(so apparently internet explorer sucks, I was able to paste when I got on Firefox! just in case anyone else has the same issue)
Between Bettelheim and Darnton’s articles, I found Darnton’s to be more convincing, mostly because I disagree with much of the psychology in Bettelheim’s argument. Darnton’s article approaches fairy tales from a historical perspective, questioning their relevance in the historical and cultural context in which they were created. He criticizes Bettelheim, and rightly so, for looking for symbolism and psychoanalytical tools that are not present in the original versions of the tales. The example that Darnton uses of Little Red Riding Hood shows that Bettelheim suits the tales to his own purposes, rather than reading them in an anthropological way and appreciating them for what they meant to the people who were telling them. Beyond the way Bettelheim disregards the historical and anthropological significance of the tales, the use he puts the fairy tales to is flawed as well.
Bettelheim argues that fairy tales give children a release for the pressures from their “id” or subconscious mind that their parents deny them by hiding the fact that there is darkness in man. Children who are not exposed to the darkness in others end up feeling like “a monster in their own eyes” due to the dark desires they feel. I disagree with this assessment of the benefit of fairy tales on the child’s subconscious. Bettelheim bases his entire argument on a Freudian model of child psychology in which every child has suppressed sexual desires and violent urges towards a parent. The very fact that these urges are “unconscious” contradicts Bettelheim’s idea that children feel like monsters for having dark thoughts. How can one feel monstrous for a thought one has never consciously had? The darkness present in many fairy tales, if a child even picked up on it, would likely only serve to scare the child and introduce new fears about the world into the child’s imagination. It seems counter-productive to introduce more fear of the world and stress into an already disturbed child’s imagination.