"‘BRASS CAN DO BETTER:' THE ARCHETYPAL JOURNEY OF OLIVER TWIST’S NANCY THROUGH THE LENS OF JUNGIAN REVISIONIST THEORY"

Open Access
Author:
Garg, Julie Ann
Area of Honors:
English
Degree:
Bachelor of Humanities
Document Type:
Thesis
Thesis Supervisors:
  • Glen Alan Mazis, Thesis Supervisor
  • Patricia Johnson, Honors Advisor
Keywords:
  • Gender
  • Archetypes
  • Dickens
  • Masculinity
  • Femininity
  • Jung
  • Anima
  • Animus
  • Victorian Culture
  • Victorian Literature
  • Androgyny
  • Syzygy
Abstract:
Oliver Twist’s Nancy, a young woman of sixteen whom Charles Dickens reveals to be a prostitute, is a unique female heroine who challenges the notions of biological-based sex roles. I will argue that through Nancy, Dickens effectively calls into question the validity of biological essentialism and Victorian class prejudices by demonstrating that it is possible for even fallen women to combine both stereotypically “masculine” and “feminine” qualities. I will also demonstrate how the personal development of Nancy throughout the text represents the archetypal journey which is pivotal to Carl Jung’s notion of individuation. While gender roles, and the biological justifications for them, are intended to help men and women identify his or her role in society, I am convinced that they instead act to reinforce already prevalent binary ways of thinking. Gender roles act to keep both sexes in bondage to rigid stereotypes that are both unhealthy and limiting. The historical and contemporary dominance of patriarchy in Western society has also meant that the roles prescribed to women are often defined solely by men who have fashioned such roles in such a way as to facilitate their continued dominance over the opposite sex. While Jung laid the groundwork for a new way of approaching not only the psyche but gender, it is apparent that his tendency to overlook the tremendous influence of various cultural forces in shaping his understanding of the anima ultimately poses significant challenges for women who seek to embark on their individuation journeys. Jung’s notion of the syzygy, (the union of the masculine element “animus” with the feminine element “anima”) also represents an important step in the individuation process, and will be further explored in the context of a broader evaluation of androgyny.