A Psychoanalytic Reading Of Toni Morrison’s A Mercy And Gloria Naylor’s The Women Of Brewster Place And Mama Day

Project and Seminar Material for English Language

A Psychoanalytic Reading Of Toni Morrison’s A Mercy And Gloria Naylor’s The Women Of Brewster Place And Mama Day


Abstract


The study of Psychoanalysis over the years has helped to reveal the relation between the mind, language and personality trait which are not easily observable or revealed in our regular acts and use of language. By placing much emphasis on literary elements such as metaphor, metonym or symbols, literary psychoanalysis has contributed to the exploration of repressed thoughts, motives and feelings and their uses as narrative techniques.

This to a very large extent determines individual behaviours. In this study, a Psychoanalytic Reading of „the Unconscious‟ and Trauma in Toni Morrison‟s A Mercy and Gloria Naylor‟s The Women of Brewster Place and Mama Day; Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung psychoanalytical critical models are employed in the analysis of the selected texts. Each of them has addressed human personality from different directions. While for Freud, most human behaviour traits are motivated by factors which the individuals are not even aware of which he calls „the unconscious‟, such as the childhood experience;

For Jung, human personality and identity can be revealed when we pay significant attention to myths and other similar symbols that reoccur in our history which he calls archetypes. Using these psychoanalytical postulations, this study establishes that though socio-political, historical and cultural factors influence personality traits (motives and actions) of characters in the selected texts, the unconscious which is not easily discernable equally plays significant roles to establish a more complete and fuller process of human behaviour. These characters are significantly„types‟ as they represent individuals or collectives in the African American society. Hence, their portrayal in this study is ultimately aimed at revealing the individual/collectives‟ personality of the African America women and their experiences. Finally, this research has arrived at the finding that conflicts involving characters‟ behaviours or actions can be psychoanalyzed and resolved if transformed into narratives and storytelling. This is known as “talking/writing cure”.


Chapter One


Introduction And Background Study

1.0. Conceptual Premise

This study shows the relationship between literary creativity and psychology especially with focus on the unconscious and trauma in Toni Morrison‘s A Mercy and Gloria Naylor‘s

The Women of Brewster Place and Mama Day. The selected novels present characterswhose behaviours, actions and inactions are ‗absurd‘ or illogical because they are threats to either themselves or others around them. In most cases such personality traits are indications of some unaddressed psychological conflicts in the unconscious minds of those characters.

A psychoanalytical reading therefore examine the characters in selected novels in order to determine how the unconscious has given rise or contributed in shaping the characters‘ behaviours, taking into considerations the situations and circumstances these characters find themselves. These characters are significantly ‗types‘ as they represent individuals or collectives in the Africa American society and their portrayal in this study is ultimately aimed at revealing individual/collective personality of the African America women and their experiences.


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