Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The Shining analysis - part 9: Depiction of castration anxiety and penis envy

Top left: Danny sees a vision of the twins appearing to have been killed with an ax, which is prominently displayed in the foreground here. Top right: To make this vision go away, Danny covers his eyes. Above left: A little later in the movie, Jack covers his own eyes while sitting alone at the Gold Room bar. In The Uncanny, Freud says that fear of losing one's eyesight can be a substitute for the dread of castration.[a] Above right: That Jack later uses an ax is to suggest the idea that he killed the twins. Jack's castration anxiety does play a part in some of the unfortunate events that take place in The Shining, but we must also realize that Wendy's own castration anxiety (i.e., penis envy) is a problem, as is shown by the psychoanalytic symbolism for Artemis described below.

Recall from the bear symbolism in the movie discussed in part 6 of the analysis, that Wendy represents Artemis, the Greek moon goddess. Also, we know from part 2 that she represents another lunar goddess, Hecate, and also Persephone. All quoted material below is from the Dictionary of Symbols:[b]

Artemis (Diana) - "Some psychoanalysts would see Artemis as symbolizing the jealousy, domination, and castration complexes in the mother. Together with her antithesis, Aphrodite, she comprises the total image of womanhood, so deeply divided in itself, in so far as she has failed to reduce the tensions born of the twofold complex within her nature. ..."

Since Wendy represents Artemis, the above mention of "castration complexes in the mother" applies to Wendy, indicating that she (and thus, Susan Robertson) experiences penis envy (the form castration anxiety takes in a woman). The idea of womanhood being "deeply divided in itself", recalls our previous mention of the duality of Susan Robertson.

Hecate - "As a lunar and chthonian goddess, she was linked to fertility rites, but she displays two contrasting aspects. One is benevolent and benign - she presides at seedtime and childbirth, she protects sailors, she grants prosperity, eloquence, victory, plentiful harvests to the farmer and rich catches to the fisherman; and she is a guide along the path of Orphic purification. On the other side of the coin is her terrifying and internal aspect. She is 'the goddess of ghosts and night-terrors...of phantoms and fearful monsters...she is the witch par excellence, mistress of sorcery. ...'[c]"

Wendy can be said to be seeing "phantoms and fearful monsters" respectively, when she sees the roomful of skeletons (above left) and the 'bear-pig-dog' (above right), while searching the hotel for Danny late in the movie.

Persephone - "Daughter of Zeus and Demeter, the fertility-goddess who, in Plato's words, 'provides food like a mother'; or, according to another tradition, of Zeus and Styx, nymph of the Underworld river."

Recall that the blood coming from the elevator doors represents the Phlegethon, which is a mythical underworld river in Dante's Inferno. It also represents Wendy's menstrual blood.

"The Ancient Romans identified [Persephone] with Proserpina and she was also named Cora, 'the Maiden'. She played an important part in mystery religions and especially in the rites of initiation at Eleusis..."

Cora is another name for Kore; recall Jung's discussion of the Kore, as quoted in part 2 of this analysis.

The fact that Wendy, and thus Susan Robertson, experiences penis envy, is an indication that at some level, Susan desires to be a man. The idea of castration will come up again later in the analysis, when we talk about Freudian sexual symbolism in the movie.

The ax used by Jack symbolizes a tomahawk, which is the name for the war hatchet traditionally associated with Native Americans (i.e., American Indians). Since it is Wendy who is under attack from the ax-wielding Jack, and since she represents the American Indians in our movie, she herself has, metaphorically speaking, here 'provided' Jack (representing the white settlers of the American West) with the very weapon he's using to attack her. In combination with the fact that Wendy is the perpetrator of murder in the Indians/settlers allegory, in that she is poisoning Jack, what we have is Kubrick's depiction of the idea, that the American Indians were responsible for their own downfall; for they provided the settlers with a reason to attack them, with the reason being associated with the means to do so.

a. "The study of dreams, fantasies, and myths has taught us...that anxiety about one's eyes, the fear of going blind, is quite often a substitute for the fear of castration." (--Freud, Sigmund, The Uncanny. Trans. David McLintock with Introduction by Hugh Haughton. Penguin Books, 2003. Google Books, p. 189. URL =
b. Dictionary of Symbols. Ed. Jean Chevalier and Alain Gheerbrant, Trans. John Buchanan-Brown. London: Penguin Group, 1996. pp. 47, 489, 749.
c. Lavedan, P., Dictionnaire illustré de la mythologie et des antiquités grecques et romaines, Paris, 1931, p. 497, in the Dictionary of Symbols, p. 489. Emphasis in original.


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