Thursday, July 30, 2009

The Tell-Tale Heart

Psychoanalytic literary theory or criticism concerns mainly the unconscious mind. The actions and responses of a person or character in a story or even the way a reader interprets a story. According to Ross C Murfin it could be said that the psychoanalytic approach started with Freud. A psychoanalytic critic like Freud would think of literary works of fiction as something that resembles a dream. Freud thought of dreams as repressed wishes and fears. The same can be said of literary works of fiction. The symbols in a fiction story can interpreted as a writer’s repressed wishes and fears. “Not what the story is really about, but what it makes you keep on thinking or wanting to say.” (Adam Phillips) The reader might also pick up on the symbols and interpret them in a way that fits their own wishes and/or fears.

Edgar Allan Poe is an American writer best known for his gothic works of fiction usually dealing with death. One of his best known and popular works is called The Tell-Tale Heart. The story is told by an unknown narrator. It is unclear in the story if the narrator is man or woman but many assume the narrator to be a man. “Language, the system of difference which articulates identities” (Lacan). The choosing of the gender according to the reader can be of great interest to a psychoanalytic critic because in choosing a man or a woman as the narrator can reveal some of the readers’ thoughts, wishes and fears, repressed or not. The narrator seems to be confessing (also to an unknown) about what he does with the old man that the narrator lives with. The narrator claims to have loved the old man but the only thing that bothered, scared and drove the narrator crazy was the old man’s “pale blue eye with a film over it”, that resembled a vultures eye. The narrator calls it the old man’s “evil eye”. The way the narrator calls it the “evil eye” is interesting because you can almost say that the narrator is scared of the eye. Why? Perhaps because this person (narrator) might have done something that he is ashamed of and he/she may think that the “evil eye” sees right through him, to the truth.

The eye causes the narrator such distress that he/decides that it is time to get rid of the eye by killing the old man. Every night for a week the narrator went into the old man’s room and took a lantern which the narrator used so that “that a single thin ray fell upon the vulture eye” of the old man. On the eighth night the narrator went in as usual but this time he noticed that the old man was awakened by a noise. "It is merely a cricket which has made a single chirp." Yes he has been trying to comfort himself with these suppositions ; but he had found all in vain. ALL IN VAIN, because Death in approaching him had stalked with his black shadow before him and enveloped the victim. And it was the mournful influence of the unperceived shadow that caused him to feel, although he neither saw nor heard, to feel the presence of my head within the room.” The old man is clearly scared and this seems to excite the narrator by the way he tells it.

This story is filled with ambiguity which would be very interesting to a psychoanalytic critic. The relationship between the narrator and the old man is unknown. This man could be anyone to the narrator like an uncle, grandfather, father, or even a friend.


Psychoanalyzation is an extremely hard process. It requires intimate grasp of the workings of the human mind in all of it’s states, and knowledge of the people or things being studied. It stands to reason, therefore, that psychoanalyzation is a valid form of literary criticism; on that is convoluted, and often misunderstood, but a valid style nonetheless. Take, for instance, a science fiction or fantasy novel like “Dune”, which is ripe for interpretation.

Frank Herbert’s “Dune” is a book set in the distant future. It is about a young noble whose father, after the entire family gains a duchy to a desert planet responsible for producing a life-extending spice, is assassinated by his cousin, the boy’s uncle. After escaping the assassins, the boy and his mother retreat into the deep desert, only to find that the people who live in the desert have been waiting for them, deeming the boy a messiah who will transform their planet, Arrakis, into a plentiful paradise, where water is bountiful and the spice is produced only in the deep desert. The boy, Paul, realizes his power, and begins the process of changing the planet around to the state intended by the desert people.

Herbert intended to use the story as an allegory for Iraq and the oil it produced and hoarded, but if one actually takes a deeper look in the novel, the author employs the idea that the Kwitzas Haderach, the messiah, has the ability to look down a path that “…women cannot see”, including being able to actualize dreams to become prophecies. This is only an entranceway to the ability for mankind to explore their psyche. Even Paul’s hard trip down the road of the mind of mankind is mirrored by his descent from his lush home planet to the desert planet, Arrakis, where the true potential is realized only by entering the most dangerous parts of the planet.

In his essay titled ‘The Dream-Work”, Sigmund Freud attempts to explain that dream interpretation is key to understanding a person; that through the three ways of understanding dreams, one could see a person for what he truly is, or at least how his mind works. Not only that, but he also proposes that while most of these “latent…(and) manifest”, or the underlying desires and their manifestations in the mind, occur in dreams, they also “…play a part in the production of some slips of the tongue”, crossing the border of sub-consciousness and consciousness. When Paul tries to force his visions onto the world of Arrakis through both political and physical channels, he needs to do so through subterfuge, crossing under the fences.

Another interesting tidbit that could be interpreted is the utilization of the Voice, commanding or suggesting in a frequency or tone only available to those trained from a young age to use it, such as the book’s Bene Gesserit witches, a school of thought of which Paul’s mother is a part. Freud, in his essay, insists that the nuances of language is imperative in the dreamwork, that languages must be torn apart and understood in order to understand dreams, and thus the mind. Paul’s use of the voice, a commanding language of which the target has no choice but to listen, seems to translate Paul’s transcendence of the dream-realm, that he can not only conquer the planet, but mankind’s consciousness, and gain full control of both his humanity and mankind around the planet.

Freud and The Temperature That Burns Books

In “Psychoanalytic Criticism and Jane Eyre”, the author notes that “what Freud did was develop a language that described, a model that explained, a theory that encompassed human psychology. Many of the elements of psychology he sought to describe and explain are present in the literary works of various ages and cultures, from Sophocles' Oedipus Rex to Shakespeare's Hamlet to works being written in our own day.” Therefore, when one reads Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, one notices the book burning and obsession with pleasures that the average citizens partake in; this is mostly a book against censorship and the increasingly hedonistic desires of society. The protagonist, Guy Montag, watches his world – actually, his country – devolve into a chaotic, anti-intellectual society governed by what’s on the wall (their form of television) and by extreme acts to cure boredom, such as vehicular manslaughter. In this case, you can use Freud to read Fahrenheit 451 critically and be able to understand the author, Bradbury, and his unconscious desires.

When Bradbury wrote this book, it seems that he was very against the increasing television fanaticism and wrote this book to show a projected future - in a similar way that 1984 showed a world with a projected future of Communism. In any case, the argument that Bradbury tries to make is that with the collapse of intellect in society the “beast” in man takes over and overcomes the self-control of the peoples. In terms of examining Fahrenheit 451 according to “Psychoanalytic Criticism”, the best concept involves “the study of the psyche”, which involves the unconscious mind in the following ways: “much of what lies in the unconscious mind has been put there by consciousness, which acts as a censor, driving underground unconscious or conscious thoughts or instincts that it deems unacceptable”. Of course, the purpose of this novel is to consciously condemn television and its corruption on the humanity of people.

In Fahrenheit 451, society finds pleasure in surrounding itself in pleasure and unintelligible activities, such as vehicular manslaughter. Examples of daily routines involve racing jet cars up and down the streets, occasionally running people over, and watching spectacles involving “firemen” on television. Bradbury’s unconscious is linked to a primitive urge to find amusement in death and pleasure as well as a dramatic decrease in attention span and intelligence, which is exemplified by the main character, Guy Montag, who is a fireman. In “Fahrenheit”, firemen represent the hatefulness that society has for intellectualism; this is caused by the increasing influence of television on the human mentality, according to Bradbury. While this is a perception gleaned from “Fahrenheit”, there are certain aspects of Bradbury, unconsciously inserted in the book, has about the world of intelligence.

“The fact is that the total form of the body by which the subject anticipates in a mirage the maturation of his power is given to him only as Gestalt, that is to say, in an exteriority in which this form is certainly more constituent than constituted, but in which it appears to him above all in a contrasting size (un relief de stature) that fixes it and in a symmetry that inverts it, in contrast with the turbulent movements that the subject feels are animating him”, writes Jacques Lacan in The Mirror Stage, a decidedly Freudian essay. I interpret this statement by Lacan to be that the person’s unconscious occasionally surfaces to confound and confuse the mentality of that person. What happens is the needs of the person are muddled with the wants of the person. To apply this to Fahrenheit, one notices that the fervor of Bradbury’s language seems to reveal his confusion with the truth of his own intelligence. The main character, Montag, could be read as a confused and highly hedonistic unconscious of Bradbury while he writes and speaks in an intellectualized way that he fears will be rejected in the future.

