“Jareth definitely appears to be a symbolic incarnation of Sarah’s mother’s boyfriend. I believe he represents what the boyfriend did to her family, rather than a specific act against Sarah personally.” So saith Jen Gagne, a devoted fan. Her thoughts follow…
The “Jareth as evil symbol of Mom’s (abusive?) boyfriend” essay reminded of my own theory along those lines, which I think fits. I’ll probably sound like a nut, projecting all this meaning onto a cool charming villain like Jareth! But I’d love to hear what you think of this…
Jareth definitely appears to be a symbolic incarnation of Sarah’s mother’s boyfriend. I believe he represents what the boyfriend did to her family, rather than a specific act against Sarah personally.
Let’s suppose Sarah’s mother LEFT her father (and by extension, Sarah) after being seduced away by this glamorous Hollywood boyfriend. Perhaps her parents had already been having problems, and the boyfriend is a predatory Prince Charming, so on some level Sarah is able to maintain an idealized view of her
mother and her Hollywood fantasy world. You could argue she’s redirecting her abandoned resentment at her stepmother.
I’m guessing she sees her mother and the boyfriend periodically at their convenience… and only then. It’s a special treat; the visits are without any of the arguing dysfunction that Sarah presumably witnessed between her parents, and perpetuates by arguing with her stepmother.
So enter Jareth. He discourages Sarah from feeling obliged to her brother — her family. He paints a mocking picture as if it’s beneath her to show responsibility and loyalty to the inconvenient, annoying child.
Symbolically, Jareth is doing the same thing the boyfriend did: trying to convince her that her loyalty to family is misplaced, trying to convince her to stick with selfish immaturity, to give up and thus give in.
Along the way he puts up intimidating obstacles that seem insurmountable, yet turn out to be illusory. The solution only requires a mental paradigm shift. Unlike her mother, Sarah begins to recognize that fact — instead of giving in, she chooses to forge onward loyally despite the temporary hardship of doing so.
In the end I think Sarah learns to recognize that although life isn’t fair, that’s not an excuse for treating people unfairly. She’s not willing to use his charm (his power) as an excuse for throwing away her family bond. That’s why the recognition “You have no power over me” is so key. In the end, it’s up to her, and she rejects the introverted temptation Jareth represents and offers.