From whence came woman?
My children came home from Sunday school. "Today we learned how God made Adam and Eve," they told me. They asked if it were true? "Did God make Eve from Adam's rib?" I smiled and said it wasn't so. They asked why they were told that it was true. I asked them if they wanted to hear the true story. They said yes, of course.
Adam asked God for a mate. God put Adam to sleep. When Adam
awoke, he had a pain in his side. God showed him the woman.
Adam asked from whence she came. God paused and said, "From your
side." Adam pressed to know more. God said, "I fashioned her
from one of your ribs."
Adam held Eve close to himself. He wanted to join with her.
God smiled, and said "This is good."
"But you said Eve wasn't made from Adam's rib?!," cried the children.
"She wasn't," said I with a smile.
"Then from what," said the children.
"God fashioned Eve from Adam's heart," said I.
"Then why did God say Eve came from Adam's rib?"
"God lied. God didn't want to frighten Adam."
They thought on this for a while. One asked, "Who told you
"God," said I.
Not content to Wrestle by its Flame
or Watch the fanciful shadows Play against the Wall
I turned and Looked into the Face of Love
Within the midst of the Flame I perceived an Image of Beauty
Reaching in, burning my hands, I grasped it and held fast
To this day I bare the Scars of my Encounter
But who can say they saw true Beauty and not a Shadow
Who can say they kissed the Face of Love
A hunter I was on the dawn of this day
On a hillock I sat and let the hounds play
I pursuit of a stag since long before noon
In a pool of beauty, I glimpsed the moon
A soothing syrinx,
the lull of a lyre
A dream was she, Endymion's desire
My love went to her in a rush, now I'm sorry
For this offense I awoke as my quarry
I turn. I speed. I run. I hide.
I burn. I bleed. They've torn my side.
When they were pups I knew them well
I know them not, these hounds of hell
Gone am I.
Brought done by the hounds of Actaeon.
Pyramus and Thisbe
(A fragment. A poem with pieces missing.)
I stand alone, a wall of stone, divides my love from me.
Tonight my love, meet me my love, beneath the Mullberrie.
A cat me thinks, a spotted sphinx, did tarry on this spot.
My heart is burst, I think the worst, my one true love is not.
My sweet Thisbe, how could this be, too soon you are no more.
Would it were, as it were, as it were before.
I cannot live, I will not live. Not I. Not I. Not
Beneath this tree, the end of me. Bye-bye. Bye-bye. Bye-bye.
As children, we would write our names in the street with chalk. We would draw elaborate hearts, inside, beside our own, we would write the name of our one true love. Sometimes, below the betrothed, we would write HOLLAND. Hope our love lives and never dies. We knew we would always love each other, and nothing would come between, not even death. Why does death enter the equation?
It was suggested in Diane Ackermanís The Natural History of Love that ìfatal love is the oldest theme in song and legendî (107). She writes:
There are other psychologically valid interpretations of the empathy we feel when love ends in death. There are the glad tidings, and eternal bliss suggestive of the hereafter. From our point of view, an elopement tears the young lovers from our world. Romeo and Juliet must die so they can live in paradise. For, only there, cut off from this world, which would not let them be together, can they be together forever. When Dustin Hoffman and Katherine Ross, in The Graduate, fight their way out of the church, out of middle-class America, out of a hypocritical morality, they are dead to that world. They ride away on a bus, with no mansions, swimming pools or connections.
Then there is the flip side of the equation. Love, like the sweet and fragrant flower it is, can die. Rarely do we find, unite with, marry, and live with until old age, our first love. We will dispense with taking up the Oedipal question here. We are discussing that most romantic of romantic loves - first love. That ìsomewhat carnal, but not yet orgasmic, but seeking orgasmî (Keefer), semi-conscious, somewhat consummated, tender, groping, frenzied, fragile, fumbling and unforgotten love.
Gone, but not forgotten, first love can be the longest lived and hardest to rid. People try to relive that first romance in later relationships. I once knew a man that was married three times. His wives could have been triplets. The first two had the same names! In Annie Hall, Woody Allen, after breaking up with Diane Keaton, takes a date through all the same paces he went through with Annie. His relationship is one-sided and inauthentic.
The identification with the death of this young love is that part of us that grieves and seeks closure. Laying that episode to rest, we put it away and no longer dwell on it. Dead, we can remember it tenderly, and forgive it. ìWhen they begin the Beguine/It brings back the sound of music so tender/It brings back the night of tropical splendour,/It brings back a memory ever green...î (Porter 30).
In some stories, such as Pyramus and Thisbe, some ìfatal flawî causes the demise of love. Essentially the opposite of the love potion, wherein the couple lose their free will, the flaw causes doom. Jealousy, tardiness, an oversight, or some meddling third party intervenes and love is dashed. This too we identify with, and again we welcome death. Our 'what might have been' side comes out and we want to do it all over again. It is as if a part of ourselves believes in reincarnation, and if it ends now we can come back and fix it. Many people waste time, years, lives, wondering what they did wrong, and if that thing were righted, they could get back to that love.
