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The Uses of Enchantment: The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales Summary & Study Guide

This Study Guide consists of approximately 26 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of The Uses of Enchantment.
This section contains 434 words
(approx. 2 pages at 400 words per page)
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The Uses of Enchantment: The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales Summary & Study Guide Description

The Uses of Enchantment: The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Topics for Discussion and a Free Quiz on The Uses of Enchantment: The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales by Bruno Bettelheim.

"The Uses of Enchantment: The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales" by Bruno Bettelheim is a non-fiction work focused on analyzing fairy tales and how they play an important role in both ancient and modern society.

Bruno Bettelheim was a child psychologist and philosopher who was well known for his work with autistic children. Although Bettelheim wrongly assumed that autism was caused by neglect and the withholding of affection by the parents, particularly the mother, the author's insights into the origin and foundation of fairy tales allow the reader to explore the deeper meanings hidden inside each of these famous children's stories.

Bettelheim addresses many famous fairy tales, including "Cinderella," "Snow White," "Rapunzel," "Jack and the Beanstalk," "Sleeping Beauty," "Hansel and Gretel," and "Little Red Riding Hood." Many of the tales were preliterate and were passed from generation to generation via the oral tradition. This process allowed the fairy tales to be shaped and changed to fit the audience and the times, often creating radical changes. Bettelheim states that in some cases, such as in the case of the Perrault version of "Little Red Riding Hood," the change was for the better. Perrault was known for belaboring the moral in the story and taking the fun out of the fairy tale, treating it more as a fable where the moral is blatant.

All of the fairy tales mentioned in the work have strong ties to the process of maturity including the oedipal issues a child faces as well as separation anxiety, fear, resentment, hatred, and jealousy. Bettelheim believes that the stories help children understand and cope with new and disturbing emotions that may not be addressed otherwise.

As a psychologist, Bettelheim has strong leanings toward the teachings of Sigmund Freud, a noted psychiatrist and the founding father of psychoanalysis. Freud was known for his theories on the Oedipus Complex, a series of behaviors and emotions that deal with the child's relationship with his parents regarding affection, attention, sex, and nurturing. Basically speaking, Freud believed that between ages three and five or six, a child will want to explore a relationship of a sexual nature with the parent of the opposite sex and want to kill the parent of the same sex. This theory is based on the myth of Oedipus who unknowingly kills his father and marries his mother.

Also addressed by Bettelheim is the use of the id, ego, and superego in its various forms.

Overall, "The Uses of Enchantment: The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales" provides the reader with a painstakingly prepared look into the minds of children and the authors who chose to write for them.

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