Fairytale Character Analysis
Thousands of young girls all over the globe go to sleep every night and their parents read them a fairytale, usually a magic one and with a happy ending. Very often, the main character of the story is a beautiful princess or woman who has a hard or at least not perfect life, but overcomes all the obstacles and meets her true love. What readers often overlook is the fact that all these female heroines are often traumatized in childhood or early adulthood and may subsequently suffer from certain behavioral or psychological syndromes associated with the distress. This paper will provide an in-depth analysis of one of such fairytale characters, Snow White, from the standpoint of psychology. It will describe her family history, traumas, medical problems and social stressors she faced as well as point out symptoms that give reasons to believe she has a DSM disorder. The paper will further recommend therapy and treatment plan that can help the fairytale character to recover.
Character and Symptoms Description
Snow White experienced tragedy very early in her life – her mother died after giving birth to her. Her father soon remarried and his new wife was obsessed with retaining the title “the fairest one of all.” When Snow White turned seven she surpassed her stepmother in beauty and in this way enraged her. The Queen sent a huntsman to kill the young princess and take out her heart as a proof and a trophy. Luckily, he let her go and she wandered into the forest in search of a safe place to stay. This was the second traumatic event in Snow White’s life. The first symptoms of trauma manifest themselves at the house of dwarfs, where Snow White becomes obsessed with cleanliness and evidently becomes a germaphobe. One may viewed it as a way of using repetitive behaviors to reduce anxiety. While living with dwarfs Snow White is housekeeping, and they are taking care of her. The Queen attempts to kill her again, first with a laced corset that is meant to suffocate her, and then with a comb which is supposed to poison her. the dwarfs have managed to save Snow White twice but fail to do this when the Queen hands her a poisoned apple through the window. The dwarfs subsequently place Snow White in a glass coffin to preserve her beauty during eternal sleep. Finally, Prince Charming resurrects her - he kisses her and thus wakes her up from a comatose state. In the end of the fairytale Snow White marries her savior and the evil Queen dies. But whether Snow White recovers from traumatic events she experienced remains under question.
Snow White is a perfect example of a typical Disney princess. She has unrealistically beautiful body type, is complacent and gullible by nature, and finds happiness owing to men – first dwarfs and then – Prince Charming. She has no female friends and the only other woman in her life is her evil counterpart, the Queen. Both female heroines of the fairytale suffer from different types of DSM disorders. Snow White is traumatized by numerous attempts to kill her and absence of female parental figure in her life. Her behavior is characterized by overzealous cleaning and the feeling of impurity. She is extremely devoted to work and productivity; excludes any kinds of leisure activities, is very scrupulous in cleaning and reluctant to delegate any tasks to dwarfs. Snow White is also very inflexible in matters of morality, values, and ethics. For her, all the beings are clearly divided into good and bad. Snow White also channels her obsessive tendencies towards the others by constantly making dwarfs wash their hands before food intake. One may view this as a certain ritual involving food. She also has persistent thoughts about the possibility of suffering from violence again, even though such tendency is rightfully grounded because of the past murder attempts of the Queen. Snow White's anxiety and distress feelings constantly manifest themselves in thinking that the Queen will find and eventually kill her. Snow White is also overly obsessed by pleasing the dwarfs and is afraid to alienate them. They are extremely important for her since they are considered to be her saviors. She is also constantly talking and singing to animals and this is not only a delusional tendency but also a method of searching for reassurance of all her actions. Such a repetitive activity may be viewed as a type of compulsion she cannot stop doing. All of these character traits and patterns of behavior point to the fact that she suffers from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. By living with the dwarfs in the forest, Snow White seems to be avoiding places and people who caused her trauma. Her behavior is characterized by estrangement from other human beings together with exaggerated fear response towards unknown individuals. Snow White also manifests self-destructive behavior by allowing the Queen to put the corset with poisoned laces on her and allowing the evil stepmother to touch her hair with a poisoned comb. One may also say that she has persistent, exaggerated negative beliefs about others and the world, since she is afraid to leave the house of the dwarfs, believing it is the only safe place in the world. Sudden, unexpected death of her beloved father only exacerbated her condition and she feels lonely and betrayed, as well as afraid for her own life. The assault she experienced when the huntsmen attempted to kill her constantly comes back to haunt her. She avoids trauma reminders by hiding in the forest but even there the Queen manages to reach her with the poisoned apple. A combination of life-threatening trauma and repeated murder attempts together with symptoms mentioned above point to the fact that Snow White suffers from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
The bahavior of the other female character - the Queen – attracts the attention of mental health specialists as well. She finds it difficult to age gracefully; she is selfish and vain, as well as has inflated sense of self-importance. The fact that Snow White had grown up to be more beautiful than her was a triggering event that activated maladaptive response. The Queen’s behavior is conceited, boastful, and snobbish, since she constantly needs reassurance of her beauty from the mirror. She is self-centered and seeks admiration from the others. The Queen’s behavior is also extremely impatient and hypersensitive. The fact that every time she fails to kill Snow White she becomes overly angry and hysterical proves that. The Queen is exploitative by nature – she used her beauty to enchant the king to marry her and used the huntsman to do the dirty work for her. Generally speaking, she uses others to indulge her own desires. The Queen has an exaggerated sense of self-importance and responds with rage to different forms of criticism. In particular, this happens when the mirror does not name her as “the fairest one of all”. She also has a tendency towards self-deception in order to preserve the illusion of being the most beautiful. She fails to realize that the fact that she kills Snow White will not make her any younger or more attractive. All the symptoms mentioned above point to the fact that the Queen suffers from narcissistic personality disorder.