When Guy Montag discusses the real values of books with an old English professor named Faber, he desires to know what reality can be found in books (“My wife says books aren’t ‘real’.”). Uncharacteristically, Faber describes that books don’t become real unlike television (“…It becomes and is the truth.”) and describes it as a “claw”. Profoundly, Faber (mirroring Bradbury) counters that “books can be beaten down with reason”. Likely, this means that he’s merely afraid that his writing will eventually be lost and forgotten in the lesser intellectual world of televisions. Another thing lost in the Montag’s world is that people don’t “refract your own light to you” – a phenomenon that Clarisse, a young girl he spoke with twice, opens his eyes to. We get a feeling that he fears that if society (and him) were to fall in this trap he illustrates, that we would not only lose our own humanity, but be unable to distinguish others’. Unconsciously, I believe that Bradbury feels that humanity is not only in the actions we do of ourselves but also to others and how we communicate with those others. In Montag’s society, that particular aspect is lacking (e.g. when Montag’s wife chides him when he accuses the TV family of not being people – “My ‘family’ is people. They tell me things: I laugh, they laugh! And the colors!”)

In the beginning of the book, Guy Montag represents the Average Joe of the society that Bradbury creates and portrays: disdainful of the intellectual works and focused narrowly on spectacles to create pleasure. He is a fireman and his job is to burn books because they are looked upon unfavorably. This indicates to me that Bradbury is afraid of the devolution of society based on its need for instant gratification and he represents it as the burning of books and the exultation of mass media entertainment. According to Freud, this phenomenon is called displacement, where relatively trivial actions (book burning, manslaughter) are hidden allusions to the whole of society breaking down. To sum up his fears, Bradbury projects onto Montag the following internal dialogue: “What did you give the city?” “Ashes.” “What did you give each other?” “Nothingness.” Finally, “Psychoanalytic Criticism” states that “according to Freud, all of us have repressed wishes and fears; we all have dreams in which repressed feelings and memories emerge disguised, and thus we are all potential candidates for dream analysis.” In “Fahrenheit”, Bradbury looks fearful of a future where he may be useless and disrespected.

Notes from Underground

In Sigmund Freud’s early work on the Psychoanalysis of dreams, he posited that the manifestation of dreams in an adult is a product of latent experiences as a child. In Freud’s model the ego, the sense of “I”, in an individual is clearly delineated by the preliminary experiences as a child and the establishment of relations between those experiences and the basic emotions of the id. Jacques Lacan expanded on these ideas further such that not only are these experiences crucial to the resulting psychological disposition of the adult, but also of great importance is a period of childhood development, which he referred to as the “Mirror Stage” where the child establishes relations between itself , abstract representations, and its surroundings. These concepts form the basis of the Psychoanalytic method of literary criticism, where a text is viewed as a kind of “lucid” dream-like expression of the author. Drawing on parallels from Freud and Lacan, we demonstrate an elementary example of the techniques of Psychoanalytic criticism on Dostoevsky’s “Notes from Underground”.

Dostoevsky’s short narrative is partitioned into two parts, the first is styled into a “Manifesto of the Underground”, where the narrator, the underground man, delves deep into his own psyche and takes the reader along on the journey. The underground man is a profoundly inverted individual, and we see early on that this state of being explicably stems from a state of conflict. That is to say, the latent expression of the underground man’s demeanor is a direct consequence of his early development. We see this conflict often through out the novel, as the narrator criticizes himself and his writing, yet spitefully protests about changing his mistakes. The underground man has diverging relationships with his coworkers and former classmates, both being repulsed by them and admiring them at times. The reader is able to develop a deeper understanding for the underground man’s precarious state by recalling that he says he “had no home as a child” and that he was sent of to school by “distant” relations. If we consider Freud’s statement that “ the composite structure of the dream work is that of constructing a transitory new concept which is vague and has this comment element as its nucleus”, we see that the underground man’s inability to establish elementary familial bonds as a child (notice he says that he had no home, not house) have transitioned into his adulthood, leaving him incapable of bonding with his peers.

From the Lacanian idea that “we have only to understand the mirror stage as an identification,… the transformation that takes place when the subject assumes and image” we can further understand the mind of the underground man. He is an individual trapped in a perpetual mirror stage, failing to have properly established his own identity relative to his surroundings as a child. We understand this by noting the fact that the underground goes unnamed, that is unidentified, through out the entire narrative. His conflict also expressed this key point, as he frequently finds similarities, as well as dissimilarities, in his own personality and that of his peers. It is prudent to observe that the underground man is constantly seeing his reflection in the mannerisms of others, his identity then becoming a composite of each individual reflection.

The methods of Psychoanalytic criticism are often extended to authors as well. The observant reader will note that this approach has been omitted here. We have done so not only for the sake of brevity, but also because it is superfluous. If we assume, primarily, that the text is a transcendental expression of the author’s dream state, then we have examined the psyche of the author by looking closely at those of his characters. In this way may argue that the underground man is a projection of Dostoevsky and visa versa.

Brenda Gonzalez Assignment 4

Psychoanalytic critique is based on the functioning of the human mind, focusing largely on unconscious feelings, thoughts and desires. Sigmund Freud was the pioneer of such school of thought and the analysis of dreams called the dream-work. Freudianism deals with symbols and metaphors for repressed feelings or impulses which is why some may call this feature archaic.

The story of Hansel and Gretel by the brothers Grimm involves a woodcutter married to a mean woman who forces him to desert and strand his own two children in the middle of the forest because there’s too many mouths to feed. The symbol of the father foreshadows the upcoming need for the children to be more self-reliant. Upon hearing his parents Hansel decides to collect pebbles as a means to leaving a trail back home, Hansel drops the pebbles on the “mossy green ground.” The pebbles are a metaphor for the obstacles they will encounter and the distress to come. The moss bears a slow growing nature and the patience that will be demanded of them in their situation is what it suggests. The children find comfort from a full moon that lights up the way through the pebbly-path back home – the mysterious light the moon exudes also shines upon the idea that something hidden and occult lies ahead. When they find their home once again they sneak in through a half open window which is indicative of their abandonment, they are not wanted inside – except by their cowardly father.

When she finds they are back the stepmother refuses to feed them and starves these poor children until the father once again takes them to the forest. Now Hansel uses the bread crumbs as a path back home but he forgot about the “hungry birds that lived in the forest.” The making of the crumbs conveys the siblings’ feelings of being left behind. While the hungry birds show the failure of their efforts. They have no choice but to spend the night in the cold, frightening shadows of the forest but they find some solace cuddling under a large tree which often is a symbol for strength and stability – what they’ve lacked in parental care. As morning comes they go on their way and stumble upon a cottage made of candy, a metaphor for indulgence, and forbidden pleasure as well as gluttony. Overeating can shed light on repressed feelings of dissatisfaction, and unfulfillment.

Starving, they brake off piece after piece of the cottage to eat. Breaking something represents a change of a current situation. And that it does, their circumstances go from great to horrible when an old witch opens the door, welcomes them in with an act of kindness and then declares “You’re nothing but skin and bones! I shall fatten you up and eat you!” The fact that the witch is a mean woman correlates to their horrible stepmother and old things need replacing as does their fathers’ wife. The witch’s cannibalism is a draining of energy and life, a destructive and forbidden desire that perhaps lies within the children themselves because why would it be that these children are not loved as they should be? Gretel smears butter on the witches’ glasses in an efficacious attempt to further worsen her eyesight. To “butter someone up” in an effort to ease unfavorable conditions is what Hansel and Gretel should have done long ago to not end up in such calamity. Gretel is ordered to light the oven for the old woman to cook her brother. The oven indicates the fears and worries the girl has about having her own children – she has obviously not had a very good role model to follow. Gretel saves her brother by deceiving the witch into getting close enough to the oven to push her in and lock it up.

Gretel shows great energy, and encouragement in succeeding to overcome these hurdles and help her brother as he has done for her – the abolishment of the evil female forces puts an end to the bad memories of women they’ve encountered. Locking the witch inside her fiery tomb is significant because it is where their repressed and hidden feelings of mothers lay. They find a large chocolate egg with gold coins inside of it and fill a large basket with the money and food they collect from the cottage to prepare for their journey back home. The egg is a symbol of happiness and wealth that has come with this victory while the gold represents what they’ve discovered about themselves and learned through their experiences, and the basket is made to hold things – perhaps they are holding onto the love for their father. When they arrive back home they are happily greeted with love from their father who is relieved to say that his wife is dead. The passing of the witch and the wife is a condensation for the passing of their struggles with maternal care and figures. The words witch and wife present loads of symbolism and power as well as some similarities and differences.

