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Uppily ever after

india Updated: Jul 03, 2010 22:32 IST
Manas Chakravarty

Fictional characters help understand real problems. Increasingly, professors from Psych 101 to medical schools and psychoanalytic institutes are using fiction and film in classroom assignments.

The Wall Street Journal, June 9

Take, for example, the numerous deep-seated neuroses that Humpty Dumpty suffers from. Why does he sit on the wall? Was he driven up the wall? Did he climb a wall of worry? Mr Dumpty is close-mouthed, he tells us nothing. He has a pathological need for secrecy, a clear sign of paranoia.

He seems to have delusions of grandeur, a conclusion clinched by his boastful assertion that all the king’s horses and all the king’s men couldn’t put him back together again. Why should the king be bothered about a mere egg? And how the heck can horses put anything together? All this points to Mr Dumpty’s feeble mind combined with an outsized ego.

Or could it be that sitting on the wall is a cleverly disguised metaphor for being indecisive — sitting on the fence? Humpty is unable to make decisions on his own, which is obvious because he is yet to grow out of the egg stage.

Treatment: Mr Dumpty needs to get off that wall and, instead, lie down on a therapist’s couch.

Let’s look at another famous fictional character, Baa Baa Black Sheep. Why on earth does he say baa-baa? Surely, even if you occasionally do feel the need to say baa-baa, you should do it shamefacedly and very quietly, without letting anyone know? And yet this sheep does it openly, obviously because he suffers from low self-esteem. That is seen in his meek acceptance of being described as “black” instead of standing up for his rights and insisting that he be called “coloured” or, even better, “of southern descent”. He needs to be supported and inspired, so that, at the end of a long course of therapy, he is able to cackle a richly ironic “heh-heh” instead of the demeaning “baa-baa”.

Prescription: The sheep’s morale badly needs boosting. Group therapy sessions with Pooh, Mr Dumpty, Miss Muffet et al in which they all sing “We shall overcome” or, even better, “The Internationale”, should do the trick.

At first glance, Little Jack Horner appears to be depressed. Why else does he mope in a corner? Closer investigation by a team of experienced psychiatrists shows, however, that Jack, with all this talk of Horners and thumbs and plums, is either playing out his erotic fantasies or merely likes rhyming words. But what kind of an idiot is he to be so smug just by pulling out a plum? Notice also his need for praise from his super-ego, expressed in the phrase “What a good boy am I”.

Remedy: Mr Horner must come out of his corner. Take him to the disco. Make him down a few tequilas and meet some girls.

And finally, we come to the strange case of Georgie-Porgie. He seems to be a nice, outgoing character, kissing the girls. But why did he make them cry when he kissed them? And why did he run away when the boys came out to play? Was it because he was straight and the boys were gay? No, the truth here is a simple one — Georgie-Porgie suffered from bad breath. Like any normal boy, he couldn’t resist kissing the girls, but his bad breath made them cry. And he couldn’t carry out a normal conversation with the boys because of his halitosis.

Prescription: Mouthwash.

manas.c@livemint.com Manas Chakravarty is Consulting Editor, Mint The views expressed by the author are personal