The character Ariel from the film “The Little Mermaid” by Disney is a 1989 film based on a comic book

In the film, Ariel is the youngest of the seven daughter of the sea king Triton whom lost their mother at an earlier age but under care of a grandmother as a substitute. Triton as a king as set up restrictions for all her princesses and all of the six siblings conforms to the father’s logical restrictions but Ariel. Unlike her siblings who love living the normal mermaid life in the deep waters of the sea, Ariel is interested in living in a different niche altogether and she is ready to assert for her independence regardless of her father’s authoritative declaration never to help or talk to human beings from the land. Ariel’s father is very understanding and treats Ariel with delicate words of love and affection in order to win her over to understand the perils of interacting with strangers who live in the land. Contrary to the water entities, Ariel’s interest grows for human contact that she seeks an adventure into sunken ships to find pieces of items and clatter that can remind her of human existence apart from the mermaid lifestyle. Although Triton feels obligated to provide the best care and love for Ariel, he feels destined to direct his daughter mermaid from the wrong path of life into the normal lifestyle of all mermaids in the sea.

Emotionally, Ariel is attached to a young man Eric whom she saves from drowning in the sea and she later finds a statue of him in the sunken ship and adores the bust as she would admire and lavish Eric himself. Triton painful discovers that her daughter is making trips into the deep-sea sunken ship to make contact with the bust of Eric and he is distressed by the action that he destroys the bust using his wand’s magic power that disintegrates the bust to powder. Ariel  is disoriented  by the actions ad she protests by running away from her father’s presence to a distance deep sea where she sought help from a sea witch to become human and marry Eric.

Mermaid live for over 300 years while normal human beings live for half the time; therefore, Ariel’s conviction to marry a human is costly to her immortal life which is not the same with human beings who die. Ariel is a teenager seeking romance and she fell in love with Eric after kissing him at the beach just after rescuing him from the sinking ship. Ariel’s desire for human lover unlike other mermaids is directly linked with her spirit of adventure. However, her spirit of adventure is extreme and contrary to the customs of the mermaids who have to marry among themselves since it is a taboo to marry or engage with the human species. Little Mermaid presents Ariel as an interesting personality with normal humanistic dreams of finding a teenager lover. Ariel’s love for humans is considered a taboo but she fights to attain her goal of turning into a better soul as an air spirit instead of turning into sea foam. Ariel is smart in that she knows that her destiny is turning into a sea form and she plans on how to escape the trap by learning to be loved by a human from whom she would receive an eternal soul for her good deed after dissolving from the human body into spirit. 

Transformation within the culture of the mermaids in the sea is into human culture is centered on logical and ethical concerns; since Triton remain ignorant of human ethics, he rejects all forms of help that mermaids may extend to human sailors drowning. Triton considers the human race as a corrupt group of beings who lack appreciation and manners likened to the mermaid culture. The mermaids remain under a strong paternal control who maintains the relationship as an ultimate king who makes non-revocable decisions that young mermaids and their mothers have to follow without questioning. Triton attacks Ariel’s hideout and destroys her hoarded bust and other clutter in the sunken ship to assert his authority to give the law and ethical edicts over all mermaids in the sea.

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Mermaids learn from older mermaids. Besides gaining knowledge from experiences they encounters in the sea, Ariel is inquisitive and leans her way by discovering by herself the diverse happenings in the sea. Ariel is only sixteen years old and she is in need of a lover from the human race instead of the mermaid group of entities to which she is a member.


The journey of the Little Mermaid is to gain immortality and she sacrifices her voice to the sea witch in return for human feet with which to walk on land and search for her lover. Freud discuses the Oedipal crisis in which a girl blames a mother for her lack of a phallus and thus seeks close relationship with father in hope of attaining the phallus. At puberty, Ariel is clearly affected by the Oedipal crisis wand since his father is inaccessible due to taboo of incest, she owns a male statue of Eric, the human she fell in love with at her journey to see humans. The world before she left her mermaid world is a pre-Oedipal dominated world in which her grandmother, mother, and six sisters dominate her daily experience, which she now rejects. Unlike the mermaid world that is dominated by female, the curiosity to learn about the patriarchal human world brings about satisfaction that she desires to acquire the human body and marry a human being to save her soul. Ariel directed her phallic desire towards Eric whom she found intensely interesting that she sacrificed herself as a mermaid by losing her voice and her mermaid feet to attain human feet without a voice.

Ariel’s castration of tongue and feet to acquire the phallic symbol in Eric the human prince is a Freudian concept

The willingness to suppress the female mermaid voice before turning into human form is directed by the desire for the phallus. The sea witch who castrates the girl mermaid to achieve her dream represents the female aggressor who prevents the girl from overcoming her oedipal challenge since without a voice, Ariel remained dumb and without the force of expression, Eric rejected her crippled stance. Equally, the sea witch offered Ariel a dagger to destroy the prince if she failed to kiss him within 3 days in order to remain human forever. Moreover, when she failed, she displayed her need for paternal protection, which is synonymous with the Freudian theory. Freud asserts that life needs a bridge and paternal security is the most privileged position to facilitate security.

According to Freud, Ariel was born with the Id intact and that being the basic drive of want, Ariel cries whenever she feels unpleasant about her experience. Ariel cried when her father destroyed the bust of Eric she kept at her garden away from everyone. Although Ariel knew that her father restricted relations with human beings, she still cried when Eric’s statue was destroyed to debris because of her id. Secondly, Ariel’s ego, which is based on the reality principle developed after her father, destroyed the bust of Eric when she decides to face reality by begging the sea witch to turn her into human form to pursue Eric. However, the superego of Ariel is quite underdeveloped since she lacks conscience to assert for mermaid lifestyle. Instead, Ariel’s superego is controlled by her ego to satisfy her need for a human being away from the mermaid life. Nonetheless, Ariel is unconscious self is determined to find a new meaning in life through a transformative process of turning from a mermaid to a human being and to this end she dedicates her superego until she is happily married by Eric.

