The Unveiling of Masks
Deep in the collective conscious of every culture lays a fascination with physical or metaphorical alterations through the use of masks. Traditionally, masks have been an indispensable part of religious expression, the performing arts, and the battlefield. The many uses have been adopted to assist in becoming someone other than themselves. In our society the term, mask, may be used as an allegory to indicate a hidden agenda or to identify a false perception that is given to the world by someone. It may be characterized as our id, from Freud’s logic, taking over when we unconsciously revert to our defense mechanism of proving that we are strong enough to survive any challenges; even though underneath our masks we are overwhelmed and weeping in frustration. Masks are described in Carl Jung’s theory of multiple archetypes in his essay “The Personal and The Collective Unconscious.” Furthermore, archetypes are used to identify and unveil the masks worn by the narrating lawyer in Herman Melville’s “Bartleby the Scrivener.” The contents of the collective unconscious by Jung are represented in the lawyer’s character symbolized through three masks: God Complex, Father Complex and Mother Complex. The narrator’s persona evolves into masks from the God Complex to the Father Complex and ending with the Mother Complex. At first the narrator described himself as “an ambitious lawyer who never address a jury, or in any way draw down public applause; but in the cool tranquility of a snug retreat, do a snug business among rich men’s bonds and mortgages and title deeds” (56). This quote indicates that the lawyer held high respect for himself in only associating with wealthy men of business. He was very proud of his promotion to his High Court of Chancery, which could seem to suggest that of a God complex. In addition, the narrator did not seem to consider the complimenting issues his two senior copyists presented at work a challenge but rather...
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