Siegfred Kendall L.

Belleza Angela Jacobs ENC-1102 10 April 2014 The Thing in the Forest Fairy tales have existed in the human world for so long, readers don’t realize that every story has a hidden meaning. Every page of a fairy tale book is like a mystery that a reader cannot wait to read and that enables the reader to imagine so many things (Matthews, 22). It is all about how we see and how we interpret the usage of words that A.S. Byatt wrote throughout the story (Lethridge, 17). By analyzing the characters, symbols and theme in the story, the reader find out the myth behind the story and the reader will also have a better understanding of the story. This short story contains a so called monster, the best way to approach this is with Jungian and myth criticism. According to Mays (2013), like structuralists, Jungians and archetypal critics strive to compare and unite the ages and peoples of the world and to reveal fundamental truths. This short story has symbols that hides the things that would make the story more meaningful. In order to analyze and fully understand the book, it is best to analyze the characters while going through the whole story. The way Byatt started the story “There were once two little girls who saw, or believed they saw, a thing in the forest” (Byatt, 302) it is very vague. The reader do not have any clue what the story is going to be, and this makes the reader hold and continue the story. The mind of a child works differently with the way an adult does. In the story,

Penny and Primrose were sent away from their city by their parents because of the war, they do not know the real reason why but in their mind it is either a punishment or a holiday. In the mind of the parents, they are sending their child away to escape the war. Penny and Primrose started out as strangers who had been sent away from their own city to escape the after effects of World War II, together with many other little children. They have never met before and they made friends on the train where it will take them to the place for them to stay. “Penny and Primrose held hands, and said to each other that it would be wizard if they could go to the same family , because at least they would have each other”(Byatt, 304). They have never met before but they got along very well. They got to the mansion where they stayed and got beds together. The next morning they were served breakfast and they children started playing outside with the instructions to come back at lunchtime. Penny and Primrose decided to go to the forest since they both have not been in the forest. This is where they met Alys, she is also an evacuee that was sent together with Penny and Primrose to escape the war. She wanted to go to the forest with Penny and Primrose but they don’t want her to go because she was a little girl and she might get lost. “A crunching, a crackling, a crushing, a heavy thumping, combining with threshing and thrashing and added to that a gulping heaving, boiling, bursting, steaming sound, full of bubbles and farts, piffs, and explosions, swallowings and wallowings.”(Byatt, 306). This is a very significant event because this is the first time Penny and Primrose gets to encounter the thing in the forest. They described the thing as a “creature with slender legs, large body appeared to be glued together, like still wet paper mâché” (Byatt, 307). That description makes a reader envision

what the creature looks like but if we really analyze the meaning behind those descriptions, we will realize that what they’re describing is a person in the war, or a soldier. When the “thing” had gone away, they were left in the forest so scared, they comforted each other and went back in the house and never talked to each other again. The next day they got separated, they were placed to stay at different families. After some time, they came back to their own families and they found out that they both lost their fathers. ”Penny’s widowed mother embraced grief, closed her face and her curtains. Primrose’s mother married one of the many admirers she had had before the ship went down, gave birth to another five children, developed varicose veins, and a smoker’s cough”(Byatt, 308) Penny and Primrose grew up, Penny pursued her education and went to a University where she studied psychology. Primrose had little education, she was always kept off school to take care of the others. Penny became a child psychologist who help children who are abused and Primrose became a professional storyteller. They both never married and they both worked around kids. After some time, they both went back at the same place and same time unknowingly. “They had to lean forward to read it, and to see what was worming its way into, or out of, the deep spine of the book, and that’s how each came to see the other’s face, close up, in the glass, which was both transparent and reflective”(Byatt, 309). That is the first time they see each other so many years after they say that they saw a thing in the forest. There were two symbols in the story that would make the reader understand the story better. The first and the most important symbol is the “thing”. The thing symbolizes the effects

of the war to the characters. Penny and Primrose experienced war at the early age and the effects of it became a scar to them which they brought with them wherever they went. “The Thing is the loathly worm of medieval ballads and a version of the postmodern artworks Byatt likes to invent, but it is also, because it is so concretely imagined incontrovertibly material, present, and real. It moves forward relentlessly like time, like stories- and passes the two girls by.” (Margaronis, 25). It is clearly stated that the thing in the forest is part of an event that happened to the characters’ life. That part of event that happened with continue and it will grow together with the character and like stories, it gets passed on to another person. Just like what happened to Penny and Primrose in the forest, when they said they saw a thing in the forest, it is part of their past or an event that happened to them when they were kids, they brought it with them as they grow old and that is the reason why both of them came back to the same place where they saw the thing to reminisce about their childhood days when they were in the forest. The second symbol that was used in the story was Alys. Alys appeared first appeared when Penny and Primrose were planning on going into the forest. She symbolized the characters’ innocence. Before Penny and Primrose entered the forest, they had no idea what is inside, but when they came out they were startled and could never believe what they just saw. It is like their innocence was taken away by the thing that they saw. After that, Alys was never mentioned in the story again until Penny and Primrose met each other again after a while in the same place they evacuated. They think Alys was eaten by the “thing” in the forest. The main theme of this short story is loss of innocence. Penny and Primrose experienced war at an early age and because of that, it scarred them for the rest of their lives. That scar stayed

with them when they evacuated to go to the other city and that is how they believe they saw a thing in the forest. The thing or the monster symbolized the war, it scared them and they could never forget about it and it stayed with them until they grow older.

Works Cited Byatt, A. S. “The thing in the forest” The Norton Introduction to Literature. Ed. Spencer Richardson-Jones. New York. W.W. Norton & Company Inc. 2013. 302-317. Print Lethbridge, Lucy. "A Way with Words." America 191.9 (4 Oct. 2004): 17-18. Rpt. in Short Story Criticism. Ed. Jessica Bomarito and Jelena O. Krstovic. Vol. 91. Detroit: Gale, 2006. Literature Resources from Gale. Web. 5 Apr. 2014. Margaronis, Maria. “Where the Wild Things Are.” The Nation 278.23 (14 June 2004) : 24-28. Rpt. In Short Story Criticism. Ed. Jessica Bomarito and Jelena O. Krstovic.

Vol. 91. Detroit: Gale,2006. Literature Resources from Gale. Web. 2 Apr. 2014. Matthews, Samantha. “Monsters, Trolls, and Creative Writers.” Times Literary Supplement 5248 (31 Oct. 2003): 21-22. Rpt. In Short Story Criticism. Ed. Jessica Bomarito and Jelena O. Krstovic. Vol. 91. Detroit: Gale, 2006. Literature Resources from Gale. Web. 2 Apr. 2014.
Mays, Kelly J. The Norton Introduction to Literature. Ed. Spencer Richardson-Jones. New York: W.W. Norton & Company Inc. 2013. Print.