In Groundhog Day, Bill Murry must relive the same day endlessly. He indulges in all forms of hedonistic pleasures. Then, while experiencing what Baudelaire calls ìa desert of boredomî (Ackerman 122) in which he attempts suicide in infinite variety, he tries to seduce Andie MacDowell. After endless iterations he gets it right, and love succeeds, having been given an infinite number of chances.
In my account of Frankenstein, Victor lives in a similarly endlessly looping world. His wife was killed on their wedding night, and he has made himself believe that a fiend, a monster, has murdered her. He is suffering from a mental dissociation. The part of himself that has committed the crime has been externalized, so he will not have to re-experience the event. If he does relive the event -- his wife, his sweet Elizabeth, his Goddess, was unworthy of his love, so he killed her -- his idyllic love will die. He is unable to let love die, so he has fabricated a phantasy world where the image of Elizabeth lives on, and he can still love her.
Ackerman, Diane. The Natural History of Love. New York: Vintage Books, 1995.
Allen, Woody, dir. Annie Hall.
With Woody Allen, Diane Keaton and others.
United Artists: 1977. Videocassette.
ìBegin the Beguine.î The Best of Cole Porter.
Milwaukee, WI: Hal Lenard
Publishing Corporation, 1992.
Hoffman, Dustin, actor. The Graduate.
With Katherine Ross and others.
Dir. Mike Nichols. Embassy Pictures: 1967. Videocassette.
Keefer, Julia L., Ph.D. ìWriting Workshop Iî 11 Oct. 97.
Murry, Bill, actor. Groundhog Day.
With Andie MacDowell and others.
Dir. Harold Ramis. Columbia Pictures: 1993. Videocassette.
The Shadow in Frankenstein and Perfume
The monster, in Mary Shelleyís Frankenstein, is Victorís shadow. In Aion (8), C.G. Jung writes:
Closer examination of the dark characteristics -- that is, the inferiorities constituting the shadow -- reveals that they have an emotional nature, a kind of autonomy, and accordingly an obsessive or, better, possessive quality. (Jung 8) In this case the shadow has been split off from the ego.
Shortly after this ëthingí is brought into consciousness, Victor runs away from himself. In running he remembers lines from Coleridgeís Ancient Mariner (Shelley 58):
Victor, upon returning home, has another encounter with his shadow. He ìperceived in the gloom a figure...; its gigantic stature, and the deformity of its aspect, more hideous than belongs to humanity, instantly informed [him] that it was the wretch...î(Shelley 73). While knowing the brute killed his brother, he remains silent. He allows Justine to be tried and executed, rather than speak and be thought insane. Again he has run away from his shadow.
Only after spending time on the lake, and reflecting (Shelley 88), is he ready to confront the shadow and begin its integration. In a frozen wasteland, he listens to the plight of the shadow, and begins a reconciliation. He agrees to assist the shadow (Shelley 143).
Had Victor immediately gone and fulfilled the shadowís request, he could have married Elizabeth and lived a ënormalí existence. Instead he backslides. He dallies with his friend. He wallows in self pity. He reasons himself into not granting the shadow its wish. Once this decision is made Victor finds himself lost at sea (Shelley 166).
What ensues is Victorís quest to rid himself of his shadow. He is obsessed, or, better, possessed by this task. In the end Victor wins. His shadow is condemned to a cold, dark, watery grave (Shelley 215). The shadow also presents itself in Patrick Suskindís Perfume. However, Grenouille is one of ìthose rather rare cases where the positive qualities of the personality are repressed, and the ego in consequence plays an essentially negative or unfavourable roleî (Jung 8). Grenouille differs from the Frankenstein monster.
We read in Aion (Jung 10):
Grenouille has no desire to be part of humanity. He consorts with Baldini, the Marquis de La Taillade-Espinasse, and Madame Arnulfi, without the ënormalí ego entanglements. He has no desire for fortune or fame, but only the single-minded pursuit of his goal. Again we sense those aspects of shadow pointed out by Jung. Grenouille is obsession, or, better, possession incarnate. He is evil personified - an archetype.
In analytical psychology the goal is individuation of the self. A complete integration of the psyche is sought. The first step is to engage the shadow. Through the shadow complex we encounter the contrasexual complex. In men this is called the anima - the feminine archetype. We can glimpse this in Shelley and Suskind.
Victor loses his battle with the shadow, and what follows is the collapse of his life. He loses his desire for work, his friend, and ultimately his wife. The battle hinges on his successfully completing an alchemical process (central to Jungís descriptions of individuation), wherein he must unite the masculine and feminine. Only by doing this will his life fall into place. He is not up to the task.
Grenouilleís encounter with the Feminine
is altogether warped. Again an alchemical process is used to perform
the bonding. The shadowís possession of the anima in the absence
of ego is unbalanced. With no ego to bind him to reality, Grenouille
Shelley, Mary. Frankenstein. Intro. by Maurice Hindle. New York: Penguin Books, 1985.
Suskind, Patrick. Perfume: The Story of a Murderer.
Trans. John E. Woods.
New York: Washington Square Press , 1991.