The Implication of Parents’ Marital Discord on Children from the Perspective of Echo’s Silence
Suh Yoon Kim
This study considers the Greek Myth of Echo, who is punished by her voice being taken away, to help analyze the implication of parental discord on children.
Bowen (1963) argues that conflictive parents project their anxiety onto their children. He explains that a mother often ascribes her anxiety to her children, even though it is actually her spouse who causes anxiety. Similarly, Hera blames Echo for upsetting her, but Hera’s instability is nothing but the projection of her own anxiety toward Zeus onto Echo. In this vein, Echo constitutes a helpless child unfairly blamed as a result of adults’ conflict.
In such prevailing scenarios, children become more involved in the conflict between parents to form a “triangular relationship” (Papero, 1990). They tend to respond sensitively to parents’ anxiety, blame themselves, and ultimately fail to develop a “differentiated-self” from their parents. Echo’s loss of voice represents her loss of differentiated-self. Parents’ continued inclusion of children in their marital problems result in their children’s inability to develop a differentiated-self.
In addition, this study also investigates the different depictions of Echo in various versions. In some versions modified for children, Echo is described as a careless girl who deserves to be punished. In others, Hera’s unfair treatment and projection of anxiety onto Echo is emphasized and Echo’s pain is highlighted. In the former, the danger of an “undifferentiated-self” is not focused on as it is in the latter versions.
Depictions of Zeus also vary according to different versions of the story. In some cases, Zeus seduces Echo with a gold ring to distract Hera. Being seized with avarice, Echo is not described as worth sympathizing with. In other versions, however, Echo is portrayed as trying to keep her promise to Zeus and protect nymph friends from Hera’s fury. The latter illuminates that Echo’s loss of voice is the unjust punishment resulting from Hera’s immoderate emotional projection.
Echo’s story can be expected to make children critically perceive their family systems in the long run. Although the story cannot immediately make children be aware of problems of their family systems, some versions may induce a better response. Versions critically illuminating Echo’s silence tell children to rage and refuse rather than remain helpless when blamed for parental discord, which would help them better realize self-differentiation within family systems.
*Name: Suh yoon, Kim
*Affiliation: Gyeongsang National University, South Korea
-S.Y. Kim, “The Types and Educational Directivity of Classical Novels Adapted for Children and Adolescents”, Korean Literature Education Research vol. 60, Korean Society of Literary Education (09.2018.)
– S.Y. Kim, “The narrative of self-realization in Yongmoonjeon (龍門傳) and its educational significance”, Journal of Korean Classical Literature and Education vol. 36, The Society of Korean Classical Literature Education (10.2017.)