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A Jungian perspective on “How Far She Went” by Mary Hood

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“How Far She Went” by Mary Hood is an intense story full of ever-changing and turbulent emotions. In writing about this story and its author, it can be seen there is more in depth reasoning and motivation underneath the characters actions than one might initially think. These actions could be likened to a Jungian psychological viewpoint and ideology. The story conveys the intimacy of a girl, her grandmother and the life-changing decisions made through everyday actions.

The author Mary Hood was born in Georgia and grew up in North Carolina. Her Father however; was a native New Yorker that lived in Georgia and as Mary puts it “Even if I could, I would prefer not to choose between these two identities: I am both. I am like Laurie Lee’s fabulous two-headed sheep, which could “sing harmoniously in a double voice and cross-question itself for hours.” (http://www.pbs.org/riverofsong/music/e3-on_being.html). It’s not necessary to give the entire URL in an in-text citation. You may shorten the title, such as (pbs) Ultimately Mary chose to embrace her southern roots in authoring her fabulously descriptive and moving stories as opposed to the northern roots she had been exposed to formerly. Many a reader is thankful for this choice, since she has written so many wonderful articles and stories. “How Far She Went” being only one of these and with which Mary Hood won the awkward wording Flannery O’Connor award for her superb rendering of southern life. Mary Hood is the epitome of the strong southern coquettish woman and she transfers this on to her main character, the grandmother in “How Far She Went.”

The author likes to describe southerners as longwinded and speaking with candid and unhurried southern drawls. This tendency the author speaks of; that southerners tend to be so full of words and opinions, could easily lend itself to having an air of wording the extrovert defined as “a person concerned more with practical realities than with inner thoughts and feelings.” (http://dictionary.reference.com/search?q=extrovert) (dictionary) The author’s personal life experiences have colored her writing style and process and the development of the characters in her stories. The character created by the author; that of the granddaughter in “How Far She Went” exhibits a definite extroverted personality. Her extroverted personality is full of trembling teenage rage and insecurity, so it’s seen in the light in which it was meant to be portrayed in; a defiant and senseless extroversion to shore up the young girl’s defenses.

In “How Far She Went” the older and wiser main character introduced to us as “Granny” (DiYanni p543) (Hood 543) use the author’s name, not the editor’scould be described in Jungian terms as having a dilemma with her personal unconscious or “repressed memories, wishes, emotions, and subliminal perceptions of a personal nature.” (http://www.cgjungpage.org/fordhamglos.html) The dilemma of the grandmother’s personal unconscious rears its shameful head, when she begins to reminisce over the birth of her first born child Sylvie. “‘Tie her to the fence and give her a bale of hay,'” she murmured, drugged, and they teased her, excused her for such a welcoming, blaming the anesthesia, but it went deeper than that; she knew, and the baby knew: there was no love in the begetting. That was the secret, unforgivable, that not another good thing could ever make up for, where all the bad had come from, like a visitation, a punishment. She knew that was why Sylvie had been wild, had gone to earth so early, and before dying had made this child in sudden wedlock, a child who would be just like her, would carry the hurting on into another generation.” (DiYanni, p.545)

The grandmother’s personal unconscious and the memories of her first born have taken their toll on the “child made in sudden wedlock” and her relationship. Interestingly, the grandmother appears to tuck her conflict, or her dilemma with her personal unconscious inside rather than needlessly rail and rage against unstoppable events as her granddaughter has chosen to do. Although the method chosen by the grandmother; that of quiet disgust and disdain aimed at her granddaughter, is far more damaging to herself, than the ones around her. There is also quite a bit of self-pity the grandmother chooses to wallow in.

This desire to hurt and lash out at the girl is in a way, an attempt to use “repression: the more or less deliberate withdrawal of attention from some disagreeable experience.” (http://www.cgjungpage.org/fordhamglos.html), causing it to be expelled from consciousness so that it cannot be recalled at will. In actuality; the grandmother is only causing “trauma: psychic injury” to herself and to her granddaughter; caught in the middle of her deceased Mother’s lashing out, and her grandmother’s rage and denial of not only her, but her first born daughter as well. The amount and level of trauma can be briefly seen in the granddaughter’s own words “I could turn this whole house over, dump it! Leave you slobbering over that stinking jealous dog in the dust!” (DiYanni, p.544)

After reading this line, the reader can see that the granddaughter has an obvious jealousy towards the grandmother’s dog, and is furious, bewildered and is stubbornly refusing to put on the mask of acceptance to present a willing and understanding persona of a “good” granddaughter. She wants her grandmother to love her as much as the little dog. The granddaughter, still full of rage and helplessness in her desire to be accepted; further tries to shock her Grandmother into showing some sort of reaction be it approval or disapproval screams “Scatter the Holy Bible like confetti and ravel the crochet into miles of stupid string!” (DiYanni, p. 544) The girl seems so defiant and full of carelessness. There is a defiance and almost proud air of finally being able to release the “shadow” within herself or in Jungian terms: “the primitive, uncontrolled, and animal part of ourselves.” (http://www.jungatlanta.com/shadow.html)

Yet, no matter the personal anguish and familial troubles experienced and sometimes caused by the grandmother, the one true and loyal presence in her life was that of her spastically happy and loyal four-legged best friend; her dog. It seems the grandmother is more attached and devoted to her dog, than her own granddaughter. She has neither affectionate pats nor any grandmotherly smiles for her granddaughter yet, she smiles a small smile every time the dog comes to her. As it rounds the corner the little dog trots across the yard; and the sun that shines upon its back is reflected in the eyes of her smile. This attitude is intolerable for the granddaughter.

