2003 International Conference of Jungian Society for Scholarly Studies
Providence, Rhode Island, USA
Jungian Heroes at War: David Jones' In Parenthesis (1937) and John Del Vecchio's The 13th Valley (1982)
Robert K. Phillips
David Jones' In Parenthesis (WW I) and John Del Vecchio's The 13th Valley (Vietnam) both depend heavily on Jung's archetype of the eternal feminine. Del Vecchio's allusions are realistic; Jones' are straight out of myth and nightmare. Their soldier-protagonists are partially successful because they confront feminine archetypes, both beneficial and rapacious, within themselves.
Writing In Parenthesis was David Jones' therapy for his lingering war trauma. He lyrically evokes the interior lives of his doughboys, especially a very ordinary Pvt. John Ball. Not merely a war adventure, IP develops the daily life of WWI soldiers in trenches—cleaning, cooking, housekeeping. Only the final section edges into traditional war action, yet here Jones' numinous female figures concentrate. As a result, Pvt. Ball, Jones' recreation of himself as a young soldier, rises to acts of extraordinary bravery and sacrifice. Ball carries Jones' central theme--that ordinary humans can retain mythic sacramental consciousness in life and death.
Like Jones' soldiers, Del Vecchio's are infantry. Also, both authors participated in the conflicts which became their novels. Decorated with the Bronze Star for bravery under fire, Del Vecchio fought in the 1970 campaigns in the Khe Te Laou River near the DMZ (endpaper 13th Valley). Two later novels, For the Sake of All Living Things (1990) and Carry Me Home (1994) form a trilogy.
In 13th three characters carry the main plot lines: Lt. Rufus Brooks, a company commander; Daniel Egan, a seasoned sergeant; and Pvt. James Chelini, a recruit. Alpha, their company [of the 101st Infantry], alone of the five companies in their division, goes directly into the heart of North Vietnamese Army country and operates autonomously for eleven days and nights. In contrast, other divisions stay in the rear lines, talk tough, and make good targets. Lt. Brooks' Alpha soldiers disdainfully call these noncombatants REMF's (See Glossary.). Actually they fit Northrup Frye's category of impostor that he calls miles gloriosus, or boastful soldier (39-40).
Brooks and Egan put their men's safety first and for this receive loyalty from most of the men. They fight a quiet, cautious, "feminine" war. Alpha and the NVA dance around the valley, avoiding conflict whenever possible, going head-on when not. At one point Brooks even holds a quiet communion service for his command platoon, passing around a can of beer that he has packed for days just for this purpose. Ultimately Brooks and Egan sacrifice themselves for the company while Chelini becomes a savage, cynical combat veteran.
Of these four men, Jone's Pvt. Ball and Del Vecchio's Sgt. Egan succeed most clearly as individuated soldiers. Though they may experience negative elements of the anima or animus, they assimilate positive aspects of the eternal feminine archetype into their mature male selves.
Erich Neumann's The Great Mother details feminine aspects of human myth, iconography, and psychology—a merging of Jung, Margaret Mead, and Frazer. He describes how two pairs of archetypes branch out from the central figure of the "Great Mother who is good-bad and makes possible a union of positive and negative attributes" (21). One pair, the rather static "elementary character," consists of the Good Mother, Demeter or Isis evoking birth and renewal, and the Terrible Mother, the Gorgon or Kali evoking death and destruction (20). The second pair, the positive and negative forms of the anima, generate radical changes in the human psyche. From the positive pole arise animae such as the Virgin Mary, Sophia, or Sita; from the negative pole, Lilith and Circe (34-5). Closely following Jung's precepts, Neumann defines the anima as the "male's personal as well as archetypal experience of the Feminine" (33). His circular Schema III of the whole of the Great Mother indicates that archetypes may overlap one another. Mary may be the Mother of God, intercessor-midwife for humankind, as well as the transformative Virgin or Sophia. Figures such as Medea, Circe, and Calypso may embody positive or negative values. While the elementary pair are stable containers, womb or tomb, the transformative pair create inspiration, ecstasy, epiphany, madness, or dissolution (82-83).
