Good Term Paper About A Lifetime Of Loneliness: The Case Of Hans Christian Andersen
One of the crucial elements of social life is understanding. Understanding another person is essential to creating bonds and being able to relate to another individual. The problem of understanding is that it is never exhaustive. No one can know another person completely. Various sciences tried to understand how an individual functions and which factors can result in a desired behaviour. On the other hand, developmental psychology explores the impact of various factors on lifespan development of individuals and the life they choose. The aim of this paper is to explore the lifespan development of Hans Christian Andersen in terms of factors and focal points influencing his personal development and the life choice. In this regard, various factors will be analysed in terms of traditional and modern theories of lifespan development. The main theories applied include Erikson’s psychosocial development and Freud’s psychosexual development. Minor elements of Lev Vygotsky’s socio-cultural theory and Kohlberg’s moral development theory were analysed.
Infancy (birth – 2 years)
The future writer was born in a poor family of Hans Andersen, a shoemaker, and Anne Marie Andersdatter, a washerwoman, in a small town of Odenese, in Denmark, on 2nd April 1805 (Bain, 2010). Hans was the only child in the family, mainly because it was very poor and could not effort having more children. While the father had basic education, Andersen’s mother was illiterate. At this stage of development, infants develop psychological characteristics and get attached to one of the caregivers (Hawley, & DeHaan, 1996). Since the family was poor, both parents had to work. Since the nature of his mother’s work required her to bee away, it was his father and grandmother who were looking after little Hans. Consequently, the infant was likely to develop stronger psychological relationship with his father rather than with the mother. Thus, in terms of Erikson’s stage of Hope development, the infant was basing its trust in the world on his relationship with father rather than the mother (Erikson & Erikson, 1998). It is also most likely that physically exhausted woman had little interest in her child (Newman, & Newman, 2008). On the other hand, since the family was poor it is most likely that infant’s needs might not have been satisfied completely, which was shaking established trust in the father as the main caregiver. From the Freudian perspective, the child that did not receive breastfeeding and consequent trust disorder on the oral stage of its development (birth till the first year) would result in passive behaviour since due to the lack or limited gratification (Freud, 1989).
Childhood (two – ten years)
During this stage, the role of the primary caregiver, who was the father, has increased, since he was the main support and authority in child’s development (Hawley, & DeHaan, 1996). In terms of the phallic stage of psychosexual development (three-six years), it can be argued that because from the infancy father was the primary caregiver and the main source of emotions towards son, Hans could not develop even a hidden resemble of the Oedipus Complex, mainly because his mother played the role of an emotionless and unattractive object related to him rather than an object of psychological or sexual desire (Freud, 1989). Although the absence of the Oedipus Complex is a good sign in one’s development, the inability to relate to the mother emotionally will create problems of sexual and emotional relations with the opposite sex. The close relations with father and his role as the main caregiver and actual mother would further result in Andersen’s bisexuality. In other words, due to the lack of distinctive sexual roles in his family and in caring for him, Hans could not develop an exact sexual orientation (Newman, & Newman, 2008). It can be argued that he was stuck with two options not being sure which one was actually his, which once again was conditioned by the coldness of his mother and the lack of emotional bonds between two. It is also most likely that during the purpose stage of psychosocial development Hans initiative was not supported by his mother and causing the sense of guilt and awkwardness, which will remain through his entire life (Erikson & Erikson, 1998).
In terms of the ego development through the entire period of childhood, the main source of Andersen’s self-realisation was his home environment and his father. Being the only child and not having an opportunity to communicate with the rest of the world, explore and build social relations resulted in self-concentration and a certain egoism, which is typical for single children in a family anyway (Kail & Cavanaugh, 2012). The only sources of information about the world outside were books his father was reading to Hans. The imaginary world of the Arabian Nights and the stories his grandmother was telling him about his royal origin contributed to his self-realisation as being different from the surrounding environment of poverty and misery. In other words, in the beginning of the competence stage of psychosocial development (five-twelve years), when child’s independence and cognitive skills develop, Andersen’s developed an alienated self-perception from the life his parents conducted. He began to believe that he did not belong to that life and that he was different, like his story of an ugly duckling (Kail & Cavanaugh, 2012). One of his fairy tales said: “it does not matter about being born in a duckyard, as long as you are hatched from a swan’s egg” (Bain, 2010, p. 52). According to Kohlberg, Andersen’s perception of right and wrong and morality has also developed at this stage and was conditioned by experiences of his parents, how they were treated by superiors (Quindeau, 2013). Another essential source of moral lessons was the book of tales his father was reading to Hans. The imagery world of literature became his social environment if learning and the place to escape difficult reality of poverty.
