Archetypal essay

Jung about the Shadow The shadow is a moral problem that challenges the whole ego-personality, for no one can become conscious of the shadow without considerable moral effort. To become conscious of it involves recognizing the dark aspects of the personality as present and real. More about the shadow concept may be found in Carl Jung’s book The Relation between the Ego and the Unconscious, published archetypal essay Volume 7 of the Collected Works.

John Steinbeck brings together the human heart and the land. That phrase, written by environmentalist and writer Barry Lopez, has resonance for today’s readers of John Steinbeck. Lopez urges us to consider two primal landscapes: external landscapes – our relations to the land, to oaks, to the whir of night frogs – and interior landscapes, often shaped by the places where we live. John Steinbeck’s work brings together both these landscapes in extraordinary ways, ways that may deeply affect those of us living at the cusp of a new century. Steinbeck loved the burnished Salinas hills and the churning Pacific. Like some of America’s greatest writers – Thoreau, Faulkner, Cather – Steinbeck made his childhood haunts vividly real. In book after book, he charted his course in the letters or journals he wrote as “warm ups” to the day’s writing.

He asks that readers pay respectful attention to an external landscape. He invites us to look: “Orange and speckled and fluted nudibranchs slide gracefully over the rocks, their skirts waving like the dresses of Spanish dancers. Passages of stark beauty are found in every Steinbeck novel, sentences that record the rapt attention he paid to the natural world. And then he asks that we shift perspective. American literature is full of conquest narratives – John Smith as Virginia cavalier, Natty Bumppo as pathfinder, Ernest Hemingway as marksman. But for John Steinbeck, nature is not a commodity, animals not for slaughter. For his is not a man-centered but a holistic universe, with humans seen as simply another species bound intimately to the places where they live, breed, drink, love, suffer, and catch frogs.

In Steinbeck’s California novels, characters inhabit communities and are connected with one another: Sam Hamilton with Adam Trask, “Doc” Ricketts with Mack and the boys, the Joads with all migrants. And all of these characters are shaped by the places they live – Soledad, Tortilla Flat, a bone-dry King City Ranch – or to the roads they travel – Route 66, Highway 1 to the Carmel Valley. As important to Steinbeck is the internal landscape, often one shaped by isolation, loneliness, failure. I always ask my students to look carefully at the first paragraphs of Steinbeck’s novels, where the external and characters’ internal landscapes coalesce, Of Mice and Men in particular.