Individuation in Text and Life: a Jungian Interpretation of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley's Matilda

Date of Graduation

Summer 1994


Master of Arts in English



Committee Chair

George Jensen


In "A Study in the Process of Individuation," C.G. Jung traces the beginnings of a patient's individuation process through the images which appear in her paintings. My reading of Matilda uses a similar formula to interpret the incest theme and the three principal characters of the novella as archetypal images. Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley wrote Matilda in the wake of her children's deaths and in response to her resulting feelings of isolation from her husband and spiritual estrangement for her father. During such periods of emotional unbalance, images surface instinctively from the unconscious in order to reestablish lost equilibrium; these images often appear in writing, artwork, and other manifestations of the unconscious. The individuation process, which Jung described as an unending journey toward a clearer understanding of the Self, often begins with the surfacing of such images as the psyche attempts to achieve a balance between the unconscious and conscious. My reading of Matilda demonstrates that the novella is itself a story of individuation and that the archetypal images reflect the beginning of Mary Shelley's own individuation process.

Subject Categories

English Language and Literature


© Laura Ann Cuebas