Adolescence (ten – twenty years)
The focal point of Andersen’s development and the beginning of adolescence was the death of his father. Although the very stage of adolescence envisions the separation from parents’ perspective of life and developing one’s identity, for Hans it meant a complete loss of emotional and any family bounds. He was alienated and lost in this world. This world-perception was conditioned by the actions of his mother. She did not only remarry second time, but also forced her son to work as weaver’s assistant and then a tailor in order to help to provide for their family (Bain, 2010). After three years of constant work and no signs of a better future, Hans left home at the age of fourteen and moved to Copenhagen to approach a career of an actor (Wullschlager, 2002). From psychoanalytical perspective, the loss of the only person to whom Hans could relate emotionally resulted in his complete closing from the world and creation of the fear of showing what he actually felt (Freud, 1989). The lack of mercy in his mother’s actions convinced him that he had no family and no one to relate to. So, he is on he is on his own in this world.
Another factor that had a ruinous impact on Andersen’s psychological and sexual development was his physical abuse in the school he was studying. Since he lived in the house of the headmaster Meisling, who considered his student to be too sensitive and weak, Hans was often physically taught how to behave like a man, which also included various punishments for the writing style and achievements at school (Bain, 2010). The implications of this abuse on partly shaped personality and when his sexual interest was meant to develop resulted in suppression if one’s sexual desires and the development of personal identity by the fear of punishment and the necessity of following rules (Wullschlager, 2002). On the other hand, this experience resulted in introversion of Hans. Since he could not relate to anyone, student at school where five-six years younger than him, the only place he could express his frustration was the world of his writing. Although physical abuse resulted in the decline of his self-esteem and the reluctance to show his works to the others, he kept writing developing an ironic and critical manner in describing the world around him (Santrock, 2012).
The lack of physical strength and moral ability to fight back to his oppressors, mainly due to the lack of such example to follow, Andersen’s experience at this stage of his life forced him to choose the life depending on the other people who had power. The experience of oppression and the lack of distinctive roles in his family resulted in the fact that Hans had to suppress any sort of physical/sexual desires (Freud, 1989). At this stage, he needed to survive and could not commit into discovering sexuality, which inevitably resulted in his sexual immaturity and even aversion to sexual contact for a certain time (Erikson & Erikson, 1998). Taking into account his development until this point, the possibility of sexual relationship would require previous ability to relate emotionally and find a place to belong.
Early Adulthood (twenty – forty years)
Usually, this stage in one’s life is characterised by career achievements and creating long-term commitments and building one’s family (Erikson & Erikson, 1998). In the case of Andersen, his early twenties were characterised by a struggle to fit into the upper class of society, access to which his sponsors from Collin and Wulff families had granted him (Bain, 2010). Thus, he was trying to use his knowledge and talents in order to compensate for his low-class origin. In this regard, he had to fight for his survival by wearing a mask of manners and respect to the ranks of the others in order to preserve favourable attitude of his sponsors on whom he depended entirely (Kail & Cavanaugh, 2012). Consequently, from psychosexual perspective, while, at this genital stage, he was meant to achieve the greatest independence from his parents or people who acted as such, due to the lack of money and a job as such, he remained depended on the others (Freud, 1989). Consequently, instead of opening up to the society and demonstrate whom he was, he had to close inside even more. In terms of correlation between id, ego and subconscious, the dominance was taken by id and socially approved behaviour, while inner self of ego had to be hidden and could be reflected only in written works and Andersen’s diaries (Wullschlager, 2002). The inner desires or subconscious were even more suppressed by both id and ego, which resulted in certain infantilism and late maturity in terms of sexual attraction (Newman, & Newman, 2008).
The next crucial stage of Andersen’s early adulthood was the beginning of his literary success and consequent opportunity to travel around the Europe. His first success came in 1929, when his story “A journey on Foot from Holmen’s Canal to the East Point of Amager” received recognition (Wullschlager, 2002). He was twenty-four then, which is a relatively early start of a successful career. This success guaranteed him King’s scholarship for travelling, which was a crucial turning point in his career. Change of scenery and the living environment had a very positive impact on Andersen’s productivity and creativity of writing (Kail & Cavanaugh, 2012). From Vygotsky’s perspective, the main rationale for this change is that the self-perception, conditioned by the Danish bourgeois society, has lessened its role in Andersen’s decision-making and self-perception (Santrock, 2012). Having achieved the first success and being able to demonstrate himself, his self-esteem has improved and his ego and to a certain extent superego could gain a bit more power over his self-perception in the new environment and consequent decision-making (Kail & Cavanaugh, 2012). In other words, success was a precondition for Andersen’s certain independence and further development as an adult.
Except for the sense of freedom that traveling gave Andersen, it also was certain journey of denial. He was one of the most travelled Danish writers of the time, conducting 29 trips in his life and spending 9 years of his life abroad (Bain, 2010). It can be argued that Andersen was in constant search of a place where a person like him could belong. In this regard, his inability to relate to anyone because of the conflict with his mother and early death of his father created a vacuum in his personal life, which constant travelling and meeting people that adored his work created a certain surrogate of personal relationship (Quindeau, 2013). Although gaining success and certain financial independence improved his self-esteem, Andersen remained very shy and immature in a sexual relationship once again due to his childhood.