In Jones' In Parenthesis we see a simple framework of archetypes. Leaving the rear lines, Pvt. Ball enters the battle area where he will begin to confront enemies. He imagines it as a sexual encounter: "he would hasten to his coal-black love: he would breathe more free in her grimly embrace, and the reality of her"(28). Ball's introduction to combat in sexual terms evokes the destructive, negative anima, a young witch similar to the Baudelaire's fascinating goddess of Fleurs de Mal. Yet here at the front lines, Ball sees a positive archetype of the Good Mother, the moon, ameliorating the destructiveness of the young witch anima:
She drives swift and immaculate . . .
A silver hurrying to silver this waste
silver for bolt-shoulders
silver for butt-heel-irons
. . . grace this mauled earth --
transfigure our infirmity
shine on us. (34-5)
Influenced by the poetry of Eliot and Pound yet unable to divorce himself from the novel form, Jones reserves these poetic effects for moments of high drama. Thus, early in the novel, Jones' protagonist accesses elements of the Great Mother to comprehend his traumatic experiences and to maintain psychological balance in this chaotic environment.
Other positive manifestations of the Great Mother appear as Ball's unit settles into war. As in 13th Valley, sleeping, cleaning, cooking, expressing affection take on greater significance among the men than combat. Homemaking with groundsheets—that is, actually creating shelter—becomes fact and metaphor in both narratives. Ball sees sleeping men "wombed of earth, their rubber sheets for caul." Mother Earth provides spiritual security in trench warfare where "all sureness [is] metamorphosed" (75-76). As with Alpha Company in Vietnam, Jones' WW I soldiers create out of uncertainty a fragile yet nurturing folk culture (IP 49).
IP concludes with a battle patterned after an actual Royal Welch Fusiliers' charge in the Battle of the Somme River Valley, 1916 (Hague 28). Pvt. David Jones was shot in the leg in this action. Ball's experience in the final section of the novel parallels Jones' actual experience. As Pvt. Ball's unit marches into fire, a horrendous archetype arises in the text: ". . . sweet sister death has gone debauched today and stalks this high ground with strumpet confidence, makes no coy veiling of her appetite, but leers from you to me with all her parts discovered. By one and one the line gaps, where her fancy will—howsoever they may howl for their virginity" (162). Recalling the Fury Allecto from The Aeneid (189) and Kali, this Terrible Mother figure combines prurience and death. In an inversion of marriage rites, sister death, as ravisher-husband, forces herself on the young soldiers, the blushing brides. To counterbalance sister death, Ball envisions a Good Mother figure:
The Queen of the Woods has cut bright boughs of various flowering.
These knew her influential eyes. Her awarding hands pluck for each their fragile prize.
She speaks to each according to precedence. She knows what's due to this elect society.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Some she gives white berries some she gives brown. Emil has a curious crown it's made of golden saxifrage.
Fatty wears a sweet-briar, he will reign with her for a thousand years/ For Balder she reaches high to fetch his.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
She plaits torques of equal splendour for Mr. Jenkins and Billy Crower. Hansel with Gronwy share dog-violets for a palm, where they lie in twisted embrace beneath the twisted tripod. (185)
Ball, like Jones, is shot in the leg and crawls through the wood, dragging his rifle. In Ball's delirium vision, he sees this beneficent Valkyrie-Queen reward dead soldiers, German and British, with vegetative blessings--saxifrage, sweet-briar, myrtle, St. John's Wort, mistletoe (for Balder, of course). Thomas Dilworth sees the Queen of the Woods as one of the novel's "summary symbols" (120). With this Good Mother archetype, Jones maintains his central theme, that humans can retain mythic sacramental consciousness in life and death. The terrible irony of course is that Hansel, Gronwy and the others remain dead.
Jeremy Hooker's early analysis, David Jones: An Exploratory Study, sums up Jones' use of the female principle:
For him it means tenderness, certainly, and all creaturely and
kindly qualities; and it means the chthonic powers, the primary creative
force of nature: both what man is in part, and what he is dependent
on. It is both "the Queen of the Woods" and "sweet sister death." (27)
As we will see in Del Vecchio's narrative, clear vision in warfare means seeing clearly the complexities of actual and psychic reality. Pvt. Ball's survival depends greatly on his accessing the positive and negative archetypes of the elemental feminine. Moreover, as we have seen in the folk culture of the trenches, Ball and his comrade doughboys intuitively emphasize the "creaturely and kindly qualities" of positive archetype.
