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Reed, M.D. (1973). Morris' “Rapunzel” as an Oedipal Fantasy. Am. Imago, 30(3):313-322.

(1973). American Imago, 30(3):313-322

Morris' “Rapunzel” as an Oedipal Fantasy

Michael D. Reed

Describing Morris' “Rapunzel” in his article, “‘Rapunzel’ Unravelled,” Robert Stallman says: “Certainly, as we read the poem, we have the uncomfortable feeling of walking over thin ice that hides a vast world beneath its surface glitter.” Rather than ignoring this feeling, like the Victorian critics he cites, Stallman attempts to illuminate our response to the poem and discovers it is, in mythic terms, a “rite of passage” poem which “takes the young man from the undifferentiated life of the child, scoffed at and mocked, through the difficult trial of attaining adult perception, and attaining love and individuality, represented by the individual names given the Prince and the Maiden in the second half of the poem.” Certainly the mythic reading is possible, and holds its own interest, but it does not explain adequately our response to the poem. Beneath the “rite of passage” myth, as beneath any myth, there is a psychoanalytic content that gives the myth its appeal and causes our response to the poem. It is this level of the poem that causes our uncomfortable feeling that we might plunge into the vast world beneath the surface glitter of the poem.

“Rapunzel” is a dramatic poem of five scenes. Scenes one and two establish the problem of conflict which is resolved in scenes three, four and five. In scene one we have the three main characters of the drama all speaking, two in soliloquy, the Prince and Rapunzel, and the Witch who speaks directly to Rapunzel commanding her to raise and lower her hair.

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