“Language, the system of difference which articulates identities….” (Lacan). Individuality varies too greatly for everyone to perceive equally. We can more easily dream, visualize, or feel things we can not put into words because they are limiting. Words often condense, displace, and hide the truth of what an individual is attempting to describe. Symbolism is relatively easy to manipulate – one word is often “loaded” with meanings.

Aimee Bender’s Motherfucker: A Psychoanalytic Reading

Motherfucker, by Aimee Bender presents some characters and symbolism that can be psychoanalyzed using theories by Freud and Lacan. Freud’s Oedipal complex can be applied to both the character of the motherfucker as well as the starlet. Ross C Murfin writes, “According to Freud, all of us have repressed wishes and fears...One of the unconscious desires most commonly repressed is the childhood wish to displace the parent of our own sex and take his or her place in the affections of the parent of the opposite sex” (p. 504). The motherfucker focuses his sex life only on women who are mothers. Murfin writes “Freud used the words condensation and displacement to explain two of the mental process whereby the mind disguises its wishes and fears…in displacement, an anxiety, a wish, or a person may be displaced onto the image of another, with which or whom it is loosely connected through a string of association that only an analyst can untangle” (p. 507). In this case, the motherfucker’s mother is displaced onto the women in the story that he has sexual relations with. “I fuck mothers”, he said to anyone who asked him. “And I do it well” (p.75). He is playing out the repressed childhood fantasy of sleeping with his own mother.

Similarly, the starlet displaces her father onto the motherfucker when he mentions he was on a train. “He mentioned his train trip and she said her father had been a conductor for years” (p. 79). She associates that her father was a conductor on a train for years, she immediately relates him back to her father. Even Heddie from Butte calls him when her “father was mad at her about something that had happened four Christmases ago” (p. 80). She is displacing her feelings of needing her father’s approval onto the motherfucker. According to some psychoanalytics, all of these relationships in the story revolving around parent and child can give insight into the author’s own personal relationships or those of her readers.

According to Freud “A latent element is replaced not by a component part of itself but by something more remote – that is, by an allusion; and in the second, the psychical accent is shifted from an important element onto another which is unimportant” (p. 27). In Benders story, hats act as the remote object that replaces the latent object of women. “I love all women, he told himself. He liked to try hats on in stores” (p. 76). What he is really saying is he likes to try on these women by having sex with them. “The motherfucker told her he liked her hat” (p. 77). Later in the story before they have sex, the author states, “She is wearing a hat” (81). In John Haber’s web essay he writes, “Lacan was fascinated by Sigmund Freud’s earliest discovery – unconscious desires, as revealed through free associations and dreams. In other words, desires emerge through words and images. They speak a parallel to our own...He marveled at a word’s absence in oneself, a lack in life: desire. Lacan brought together Feud’s technique, of word association, with his subject matter, desire…One necessarily expresses desires in words, so every desire needs a symbol” (p.1-2). As shown above, the hat in this story symbolizes his desire for these women.

According to Lacan, “The individual desires to control meaning but this is not possible because of the nature of language. Language, Lacan argued, is not a matter of a one-to-one correspondence between signifier and signified. The signifiers of language cannot fix the arbitrary field of the signified; signifiers slide across the continuum hence the desire for mastery of meaning is unsatisfiable” (p. 182). Along with the hat, desire is also represented later in the story as a house as well as an angora sweater. “Desire is a house. Desire needs closed space. Desire runs out of doors or windows, or slats or pinpricks, it can’t fit under the sky, too large. Close the doors. Close the windows” (p. 83). Desire in the story is like Language as it is not truly containable. Once the windows are open it will flow out and take on new meaning. Different objects in the story can represent and symbolize desire but the true meaning cannot be mastered.

The Picture of Dorian Gray

The Picture of Dorian Gray written by Oskar Wilde is about a young man, Basil Hallward, who has become friends another man named Dorian Gray. Basil’s other friend, Lord Henry, is a character that has major influences in the destruction of Dorian Gray. Lord Henry leads Dorian Gray to ruin himself be appealing to his inner desires and repressed feelings, which eventually causes his downfall. The way Lord Henry does this and the response that Dorian Gray is giving can easily be analyzed by a psychoanalytic perspective. A psychoanalytic analysis of a specific text consists of examining the characters and their actions and responses to certain situations. This analysis is the basis of which a critic can observe some psychological dynamics such as repression and projection. It can also give insight to the character’s consciousness and unconscious mind. This analysis can give explanations on human behavior which is depicted through the characters.

In the essay by John Haber Who is Jacques Lacan, it mentions that "The "unconscious" is just the part of us that others understand when we do not." The influence of Lord Henry leads, Dorian Gray to do various things that are also brought about from his unconsciousness; the mind which holds impulses and urges which may be too uncomfortable to acknowledge, which can also be referred to Sigmund Freud’s, id. Basil, Dorian's friend, being aware of Lord Henry’s character asks him to not be influential towards Dorian. However, Lord Henry does not listen and tells Dorian that his youth and beauty will fade and urges him to look for new ‘sensations'. This can be related to the psychological philosophy of how a person is always struggling between seeking pleasure and doing the morally right thing. This is projected in throughout the novel, when Dorian goes out seeking for new bodily and artistic pleasures, making him a hedonist, eventually leading to his own destruction.

With his unconscious desires unleashed, Dorian began ignoring his conscience. Dorian’s conscious is present, however not in his face but rather on a painting of him, which Basil had made. Desregarding his conscience, Dorian began to commit acts of cruetly. The painting itself changes each time Dorian indulges himself with immoral deeds. It ages and turns ugly, as Dorian himself remains young. His corrupted soul is reflected onto the painting itself. At one point Basil does question Dorian’s conscience and soul, to which Dorian says that he will show it to Basil. Eventually, Dorian hides the painting, because he does not want to face his conscious and realize what he is doing is morally wrong. Instead he is more focused on the unconscious id, by being hedonistic and pleasure seeking. Being this way also allows Dorian to remain young and aging is only shown in the painting rather than himself. This also brought about another repressed desire he had to remain young. At the same time his youthful and innocent-looking face was the face he wanted people to see and perceive; which possibly could have been his super-ego or ideal self. There is a constant battle within Dorian and the three-part psyche, which Frued talks about.

Three dimensions of Chekhov's Sea Gull

Dreams, as well as literature and language, consist of characters or, rather, symbols; all three phenomena rely on signifiers that are compounded into structures. Thus it will not be a stretch to use the same tool of psychoanalytical analysis to proceed through the deconstruction of the works of all these three phenomena. “Something has occurred in the history of the concept of structure that could be called an event,” asserts Jacques Derrida, one of the seminal theorists of the poststructuralism, “What would this event be then? Up to the event which I wish to define, structure has always been neutralized or reduced […] by giving it a center, a fixed origin” (Derrida, LT, 196). Further Derrida reclaims a classical thought that the center of the structure is, “paradoxically, within the structure and outside it” (Derrida, LT, 196). To comprehend Derrida’s and other poststructuralists’ idea about the “structurality of the structure” we have to suggest what the center of each structure is. Along with Freud, I would argue that the center of the dream is the experience and the subtle wishes of the individual, the center of language is necessity to distinct the processes and things in the reality and the center of literature is the web of symbols directly tied to the author’s personality.
The play Sea Gull by Anton Chekhov is but one great metaphor that is announced by the author as early as in the title. In the play the world of provincial intelligentsia is depicted, and the major interest of this circle is focused in the literature and theater. On the first level the title corresponds to the name of the play that the family of Zarechny puts on the family stage; by that play the seagull is being shot. But on the inner level the image of the seagull is also referred to Nina Zarechnaya, who carries out the main role both in the home performance and in the Chekhov’s play overall. The association of Nina with the dead sea gull suggests that her partner in the family performance, that will become her lover, Trigorin sees her as victim, not a human being enough to feel sympathy to her when he ruins her life: “I rush from one side to the next like a fox hunted down by dogs. I see that both life and science keep on striding ahead, onward and forward. […] I feel that I have the ability just to describe landscapes, and that everything else is false – false to the marrow of my bones.” The dead seagull becomes the symbol of Trigorin’s poeticizing the ugliness of reality.
Events in Chekhov’s own life, as pointed out by biographers, coincide with some core elements of the play’s narrative. The image of the shot seagull was apparently connected to the episode in Chekhov’s life during a hunting trip, when Chekhov killed a woodcock that had been winged by Levithan, his close friend and impressionist artist. This event apparently became one of Chekhov's personal gestalts, and in order to close it he lets the characters to resolve it. When the character Trigorin sketches an idea for a story, “A man happens to come by, sees her and, having nothing else to do, destroys her like that seagull there”, the story seem to correlate to an actual event. Potapenko, the writer, and Chekhov’s friend, Lika Mizinova, had a love affair resulted into a birth of a child. But, as critics point out, some of the Trigorin’s features relate to Chekhov himself, rather than to Potapenko – for instance, the attitude towards art and craft of writing. Also, the names that Chekhov gave to his characters were thoroughly selected in accordance to their meaning and the characters to bear it. For example, Nina’s last name, Zarechnaya, incorporates in Russian the meaning “over” or “beyond the river”; thus the first verbal reference to Nina connects her to the water image in the play.
Freud has stated that “replacing something by an allusion to it is a process familiar in our waking thought as well […] jokes, too, often make use of allusion. They drop the precondition of there being an association in subject-matter and replace it by unusual external associations such as similarity of the sound, verbal ambiguity, and so on” (Freud, LT, 27). The play Sea Gull is stitched with allusions inside the play itself and the allusion tied to the Chekhov himself, although none of them are deliberately highlighted in the work.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

