Bettelheim Argument About Children Use Fairy Tale Essay

1806 words - 8 pages

Kelsey Palsgaard
Ger 10
25 January 2013
Lessons of Hansel and Gretel
Today, fairy tales are one of the most classic and common literary genres. The Brothers Grimm played a large part in the development of the genre. They took folk tales that were meant for adults, vulgar, violent, and sexual, and converted them into stories meant for children through editing. Ever since the revisions of the Brothers Grimm, these tales have been used in the upbringing of children. There has been debate whether the tales are actually beneficial to a child’s instruction. One such tale that has been examined is the story of “Hansel and Gretel”. Through such critique, it is clear that a child should be encourages to read the text, as the child benefits from it. The tale of “Hansel and Gretel” as told by the Brothers Grimm allows children to identify with the experiences of the characters, encouraging development while teaching them how to use their imagination, as well as imparting lessons on morals, independence and intelligent action, confidence, and hope.
As a child hears the story of “Hansel and Gretel” they are able to identify with the children characters in a variety of ways, thus gaining from the lessons the children in the story learn. Bruno Bettelheim, a psychologist, states that the tale “expresses in words and actions the things which go on in children’s minds.” (Bettelheim 273). The story gives a more tangible image and reference to the emotions and struggles that a child faces internally. The child identifies with the tale in one way or another, imparting his own thoughts and ideas into the story line. This allows the child to explore his own thoughts and ideas in a way that is tangible and comfortable. Bettelheim speaks to this notable ability when he remarks, “While it entertains the child, the fairy tale enlightens him about himself, and fosters his personality development.” (Bettelheim 12). The child is entertained by the fanciful story, while subconsciously imparting his own ideas into it. As the child imparts his ideas onto the story, he is able to explore and develop those ideas through the experiences of the characters. When children read fairy tales, “The child fits unconscious content into conscious fantasies, which then enable him to deal with that content.” (Bettelheim 7). By taking subconscious ideas and anxieties and subconsciously placing them in realm of the fairy tale, the child is able to work with those ideas and anxieties, unconsciously promoting his development.
When a child imparts his subconscious ideas onto the story, he is using his imagination. Therefore, fairy tales such as “Hansel and Gretel" help encourage and teach a child to use his imagination. Bettelheim follows his statement about fitting unconscious content into conscious fantasies by saying, “It is here that fairy tales have unequaled value, because they offer new dimensions to the child’s imagination which would be impossible for him...


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