Dilworth has noted that Jones told him that Jung was "more intelligent" than Freud, but that Jung was "also more esoteric and 'got carried away.'" Jones also told Dilworth that he preferred Freud for his "basicness" (Dilworth 203). However, it is my opinion that In Parenthesis, Jones' first literary work, inclines toward the more global archetypes of Jung's pantheon. Pvt. Ball's psychic musings on various archetypes of the Great Mother are not merely sexual but survivalist in nature.
Jones' feminine focus in soldiering remained strong after his wounding. After Jones recovered from his wound, he was sent to southern Ireland in 1918. Here, as he noted in one of his letters, he had an experience of what Keith Aldritt calls "another sudden, powerfully impactful vision of the elemental feminine." In a sunset tableau Jones saw a young farm woman herding cows: "ragged and bare-limbed" yet " a figure of great dignity, with flowing red hair" (38). Here Jones reveals, in a personal epiphany, an ideal example of Jung and Neumann's Good Mother archetype. Jones seems to have collected such moments throughout the twenties and thirties, distilling them into the mythic figures of In Parenthesis. In fact, W. B. Yeats, himself famous for archetypal feminine figures, gave high praises to Jones' novel soon after it was published (Aldritt 108).
By World War II, Jones had turned to painting to frame his views on war. Epiphany 1941, created immediately after the Luftwaffe's destruction of Coventry, shows the double perspective seen in sweet sister death and the Queen of the Woods. In this painting, also named Britannia and Germania Embracing, two stern women warriors embrace as destruction whirls around them, the Epiphany star illuminating all. Aldritt sees in their "searching expressions . . . profound sadness, helplessness, and hopelessness" (124-125). Are they Terrible Mothers or Good Mothers? Jones uses these elemental Jungian archetypes bravely by neither sanitizing the horrors of war nor succumbing to simplistic nationalism. In his androgynous view of war, no one wins.
Similarly, Pvt. John Ball can both show aggression and sympathy for his enemy. He is constantly amazed and thankful, in the novel's final battle, that he remains alive. When he sees a German soldier's grenade fall near him, he attacks with one of his own. Then, Ball asserts his and his enemy's humanity:
You huddle closer to your mossy bed
you make yourself scarce
you scramble forward and pretend not to see,
but ruby drops from young beech-spring—
are bright your hands and face.
And the other one cries from the breaking buckthorn.
He calls for Elsa, for Manuela
for the parish priest of Burkersdorf in Saxe Altenburg" (167- 169).
The feminine archetypes in Ball's visions have marked him as an integrated self as well as a conscientious soldier. While Ball ably accesses his aggressive, masculine side to kill his enemy, his healthy sense of the feminine aids his individuation and prevents him from caricaturing the German soldier into a faceless enemy. This scene immediately precedes the Queen of the Woods' ritual anointing. Ball's vision of her seems a just reward for avoiding egotistical hubris after his duel with the German soldier.
In Parenthesis, perhaps because of Jones' traditionalism, emphasizes the elementary feminine; 13th Valley centers on the transformative animae. Jung notes that the anima or female principle is the soul image of man, while the animus or male principle is the soul image of woman (Psychological Types 469-70). Rejecting one's soul image causes one to live destructively. Maintaining a healthy sense of one's anima or animus helps one's ego mediate with his or her unconscious (Guerin 180-181). Many successful cultural and literary heroes, such as Arthur and Christ, are represented as having such highly integrated psyches(Archetypes 174). There are three anima figures in 13th Valley: Lt. Brooks' wife Lila, Pvt. Chelini's girlfriend Linda, and Sgt. Egan's sweetheart, Stephanie. Two tried-and-true narrative techniques develop them--dreams and letters from home. I will concentrate on Egan and Stephanie.
Introduced as "quiet" and "disciplined," "a soldier's soldier" (91), Egan accesses feminine aspects within himself to become an ideal warrior. His men pass on legends about him taking out four NVA soldiers with four rounds "And they was firin' at him" (24).
However, beneath his warrior nature is a nurturing core. He mothers new recruits. Cool as Martha Stewart, Egan transforms C-Rations into Bernaise sauce and vichysoisse. He carries "facial quality" toilet tissue. Because of firm relationship with his anima, Egan unabashedly creates elements of the feminine in a macho environment.