In the novel, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, the popular Jane Austen literary work is remade by Seth Grahame-Smith to incorporate the undead. As the novel begins, an entire English village has fallen victim to the rise of zombies. The dead arise from their graves and attack the living. As the dominance of the undead begins to spread and infect, the entire Bennet family prepares to combat and protect their family. The Bennet sisters, under the encouragement of their father, are all well trained in martial arts and sword-fighting, and have become skilled- killers. Still, in spite of their possible infection and fate as one of the ‘undead’ much of their priorities are placed heavily on focusing much of their energy on their own social standings. Similar to the Jane Austen original, Mrs. Bennet is still very much consumed with ensuring her daughters are married off well suited men, badgering her husband to pursue certain acquaintances. The civilized interactions dominant in the original, are replaces with blood thirsty physical alterations, while meaningless social jabbers are replaced with intense zombie concerns. Verbal scoffs geared towards distaste for certain social obligations, or situations are replaced with vomit. While Elizabeth, renamed Lizzie, becomes an elite zombie-killer, and her verbal sparring with the overly confident and slightly condescending, Mr. Darcy is replaced with heavy and very intense physical zombie-slaying.

A psychoanalytic critic emphasizes the author’s repressed wishes and fantasies. By applying the Freudian concepts of id, ego, and superego, into the characters and into the descriptions of the characters, hidden neuroses are revealed. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, though filled with blood-hungry zombies and zombie killers, and seemingly silly in content, reveals a clear distaste for the culture of the upper middle class. Using the growing presence of the zombies as a metaphor for the infectious and illogical nature of social obligations, Grahame-Smith, points to the unrealistic expectations presented by the upper class. The metaphor reveals not only the neuroses of the author but the audience as well. As a culture, our society is so helplessly consumed with meaningless social obligations and pop culture, that more significant issues are put on the back burner.

The zombie themselves serves as a metaphor for a conventional paradigm, that to Grahame-Smith is just as life draining as the undead, marriage. Just as marriage is “an endless curse that sucks the life out of you and just won’t die” (Grahame-Smith pg 319), so are the curse of the zombies. Though the infectious curse of the undead have drudged on for several decades, the characters represent our willingness to stand ground in spite of the life draining and grueling nature of their present situation. Much like the Grahame-Smith’s view on marriage, the zombies become not something to finally destroy and be rid of, but rather something one must ‘deal with’ or ‘learn to live with’. The character of Mr. Collins furthers Grahame-Smith’s views. Mr. Collins is far too self absorbed and stupid to notice that his wife is clearly transforming into a zombie, a common trait of most spouses. Rather than acknowledging his wife’s demise, Mr. Collins enjoys the oblivious nature of being a spouse and continues to ignore the obvious.

A Hotel and a Mind hold many Rooms

The play “Hotel Columbus” by Ricardo Monti is a play about a body guard for the president named Custer. He finds himself alone in in the presidential suite after a short time he finds that a transvestite named Sarah is in the room with him as well. They seem to know each other and they begin to discuss the relationship that they have. But they play roles, Sara that of a movie star and Custer plays the President. It is then reviled to the reader that Sara is in fact a manifestation of Custer’s guilt surrounding the suicide of his son that was caused after he came home and found his son in his dead mothers clothes. When Custer found him he brutally smashes his sons face directly after that the son shoots himself. The sons cause for suicide steams from complexities that arose within the course of the sons Oedipus complex
Freud states that “ The earliest affection of the girl-child is lavished on the father, while the earliest infantile desires of the boy are directed upon the mother. For the boy the father, and for the girl the mother, becomes an obnoxious rival”. When taking this into account and examining what lead up to the sons suicide and why he wore his mothers dress it can be determined that since the mother had passed on that the bond that they had that was created by his dependence upon her as a child would now have to be shifted upon his father, his rival becoming his savior. So this would undoubtedly change the dynamic of the Oedipus complex into an its female counter point the Electra complex where in this case the son had no rival and begin to fill the role of his mother. “His face all made up like a woman he smiled with those big red painted lips…You think I caught him in the act? No he was waiting for me…he looked exactly like his mother” By dressing like his mother waiting for his father to catch him and smiling upon his arrival it is relived that the son was happy with what he did and wanted to show it to his father that he had begun to fill the role of his deiced mother in the way most young girls according to Freud will try to with there fathers “An eight-year-old girl of my acquaintance, whenever her mother is called away from the table, takes advantage of her absence to proclaim herself her successor. ‘Now I shall be Mamma; Karl, do you want some more vegetables? Have some more, do,’” But in the case of a typical family dynamic the mother is there to stand in the way of the daughter. But because she is not present in the sons case and because of that the feelings of the son have shifted from the mother to the father he goes as far to physically fill that role using transvestitism. To the son this moment would have been fulfilling all his fantasies of his Electra complex. He had replaced his mother at this point within domestic roles “the kid would cook he had a knack for it” along with now he was physically filling that role by wearing her clothes and makeup he had achieved the role he had strived for. But when in response to this proud fulfilling moment Custer reacts with violence the complete opposite of the loving reaction he strived for it shatters all that his son has believed about there relationship. He rejected his son in every way even causing him physical pain to match the sons physical manifestation of the Electra complex. Rejecting the whole of the love the son had developed for him this shatters the son and then drives them to take his own life.

Hamlet on Freud's Couch

Hamlet is a work that has been analyzed by critics through many different lenses. However, I would say that by far a psychoanalytic criticism of the work is the most interesting when referring to theorists like Sigmund Freud. In our day and age it is weird to envision the possibility of a mother and son having a sexual relationship, but Freud brings some sort of rationale to this theory and applies it to Hamlet. A psychoanalytic critic would definitely analyze the relationship between Hamlet and his mother. Most famously a critic would say that Hamlet is suffering from the Oedipus complex. According to Sigmund Freud, one of the many repressed unconscious desires we have “is the childhood wish to displace the parent of our own sex and take his or her place in the affections of the parent of the opposite sex” (504). With the absence of his father, Hamlet is very resentful towards Claudius, his uncle that his mother Getrude marries after his father’s death. Hamlet claims his mother’s marriage to his uncle prompts his resent because it is a detestable act that disgraces his father’s honor, but a Freudian would believe that Hamlet has desires to be with his mother and that Claudius is “taking his shine”. In a scene where Hamlet confronts his mother about her actions the wrath of his anger comes forth. Not only does he speak to his mother rudely with lines such as, “you are the queen, your husband’s brother’s wife and would it were not so! -you are my mother” but he also kills Lord Polonius.

The appearance of Hamlet’s father’s ghost is also something a psychoanalytic critic would note as essential. The ghost tells Hamlet that Claudius killed his father and urges Hamlet to avenge his death. A psychoanalytic critic would question whether or not Hamlet is going crazy as when speaking to his mother he “sees the ghost” and speaks to him. Freud might say that after the ghost first confronts Hamlet, he begins to act in accordance with his superego. “The superego almost seems to be outside of the self, making moral judgments, telling us to make sacrifices for good causes even though self-sacrifice may not be quite logical or rational” (503). The ghost urges Hamlet to seek revenge and in a soliloquy it is questionable whether Hamlet will commit suicide or “self-sacrifice”.