Given the symptoms experienced, family and trauma history, medical problems and social stressors Snow White experienced in her life, the therapist would recommended her to get treatment for both Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). It would be highly recommended to approach both disorders with Cognitive Behavioral Treatment (CBT) in combination with medication and relaxation exercises. Both cognitive and exposure methods may prove to be helpful in this case.
Among the symptoms of OCD that require immediate attention of the therapist are the following: extreme perfectionism towards cleaning and arranging staff, feelings of anxiety and distress, germaphobia, fear of alienation from the side of the dwarfs, and repetitive talking and singing to animals. The most suitable approach in this case would be Cognitive Behavioral Treatment. During the cognitive part of therapy the patient would be encouraged to alter the way she thinks about the trauma. Snow White would be recommended to view the person who wanted to kill her, namely the Queen, as a mentally ill individual who herself needs medical help. The therapist will ask princess to identify the thoughts that make her feel dread and sadness and replace them with less distressing ones. In particular, it is worth asking the Princess to recall positive moments from her childhood when both her father and stepmother showed her love and affection and took good care of her. Snow White may also be recommended to cope with guilt she feels about the death of her mother after giving birth to her as well as untimely departure of her father. The Princess may also blame the Queen for her father’s death and therefore dealing with this negative attitude is also recommended. During the exposure part of Cognitive Behavioral Treatment Snow White may be advised to learn to control her fear of memories about huntsman, poisoned apple and the Queen. She may also be recommended to recall a lot of negative events at once in this way as if flooding herself with bad memories under supervision of the therapist. This type of treatment presupposes active collaboration between Snow White and the therapist. The ultimate goal it would try to reach is the patient becoming her own therapist and eliminating or blocking safety behaviors or rituals she uses as a response to previously experienced trauma situations. The frequency of therapeutic sessions recommended for OCD is three sessions per week during the first month with gradual decrease to two and one session per week with the treatment progression. Antidepressants may be recommended if the patient develops depressive tendencies.
Among the symptoms of PTSD that require immediate attention are trauma avoidance, estrangement from other human beings, self-destructive behavior, exaggerated fear response, and avoidance of trauma reminders. Among the methods used in the course of CBT there may be exposure to some traumatic or stressful event with an intention to make Snow White stop fearing the very memory she has. Further, it may be recommended to expose her to the feared stimulus, the Queen, within a safe environment. This has to be done in order to overcome or extinguish fear reaction Snow White has to her stepmother. Repeated exposure of the patient to the dreaded traumatic memories and associated feelings in the absence of negative outcome is expected to decrease patient’s fear response. The expected length of treatment is from half a year to a year with frequency two or three times per week. Expected goals to be reached are decreasing paranoia and feeling of fear and eliminating the self-destructive behavior.
As far as the other character is concerned, among the symptoms of narcissistic personality disorder that require immediate attention are extreme self-centeredness, repeated manifestations of rage, inability to face criticism and accept unavoidable nature of aging process. Psychotherapy should be administered with focus on talking out her feelings, identifying unhealthy thoughts about murder, replacing them with positive ones, verbalization of unconscious conflict that causes the problem with Snow White. Supportive psychotherapy would have the aim to show how excessive self-adoration interferes with the ability to receive wanted adoration from others. Three sessions a week are recommended for two years with the possibility of administering antidepressant drugs and hospitalization in case of impulsive, self-destructive behavior.
To conclude with, Snow White and the Queen are two characters who are suffering from DSM disorders. While Snow White’s symptoms point to the fact that she has OCD and PTSD, the Queen’s behavior proves that she has narcissist personality disorder. As a form of treatment recommended CBT has proven to be the most effective, together with individual and family therapy and administration of drugs as well as hospitalization if they are needed.