Jack’s Transformation in Jack and the Beanstalk Essay

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Jack and the Beanstalk – Jack’s Transformation

"Jack and the Beanstalk" is an example of a Buildungsroman. As the tale progresses, Jack evolves from an immature person into a mature, self-assertive person. While minor differences exist in various versions of the tale, such as those between Joseph Jacobs' and Horace Elisha Scudder's versions, the tale can always be read as Jack's quest for maturity. Some critics, however, analyze the tale as one in which Jack remains spoiled and immature. While they make points which support their claims, careful analysis of the tale will reveal that Jack's struggle to grow up and to achieve maturity is representative of the difficult process of adolescent (especially male) maturation and the
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A closer reading, though, reveals why entering into the Giant's land and stealing the Giant's treasures is significant to the progress of Jack's maturity.

Jack does indeed begin as an immature, spoiled child. In Scudder's version, which is a moral version containing a fairy who justifies Jack's decision to steal the Giant's treasures, Jack's mother blames him for making her "a beggar" (23). In Jacobs' version, which is a traditional version without the fairy, Jack's inability to get a job shows his immaturity. As Martha Wolfenstein states, Jack "is spoiled or lazy or cannot hold a job or . . . has carelessly exhausted the family substance" (243). When the cow, Milky-white, stops giving milk, Jack's mother sends him to the marketplace to sell the cow for money (Jacobs 59). This venture is a very important first step in Jack's road to maturity, though it may not seem so at the time. This is the first time that we know of Jack's mother ever sending him to the market. According to Bruno Bettelheim, this first encounter with the world represents the end of infancy for Jack. As Bettelheim reminds us, Jack's mother demands that he "learn to make do with what the outside world can offer" (188). Now that Jack can no longer expect his mother to do everything for him, he realizes that he must take steps toward maturity. As Bettelheim says, "The child then has to begin the long and difficult
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