial setbacks followed by increasing adaptation; spiritual, emotional, or psychological growth due specifically to island experiences; a climactic event which challenges growing feelings of wholeness; and escape and return to the home society in a much-altered state. Let's trace the influence of the island on the castaway story in terms of six archetypes: wanderer, hermit, artist, magician, king, and hero. Jung refers to the influence on the psyche of certain places and situations when he says that "only in the region of danger (watery abyss, cavern, forest, island, castle, etc.) can one find the "treasure hard to attain" (jewel, virgin, life-potion, victory over death)" (Collected Works 12:438). But the specific workings of the archetypal place as agent of change receives less than full elaboration in Jung's work; Jung was concerned primarily with describing archetypal figures and their effect on individuation. How does the archetypal setting inspire human transformation? The conclusion from examining the function of these six archetypes in island fiction is that they are given impetus by the island setting because of the island's remoteness from the castaway's home society and the island's isolation from all other societies. Jung notes that a particular kind of psychic energy flourishes in isolation resulting in "an animation of the psychic atmosphere, as a substitute for loss of contact with other people" (CW 12:57). The island--a kind of incubator--exerts a more active influence on a character's growth in island fiction than has hitherto been acknowledged." more here

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