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Individuation In J.D. Salinger’s Shoeless Joe And Shakespeare’s Hamlet

3104 words - 12 pages

One could speculate that the human condition is that of fragmentation, a dichotomy of the many aspects of personality that make us who we are. C.G. Jung, the founder of analytical psychology formulated a school of thought called junginism to explain this state of disunity. One theory from the Jungianism school of thought is the process of "individuation.” The process of individuation refers to the course in which an individual unifies and integrates all aspects of his/her personality. Individuation is clear in both the character “Ray Kinsella” from J.D. Salinger’s “Shoeless Joe” and the character Hamlet, from Shakespeare’s “The Tragedy of Hamlet the Prince of Denmark. Unlike Ray Kinsella, Hamlet was not able to reach individuation because of his melancholic depression and the dichotomy of his archetypes.

Firstly, Hamlets process of individuation is stunted because of his melancholic depression. Throughout the play there are several moments where the reader becomes aware of the harmful nature of Hamlets melancholic depression has on his process of individuation. One of the most famous soliloquies in history “too be or not too be” perfectly illustrates how Hamlet’s melancholic depression is to the detriment of his process of individuation. The first portion of the speech is Hamlet contemplating suicide, only to be dissuaded by the fact that it is a sin to end one’s own life “To be, or not to be? That is the question—Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, Or to take arms against a sea of troubles, And, by opposing, end them? To die…ay, there’s the rub, For in that sleep of death what dreams may come” Hamlet is essentially contemplating the morality of suicide, but is worried that he will be sent to hell as suicide is a mortal sin . In reference to suicide, Carl Jung said “It isn’t possible to kill part of your ‘self’ unless you kill yourself first…If you kill yourself you abolish that will of the self to become real, but it may arrest your personal development inasmuch it is not explained. You ought to realise that suicide is murder, since after suicide there remains a corpse exactly as with any ordinary murder. Only it is yourself that has been killed.” (Jung, 1975, p.25) there are two very significant portions of Jung’s argument, firstly is that you can’t kill any one archetype unless the physical body is killed; and, “the goal of life is the realization of the self” which obviously cannot by achieved if one commits suicide. In a nutshell, Hamlet’s melancholy stunts his process of individuation as it creates a complete lack of will to live, and by extension, a lack of will to pursue the goal of life which is individuation. Furthermore Hamlet’s melancholy causes Hamlet to continually procrastinate, to the detriment of his process of individuation. Hamlet’s melancholy is nothing less than what doctors diagnose as clinical depression, of which procrastination is a major symptom. Dr. Piers Steel,...

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