Although Claudius is not Hamlet’s natural father, he technically holds the title through marriage with Getrude. A psychoanalytic critic would point out that Hamlet’s hatred of Claudius could instead be a fear of castration that Freud wrote about. “A boy-and it should be remarked in passing that Freud here concerns himself mainly with the male-may fear that his father will castrate him, and he may wish that his mother would return to nursing him” (504). Hamlet may have this fear that Freud describes and as a result represses this fear. In the famous scene with Getrude and throughout the text this fear, along with his repressed feelings for his mother overwhelms Hamlet causing him to explode. Freud would have a lot to say about Hamlet and although sometimes twisted, his theories maybe have some validity.

American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis

According to Freud we all have parts of our conscious that help keep us balanced that being the Id, Ego and Super-Ego they are defined by Freud as "The uncoordinated instinctual trends are the "id"; the organized realistic part of the psyche is the "ego," and the critical and moralizing function the "super-ego." Patrick Bateman obviously has an issue with his conscious and is constantly battling. Throughout this story he is mostly delusional, critical of all around him and most of all I feel hates women.
A Psychoanalyst would view Patrick Bateman's cold yet anal department as his feelings of not wanting to lose control. He has very rigourus morning routines and rituals, he executes them with such perfection and yet it's so effortless for him. Even while he dresses there is ritual and precision, the whole first chapter is basically a description of his morning routine. Irnoically while he is getting dressed a talk show is on and they are discussing women with multiple personalities!
On Page 14 Bateman gives a speech which is meant to be an answer in regards to the dinner party conversation, this sppech is filled with what is wrong with the world and what we need to do to fix it, his ego is working overtime! This can be seen how he genuinly feels about what's going on in the world around them, since it was the 80's there was plenty wrong with the world! Yet no one at the dinner party takes him seriously and that would lead to his feeling like no one would understand his complexity thus anger might arise but he brushes it off.
Patrick Bateman is absoulutely nuts! His encounters with women are violent and very stomach turning, in one scene he tells a woman "I want to stab you to death, and then play around with your blood." Freud would look at this and quite possibly feel he has a very unhealthy relationship with his Mother; He might want to sleep with his Mother and since his conscious must be fighting over his feelings this would lead to the disgust he feels for women. I won't even get into the sadistic things he does to these poor women but let's just say Freud would definitly want Bateman as a study subject!
What would lead me to believe his ego's are fighting his howhe keeps his life in order, he maintains a job, has a fiance, yet he sleeps with prostitues and kills people around his he dislikes. He has enough sense to keep his life in order but his super-ego seems to be on a vacation. His super-ego would be responsible for telling him what he did was wrong and lead him to have guilt, only at the end of the book does his super-ego kick in when he calls his lawyer and is a bit nervous. He admits to killing people and whole LOT of them and almost looks to his lawyer as a child would look at their Mother if they were in trouble, he wants his lawyer to make it all better. What the real kicker is, is that you aren't sure if he is delusional or if there was some magical fairy who cleaned up the bodies for him.
He has no conscious that would tell him what he is doing is wrong as I've said before, this is especially disturbing while he is at the zoo and throws coins into the seal's areas when there is a sight that clearly states that coins can kill them. After he throws the coins in the tank, he scopes out a child and stabs him in the neck. While the child is bleeding, his Mother in hysterics, Bateman pretends to be a doctor and save the boy when all he is doing is giving himself a front row seat to a child's death. What is really unsetteling is that he does feel remorse about killing an innocent child. He thinks to himself that " It's so much worse (and more pleasurable) taking the life of someone who had hit his or her prime, who has the begginnings of a full history, a spouse, a network of friends, a career, who death will upset far more people whose capacity for grief is limitless than a child's world, perhaps ruin many more lives tha just the meaningless, puny death of this boy."(pg.299) He feels remorse but not the remorse a normal person may feel. He feels his kills wasn't worth wild, didn't give enough of the "wow" factor, meaning his ego's are all out of wack!
In the Jane Eyre writing there was this paragraph "During the mirror period, the child comes to view itself and its mother, later other people as well, as independent selves. This is the stage in which the child is first able to fear the aggressions of another, to desire what is recognizably beyond the self (initially the mother), and, finally, to want to compete with another for the same, desired object. This is also the stage at which the child first becomes able to feel sympathy with another being who is being hurt by a third, to cry when another cries. All of these developments, of course, involve projecting beyond the self and, by extension, constructing one's own self (or "ego" or "I") as others view one." Basically the child will learn to feel sympathy or remorse, this was probably Bateman's downfall while growing up. Lacan would suspect that during this stage something went terribly wrong and Bateman never had to compete for the "desired object" yes he does have a Brother who is just as screwed up as he is. Looking at thie from a Freudian/Lacan view he had the worst parents ever!

The Awakening

A psychoanalytic critcism would focus on Freudian concepts such as the the Id and Ego; it would be based on how the Ego, logical and conscious mind, represses the Id, unconscious desires and thoughts. Authors would use this repression in their novels to reflect the universally repressed desires that is all within us. This is proven by a psychoanalytic critic Holland because he says "authors create works that appeal to our repressed wishes and fantasies" [p.508]. Kate Chopin's novel, The Awakening, explamplifies this clearly whereas the main character, Edna, goes through a series of struggles with her inner self. Edna was grown to believe the society's standard for a woman for she was just a classic housewife who meekly submitted to her husband and raised her children. This was all challenged when she met Adele, a woman who opened her inner eyes and Robert, who released her sexual, repressed needs as a women.

The time setting of this novel takes place when women did not have much power; their identity rested with their husbands and children. Therefore, Adele opens Edna's inner romantic and youthful desires because she is very open to romantic the supressed childish romance. After Edna started to think about herself and her desires within her, she started to act differently towards her husband. "She wondered if her husband had ever spoken to her like that before, and if she had submitted to his command". She started to question her obeidience to him and her identity without him.

Throughout the middle of the novel, one can really see how Edna fights her inner sexual and femine unconscious needs. Freud quotes "..that natural urges, when identified as "wrong", may be repressed but not obliterated..." [p.504]. This is proven through the reoccuring thoughts and violent actions after the realization upon her wrong feelings for Robert. She "takin[takes] off her wedding ring, flung it upon the carpet. when she saw it lying there, she stamped her heel upon it, striving to crush it."[p.70]. She fails to fight her wrong fantasies about Robert, and since the desire is still there, she takes it out violently on her ring instead. A psychoanalytic critic such as Freud would point out how she gets angry for these wrong and unconscious feelings. Through Edna, Chopin expresses this repressed feminine need. Women are such emotionally hungry creatures that one man's half hearted love is not enough to satisfy them. Every woman yearns to be longed for so much that they have the desire for an affair to receive that extra attention. It fills their human need for excitement and youth as well as their need to be captivate a man.

The Wizard of Oz

The Wizard of Oz, by L. Frank Baum is a classic children’s fairy tale. Dorothy, the main character is a young orphaned girl who lives with her Aunt Em and Uncle Henry. It can be inferred that Dorothy’s adventure in Oz after a cyclone hit her house was a dream, as the author writes in the last chapter, “Aunt Em had just come out of the house to water the cabbages when she looked up and saw Dorothy running toward her.” (Baum, 213) Aunt Em was not frantically looking for Dorothy rather she was going about and doing her regular chores, assuming that Dorothy had gone off to play. Dorothy’s dream according to Sigmund Freud in his work, “The Dream-Work,” consisted of “transforming thoughts into visual images.” (27) Dorothy’s dream was a reflection of the thoughts and desires of her subconscious.

            Of characters that accompany Dorothy on her journey, the Tin Woodman is a reflection of one of her buried desires. The Tin Woodman is going to the Wizard so that the Wizard will give him what he is lacking. “I want him to give me a heart [said the Tin Woodman].” (Baum, 88-89) In actuality, this is one aspect that Dorothy subconsciously realizes that she is lacking in. Subconsciously she recognizes the fact that she is not truly grateful to Aunt Em and Uncle Henry for taking her in. Before the cyclone hit Dorothy described her Aunt and Uncle as people that “never smiled” and “never laughed.” (Baum, 2) Dorothy projected onto the Tin Woodman her desire to gain a heart in order to learn to love and appreciate her Aunt and Uncle for what they gave her.

