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Elements for Attaining a Balanced Psyche; In the Skin of a Lion

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Someone who is individuated displays signs of maturity and responsibility, in addition to also having a good understanding about the different aspects of themselves and the inner workings of the universe which bestows a holistic healing effect on one’s self. Furthermore, one who is individuated also promotes freedom and justice by helping others find the path to individuation. Patrick Lewis from In the Skin of a Lion and Mr. Watts from Mister Pip were both straying towards having a neurosis due to an imbalanced psyche. Patrick lost his sense of reasoning when his lover, Alice, was killed by a misplaced suitcase bomb.

His life was already full of sorrow, and he worked dangerous jobs in the city of Toronto for an unsustainable wage; making it is easy to understand why he risked his life to try to blow up the central centrifugal pumps on an island just outside the city. On the other hand, Mr. Watts was living his everyday life like it was a drama play at a theatre, walking around the village with a bright red clown nose while pulling his fat wife on a trolley behind him.

Although by the end of each novel, the characters in In the Skin of a Lion by Michael Ondaatje and Mister Pip by Lloyd Jones became individuated through achieving a balanced psyche. Once the two protagonists developed a strong healthy anima and were able to mediate their ego along with the outside world using the proper personas, individuation was attained.

To begin, a positive anima is necessary for one to have a fully balanced psyche. Patrick Lewis’s life before and after his lover’s death demonstrates why having a positive anima is critical to reaching individuation. Before Alice Gull died due to a misplaced suitcase bomb, Patrick’s outlook on life was noticeably improving. For example, he was being more open towards others, when he usually keeps to himself and was also happier throughout his day because he looked forward to seeing Alice when he got off of work. Once he got off work and back home to her, he treated her and her daughter, Hana, with care and respect even though he just went through a day of hard labour under harsh environments, such as building a tunnel under Lake Ontario.

Patrick even said: “if [they] cannot be lovers [he would] come each afternoon, come as if courting, and over lunch [they would] share [their] thoughts, laughing, so this talk will be love” (Ondaatje 164). Evidently, he clearly had a strong soul force because he had a healthy relationship with his lover, therefore allowing him to take a step towards being more individuated. Furthermore, he stated that even if they were not official girlfriend and boyfriend, he would have still treated her the same as he would now, enjoying their time spent in each other’s company. Although after she died, Patrick lost all sanity of his and even ended up in jail for quite a while. Visvis’ work “suggests that the trauma or a loved one’s death cannot be faced immediately, but only tentatively and indirectly” (Visvis). Hence explaining why Patrick did unlawful things such as setting fire to a beautiful garden and almost having the means to press the plunger on the fuse box down, blowing up the centrifugal pumps.

Though other close friends who were practically family to him tried to talk him out of it, he still went along with trying to set things right for Alice; proving how it is necessary to have a healthy soul force. But after the whole ordeal was over with at the end of the novel, “Patrick journeys towards his previous lover, Clara, who left him for the millionaire Ambrose Small years earlier. Small has been removed as an obstacle, dying a lonely and deranged death, leaving Clara and Patrick free to unite and re-establish a family unit for Hana, Alice’s orphaned child” (Visvis). When Patrick recovered his past relationship with Clara, he also rediscovered his anima and his soul force, which allowed him to be closer to finding full individuation. Hence, Patrick becomes more mature and responsible once his anima is re-established by getting back together with Clara. He began to take care of Hana like he promised Alice he would, and gave up on his revengeful schemes.

Even though Patrick has been through very tough times, he has now found peace with the world. Below is a conversation with Hana after being released from jail many years later: -“Are you healthy?” -“Oh yes. As a horse.” -“Good.” -“I’ll have to get used to things, though.” -“That’s okay, Patrick . . . and being in jail’s okay too. Don’t let it go to your head though.” -“No” (Ondaatje 212). Patrick did not hold any grudges, or have regrets about what he has done, demonstrating that there is a holistic healing effect bestowed onto him. He even had support from Hana to help him get through this transition from solitude in jail to living back at home with Alice’s daughter he agreed to take care of.

To further prove how having a healthy anima leads to one’s individuation, Toye explains how Michael Ondaatje’s “own near-breakdown, and, finally, after what one section call[ed] ‘Rock bottom’, his recovery and return through the love of another woman” (Toye, 882). Toye’s written work depicts how Ondaatje applies his own life experiences into his novels through the use of his characters. He proves how needed a healthy anima and soul force is in order for one to reach the path to individuation; as without it, developing a form of neurosis is prevalent. Therefore, without a healthy anima, a man would not be able to handle the difficulties of life and will continually be in conflict with his different aspects of self.