Although with the success and improvement of self-esteem Andersen began approaching women in his life, like Riborg Voigt, Sophie Orsted or Jenny Lind, it was unsuccessful because in his sexuality he was very immature, infantile and more feminine than masculine (Meyers, 2001, p. 151). Once again the source of the lack of masculinity and sexual maturity is conditioned by his childhood and physical abuse at school. Regarding the diversity of the objects of his amorous desires, meaning his bisexuality and love for certain male friends, it was conditioned the lack of any sexual experience and also the lack of appropriate sexual roles in his family (Meyers, 2001, p. 152). In this regard, since his father functioned as a primary caregiver and the main emotional attachment of Andersen’s life, his early death ended Andersen’s emotional development as precondition for forming any commitments and ability to love and create family of his own. In all his infantilism and the lack of family experience, he simply was psychologically immature for creating a family of his own (Quindeau, 2013). Another reason for his unhappy private life was that he did not look handsome or even pretty. He was slim, man with curly hair and long nose, which was not appealing for any young bourgeois beauty or aging gay males. Andersen was not the type to have young male lover mainly because his id was too strong and imposed traditional perception of family although he did not experience it himself, only the idea was appealing (Wullschlager, 2002). In other words, from the psychosocial perspective, the stage of love in the struggle between intimacy and isolation was characterised by isolation in the form of solitude irrespective of being among people (Santrock, 2012).
Middle age (forty – sixty-five) – Older age (sixty-five – onwards)
The last two stages of life are discussed together because Andersen did not change his lifestyle much at these two stages, and he died at the age of seventy. Since he did not succeed in family or persona life, through these stages he continued to work on his career and continued to travel, although this time mainly in within Denmark and his main residence in 1845-1864 was his house in Copenhagen (Bain, 2010). Irrespective of the failed sexual life, from a psychosocial perspective, the stage of care (40-45 years) demonstrated personal growth in terms of Andersen’s contribution to the lives of the next generations. He continued publishing books and dis public readings particularly for children and young adults. In a certain sense, it can be argued that he could relate to children better than another adult because he in various aspects of his psyche he remained a child, a little innocent child that needed protection. That is why in any relationships he had including the last stages of his life, he still acted as a dependent rather than an adult (Erikson & Erikson, 1998). The best example would be when his shirt-termed visit to Dickinson’s home turned into a five-year stay. If Andersen was young at that age, it still could be understandable. This incidence took place in 1857, when he was 52 years old (Wullschlager, 2002). On the last stage of his psychosocial development, the stage of wisdom, it can be argued that although certain aspects of Andersen’s life were not fulfilled, he was satisfied with what he did (Erikson & Erikson, 1998). However, the lack of family and his own children was depressing him, since on various occasions he argued that none of adults will be crying for him after his death, only little children who read his stories (Wullschlager, 2002). Thus, his final stage of life just as his life was a mixture of positive moments and regrets of unfulfilled desires and potential.
Overall, from all mentioned above it can be concluded that Andersen’s life development was largely conditioned by his childhood experience and his social growth in the Danish society of the last years of Monarchy. The conflict with his mother and the early death of his father resulted in his emotional and sexual immaturity and inability to relate to other people in functional mutually-beneficial relationship. All his life was characterised by the desire to be looked after and protected from the rest of the society that could not understand him. The reason he could relate to children better than adults was because in various cases he was infantile himself. He simply was not given strength to become mature.
Bain, R.N. (2010). Hans Christian Andersen: A Biography. Charleston, SC: Nabu Press.
Erikson, E.H. & Erikson, J.M. (1998). The Life Cycle Completed (Extended Version).
London: W.W. Norton & Company.
Freud, S. (1989). Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis. London: Liveright.
Hawley, D.R. & DeHaan, L. (1996). Towards a definition of Family Resilience: Integrating
Life-Span and Family Perspectives. Family Process, 35(3), 283-298.
Quindeau, I. (2013). Seduction and Desire: The Psychoanalytic Theory of Sexuality Since
Freud. London: Karnac Books.
Kail, R.V. & Cavanaugh, J.C. (2012). Human Development: A Life-Span View. Belmont, CA:
Meyers, R.W. (2001). The Little Mermaid: Hans Christian Andersen’s Feminine
Identification. Journal of Applied Psychoanalytical Studies, 3(2), 149-159.
Newman, B.M. Y Newman, P.R. (2008). Development Through Life: A Psychosocial
Approach. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Publishing.
Santrock, J. (2012). Life-Span Development. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Humanities.
Wullschlager, J. (2002). Hans Christian Andersen: The Life of a Storyteller. Chicago, IL: