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A Jungian Analysis of How Like a God

A Jungian Analysis of How Like a God

Isaac Asimov was certainly correct when he stated that the writer of a story doesn’t necessarily know everything about it. The author, Brenda W. Clough, claims not to have had an acquaintance with Carl Jung’s work when writing How Like a God. However, the architecture of the book is strikingly Jungian.

In the beginning of the novel, the main character, Rob has very little interest in his appearance. Many computer people are like that, and he has his devoted wife Julianne to make all the sartorial decisions for him. He looks like a desk warrior, pale, uninteresting, and out of shape. He wears neutral colors, beige and brown, to symbolize his undifferentiated state. In second part of the novel, under the intolerable agony of losing his family, Rob’s cold dark side emerges and quickly takes over. The new regime is inaugurated by unnatural and life-denying behavior: not eating, not drinking, not sleeping, but sinking down into the dark on a park bench. Rob’s appearance alters as he takes to wearing rags and a dark blue toggle coat. He loses weight because he forgets to eat. Even his sexuality is warped. When he faces up to what’s going on he immediately tries to change by getting a haircut. At the hairdresser he notices music for the first time in the book. He also notices he’s blonder. He now has a light, and a dark, side.

In part three of the novel, under Edwin’s beneficent influence, Rob cultivates his better inclinations and inadvertently worsens a one-sidedness. He forces the tramp, now stigmatized as a frightening monster, down into the sub-basement of himself — the trap-door of which, however, has no lock. Edwin is the natural ally of Rob’s good, lighter side…

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…the power warp him into not-self, of becoming Gilgamesh. He knows the face of his own evil now, and the knowledge is a responsibility.

In this soup of symbols Edwin has two roles. He is of course a hermeneut, guiding Rob towards self-realization. But he is also Virgil, the icon of reason and light and learning to Rob’s Dante. (This is the reason why Rob is vaguely repelled by The Divine Comedy in the New York Public Library. At that point he’s in full avoidance mode, and even the first line of the poem cuts too close to home. “Midway in our life’s journey I went astray from the straight road, and woke to find myself alone in a dark wood.” Ouch!) Edwin can guide Rob forward to the final confrontation with his dark side, but he can’t battle the shadow himself. In fact Edwin finds Rob’s unconscious realm intolerable, since reason has no place there.

tragoed Oedipus the King (Oedipus Rex) – The Archetypal Tragic Man

Free Oedipus the King Essays: The Archetypal Tragic Man

According to Greek mythology, the Sphinx, a creature that is part woman, part bird, and part lion, caused famine and disease in Thebes that could be ended only when someone solved her riddle. Oedipus traveled to Thebes and answered the riddle correctly. The citizens of Thebes consider him a hero because he restored harmony to their kingdom. Sophocles alludes to the riddle of the Sphinx several times in his play, Oedipus Rex. Since the riddle is a metaphor for Oedipus’ life, it is ironic that he was able to answer the question. His revelation of the riddle of the Sphinx further supports the perspective of Oedipus as the archetypal tragic man.

The sphinx asks, “What has four legs in the morning, two legs in the afternoon, and three legs at night?” Oedipus correctly answers “man”, saving Thebes from the terrible drought and disease brought about by the horrible creature. The different times of day mentioned in the question actually represent different stages in life. In the morning, or childhood, humans crawl on …

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