Psychoanalytic Literary Criticism Essay

2648 words - 11 pages

I strongly believe that every person who reads a book, listens to the radio, or watches a

program on television will make their own assumptions. I know I do. Most of us will ask, “Why

did the main character make that decision?” Or “What were they thinking?” Could it be that the

author of the story is protruding their own subconscious thoughts and beliefs through their

characters? Absolutely, most critics have adapted psychoanalytic literary criticism theory based

upon the works of psychoanalysis by famous psychologists Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung, and

Jacques Lacan to literary works. 'Psychoanalytic literary criticism does not constitute a unified

field....However, all variants endorse, at least to a certain degree, the idea that literature...is

fundamentally entwined with the psyche' (wiki).The three literary works which will be analyzed

in this essay are “A Woman Like Me”, “Swaddling Clothes”, and “The Necklace” using

psychoanalytic criticism theories of literary works of the authors, characters, and text.


What is Psychoanalytic Literary Criticism? All psychoanalytic approaches to literature

have one thing in common, the critics begin with a full psychological theory of how and why

people behave as they do. A theory that has been developed by a psychologist/psychiatrist/

psychoanalyst outside of the realm of literature. They have applied this psychological theory as a

stand to interpret and evaluate a literary work. Because psychoanalytic theories have been

developed outside the realm of literature, they are not tied to a specific aesthetic theory

(McManus). If we read psychoanalytically we can interpret literature with a better understanding

of the works and the author. Freud himself thought of literary works as dreams, creations of the

writers which gives us a view into their psyche. “To discover [the author’s] intention . . . I must

first discover the meaning and content of what is represented in his work; I must, in other words,

be able to interpret it” (Freud 212). The analysis is of the author, characters, audience and text.

“A Woman Like Me’ written by Xi Xi from Hong Kong, in 1982 is about a woman who
lied to her boyfriend about her profession because she was afraid she would lose him. Her fear
came about when her aunt, the woman who taught her everything she knows about her
profession explained her own past when the man she loved left her for being a mortuary
cosmetician. In “Swaddling Clothes” written by Mishima Yukio from Japan in 1966, a young
woman is haunted by fresh memories of her unwedded wet nurse who gives birth in her home.
The vision of the child who is wrapped in newspaper by the doctor drives her to obsess about the
child’s future. And lastly, “The Necklace” written by Guy de Maupassant from France in
1884, pertains to a woman who is unhappy with her life. She and her husband gets to attend a
high end social, in...

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