Sie sind auf Seite 1von 8

Murphy 1

Caitlin Murphy
Professor Lewis
ENGL 115
11 December, 2015
Howls Fleeting Narcissism

The emptiest people on this planet are usually the ones fullest of themselves,
(Anonymous). In reference to the children's fantasy novel Howls Moving Castle, this quote
could not be more true, considering the personality qualities of the protagonist in Howls Moving
Castle. The book Howls Moving Castle was written by author Diana Wynne Jones. This fairy
tale tells the story of an imaginary land by the name of Ingary. This land is home to the
protagonist Sophie Hatter. As the eldest daughter in her family, she is doomed to failure
according the the ideologies of the town. As her two younger sisters leave their family-owned
hat shop to apprentice for other successful jobs, Sophie remains as a hatter with her stepmother
Fanny. Ingary is also home to the other lead character in the novel, the Wizard Howl. Howl is a
young, handsome, and powerful wizard who resides within his magical moving castle. The
castle proves to be an entity that Sophies town of Market Chipping, as well as other
surrounding towns, are quite curious and suspicious of. The townspeople are not only suspicious
of the castle itself, but especially of the wicked Wizard Howl. Although it is a myth, it is
believed in the town that Howl is the most evil wizard in all of Ingary and that he eats girls souls.
However, within the novel, it is soon discovered that this assumption about Howl and his
character is completely false. As Sophie befriends Howl, she detects his true nature and as a
result, the complex character arch of Howl is revealed within the novel. Howls character exudes

Murphy 2

moderate narcissism because he has an obsession with his self-image, but he still maintains
empathy for others. Howl successfully projects a negative appearance of himself to the people of
Ingary and he experiences a brief mirror phase when his true feelings for Sophie are revealed to
the audience.
According to the psychological definition, narcissism is when one has an over-exerted
self-love, which can include sexual gratification in some cases (Colman). Theorist Sigmund
Freud studied narcissism and believed that there were many common psychological symptoms
found within people who are considered to be narcissists. These symptoms include selfimportance, boastfulness, a constant need for admiration, and unreasonable expectations of
favorable treatment. Many of these qualities and symptoms are seen within Howls character in
the novel. For example: Howl is very concerned with his looks and he is continuously in the
bathroom for hours everyday getting ready and grooming himself, like in the following scene:

Howl came out of the bathroom just then in a waft of steamy perfume. He looked
marvelously spruce. Even the silver inlets and embroidery on his suit seemed to have
become brighter. He took one look and backed into the bathroom again with a blue-andsilver- sleeve protecting his head, 84-85.
This scene from the novel illustrates Howls persistence to keep his looks his first priority, to
value his time getting ready, and to make himself appear presentable, put-together, and attractive
at all times. Howls physical image is clearly shown to be very important to him and this quality
distinctly represents one that a narcissist has. This quote also demonstrates his persistence
adequately because he finishes getting ready, looks at himself, and then proceeds to tidy himself
up even more. His level of obsession, compulsion, and preoccupation is described throughout

Murphy 3

the text and this consistent quality provides even more evidence to validate the fact that Howl is
a narcissist.
An additional example of Howls narcissistic qualities is found in the text when Howl
throws a tantrum over his hair unexpectedly changing colo. Howl proclaims and announces,

Look. Survey. Inspect. My hair is ruined. I look like a pan of bacon and eggs I shall have
to hide until its grown out Despair! Anguish! Horror! (Jones 115, 116). When Sophie
accidentally mixes up a few potion and spell containers in Howls bathroom while cleaning,
Howl uses the wrong one to dye his hair and his hair is turned to a different color than he wants it
to be. Howl immediately notices this mistake when he looks into the mirror of his bathroom and
for this reason, begins to yell, complain, and throw a complete tantrum to express his frustration.
His concern with his appearance is something that affects the way he interacts with others and
the way that he reacts to certain situations, particularly when he is out of his comfort zone or not
looking his best. The way he reacts in situations like this also affects the way others view him,
which is another issue Howl holds in high regard in his life.
Not only is Howl obsessed with his physical looks, but he is also concerned with the way
people view him. Howl wants his image to be within a certain light and in order to do so, he
portrays himself as a very wicked wizard. Howl states, Ive reached that stage in my career
when I need to impress everyone with my power and wickedness, (77). This quote from the
text illuminates Howls motive for what he does; he feels the need to impress others with his
abilities which include his powers, his looks, and his image as a whole. His need to galvanize
others is another narcissistic quality that Howl possesses. By asking Sophie throughout the book

