I'm beginning to think that much of the hopelessness/learned helplessness/unnamed-negative-emotionedn
ess we've been discussing is at least in large part caused by loneliness
... a sense of having neither family nor community to turn to ... perhaps complicated by an awful feeling of having failed. fiveandfour
"I recall a few years ago reading in my local Business Journal
about a woman who taught English to immigrants to the United States. ... After a few years of teaching, she hit upon teaching fairy tales to these students... [T]hey were a window into our culture. She hadn't really noticed, until these students brought it to her attention, how many of those stories (e.g. The Three Little Pigs) involved some family member striking out on their own. It was endlessly fascinating and discussed in her classes how many ways our culture supports this notion that once you come of age, it's right and good that you would leave the bosom of the family and go it alone. This was utterly astonishing to her students. She found fairy tales to be a kind of key to unlocking the door of understanding for people who found many things strange when they moved here, with the strangest thing of all being this notion that families wouldn't live together and support one another, both financially and in other ways."
Maybe "striking out on your own" is a lot harder now than it used to be? Or maybe the specifications for demonstrating that you've succeeded in doing that have become totally unrealistic? When I was first married (in 1955) my husband and I were living in one room in a roominghouse, sharing the one bathroom on our floor with a bunch of other roomers, and we considered that a perfectly adequate demonstration of "striking out on our own." (I still do.) But suppose you feel that (a) you're not a real adult if you can't afford a two-bedroom/two-bath place with airconditioning and a dishwasher and all the trimmings, but (b) you're not a real adult if you're living with your parents instead of striking out on your own.... That's hard. [Note: "A real adult" may not be the right phrase here at all; I'm much too old to know exactly what would go in that "I'm not a real [X]" blank.]
And I don't want to leave out the response from almeda
"So, like in the 'third son of poor father goes out and makes good and gets the princess and puts his elderly mother up in style' tales?"
in fact one of the new markers of being a real whatever-it-is. The adult children -- the chadults -- prove that they've really "made it" by buying their elderly mothers a nice house and covering all their living expenses in that house.
Does anybody know if there are any traditional fairy tales that have that as a plot element?