Furthermore, Mr. Watts also demonstrates how having a healthy anima is necessary to obtain individuation. Grace, Mr. Watts’ wife, fell greatly ill; and with no access to medicine due to the rebellion against the Redskins, there was nothing to help cure the disease that was infecting her body. Also, all of their furniture from their house was stolen from the villagers and burned in a great big bonfire because they were resentful of Mr. Watts’ possessions he had while they had nothing. So Grace did not even have a bed or a couch to lie on while ill, but nonetheless, Mr. Watts “knelt beside his sick wife, strok[ed] her hair and dabb[ed] her forehead with a damp-looking rag” (Jones 134). He displayed his kind and caring affection towards his wife, which depicts that there was a healthy relationship between the two of them and that he had a strong soul force.

To further prove that Mr. Watts had a strong anima, he also worked side by side with his wife without a single dispute about how the spare room should look and feel like for the soon to be born child. Although Mr. Watts is of a different decent and background than Grace “they [still] wanted their vision of some unrealised place to inhabit the room…They agreed to gather their worlds side by side, and leave it to their daughter to pick and choose what she wanted” (Butter). He treated her with respect and took into consideration of what she wanted in the spare room. Throughout the whole novel, they never gotten into an argument, and always worked through problems together. Since Mr. Watts had a strong soul force, it allowed him to become more individuated; meaning that he had a better understanding of the different aspects of himself and human nature.

So when his wife unfortunately passed away, Matilda: Wasn’t sure how long Mr. Watts’ mourning would last. Some of [them] worried that he would not come out of his house again—that, like Miss Havisham, he would become stuck. So it was a surprise, three days later, when Mr. Watts sent Gilbert to find me and ask why I wasn’t in school. In class…his smile was firm, as if to say he was no longer a grieving man (Jones 146). Mr. Watts only spent three days mourning his dead wife, which is considerably a short period of time. The reason for his short mourning period is because he understood the inner workings of the universe, so he was able to accept the fate of his wife and the way life is. Hence obtaining a healthy anima is essential to reaching individuation.

However, one would also need a balanced persona as it helps mediate what one’s self wants, and what the outside world requires them to be. For example, Patrick had an authoritative persona when confronting Commissioner Harris at his office. It was the middle of the night when Patrick swam through all the intake tunnels and broke into the centrifugal pumps. He set explosives ready to be detonated with one press of the plunger, but he decided to go and give a surprise visit to the man in charge of all of the unfair treatment to the immigrant workers. Although he was just some poor immigrant, he portrayed his assertiveness and his authority right away when confronting him. Commissioner Harris had no choice but to follow every single command from Patrick once he said: “Everything is wired. I just press the plunger on this blasting-box” (Ondaatje 235).

From that moment on, Patrick had turned the tables of the situation and now he was the one giving the commands, instead of receiving them. He would not be able to get Mr. Harris to do as he pleases, and listen to his story, which is exactly what Patrick came in there to do. Putting on his authoritative persona makes manipulating Mr. Harris possible. Patrick tells him about all the struggles his people have been through because of the way Mr. Harris has run his business, and about his personal struggles of Alice dying. The author Michael “Ondaatje evokes a relationship between self and mask in this respect…” (New 846). A persona mediates between self and the outside world, and that is what Patrick is doing. Initially, he needed to put on an authoritative in order to force Mr. Harris to listen; but after hours go by, he becomes less assertive and more open for conversation since he feels as if Mr. Harris is not a potential threat to stopping him from pressing down the plunger on the blasting-box.

In the end, his goal was completed, which was to make Mr. Harris understand the hardships he had put him, and others like him through. Interestingly, Patrick had found that a holistic healing effect has occurred when he poured all his emotions out while talking to Mr. Harris in the dark office; but more-so that he was able to spread this holistic healing and justice towards Mr. Harris. As Patrick passed out from exhaustion, and a guard came in when the sun rose, Mr. Harris told the guard to take away the blasting-box, and bring in a nurse with some medical supplies to care for Patrick who is bleeding on the ground (Jones 242). Mr. Harris did not arrest Patrick, which he could have easily done considering the state Patrick was in, but instead brought him the medical attention he needed and let him go free. Patrick changed Mr. Harris, made him see his wrong-doings; and hopefully changed him to understanding that humans are not to be treated like animals. The both of them “engag[ed] in a form of the ‘talking cure’ (Visvis), finding individuation through properly expressing themselves with the right personas. Therefore, the two examples above prove how having multifaceted personas is necessary to achieving a balanced psyche, which in turn leads to discovering the path to individuation.