            The central aspect of the story is Dorothy’s journey to the Emerald City to find the Wizard of Oz. As Dorothy tells the Scarecrow, “I am going to the Emerald City to ask the Great Oz to send me back to Kansas. (Baum, 26) When Dorothy arrives the Wizard tells her “if you wish me to use my magic power to send you home again you must…kill the Wicked Witch of the West.” (Baum, 104) This is one of the indicators of what Dorothy’s daydream is truly about. Sigmund Freud wrote in his work, “The Material and Sources of Dreams,” that a girl regards “her mother as a rival in love by whose removal she could but profit.” (5) Dorothy was an orphan but she thought of Aunt Em as a mother figure and Uncle Henry as a father figure. In this dream the Wicked Witch is a symbol for Aunt Em and the Wizard for her Uncle Henry. Dorothy subconsciously wanted to get rid of her Aunt so that she could receive all of her Uncle’s love. This idea is expressed when the Wizard told her that he could not help her until she killed the Wicked Witch for him. Dorothy rationalized the killing in her mind by portraying her Aunt as evil.

            Sigmund Freud wrote in his work, “The Dream-Work” that “[one] endeavors to arrive at the latent dream from the manifest one.” Freud meant that one can look at the actual content of Dorothy’s dream in The Wizard of Oz and discover the true meaning behind the symbols. 

What Freud would say about Hamlet

Hamlet contains many aspects that Freud would find fascinating. The first would be Hamlet’s apparent loathing for his mother and uncle. A normal person would say that is because they are sleeping with each other, but a psychoanalyst would say that Hamlet loathed his mother for choosing his uncle over him, and that he loathed his uncle for being his rival. This is what Freud called the Oedipus complex. It is when a man has an incestuous desire to love his mother intimately. In Act three scene four, Hamlet accosts his mother in her bedroom, while Polonius hides behind a curtain. Hamlet berates his mother for her foul judgment in marrying Claudius. He says that Claudius is not half the man his father was and a murderer on top of that. Here, Freud would say that Hamlet only says this about his father because he is already dead and can no longer be a rival for his mother’s affections.
Another happening in this scene is the appearance of the deceased king’s ghost, which only Hamlet can see. The ghost tells Hamlet that he has to stay focused. He says that his mother is not the guilty one, that Claudius is. It is he who needs to be killed. Freud would say that this ghost is a manifestation from Hamlet’s unconscious mind. It is like a waking dream. Freud’s theory discusses both the latent and manifest dream. The latent dream is the hidden meaning within the manifest dream. The manifest dream is your dream at face value. In this wake dream Hamlet sees his father telling him to kill the true guilty party. This is the manifest dream. The latent dream could be that his father is actually him telling himself that his mother is not the one who deserves his rage but the true murderer and his own rival, Claudius. But according to Freud’s own theory of displacement the dream could just as easily be about his mother having an ear infection. This theory talks about an allusion that “are connected with the element they replace by the most external and remote relations and are therefore unintelligible; and when they are undone, their interpretation gives the impression of being a bad joke or of an arbitrary and forced explanation dragged in by the hair of its head.” One could say that Hamlet thinks his father was poisoned through his ear and that ears get infected and that his mother may be in pain because of it.
There are other scenes in Hamlet where he has these wake dreams. In the very first act he sees his father’s ghost and it tells him that he was murdered by Claudius and that Hamlet must seek revenge. But Hamlet only looks at the manifest dream and not the latent dream which is why he has so much trouble throughout the play. If a psychoanalyst had the chance to talk to Hamlet and interpret his dreams then maybe people wouldn’t have thought him mad and listened to what he said about his uncle.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Outsiders

Having been published nearly 50 years ago, S.E. Hinton's The Outsiders has become an easy favorite for many young adults and teens. Much of the appeal lies in the novel's central protagonist, Ponyboy Curtis who as the youngest in his gang, struggles to find his own identity and place all the while trying to find approval from the rest of the group so that he may fit in. 

Ponyboy is the youngest of 3 brothers, all now orphans (after their parents died in a car crash) but yet the brothers still maintain some similarity to a family unit. Ponyboy is handled both as a child and as a brother within this family; his 2 older brothers, Darry (the oldest) and Sodapop emulate the now empty roles of mother and father. Early on in the book, Ponyboy decides to walk home alone, and Darry screams at him for this dangerous decision. Ponyboy narrates that there's no proper way for him to act around Darry and that he would be yelled at no matter what: “Me and Darry just didn't dig each other. I never could please him...He never hollered at Sodapop...He just hollered at me” (Hinton 13). Although neither Ponyboy nor Darry enjoy the role the play in the family unit, they both stick to it begrudgingly as if that is the only way it could work. Sodapop's constant stepping in provides a defense for Ponyboy and he consistently plays a nurturing, affectionate, warm, and caring role for Ponyboy. Darry on the other hand seems more concerned with Ponyboy's surface growth. After being scolded by Darry, Ponyboy is comforted by Sodapop much like a mother might comfort a hurt child: “'You cold Ponyboy?' 'A little,' I lied. Soda threw one arm across my neck. He mumbled...'Listen, kiddo, when Darry hollers at you....he don't mean nothin' (Hinton 17). Although Sodapop splits his time and attention between the two brothers, it would seem like Ponyboy would want that affection solely for himself. Darry provides the role of breadwinner, and Ponyboy would say he loves Darry as much as Sodapop, but his love for Darry is more out of respect. In Ross C. Murfin's essay “What is Psychoanalytic Criticism?” he refers to Freud's idea of the repressed mind: “One of the unconscious desires most commonly repressed is the childhood wish to displace the parent of the opposite sex” (504). The relationship between Darry and Ponyboy hints at Freud's idea of eternal strife and perhaps in Ponyboy's mind it would be easier to “remove him” rather than rival him for Sodapop's attention. 

It is also Sodapop who essentially works to unite the two and keep the family together. In order to do this, Sodapop must downplay the roles each plays in the family unit so that they may more properly understand each other. It is through Sodapop that Ponyboy realizes that Darry isn't as unfeeling as Darry pretends himself to be and is somewhat like them: “I suddenly realized that...he wasn't so much older that he couldn't feel scared or hurt and as lost as the rest of us. I saw that I had expected Darry to do all the understanding without even trying to understand him” (Hinton 177). In order for the boys to live peacefully, it is necessary that Ponyboy not see Darry as a rival and authority and instead to acknowledge their similarities. Having lost the sense of rivalry, Ponyboy no longer feels any hatred or fear towards Darry. Murfin explains Freud's position on fear: “A boy...may fear that his father will castrate him” (504). Darry has not necessarily lost the ability to castrate, but Ponyboy at this point has lost his fear of castration and therefore can remove him and his brother from their eternal strife. 

Hinton's book acknowledges that family units often function with gender roles in place, yet the story destroys the function of these roles and downplays their necessity.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Things Fall Apart

Achebe's novel, Things Fall Apart, portrays many of the struggles and problems that arose during post colonialism. The changes the characters goes through clearly depicts the western influences in their society. A post colonial critic such as Edward Said would be interested in how this western power dominated these cultures and effected them. Said believes that “Africa [ is ] politically independent but in many ways dominated and dependent as when ruled directly by European powers.” This can be proven through many of the parts of this story because there were so many changes within important rituals that is crucial for their survival. For example, the techonology these Europeans brought threathened the harvesting and farming skills these people have developed over many years. This makes them potentially very dependent on the European's techonology because their skills and techniques will be forgotten and less deft with time.

Language is another danger that arises with post colonialism.. The Igbo language is an importantpart of their identity because it is a product of their history and their ancestry. It is something beautiful that was made within their people that is sacred and sentimentally valuable. As the Europeans arrive, English threathens the Igbo language. However, throughout the book, it can be seen that Okonkwo tries to perserve and use Igbo. Achebe purposefully writes beautiful lyrics of Igbo songs to show the beauty of their language and the struggles to perserve it. "Eze elina, elina! Sala" [p. 158].

A post colonial critic would also question the stuggles these dominated people go through to maintain their national pride and identity. He writes, "they do not simple accept what goes on in the imperial idea; they think about it alot, they worry about it, they are actually quite anxious about whether the can make it seem like a routine thing. But it never is." [p. 377]. Said recognizes that these people are constantly in crisis find their identity and maintain their innerself. This can be seen clearly in this novel whereas the main character Okonkwo is constantly challenged to have be strong for himself and his motherland. In the midst of all this technology, Christian, and language reforms, Uchendu asks what motherland means. Uchendu answers by "But when there is sorrow and bitterness, he finds refuge in his motherland." [p.133]; he considers their country to be their comfort and a big part of their hearts. He tells Okonkwo and his problems are nothing compared to what is about to come and what happens among other people during this time; he challenges him by asking him "you think you are the greatest sufferer in the world?...i have no more to say to you." [p.134]. A post colonial critic would be interested in these identity and cultural issues like these people face as European power arises within their society. They would recognize this techonology, language, and identity issues.

