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Khan, M.R. (1955). Symbolic Wounds: Puberty Rites and the Envious Male: By Bruno Bettelheim. (Glencoe, Illinois: The Free Press, 1954. Pp. 286. $4.75. London: Thames and Hudson. 25 s.). Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 36:416.

(1955). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 36:416

Symbolic Wounds: Puberty Rites and the Envious Male: By Bruno Bettelheim. (Glencoe, Illinois: The Free Press, 1954. Pp. 286. $4.75. London: Thames and Hudson. 25 s.)

Review by:
M. Masud R. Khan

Dr. Bettelheim has made a very determined attempt to review afresh the initiation rites and the phenomenon of circumcision in the light of the recent advances in psycho-analytic metapsychology and clinic. It is his contention that the analytic bias of interpretating circumcision and initiation in terms of the castration complex, though it provided an elegant and plausible explanation, did not do justice to the complexity of the material. He feels it has discouraged later analytic developments of theory into the understanding of the significance of pre-oedipal attachment of the child and infant to the mother from being applied to these phenomena of primitive cultures.

Dr. Bettelheim's point of departure is a simple one: namely to see circumcision in its cultural setting. Thus viewed it emerges almost always as part of the initiation rites which establish the new identity and rôle of the adolescents in the culture as adults. The stress on the anxiety and domination (castration) by the father, Dr. Bettelheim considers, has been over-emphasized by analytic research workers; the rites are a positive integrative cultural experience for those who participate in them.

What had stimulated Dr. Bettelheim's interest on these lines was repeated observations in the Sonia Shankman Orthogenic School of the University of Chicago, of behaviour patterns among adolescents who, while struggling with the confusions of puberty and adolescence, spontaneously created 'ritual' games that were uncannily like the initiation rites of the primitive cultures.

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