Using The Mythology Of Love To Analyze Amy Foster

1027 words - 4 pages

Using The Mythology of Love to Analyze Amy Foster


In Amy Foster, Joseph Conrad has written a great story that shows the different types of love felt between Amy and Yanko as described by Joseph Campbell in his essay on The Mythology of Love. The relationship of Yanko and Amy is dynamic and changes as the story progresses. At first, Amy feels compassion for Yanko; she does not see the differences between him and the English people as the others of Brenzett do. However, later in the story, compassion turns to passion. Amy's son is then born; distinctions appear and she is either no longer able to love Yanko or she loves Yanko to such an extent that she finds she is incapable of joining Yanko on an earthly plane as Joseph Campbell describes (page 159). Whatever the reasons may be, Amy refuses to aid Yanko in his time of need, resulting in Yanko's death. There is a great change of heart from Amy's first compassion for Yanko to her nonchalance of his death. However, the results may have only been a product of the different levels of love felt by Amy for Yanko.

The general population of Brenzett treats Yanko an escaped lunatic when he is first spotted in the seaside town. He is whipped, stoned and beaten by many of the residents. In addition, he was captured and caged like a wild animal. He is described as a "drunk", "tramp", and "creature". He is very different from the usual Englishman and is treated as such. He is segregated and is forced to work for Mr. Swaffer. However, one person sees through the differences. Amy, perhaps because of her stupidity or an ability to feel for Yanko, does not see a wild foreigner that screams at night and dances strangely. She saw only the similarities, the oneness of two human beings, and not the separateness. This is the basis of compassion, as Campbell shows. Thus, Amy is able to be "selfless, boundless, without ego". This compassion shown for Yanko expresses the affection felt by Amy for the foreigner and is received by him as love. The love is returned by Yanko in his actions, when he buys Amy a green ribbon and eventually proposes marriage. This is one of the levels of love described by Joseph Campbell, compassion. It transcends differences and differences.

The nature of the relationship changes after the two marry. It degrades from a "higher, spiritual order of love" to an "animal passion". It is no longer a oneness for which Amy loves Yanko. Rather, it is the sex drive, the physical want of a male for a female and vice versa. This type of relationship, as Campbell states, still "transcends differences and even loyalties". Conrad writes, "Her infatuation endured. People saw her going out to meet him in the evening. She stared with unblinking, fascinated eyes up the...

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