Postcolonialism in Milan Kundera's Unberable Lightness of Being

Postcolonialism and postmodernism – the two recent literary trends have been strongly associated with each other since their inception. That is explained not only by the fact that they relate to the same time period in the literary process, but also because one outlines the development of another, or in other words, postmodernism became prism for looking at the postcolonial reality in literature. There are few concepts that postcolonial literature borrowed from postmodern critique: the opposition of center and periphery, free and oppressed, contemporary and old-stylish, banal and vanguard, original and loaned or propagated.
One of the works that embodies this blending is Milan Kundera’s The unbearable lightness of being. Although Czechoslovakia had never been colonized by any country, being in the so called Red Block (the groups of countries in Eastern Europe loyal to Soviets), had obliged the state and its citizens to be extremely loyal to the Communist rule. Unbearable lightness of being is, unarguably, the novel of political injustice and oppression in a specific place and time: Czechoslovakia in late 1960s and early 1970. Czechoslovakia at that time had been considered to be a periphery of the great territory of power of the USSR. A critique of Communist oppressive rule in the novel is conveyed through a bizarre analysis of affairs between Dr. Thomas and his beloved, Teresa. Kundera explores the nature of love, at least two of its facets that both characters experience – physical love and love the motherland. Because of taking a part in the improvised coup in 1968 (what referred to as “Prague Spring”, when Soviets invaded Czechoslovakia), Thomas loses the opportunity to practice his medicine skills. To make the living he becomes a window-washer. Teresa, also having taken a part in the uprising has to redefine her existence; after the coup she found herself in the photography, as her first shots of the tanks invading Prague, provoked a resonance among the bohemians of the capital. But, again, being spotted by the authority she cannot practice the photography freely. “The effect of mimicry on the aiuthority of colonial discourse is profound and disturbing” (Bhabha, LT, 381). As the time passes by, having lost their former positions, both characters have to refigure the sort of their further occupation, and have to leave the beloved country because it does not allow them to practice their vocation. “Mimicry is also the sign of the inpproriate, however, a difference of recalcitrance which coheres its strategic function to colonial power, intensifies the surveillance, and poses an immanent threat to both ‘normalized’ knowledge and disciplinary powers” (Bhabha, LT, 381) Both Teresa and Thomas chose to merge with the other indifferent population of the country in order to save their life and freedom of movement in exchange of being “mute”. “When I say “totalitarian,” what I mean is that everything that infringes on kitsch must be banished for life: every display of individualism (because deviation from the collective is a spit in the eye of the smiling brotherhood),”- claims author who is strongly associated with Kundera himself.
The oppression of originality and individuality was the primer principle of the Communist rule, yet this very notion was alien to the countries fallen under the Soviet influence after the WWII.


Racism wasn’t an option it was a way a life in the time of post colonialism. Post colonialism is the period after colonialism. Post colonialism is a time when racism and segregation were at its highest points, especially in the United States. The book “Passing” by Nella Larsen, takes place during the time of post colonialism when racism was seen everywhere by the white Caucasian people against the African American people. In the book this was during the time when slavery had just ended in the United States.

In this classic American novel the main characters Clare and Irene are victims of their own skin. Clare and Irene were born unusually white for being of African American descent. The story continues with Clare running away with her young Caucasian lover Jack, who was not aware of Clare’s African American background. “My goodness, Jack! What difference would it make if, after all these years, you were to find out that I was one or two per cent coloured?’ Bellew put out his hand in a repudiating fling, definite and final. ‘Oh no Nig’ he declared, ‘nothing like that with me. I know you’re no nigger, so it’s all right. You can get as black as you please as far as I’m concerned, since I know you’re no nigger. I draw the line at that. No niggers in the family. Never have been and never will be.”

Clare was always very conscious about her African background and even though she was of white skin she suffered a great deal through her pregnancy. “No, I have no boys and I don’t think I’ll ever have any. I’m afraid. I nearly died of terror the whole nine months before Margery was born for fear that she might be dark. That goodness, she turned out all right. But I’ll never risk it again. Never! The strain is simply too-too hellish.” She was scared that her child would be born with dark skin, almost thought of it as a disease. The author gives you the impression that Clare was relieved that she didn’t have dark skin because if it were otherwise she would live in poverty and not be married with John (Jack).

Achebe quotes Conrad “we glided past like phantoms”. It is interesting that Conrad uses the word phantom because the conquerors are white people, the narrator seems to emphasize how different, how dark Africa and it’s people are. This is how John Bellew though of himself in the book Passing, greater than any African American even better than his wife once he found out that she was half African. "So you're a nigger, a damned dirty nigger!' His voice was a snarl and a moan, an expression of rage and of pain." (This describes John's reaction when he found out his wife's secret.) Clare had one caucasian parent and one African parent which is why her skin color came out like that of a caucasian person.

The Layer Cake of Postcolonialism in Casablanca

Through the course of world history, humanity has witnessed a dynamic evolution of Imperialism in varying degrees and forms. In more recent history, the colonial aspect of many of the dominant Western Imperialist societies has declined significantly. This rapid decline has caused a discernable measure of conflict to arise, between the progressive dominance of colonizing society and the reemergence (often amalgamated) social identity of the colonized population. This cultural phenomena is known as the Postcolonial Culture (or rather the development of) of the society in question. It is often useful to employ Postcolonial theory as a method of literary critique. To demonstrate this, the following analysis of the 1942 film “Casablanca” is presented.
The setting of “Casablanca” is the French controlled Morrocan city bearing the same name, during World War II. Despite the fact that Casablanca is unoccupied, France itself has fallen to the German Army, and the social hierarchy is established early on in the film based on this fact. We see this from the arrival of a German officer, Major Strasser. He arrives in Casablanca to capture a German fugitive and the local prefect, Captain Renault is forced (albeit reluctantly) to execute his orders. The French population of Casablanca is clearly agitated by the presence of the Germans, both locally and in France. They struggle to keep their social identity clearly delineated from that of their German subjugators. This is demonstrated in Rick’s lounge when a group of German soldiers begin reciting their national anthem and are made inaudible by the vociferous recitation of the French national anthem by the local patrons. To understand why this small German garrison has reaffirmed the German influence over Casablanca we recall, from Edward Said “On Culture and Imperialism”, ‘westerners maintain their colonies abroad as markers on an ideological map, over which they rule morally and intellectually’. The German occupiers must enforce their idea of law and morality to demonstrate its superiority.
We must also play close attention to the fact that the French are themselves occupying the Morrocan city of Casablanca. This fact is indisputable as Morrocan characters do not even appear in supporting roles through out the film, as well as the fact that French is the language of discourse when English is not being employed. The French culture is superimposed over the Morrocan individuals. We see this when Ilsa is being “merchandised” in a Morrocan open air market. The Morrocan speaks with a French accent (as do all the Morrocans) and he petitions her for an exchange in Francs, not the local currency. However, it is prudent to make the observation that his manner of dress is distinctly Morrocan. This scene underscores the conflict of “mimicry and mockery” put forth by Homi Bhabha: “it is the ambivalence of mimicry [and mockery] which fixes the colonial subject as a partial presence. By partial we mean both incomplete and virtual”. From this, the uncertainty in the Morrocan culture, due to French influence is established.
The duality of Postcolonialism in “Casablanca” serves as an excellent platform for the analysis of all cultures and as a method of literary critique. The setting and plot of “Casablanca”, as well as the Postcolonial duality, demonstrates the interplay between the colonized and colonizers and how their conflicts can be “pulled backed” to prior events in history.

