But she was the greater, for suffering more, she feared nothing.
Nycteris in “The Day Boy and the Night Girl” by Macdonald is a strong character and I found her way of thinking to be very admirable. Despite her rough upbringing in a dark cave, Nycteris is full of curiosity and exploration. She is powerful even in her weakened state in the sunlight. Though she knows little about the world around her, she is very wise as she grows from fear and explores the world. She has to make sense of everything on her own and develops a very strong, powerful way of thinking despite her confusion by the world. This quote about her truly exemplifies her strength as outlook on life as she grows from her hardships and can persevere through any situation.
Nycteris, despite her strength, and Photogen are both subject to Freudian development theories as they grow up in their very different yet nonetheless difficult environments. The third stage of Freud’s psychosexual development deals with children figuring out their sexual roles. Freud explains that children who grow up in single parent homes become confused when having to identify with a gender role. Nycteris, due to growing up without a father figure, is very confused when she sees Photogen, a boy. After calling him a girl, the text states,
“A girl!” shouted Photogen, and started to his feet in wrath. “If you were a man, I should kill you.” “A man?” repeated Nycteris. “What is that? How could I be that? We are both girls — are we not?” “No, I am not a girl,” he answered; “– although,” he added, changing his tone, and casting himself on the ground at her feet, “I have given you too good reason to call me one.”
“Oh, I see!” returned Nycteris. “No, of course! — you can’t be a girl: girls are not afraid — without reason. I understand now: it is because you are not a girl that you are so frightened.” Photogen twisted and writhed upon the grass. “No, it is not,” he said sulkily; “it is this horrible darkness that creeps into me, goes all through me, into the very marrow of my bones — that is what makes me behave like a girl. If only the sun would rise!”.
Nycteris attempts to make sense of gender and how, as a girl, she is supposed to act in contrast to Photogen, a boy. Stereotypically, girls are supposed to be weak and dependent on males. However, Nycteris concludes that girls are strong and fearless. She acts as so when braves the sunlight. Photogen’s actions also support her conclusions as he acts cowardly, fearful, and dependent on Nycteris during nighttime. Although Photogen had a father figure in Fargu. He taught him to be manly by hunting animals. When Nycteris argues that she can protect him from the creatures of the night, he responds, “But how?…You can’t shoot with bow and arrow, or stab with a hunting knife”. Photogen has more of a grip on how he is supposed to act as a man but cannot seem to act that way as he travels through the dark. Freud blames this gender confusion on their lack of strong parental figures in their lives.
This gender confusion then explains why Photogen was the one to kill his mother figure, Watho. Freud’s “Oedipal Complex” explains that boys have an unknown drive to kill their fathers and marry their mothers. However, both Photogen and Nycteris have been, as Freud calls it, fixated on the stage of gender development. Since they seem to have figured out their roles as opposites, it makes sense that Photogen would instead have the drive to kill his mother instead of his father. Watho, coming to him in disguise, causes Photogen to unintentionally kill her, fulfilling this Oedipal drive of his.