It sears at her heart with every missed opportunity of notice and affection. She waits impatiently for acceptance and is afraid it will never come. Her defiant, proud and arrogant attitude hides her jealousy and serves to protect her well. It is the only armor she has. Like the well- known theory of C.G. Jung, she has a “shadow side” and this is only one of the traits of her shadow side. Jung felt that our shadow side “consisted of two contradictory aspects,” his “No. 1” and “No. 2” personalities, both of which were “extremely limited, subject to all possible self deceptions and errors, moods, emotions, passions, and sins.” “Both were “childish, vain, self-seeking, defiant, in need of love, covetous, unjust, sensitive, lazy, irresponsible, and so on. (http://www.cgjungpage.org/fordhamarch.html)

Yet, as is to be expected in most people; after violently shoving their shadow into the light of observation, there is shame and horror that this aspect of our psyche and personality has been illuminated for all to bear witness. So, in that shame and horror, “she didn’t move, not until her tears rose to meet her color, and then to escape the shame of minding so much she fled. Just headed away, blind. It didn’t matter, this time, how far she went.” (DiYanni p.544)

It’s obvious the girl wants to avoid showing her pain and so instead, she runs fast and far away. Again; this type of avoidance is generally labeled by Jung as repression “repression: the more or less deliberate withdrawal of attention from some disagreeable experience, causing it to be expelled from consciousness so that it cannot be recalled at will.” The reader can see that both the grandmother and the granddaughter as well, are adept at avoiding their true feelings and thoughts. This is detrimental to any further communication or hopes of finding peace and acceptance as a family. Until some sort of truce can be called between them, there is no hope of peace. Until both the woman and the child can find what it is that has truly hurt them and bring it out of repression, there is no chance of working on their issues. The granddaughter chooses not to work on these issues when she runs out of her grandmother’s house.

After she has left her grandmothers house, her grandmother goes to the graveyard where her first born child Sylvie lies underground in the muffled darkness. This is more an act of contrition rather than one of love for Sylvie. As the grandmother is maintaining the landscape of her daughter’s grave site, her granddaughter appears on the back of a noisy motorcycle being driven by a dirty, leering biker. The girl is announces haughtily that she’s leaving. This is yet another attempt to incite a reaction from the grandmother to prove how much she loves the granddaughter. As the granddaughter and the biker roar off, the grandmother runs to the car and gives chase. As the grandmother cuts off the biker, and retrieves her granddaughter, the granddaughter is infuriated at the cessation of her fun and the abrupt halt to her plans. The biker lets the grandmother take the daughter away, and then in a change of mind, he starts to give chase to both of the women. Both of the passengers in the old car are terrified but resilient.

They are running from the biker as hard and fast as they can. The old car is going as fast as can be, but eventually the car becomes stuck, and the women have to bail out and make a run over the ground to elude their pursuers. In the mad chase with granny’s dog nipping at their heels, they are able to find a hiding place. Their hiding place is under a pier in the water, and the most important activity involves shushing their ragged breathing while trembling from the fear and the exertion of running. The only problem is that the bikers are coming and they’re looking for them! The spastic dog is still spastic and the old woman knows her beloved dog like no one else does. She knows the dog will reveal their hiding place when he begins to bark and yap and there is no sign of him ever stopping. As she realizes this, she also realizes what must be done. She pushes the dog under the water. The only sound heard are the bubbles being released from the little dog’s mouth. The old woman ahs made the ultimate sacrifice for her granddaughter. That of one life for another.

At this point, the girl sees what has been sacrificed for her, and she is keenly aware of the price that has been paid. The healing can now begin between the two of them. Excellent addition.

The story “How Far She Went” is a remarkable journey of two lost souls. Two lost souls that have unwittingly combined in a dance of hurtful accusations and intimate betrayal. The beautiful part of this is that they eventually find a new beat to dance to. A slower and more accepting tempo; a more compromising beat of newfound hope and acceptance. Your content is excellent. You successfully proved how Jungian theory applies to this story. You earned 49 points for content. Mechanics problems are minor EXCEPT for errors in in-text citation. Please study the MLA section of your Writer’s Reference before writing your final paper. Especially look at the sample paper starting on page 351, and note how the in-text citations are done for each of the Works Cited. You earned 42 points for mechanics, for a total of 91.

Works Cited

The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language. 4th ed. 2000.

Houghton Mifflin Company.


DiYanni, Robert. Literature:Reading Fiction, Poetry and Drama 5th ed. Boston,

McGraw Hill, 2002.

Williams, Donald. An Introduction to Jung’s Psychology. September 5, 2002.

March 26, 2003. http://www.cgjungpage.org/fordhamarch.html

Huntley, Don. Jung Society of Atlanta. March 21, 2000. March 27, 2003.


The Filmmakers Collaborative and The Smithsonian Institution, for PBS.

Southern Fusion, p.3. 1998. March 27, 2003.



> O proud left foot, that ventures quick within

> Then soon upon a backward journey lithe.

> Anon, once more the gesture, then begin:

> Command sinistral pedestal to writhe.

> Commence thou then the fervid Hokey-Poke,

> A mad gyration, hips in wanton swirl.

> To spin! A wilde release from Heavens yoke.

> Blessed dervish! Surely canst go, girl.

> The Hoke, the poke — banish now thy doubt

> Verily, I say, ’tis what it’s all about.


> — by William Shakespeare

> (Jeff Brechlin, Potomac Falls)

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