Post Colonialism in Things Fall Apart

Post colonialism deals with cultural identity in colonized societies and the ways in which writers articulate that identity. Chinua Achebe’s novel Things Fall Apart is a narrative that follows the life of an Igbo tribe at the time when the wave of colonization washed over Africa. The story tells of a man named Okonkwo who had always dreamed of being well known and respected throughout his village and neighboring villages since he was a child. He didn’t want to end up a failure like his father and he worked tirelessly until he achieved his goal. However, although he was able to reach his goal at an early age, his life began to “fall apart” when Okonkwo's tragic flaw, the fact that he is terrified of looking weak like his father, takes over. As a result, he behaves hastily, bringing trouble and sorrow upon himself and his family.
“The white man is very clever. He came quietly and peaceably with his religion. We were amused at his foolishness and allowed him to stay. Now he has won our brothers. And our clan can no longer act like one. He had put a knife on the things that held us together and we have fallen apart.” This quote shows how Okonkwo is doomed to lose the traditions he cherishes as his society slowly falls apart. He is opposed to change and he desperately tried to hold onto the traditional values and practices of his society. He does so in the midst of an alien European invasion which ultimately results in the disintegration of this traditional African society.
Achebe takes the reader through the daily lives of the Ibo people in part one of the story and in part two he introduces us to the European missionaries. When reading this novel it almost feels like you are part of the clan and then it is almost as if you are feeling the change yourself when you read part two and the missionaries come in. Part two shows the affect that the missionaries have on the members of the Ibo clan. The missionaries are able to take over and transform the once Ibo tribe into a Christian one. One example was when Oknonkwo’s oldest son, Nwoye, converted to Christianity which was the white man’s religion. This was very upsetting to him because Nwoye was his oldest son and Okonkwo had great expectations for him.
Things Fall Apart is a novel that serves as a reminder of what Nigeria once was. It shows how a society can deal with change, how change affects the individuals of that society, and how subtle a change can be; so much so that the people themselves are surprised at the change.

Hotel Rwanda

Hotel Rwanda takes place during a time of turmoil, where social strife has lead to the point of genocide. It is after the Belgian colonists have left Rwanda, leaving the Hutus and the Tutsis to do their own bidding. The Hutus and Tutsis are both Rwandans, the only difference is that the Tutsis are people that were chosen by the Belgian colonists to maintain control in Rwanda. They were simply chosen by physical appearance, whether it was because they had lighter skin or because they had a narrower nose. Using the Tutsis the maintain control of the population, the Belgians maintained power, and once the Belgian colonists left, the Hutus felt the Tutsis were traitors and had to be exterminated.

The ex-colonized in this case are represented by these two social classes, the Hutus, who are the majority of the population, and the Tutsis, who are the small minority that were in power. Once the Belgians left, the Tutsis are left with no real power behind them, allowing the Hutus take power and do as they please. The movie follows the main protagonist, Paul Rusesabagina, a Hutu hotel manager, who manages to shelter Tutsi refugees in his hotel, as they are being hunted down and killed by the Hutus.

Immediately after the colonizers are gone, a power struggle begins between two social classes, as the Tutsi rebel faction attempts to fight off the Hutus who are in power, mainly because of their large population. As the fighting escalates, all people who are not Rwandan, mainly whites, are being evacuated by the U.N., at the same time no help is given the people who are being oppressed. Once the Belgians have left, no western power is willing to fill in the empty void left by them. Even the U.N. was unwilling to help evacuate the innocent victims of Rwandan civil war.

This empty gap of power, left by Belgians, is possibly one of the main factors of the social strife. One might argue that Rwanda would’ve been better off if the Belgian continued their colonization, but if they were, the Hutus would still be under their oppressive rule. However, if Belgian rule were never to be, then the two social classes would not have existed. The Tutsis were created out of random picking through physical appearance; therefore the Tutsis are no different from the Hutus.

Disgrace-J.M Coetzee

Disgrace written by J.M Coetzee focuses on the downfall of a white professor in Cape Town, David Lurie. Set in modern South Africa, this novel gives the readers an intense depiction of a post-colonial and post-apartheid society. It portrays the land which was previously white-owned which is slowly taken back by new powerful farmers. Analyzing it from a post-colonial perspective, the novel exposes the race relations after the power has been shifted.

David Lurie, a divorced, 52 year old college professor is left unemployed after a sexual scandal with one of his students named Melanie. He then flees the city and stays with his daughter Lucy in Salem. There, he volunteers with Bev Shaw at the animal shelter. Things in Salem also go wrong. After a violent attack against David, Lucy is raped by two men and a young boy.

In Edwards Said's essay Two Visions in the Heart of Darkness, he states that "Domination and inequalities of power and wealth are perennial facts of human society." The fact that Lurie rapes Melanie shows his incapability to adjust to changes in power after apartheid. Under the apartheid his position of a white male was superior and dominant under the power structure of South Africa. However, post-apartheid, he still is unable to change and forces himself upon the colored girl, even when she says no. He does not have any morals or principles and simply assumes he can do whatever he pleases without caring or feeling responsible for his deeds. He is selfish and in concerned with fulfilling his desires. His superiority is also shown after the rape when he is refuses to acknowledge his accusations publicly and to take counseling. Lurie actually says “I’m not prepared to be reformed. I want to go on being myself.” This statement clearly shows that Lurie is not at all ready for the change that is happening. Mentally, he still considers himself to be better than the blacks and fails to truly see what he has done wrong.

After the crime against Lucy, she does not report her rape to the police. Lurie does not understand why Lucy doesn’t report to the police. She says she wants it to remain private. However, Lucy’s silence can be analyzed by a socio-political standpoint. She understands the justice system that South Africa and also their position in society. She does not hold any improbable outcomes of the prosecution of the crime and therefore she does not report it.
The crime agaisnt Lucy was according to her and her father, done out of hate. In Said's essay Tw0 Visions in the Heart of Darkness, he also stated that, "A new...appalling tribalism is fracturing societies, separating peoples, promoting greed, bloody conflict, and uninteresting assertions of minor ethnic or group particularity." This statement describes some of the things that were done to the whites, which by post-apartheid were considered minorities. The ex-colonialist were then being oppressed due to the shifting of power.

In the end of the novel, Lucy finds out that she is pregnant because of the rape and then exchanges her property and accepts the humiliating position as Petrus’ third wife for her protection. Petrus was an African who worked for Lucy, but after the drastic social changes in South Africa, he gained land and became a wealthy farmer. Although she does not want to marry Petrus, she seems to have no option and takes herself down to living ‘like a dog.’ Now that the power has shifted the white South Africans have to start from nothing and learn how to accept their status. After years of prior unjust policies against the blacks there is a great deal of hatred in them against the whites. Both Lurie and Lucy do eventually have to give and realize that life will not be as it was before.

Brave New World

Most post-colonialism critics like to concentrate on novels in which a colonizer descends into the culture he is trying to colonize, and shows the steady decline from the colonizer as a civilized person (by his own standards) into a helpless being in a non-colonized, or partially-colonized, area. In Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World”, the exact opposite seems to happen; set in the mid-2500’s, the futuristic society is a technologically advanced one in which there is no shortage of food, expedited world travel is as simple as taking a bus, and where children are cloned and decanted instead of born naturally, which has been made illegal. John, a ‘savage’ from a reservation, where people still follow ‘old ways’ such as natural reproduction by sex and marriage and follow deities, has stumbled out into the ‘civilized’ world by way of an invitation to do so by two of the main characters of the book. So how would a post-colonialism critic read this book, in which the character that is apparently being colonized appears in the colonizer’s life?

In ‘Brave New World’, the world as a whole is governed by a group of top-ranking officials, so the utopia exists in every corner of the globe. For those who want to go back to the old ways, however, there are reservations scattered throughout the world that keep to old ways, sort of like the Indian reservations we have nowadays. This is where John, the protagonist of the story, comes from; he has never had a true brush with society, aside from the fact that his mother used to be in a high position in London before she moved to a reservation.

After John gains contact with civilization as the rest of the world knows it, he first finds it pleasing and joyful; at one point, when Bernard, the person who visited the reservation, tells him some of the finer points of the outside world, John quotes Shakespeare – “Oh brave new world that has such people in it.” (Huxley 130) As time goes on and he sees what he views as corruption, he turns this utterance, which he meant as a blessing, into a curse and a mantra against turning into one of the ‘civilized’ (Huxley 190). By the end of the book, John has been turned into a curiosity, exiled from the cities but still allowed contact; John, though, cannot live with his new understanding of civilization, and hangs himself, much to the chagrin and excitement of the civilized populace.

The demoralization of John due to his ‘ascent’ from a seemingly unstructured society to one of great advances is an issue that could be analyzed with post-colonialism criticism, if looked at from an opposite point of view. The colonized, or in this case, John, being forced into the colonizer’s world, and having world views pressed upon them, is almost more catastrophic than if it were the other way around, which is the run-of-the-mill post-colonial literature. Imagine Tarzan being torn from the jungle and placed in New York, or a 12th century bard trying to understand modern rock; it’s post-colonial literature, but from the viewpoint of the stranger in a strange land.