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A Critique Of “ ‘Cinderella’ : A Story Of Sibling Rivalry And Oedipal Conflicts By Bruno Bettelheim

1535 words - 7 pages

Most children experience agony and hope as they face the struggles of sibling rivalry throughout their childhood. This situation has been experienced by children, who may or may not have siblings, for hundreds of years. Several stories represent this crisis, including the Biblical story of Abel and Cain which was written over 3000 years ago. Abel was forced to be Cain’s ash-brother. Cain developed an intense feeling of jealousy of Abel when his offering to the Lord was rejected while Abel’s was accepted. This caused him great agony, but he wasn't the only one. According to Bruno bettelheim, the fairy tale “Cinderella” encompasses the ideas of sibling rivalry as well as the agonies and hopes ...view middle of the document...

Bettelheim uses these Biblical stories to demonstrate the effects sibling rivalry can have upon someone. Cain ended up murdering Abel and Esau was forced to be the “Ash brother”, a term referring to those who were extremely impoverished, of Jacob. Bettelheim’s use of these Biblical allusions fit into his essay well because they relate to his focus point- sibling rivalry.

Bettelheim continues his essay by relating the inner experiences of children to sibling rivalry. He states that when children are experiencing the devastating effects of sibling rivalry they feel as if they can relate to “Cinderella”. He states that the child may think to himself that he is being mistreated just like “Cinderella” was even when he has no reason to. This feeling, he says, can last for long periods of time, periods of time in which the child begins to feel a certain amount of truth toward his or her situation. Bettelheim concludes this point by stating that the events of “Cinderella” create vivid emotions deep within the child that become very convincing - potentially more so than the child’s own life experiences.

Bettelheim then, assuming that the average person may not comprehend psychological terms in the same way as he or his colleagues, defines the term sibling rivalry. He says that it is a complex assortment of feelings and their adjoining causes. Sibling rivalry, he continues, can arouse emotions that are far more extreme than would likely be judged as normal by the subjects parents or other siblings. Bettelheim then continues by reasoning that these strong emotions can therefore cause a child to easily misjudge or over exaggerate his or her situation. He then feels that he is oppressed like “Cinderella” was. “That is why he believes in the inherent truth of “Cinderella”, and then also comes to believe in her eventual deliverance and victory. -CITE PG 279-280 This point discussed by Bettelheim is crucial because it successfully connects “Cinderella” to sibling rivalry. However, this point is extremely biased. Bettelheim discusses the information as if the child is going to feel mistreated and as if he will create a link between his sorrows and “Cinderella”. He did not bring up the topic of children that do not feel the intense emotions involved with sibling rivalry, or children who appreciate the situation they are in and do not feel resentful. If Bettelheim would have included a opposing viewpoints it would have led more credibility to this part of his essay.

Bettelheim continues his essay by claiming that when a child suffering from sibling rivalry is told that he will do as well as his brothers or sisters it does little to relieve him. He maintains that this is because a child can only see his or her situation in the present and not the future. This would make the child feel burdened by sibling rivalry - and unable to escape from the oppression it causes. In Bettelheim’s viewpoint this would force the child to turn towards fantasies of victory...

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