“The pirates of Caribbean: dead man’s chest” is an intriguing film that highlights the theme of supernatural. Directed by Gore Verbinski, the film describes the struggles that people undergo to achieve a personal goal.
While Julia Kristeva’s essay, “something to be scared of”, highlights desire as a major anticipation of human beings. Kristeva uses three archetypes, viz. the child, mother, and father, to give a detailed description of the subject of desire.
On the other hand, in Levi Strauss’s article “the structural study of the myth”, he elaborates on the subject of divinity and other human practices that fall under myths. Whereas the aforementioned essays allude from the Gore’s film, they draw key similarities and differences from each other as expounded next.
Kristeva uses the family relationships to elaborate the nature of human beings. Using the nuclear family, she expounds the idea of desirability. According to her, the human heart is full of desires, but their urge always lead to fear (Kristeva 1982, p. 34). In a family, a child needs a mother for survival while a man (father) desires a woman for his physical satisfaction; however, nobody fulfils the mother’s desires.
The man as the lawmaker and head of the house obstructs all the efforts of the child and mother in achieving their dreams. Comparing with Gore’s film the desire for the key (power) puts Jack and Will’s lives in danger, Kristeva confirms that each person’s passions not only breaks family ties but instils fear in case of failure.
Jack’s urge is to get the key to the dead man’s chest, while a child’s dream is to overcome fear. On the other hand, the society struggles to unravel the mystery behind myths. In life, everyone pursues a unique dream.
The main theme in Kristeva’s essay is fear. For instance, “Han is afraid of horses”, he fears castration, the loss of his mother’s and own sexual organs among others (Kristeva 1982, p. 34 &39). The inborn fear that a child possesses immediately after birth, drives him/her to love the mother, who acts as a shield to his/her phobias.
Secondly, she gives an example of a girl who fears dog bites but sometimes peoples phobia develop into hallucinations (Kristeva 1982, p. 44) while some use the language to cover up their fears. Therefore, level of fear determines an individual’s actions or characters.
On the other hand, the main theme in Strauss’ paper is about interpretation of myths in the society. He analyses the myths in respect to the cultural theory. Strauss believes the minds of all people across the world are similar. The different cultural myths have a close connection or linkage. He uses the structural theory to explain the mystery behind myths.
For example, the binary opposition says, that “Two opposite and opposed terms with no intermediary always tend to be replaced by two equivalent terms which admit of a third one as mediator” (Strauss 1963, p. 224). Mythemes is the next element of structural theory, which includes the compartments that build up a myth. They assist an individual in studying a myth.
According to the author, “by trial and error, using as a check the principles, which serve as a basis any form of structural analysis: economy of explanation; unity of solution” (Strauss, 1963, p. 211).
The third structure is the mythical message whereby “the true constituent units of a myth are not the isolated relations but bundles of such relations, and it is only as bundles that these relations can be put to use and combined so as to produce a meaning”(Strauss 1963, p. 211). Finally, the structural elaborates on the linkage of different myths (Gray 1978, p. 77).
Using the aforementioned structures, an individual can discover the relationship between myths from different cultural backgrounds. The thematic elements in Strauss and Kristeva’s essays are on the conflict of the human mind; similarly, the plot of Gore’s movie is about the human physical conflicts. Everybody struggles to accomplish his/her dreams, but the methods applied to achieve the same are different.
Kristeva draws most of her ideas from Freud a psychologist who described the Oedipus model. The model describes the human relationships in terms of emotional fate. In the complex, a male child always struggles to defeat his father or become like him thus forming a closer relationship with the mother while a daughter becomes closer to the father, therefore, forming a heterosexual relationship.
Hans’ fear of losing her mother’s sexual organs proves the aspect about children being attracted to the opposite sex (parents). In a similar way, Strauss alludes to the Oedipus complex while elaborating on the aspect of myths. However, he calls the model a myth, which refers to “the inability for a culture which holds the belief that mankind is autochthonous” (Strauss 1963, p. 216).
Strauss uses the Oedipus myth to describe the evolution and reproduction of humans and he explains the application of father’s name during the naming of offspring. According to him, the mind believes that human beings sprouted from the earth while, in reality, they are a product of a man and wife (Strauss 1963, pp. 216-217). Eventually, there is a conflict between religion and the mythological world (Eliade 1963, p. 80).
Likewise, there are conflicts in Gore’s film where Jack, Bill and Elizabeth among others are in constant disagreements. While Kristeva’s model focuses on human relationships, Strauss’ model describes the human nature mainly the cultural patterns in the world.
In her article, Kristeva uses imagery to describe different elements in the societies. For instance, semiotic maternal refers to the unstable world where there is repression of women due to hostility and selfish nature of men. The clear metaphor in Strauss’ essay is the use of plants/animals to refer to human life or death.
He says, “For the Pueblo, this is especially difficult; they understood origin of human life in terms of the model of plant” (Strauss 1963, p. 220). In Gore’s film, the possession of the key to the dead man’s chest meant power and leadership.
In summary, Kristeva unravels the mystery behind the unique family bonding whereby there is always attraction of the opposite sex in the parental-child relationship. While a daughter likes the father for emotional satisfaction, the son pairs up with the mother to quench both his emotional and physical needs. On the other hand, Strauss enlightens the reader on the structural analysis of myths from all backgrounds (Gray 1978, p. 95).
He concludes that there is always a linkage between all myths. Both of the above writers allude from Freud’s psychoanalysis theory of Oedipus complex to explain the mysteries in the human societies. Finally, Kristeva and Strauss’ emphasis on human conflicts is similar to Gore’s film whereby pursuit of a key leads to fighting among different parties. All the three discussed literary arts unravel a mystery behind the human nature.
Eliade, M., 1963.Myth and Reality. (W. Trask, Trans.). New York: Harper & Row.
Gore, Verbinski, dir. 1963.The pirates of Caribbean: dead man’s chest. United States: Buena Vista pictures.
Gray, P., 1978. Structural Analysis of Folktales: Techniques and Methodology. Asian Folklore Studies, 37(1), pp. 77-95.
Kristeva, J., 1982.The Powers of Horror: An Essay on Abjection. New York: Columbia UP.
Strauss, L., 1963.Structural Anthropology. (C. Jacobson & B. G. Shoepf, Trans.). New York: Basic Books