Murphy 4

to blacken his name, it is obvious that he wants people to have a specific opinion of him, and by
grooming himself the way he does, he is successful in projecting it. Even before Sophie meets
Howl she is warned, along with her sisters, to never go out alone. This was warned because it is
a rumor in the town that, he was known to amuse himself by collecting young girls and sucking
the souls from them, (5). This idea, even though it is a myth, was spread around town and
created a lot of fear in many people. The suspicion within the townspeople lead them to believe
that Howl is truly wicked. By telling others to blacken his name, Howl is successful in creating
this negative image for himself. He continues to keep this likeness throughout the book and this
successfully feeds his narcissism even more.
Correspondingly, another example of how others view Howl is seen with Calcifer,
Michael, and Sophies opinion of him. While Sophies opinion is based off of the lands rumors
and myths, Calcifer and Michaels opinions are first hand because they live with Howl in his
castle and they experience his true personality. Calcifer was a shooting star that Howl had saved
in his youth, and in order to save him and keep him alive, Howl gave him his heart. As a
consequence, Calcifer became a fire demon. Michael is an apprentice of Howls and he is being
taught one-on-one how to be a wizard. There is a scene within the text where Sophie is
frustrated with Howl; she gets angry and calls him wicked. Soon after, Michael interrupts and
disagrees with Sophie and claims that Howl truly isnt wicked. Following, Howl rebuttals and
states that he thinks he is wicked. This scene in the novel is an example of two things: Howls
strong opinion and confidence in his own image, and Michaels inside opinion of Howls true
identity. This scene shows Howls amount of assurance that he has when it comes to his wicked
image and appearance. Howl works so hard to project his evil image, that he himself truly

Murphy 5

believes he is wicked. On the other side of the story, Michael is working with Howl every day
of his life, and being this close with him, he has been able to get to know him and what hes
truly like, aside from outside opinions and gossip. So in the context of the story, of all people,
Michael, along with Calcifer, know Howl best and is a trustworthy character when it comes to
revealing hints about Howls true identity and personality. Furthermore, this scene pulls an
interesting topic to the surface of the novel. If Michael states that Howl is not truly wicked, and
Michael is one of the closest in the novel to Howl, then maybe Howl isnt wicked after all.
Henceforth, this discussion leads to another point that can be argued within the text: that Howl is
not a true narcissist.
In spite of Howl and his various discernible narcissistic qualities, there are also many
things he does within the novel and his lifetime that counteract these said characteristics. Howl
is not a typical narcissist because he is obsessed with his image, but he also shows empathy and
kindness towards others. Within the text, Howl visits his family in Wales. It is shown that Howl
is loved, admired, and praised by all of his family, friends, and all of the children and adults.
This scene completely rectifies Howls wicked image because in the eyes of his family, whom
he is extremely close with, he is a kind-hearted, loving wizard. Another example of Howls true
identity is shown in the fact that he allowed Sophie to stay in the castle. When he met Sophie,
she was a stranger and he still allowed her to stay with him. Howls compassion, understanding,
and affinity for Sophie reveals that he may not be the complete narcissist that he claims to be.
Likewise, the fact that Howl gave his heart to Calcifer in order to save his life, indicates that he
has mercy and tenderheartedness, qualities that most narcissists do not possess.

Murphy 6

Apart from holding certain personality qualities of a narcissist and empathetic character,
Howl encounters a mirror phase within the novel where his personality adjusts. Theorist Jacques
Lacan studied the symbolic, the real, and the imaginary developmental moments that humans
have in their lives. These were considered to be part of a psychoanalytic order that pertained to
everyones individual sense of the world on a daily basis. The mirror stage is an aspect of the
real self-image and a process of identification by which people recognize their own identity
(Loos). Towards the end of the novel, Howl visits the Witch of the Wastes castle to rescue
Sophie. His actions during the following scene and the scenes leading up to it reveal his true
identity and the feelings he has for Sophie. When Howl arrived in the castle:

Sophie looked up at him. As she had feared, the hard black-and-white daylight coming
through the broken wall showed her that Howl had not bothered to shave or tidy
his hair. His eyes were still red rimmed and his black sleeves were torn in several
places. Jones 411.
This scene in the text illustrates a moment in Howls life in which he had stopped caring about
his looks. Because he was in a hurry to save Sophie, he had little concern for his appearance
and his narcissistic qualities had gone away. This scene also represents his apparent feelings for
Sophie because it shows that he cares more about saving her than getting ready and groomed to
go out of the castle. Furthermore, Howls feelings for another woman being revealed in this
format in the text shows an example of a mirror stage in Howls life, along with an unconscious
recognition of his feelings for Sophie because since the time he had given his heart to Calcifer,
he hadnt put another person's life before his, until he did so for Sophie.

Murphy 7

All in all, Howl retains several indisputable narcissistic qualities as a character, while
also possessing empathetic and caring personality qualities. He consistently extends an adverse
image of himself for others to interpret, and he experienced a relatively prominent mirror stage
while unconsciously reflecting on his feeling for Sophie. Considering these facts, Howl is
arguably one of the most dynamic characters in Howls Moving Castle. Despite the fact that he
was full of himself, he still seemed to save some room to be full of compassion for others.

Works Cited
Colman, Andrew M. "Narcissism - Oxford Reference." Narcissism - Oxford Reference. N.p.,
2015. Web. 13 Nov. 2015.
Jones, Diana Wynne. Howl's Moving Castle. New York: Greenwillow, 1986. Print.
Loos, Amanda. "Symbolic, Real, Imaginary." Symbolic, Real, Imaginary. N.p., Winter 2002.
Web. 13 Nov. 2015.

Murphy 8