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9. Movement of Place

Symbolism of Place

9. Movement of Place

Alignment concerns a vertical matching of similar symbolic elements within the same time period within a narrative structure. If the story is in the form of a novel, the psychology of the protagonist should match symbolic elements of place in chapters. If the story is in the form of a film, character psychology should match scenes or acts.

Whereas alignment of place concerns a vertical matching of similar elements within the present moment, movement of place concerns a horizontal contrasting of place elements within a linear time framework. Alignment serves to illustrate inner psychological states by using outside place elements such as physical setting, time, weather, space, shape, color and number. Place movement, on the other hand, provides the spectrum of change in narrative and serves to illustrate the amount of change undertaken by the characters in the narrative as they move from the beginning (past) of a narrative to the end (future) of a narrative.

Place and plot in narrative are directly connected. As Leonard Lutwack notes in The Role of Place in Literature, "The structure of events and themes is thus supported and paralleled by the arrangement of places in a narrative. Plot is a map of a story's physical environment as well as the pattern of its events." As Eudora Welty says, "Location is the crossroads of circumstance."

1. Contrast Of Places

Contrast is an important aspect in narrative and is one of the foundations for drama. In fact, contrast is in effect drama. The greater the contrast the greater the drama. As an example, the story of a rich man becoming richer does not inherently have as much dramatic structure as the story of a poor man becoming rich because the change in the former is not as great as the change in the latter.

As a physiological construct of perception, contrast is one of the earliest distinctions a child is able to make. Max Luscher makes note of this importance in The Luscher Color Test where he says:

"A newly born child developing the ability to 'see' begins by being able to distinguish contrast, that is: 'brightness' and' darkness'; next comes the ability to distinguish movement, and after that shape and form. The recognition of color is the last development of all. The distinction of contrast is therefore the earliest and most primitive form of visual perception."

The ability to see color contrast, Luscher notes, is part of the more primitive midbrain while the ability to distinguish color is part of the more educated and less instinctive part of the brain, the cortex.

One of the greatest contrasts and conflicts is the universal conflict of Male-Female opposites. In The Symbolic Quest: Basic Concepts of Analytical Psychology Edward Whitmont notes that:

"One of the most basic forms in which we experience the universal conflict of opposites in ourselves and in our encounter with others is the male-female polarity. It therefore stands foremost among our psychological problems."

The mythologem of male-female represents a universal contrast and as we have seen is present in all elements of symbolism.

Whitmont feels that it can be approached best in terms of the ancient Chinese concepts of Yang and Yin. In discussing Yang, or the male oriented principle he notes:

"In Chinese philosphy the Yang principle is represented as the encompassing archetype of the creative or generating element, the initiating energy; it symbolizes the experience of energy in its driving, moving aspects of strength, impulsation, aggressiveness and arousal. It presents the characteristics of heat, stimulation, light (sun, ray); it is divisive and phallic as sword, spear or penetrating power, and even shattering; it is in motion from a center outward; it is represented as heaven and spirit; it is manifested in discipline and separation, hence individualization. It arouses, fights, creates and destroys; it is positive and enthusiastic but also restrictive and ascetic (another separative tendency)."

Notice all of the symbolic elements we have discussed which could be aligned with this concept: the time of sunlight, the element of fire and a skyscraper (like a sword or spear). While the Yang male oriented principle is generative, the Yin or feminine oriented principle is receptive. Whitmont observes:

"The Yin principle, on the other hand, is represented as receptive, yielding, withdrawing, cool, wet, dark, concrete, enclosing, containing (cave and hollow), form-giving and gestating, centripetal, in-going; it is not spirit but nature, the world of formation, the dark womb of nature that gives birth to drives, to urgings and instincts and sexuality; it is seen in the symbolism of earth and moon, darkness and space; it is negative, undifferentiated and collective."

Notice symbolic elements such as water, night, darkness, earth and the moon which represent the Yin principle.

In The Role of Place in Literature, Leonard Lutwack observes that the feminine principle is more closely associated with earth and place than the male. He notes that this is so:

"...probably because woman has functions of reproduction and alimentation similar to earth's and her menstrual cycle corresponds to the movements of earth's satellite, the moon. Because child-bearing and child-raising require repose rather than motion, woman is more intimately tied to fixed places than man."

The symbolism Lutwack notes of the feminine principle as place or context, can be contrasted with the masculine principle associated with things which go into a place or a context.

This contrast is observed by Sigmund Freud in the tenth lecture of A General Introduction to Psychoanalysis where Freud notes that female sex organs are associated in dreams with landscapes and male organs with things. Eric Neumann in The Great Mother elaborates on Freud's observations. He develops in detail the correspondence in primitive thought of the body of woman with a wide range of natural places such as caves, mountains and woods. Neumann offers the following formula as the "fundamental symbolic equation of the feminine" which shows the connection of woman and world:

Woman = body = vessel = world

As Neumann notes, this archetypal chain depends on the infant's experience of the mother's body as his first environment.

It is important to see that the conflicting concepts of Yang and Yin, as well as the various other conflicting principles, do not "fight" each other but "complement" each other. A part of each one of them is inherent in each individual.

The idea of complementary opposites inherent in each individual is best expressed by Jung's concepts of anima and animus. These two concepts are the archetypes of the opposites for each sex. As such, they can never be fully brought to consciousness and understood completely. He notes in The Symbolic Quest that:

"Each represents a world that is at first quite incomprehensible to its opposite, a world that can never be directly known. Even though we carry within us elements of the opposite sex, their field of expression is precisely that area which is most obscure, strange, irrational and fear-inspiring to us; it can best be intuited and 'felt out' but never completely understood."

The anima represents the archetype of the man's Yin, or the feminine within him while the animus represents the woman's maleness, or the Yang in her. Whitmont writes that both the anima and the animus "tend to operate like partial or separate personalities made up of different composite patterns."

The concepts of Yin and Yang, of male and female, animus and anima, are one example of the contrasts of opposites inherent in all symbolism. As colors developed from the basic contrast between light and darkness, so too all symbolism possesses this contrast. Within these contrasts we can locate correspondences which stand in contrast. For example, the place symbolism of the horror genre story involves the correspondence between elements we have discussed such as the time of winter and night, the space of below and inside, the color black and darkness and the element earth. On the other hand, the place symbolism of the romance genre involves the correspondence between the elements of a time in the day and during the summer or the spring, the space of above and outside, the color white and light and the element fire. If we take the major color symbolism of black and white we can develop a chart expressing this relationship as we have done below.

Black | White

Dark | Light
Night | Day
Inside | Outside
Below | Above
Winter | Summer
Valley | Mountain
Death | Birth
Evil | Good
Horror | Romance
Stormy | Clear
Feminine | Masculine
Moon | Sun
Earth | Fire
Water | Air
Country | City
Despair | Hope
Sadness | Happiness

The list can obviously go on and on. The reader should notice that the elements on the left have a similar meaning (alignment) as opposed to the elements on the right which also possess a similar alignment. In this sense we observe that feminine concept is associated with such elements as water and earth, night time, the moon, the color blue (which is a retreating rather than an advancing color), the space of below, the country and a valley setting. The similarity relates to the basic symbolic Theory of Correspondences we discussed in the previous chapter.

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Copyright © 2001 John Fraim