An addition, Mr. Watts portrayed a fatherly persona to the students on the island after all of the other teachers fled onto the last boat off the island. When there was a lack of parental guidance, he took the initiative to fulfill the role of a parent for the students; in particular, a student named Matilda. Since her mother, Dolores, was not promoting desirable character traits, Mr. Watts was there instead to help guide Matilda through life and to teach her important lessons: “I only know the man who took us kids by the hand and taught us how to reimagine the world, and to see the possibility of change, to welcome it into our lives” (Jones 245). While her mother was busy trying to persuade others that Mr. Watts is a horrible person, he was busy teaching his students how to live life better by seeing the world as a place full of opportunities; something that a parent should be doing for their kid.

Although he was only supposed to be their teacher, he went above and beyond the expectations that were laid out for his role as he took his teachings outside the classroom and became more like a father to them instead. Before the blockade commenced, he was an outsider that no one truly knew about; but then after the civil war began, “the foreigner becomes familiar, accepted, and integrated. Fatherless Matilda… and the other children now have a father figure” (Latham). Since he portrayed a fatherly persona towards the students, his goal was to protect them from all the violence that occurred in the village just like how a father would. Thus to prove Mr. Watts’ individuation, Matilda stated that: He was what-ever he needed to be, what we asked him to be.

Perhaps there are lives like that—they pour into whatever space we have made ready for them to fill. We needed a teacher, Mr. Watts became that teacher. We needed a magician to conjure up other worlds, and Mr. Watts had become that magician. When we needed a saviour, Mr. Watts had filled that role. When the redskins required a life, Mr. Watts had given himself (Jones 245). Consequently, Mr. Watts displayed his individuation through demonstrated signs of maturity and responsibility towards the residents of the village. All of the students looked up to him for guidance of what to do, or how to behave, and never has he once faltered and became a bad role model to them.

When the redskins came to inflict punishment on the already abused village, Mr. Watts gave up his own life in order to save everyone else from suffering too. He handled the situation with maturity, and took responsibility for the crime the redskins accused the people of the village of doing, which was concealing a man by the name of Mister Pip; who was just a made up character from a novel he read to his students in class. In addition, he used the novel Great Expectations by Charles Dickens because “he believ[ed] that the story will again deflate the children’s attention from the fear, violence and anxiety around them” (Latham). However, “as fears escalate and conditions worsen, Great Expectations offer[ed] Matilda a stay against chaos…And that save[d] [their] sanity” (Taylor).

Taylor expressed that a major reason why most of the students on the island had not already lost their sanity yet due to all the brutal violence around them is because Mr. Watts, who is already individuated, had the ability to help others find some form of inner peace. With his fatherly persona, he guides Matilda towards the path to individuation as he “gives Matilda [the] skills that enable her to interpret her own world better” (Taylor). In other words, he himself had a good understanding about the workings of the universe, and was able to teach others the same; which satisfy one of the conditions of individuation. By spreading his knowledge about the workings of the universe to the students, it further encourages them to stray from developing a neurosis and promotes individuation instead.

After constant abuse from the redskins, a few of the students choose to leave the village and join the rebel army instead, which leads to poor behaviour traits; but most of the students still went back to the school to learn more from Mr. Watts. It is evident that he is individuated, and with his fatherly persona he is able to keep most of the students safe from harm and from negative influence.

Patrick Lewis and Mr. Watts in the novels In the Skin of a Lion by Michael Ondaatje and Mister Pip by Lloyd Jones both discover how to strengthen their soul force and develop the ability to portray multifaceted personas towards others in the right situations. Thus individuation is only made possible through balancing the different aspects of the psyche. If the characters did not find the path to individuation at the crucial points in life, a neurosis would have definitely developed, which would have meant increased suffering to all other individuals around them as they would not have been able to also grasp the feel of individuation.

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GradesFixer. (2018). Elements for Attaining a Balanced Psyche; In the Skin of a Lion. Retrived from https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/finding-the-way-to-individuation-comparing-patrick-lewis-and-mr-watts/
GradesFixer. "Elements for Attaining a Balanced Psyche; In the Skin of a Lion." GradesFixer, 13 May. 2018, https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/finding-the-way-to-individuation-comparing-patrick-lewis-and-mr-watts/
GradesFixer, 2018. Elements for Attaining a Balanced Psyche; In the Skin of a Lion. [online] Available at: <https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/finding-the-way-to-individuation-comparing-patrick-lewis-and-mr-watts/> [Accessed 13 July 2020].
GradesFixer. Elements for Attaining a Balanced Psyche; In the Skin of a Lion [Internet]. GradesFixer; 2018 [cited 2018 May 13]. Available from: https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/finding-the-way-to-individuation-comparing-patrick-lewis-and-mr-watts/
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