Eschewing savagery of the My Lai type, Egan directly refuses the common practice of taking ears (544). His feminine attributes create a positive ambience. Even in battle, he focuses on protecting comrades more than killing enemies. Jung presented such psychological flexibility as desirable. Similar literary figures include Sergeant Elias in Oliver Stone's 1986 film Platoon, Zora Neale Hurston's Teacake in Their Eyes Were Watching God, and Augustus MacRae of McMurtry's novel and film Lonesome Dove. With Egan's individuation, Del Vecchio directly attacks ego-driven film warriors of the immediate post-Viet Nam era—1975-1982. Also attacked, I believe, are politicians of this time who, having avoided active, rigorous military service themselves, blithely sent others into harm's way. Such REMF's are still around today, vicariously relishing the battles that others fight, yet quite willing to celebrate "Mission Accomplished" as if they had had a hand in the fighting.
Del Vecchio celebrates Lt. Brooks' giving nature. Del Vecchio says that the men of Alpha "would do almost anything for him [Brooks] because he would do almost anything for them" (221). He swims rivers, helps cook, and even walks point. However, his wife Lila serves him divorce papers just before they begin the campaign. In his dreams she transforms from a positive anima into a young witch, though he controls his mind's image of her better than Chelini does his anima-image of Linda.
In contrast to Egan and Brooks, Chelini psychically disintegrates. After he reads a chatty, noncommittal letter from his girlfriend Linda, his anima-image of her becomes a young, cuckolding witch: "The bitch, he thought, I bet she's screwin like a rabbit. I bet she always has . . . , even when we were goin out"(555). Del Vecchio neatly juxtaposes this same episode with Chelini's taking ears, noting that the calluses on Chelini's mind "become thicker and thicker" (547). By the end of the novel, Chelini has become totally savage; he "mad-dog bites and rips [an enemy] soldier's neck, simultaneously thrusting his bayonet into the enemy stomach. Blood explodes in Cherry's mouth" (610). Chelini's transmogrified anima thus makes him a vampiric rapist (Guerin 180-185). The tragedy is that, while this savagery has distracted Chelini, Egan has led the unit into an enemy trench, has been injured, and desperately needs help. Though Chelini's battle fury might play well to a Rambo II audience, it is a tactical as well as psychological error.
Let me emphasize that Del Vecchio makes clear distinctions between the characters Linda, Lila and Stephanie and the projections of these women in the men's letters, night-dreams, and waking-dreams.
Egan consciously idealizes Stephanie as his anima. Jung and Stevens say that the absence of the person who embodies one's anima or animus helps one develop an intense awareness of this soul-image. Meditating on his anima keeps Egan grounded, "She was the antithesis of Nam, the good, peaceful, the loving, . . . truth packaged perfectly" (306). She enriches his interior life, his Number two personality, as Jung would say. He receives a letter from her on the eve of the final battle. Her presence in this letter and in his mind propels him into a state of grace.
In an essay, "The Myth of Arthur," written in the depths of World War Two, David Jones worried that the feminine emphasis of the Arthurian Legend had been lost: "Perhaps we are entering again upon a period when the love story may give place to the story of the heroic. . . ." Jones criticized the fanatical nationalism shown by German and Allied soldiers alike. As counterbalance, he promoted "the saving skepticism of the female mind" (Epoch and Artist 240). Del Vecchio, over forty years later, adds that element to his narrative for leavening. Stephanie's "saving skepticism" rescues Egan from devolving into a film-variety macho soldier.
Egan's animus frankly loves the ultimate competition of war. Yet his letters and dreams show an incredible tenderness. Throughout the first half of the novel, he composes a letter to Stephanie. It's rather straightforward: "I want to see you. I never knew how deeply you touched me . . . . We had a lot of good times and some bad. I don't know why I always had to be leaving but I think my desire to wander has been satiated by my time here . . . . Stephanie, if you can, please say I may come to see you. All my love, Daniel" (354). He hands this to a helicopter doorgunner, then takes off into the bush with his company. Now some might say that this is typical machismo—vague, full of tumescent desire, no apologies for cruel inarticulateness when he was with her. However, throughout the remainder of the novel he increasingly identifies with her in his mind, confounding readers' expectations. He converses with his mental image of her. His mind's Stephanie chews him out: "Talk to me, Daniel. I know it's there but you won't give it to me . . . . TALK TO ME! You bastard." In his dreams, he responds: "'I care for you more than anything else. . . . I love you. . . . I'm sorry . . . , I didn't understand." The narrator emphasizes here: " It was his spirit speaking" (447-449). Egan's dialogue with his Stephanie-anima thus enables his ego to mediate with his unconscious and to resolve the conflict between his spirit and hers. His greatest achievement is his conscious recognition of her as his anima. She becomes the archetypal feminine for him.