According to Melanie Klein, Ariel suffered from mental depressive position during her child development probably following her mother’s demise, a situation that left her under care of grandmother. Logically, Ariel never wanted her children to also feel lonely and desperate in the sea like her and thus she proposed to avert that mental depressive position by departing from the sea environment, which she perceived as the source of her depressed position.

Ariel envied the human beings who had all they wanted unlike her who had to forgo her voice before becoming human. She envied the other princess who turns out to be the witch using her voice to lure Eric instead of her, she felt cheated and used by the witch who stole her voice in order to woo the prince of land. Envy is a destructive force, which destroys the sea witch for stealing Ariel’s voice by coaxing her to sign a subordinated contract.

Fear drives the culture of the mermaids, especially the fear of coming into contact with the human beings

Ariel is not happy that her father is reprimanding her desire for human contact and marriage, which is a taboo with the water entities. That is why Ariel complains saying “Betch’ ya on land they understand, bet they don’t reprimand their daughters”. Ariel is making her superego accept change by imagining that land life is easier and more appealing since the patriarch ruling land understand the needs of their daughters better. Ariel asserts for her independence when she wished that she had understanding father, which points to her emotional lack of her mother or someone to understand her emotions. Triton, Ariel’s father is quite assertive and controlling, this character of the father influences the lonely dispositions adopted by Ariel that she consulted the sea witch instead of the Triton and she wishes to live on land as humans do thinking she can find understanding fathers, “if only I could make him understand.” The statement asserts the Oedipal crisis which affects the female mermaids but none is courageous to expose the negative influence of gagging the daughters’ feelings and ideas though contrary to the customs of the mermaids.

Mermaids value prohibitions, taboos, and restrictions, which define their culture of life. However, the regard for customs and values is based on the omnipresence of the king. Since Triton lacks capacity as an omnipresent individual, the rest of the mermaid life and fish life can break all customs and prohibitions as long as the king does not find out. Ariel knows that contact with human body is restricted but the reason behind the taboo is shallowly explained using fear before the population, “fish-eater” human world. According to the social lifestyle of the mermaids, sea creatures and fish as close friends, human’s habit of eating fish is equated to a cannibalistic culture which explains the hatred Triton held against fishers. That is why the fish explain to Ariel that “under the sea nobody beats us, fry us and eat us in fricassees.”. Progress from the puberty into adulthood requires mastery of courage to overcome, Ariel wanted to be safe and “off the hook”, and therefore to dominate, every sea life she knew she had to acquire the human body. Ariel’s quest is to control her fears instead of being dominated by turning into human figure instead of dying as a mermaid. She sacrifices her voice to the sea witch to gain human as her immortality body to feel in control on land than in the sea where she witnessed her father express his fear against the human capacity to fish and dominate over sea life. The desire is embodied in Freud’s theory about feminism in which he argues that female beings are born castrated either emotionally, psychological and physically before the world and the girl blames the mother for the handicap while striving to attain interest of the father to help her attain the missing phallic state. Psychic wounds in Arial developed earlier in life due to absence of her biological mother.

Jungian psychology asserts that every individual is comprised of mixture of feminine and masculine properties that determine the feminine conscious in women and masculine conscious in men. Therefore, Ariel exhibited a higher level of feminine consciousness but a higher form of masculine unconsciousness that made her unlike her siblings break convections and reflect on breaking taboos such as marrying a man instead of a staying in the mermaid world. Jung asserts that the level of subconscious feminine or masculine in an individual added to the degree of feminine and masculine consciousness affect the wholeness of an individual. Ariel admires Eric the prince because he represents a degree of masculinity that she identifies with as ideal from either her conscious or/and subconscious self. The projected animus of Ariel is to attain human awareness in body form, through marriage, find someone who can understands her, and treat her so like Eric whose statue she keeps in her garden. Presence of the statue in the garden with red flowers may represent the Jungian masculine symbols of the sun, which means the phallus from Freudian and Melanie theories. Similarly, Ariel was given a dagger with which to kill the prince, but she instead throws the sharp phallic object into the sea, which represent the feminine self. The Little Mermaid destroys herself to gain from the masculine.

Ariel is suffering from an obsessive-compulsive disorder, the hoarding type that clearly indicates that she was lonely, afraid of losing her father’s security and whatever she hoarded and collected. She collects items from sunken ships and goes about asking what those objects represent. For instance, she carried a comb along asking for suggestions of its function in the land. Her obsession for human body and life grew from her hoarding disorder; as she collected items including Eric’s statue, she grew away from the mermaid world and desired to gain the human world, which his father detested. Ariel collected countless items but never threw any away from her store which concludes that she was a pathological hoarder. Pathological organizations are identified and discussed by Melanie of which hoarding is one of them.

In conclusion, Freud, Melanie and Jung psychoanalysis theories assert that feminine and masculine capacities determine how female character react to their bodies as they grow up. During the early age, Melanie states that Oedipal age sets in, while Freud identified the Oedipal crisis during age 2 to 5 years. Jung on the other hand advocates for understanding of the timeless feminine and masculine conscious and subconscious construction that affects any persons at any age concerning individual reaction to development. Fear, anxiety, id, ego, superego and masculine and feminine forces in the mermaid environment affected personality development in Ariel our character.

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