Thursday, October 23, 2008

The Archetypes and the Divas

Over the past several months I have been musing over whether to write this blog or not, since the contents of this blog have particularly made me thoughtful for quite sometime. The concept of archetypes has always been a great fascination for me since the time I read Jung. An archetype is a model of a person, personality, or behavior. Archetype refers to a generic version of a personality. In this sense "mother figure" may be considered an archetype and may be identified in various characters with otherwise distinct (non-generic) personalities. The various archetypes such as the self, the shadow (the opposite of what our ego tries to present, which we normally try to suppress, but nevertheless posess), the anima (the feminine image in a man’s psyche) or the Animus (the masculine image in a female’s psyche) are certain things which will not fail to surprise man, and through and through makes me marvel how complex human nature is. At the cost of sounding like a true feminist, I could not help but reflect that in literature so many authors of different genres, eras and languages have modelled their leading ladies on different types of archetypes, so much so that they have become timeless legends by themselves and have, through the course of their writing, assumed such complexity of character, which defied all social norms, and which tarnished the concept of a “lady”. The three characters that immediately come to my mind are Shakespeare’s Lady Macbeth (Macbeth), Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina (Anna Karenina) and Tagore’s Binodini (Chokher Bali). Note that these characters have displayed so many layers of emotion, passion, anger, guilt, rage, defiance, dignity, that they have become boundless, timeless and fathomless not only for the readers but for the authors too. Tagore had always regretted the ending of Chokher Bali and why not?? There are many commonly known archetypal images that we have such as the Child, the Hero, the Great Mother, etc, but where would one place these legendary characters? What kind of image do they fit in?? They had passion, they had poise, and they were intelligent bordering on cunningness, yet a certain inner conflict, turmoil as a result of the oppressive society. They were bold and they were loving. Whenever someone talks about archetypes and literature, the first name that comes to mind is Hamlet, the quintessential example of a person suffering from inner self conflict and who epitomizes the initiation archetype of separation, transformation and return. But somehow I feel that more than Hamlet, it is lady Macbeth who is more interesting in terms of characterization. Perhaps it is a result of the status of women in the Elizabethan period that prompted Shakespeare to show the immense bout of guilt that she suffered after choosing her passion over duty. Perhaps it was again the status of women and the sociopolitical issues affecting Russia at the latter half of the 19th century that prompted Tolstoy to make Anna commit suicide so brutally. And again perhaps it was the uprising of the Indians against the British and the still ongoing strict laws of widowhood that prompted Tagore to feel dissatisfied with the ending of his Chokher Bali. So what does it tell us? How do these women reflect society through the ages? Each of these women stepped out from the suffocating laws of society to follow their love, to pursue their desire, their unfulfilled lust and need and craving. They defied duty to become slaves to their passion, to think about themselves and not the world to which they belong. And everytime they did, they met with a sad end….it makes me sad but it makes me respect these characters more, so much so that I want to read them again and again, to make them come to life in my mind with my own ending to each of their passionate tale…they are the ultimate DIVAs.

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