Addressing the Self in Keri Hulme’s the bone people

in Explorations of Consciousness in Contemporary Fiction
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Keri Hulme’s 1984 Booker Prize winning novel, the bone people, tells the story of the formation of a biologically unrelated nuclear family in the cultural context of New Zealand with its mixture of Maori heritage, English settlers and recent immigrants. The story is presented through the juxtaposition of dialogues and inner monologues of the main characters, demonstrating how the self negotiates its progress towards integration. On the individual level, the characters are battling their own pasts on their way towards growing into responsible persons. Taken together, they also represent the process of integrative development of a national self for New Zealand. In even more abstract terms, the novel presents the narrative development of a Self that will be able to contain, recognize and coordinate its animus, its shadow and its inner child, along with its conscious part. An interpretation relying on these Jungian concepts is justifiable not only because the novel, reportedly, originated in a dream, but also because it applies diverse mythical elements and strategies. The article aims to add another psychological dimension to the discussion of a novel that has continued to impress with the flexibility of its language, ranging from the poetic to the profane, and with its polyphonic exploration of the many voices in which the self addresses itself.

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