Stephanie's last letter to him, which crosses his in the mail, ratifies Egan's transformation and their spiritual communication. Accessing an archetype, she writes that her soul looks like "a tree with branches , . . . You asked me if you could take it for a day or so . . . . you plucked my soul leaving only the roots behind . . . . It would be easier if you would bring my soul back. . . . I've been thinking about you so much. . . . Please write to me" (589). His letter handed to the door gunner is his answer to her epistle. Indeed, their letters answer each other—spiritual synchronicity. For in his letter and in his dream-visions, he has been giving her back her soul, while maintaining a healthy anima-image of her. Egan enters the final battle in a fulfilled state—no desires, no self-consciousness—he "swayed with the bamboo, bent with the grass" (600). One soldier says that Egan "took this hill by his self" (629). Transcending egotism, he becomes the ideal warrior.
In both novels, psychic integration occurs when soldiers access their feminine sides. Jones' and Del Vecchio's protagonists experience decency and beauty within nihilistic wastelands of battle. Sgt. Egan and Pvt. Ball care for themselves and their comrades and are better soldiers than undisciplined men such as Chelini who conjure negative feminine archetypes. Tragically yet realistically, Jones' and Del Vecchio's positive epiphanies cannot be maintained. For this reason, I think, both authors close with funereal moods, not with a simplistic sense of victory such as one sees in war-fantasies such as The Green Berets, Rambo II, and more recently FOX NEWS coverage of the Iraq War. Ball drags his wounded body back to safety. Egan and Brooks remain MIA and their memorial service marks Del Vecchio's ambiguous conclusion. For David Jones and John Del Vecchio, few individuated heroes exist in the environment of war, though enough to create tragic drama within the novel form.
As for solutions, both authors downplay egotistical hubris and unnecessary conflict while maintaining integration as an ideal. Further, their common theme that good soldiers access their feminine as well as their masculine sides promotes the idea that war can be avoided in great part. Citizens simply need to pay attention to the positive, creative, even anti-war, musings of characters like Ball and Egan and Brooks.
NVA -- North Vietnamese Army
-- rear echelon motherfucker
Walking point – taking the lead position as a unit moves into unfamiliar territory
Works Cited or Consulted
Aldritt, Keith. David Jones: Writer and Artist. London: Constable and Robinson, 2003.
Del Vecchio, John M. The 13th Valley (1982). New York: Bantam, 1983.
Dilworth, Thomas. The Shape of Meaning in the Poetry of David Jones. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1988.
Frye, Northrup. Anatomy of Criticism. New York: Atheneum, 1967.
Guerin, W. L. et al. A Handbook of Critical Approaches to Literature. New York: Harper and Row, 1979.
Hague, Rene. "David Jones: A Reconnaissance." Twentieth Century. 68 (July 1960): 27-45.
Heilbrun, Carolyn. Toward a Recognition of Androgyny. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1973.
Henderson, Joseph L. "Ancient Myths and Modern Man." Man and His Symbols. 1964. Ed. Carl. G. Jung et al. New York: Dell, 1968. 95-156.
Hooker, Jeremy. David Jones: An Exploratory Study. London: Enitharmon Press, 1975.
Jones, David. In Parenthesis. (1937). New York: Viking, 1961.
Jung, Carl G. The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious. The Collected Works. Vol. 9. Princeton: Princeton UP. 1969. 19 vols.
---. Psychological Types. 1921. The Collected Works. Vol. 6. Princeton: Princeton UP, 1971.19 vols.
Neumann, Erich. The Great Mother: An Analysis of the Archetype. Princeton: Princeton UP, 1963.
Spivack, Charlotte. "The Mists of Avalon: Goddesses and the Divine Quaternity." Paper presented in Session 77, "ARTHURIAN LEGEND: Fiction." 32nd Annual Conference of the Popular Culture Association. Toronto. March 2002.
Stevens, Anthony. On Jung. New York: Routledge, 1990.
Vergil, The Aeneid. Trans. W.F Jackson Knight. London, 1956.
Von Franz, M. L. "The Process of Individuation." Man and his Symbols. Ed. Carl G. Jung. New York: Dell, 1968. 157-254.