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Thresholds in the prose fiction of Walter de la Mare Weston, Joanna Mary

Abstract

Walter de la Mare has always been known as a writer of fantasy and supernatural fiction. It is proposed here that he is, in fact, concerned with exploration of the conscious and unconscious selves. His exploration is more philosophical than psychological in that he makes no use of Freudian formulas. He follows rather the intuitive approach of Jung but uses the media of fiction and, thereby, imagery, to show the possibilities of man's infinite mind. He uses images of doors, windows, water and mirrors to show how the conscious and unconscious selves, the real and astral selves, are divided by lack of understanding, by refusal to accept the other, and by total denial of one another. But he shows also how they may be united across these barriers once they are seen as thresholds between one and the other, that union of the two selves as one integral whole makes for happiness in understanding. He uses the present as an image of the threshold between past and future in which the individual stands in command of primeval memory and his future experience. In all his prose fiction, de la Mare is concerned with man in his present, real, world crossing the boundary into the world of the spirit, the astral world. The real self, the physical human body, serves as container for the spiritual, though the make-up of that unconscious self should, ideally, be seen in the face. It is attainment of that ideal which is a major theme in de la Mare's prose fiction.

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