English Papaer

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The Psychoanalysis of “Digging”, “My Papa’s Waltz”, and “Lady Lazarus” In the twentieth century, Freud created the theory of psychoanalysis. He believed that people could be cured by making conscious their unconscious thoughts and motivations. By doing this, one could gain insight and release repressed emotions or experiences. Today, this analysis is also used in literature and can be used to investigate many different aspects of the work. Some approaches are to investigate the characters, second to study the psychology of the writer, and third to investigate whether it relates to abnormal mental functions (Kaye par. 3). Using these three ways of psychoanalysis, I analyzed the poems “Digging” by Seamus Heaney, “My Papa’s Waltz” by Theodore Roethke, and “Lady Lazarus” by Sylvia Plath and discovered how the mental state of the author affects the characters and tone of their writing. Seamus Heaney's "Digging” opens with the author at his desk, pen in hand, and beginning to write. The first person to investigate would be the speaker, who is distracted by his father outside working in the fields, and continually referring to the field work as “digging”. The poems then jumps into the speaker’s memory and reflects on the nature of tradition, the changes that have occurred between previous generations of Irishmen and his own, and analogies between poetry and forms of labor of the North Ireland society in which he grew up (Miller par. 2). In these memories, we come to find out the author does not have the farming skills and desire to farm like the past men in his family. Heaney suggests that for the speaker’s grandfather and father, digging was indeed a way of connecting with the past and making contact with old customs of Irish rural life. For them, tradition was no written history, but rather the elemental smells, textures, and sounds of country labor such as harvesting potatoes and cutting the fields (par. 4). In the last stanza, he comes back to the present and states how his pen offers him another way of reconnecting himself to this legacy. He will "dig with it." His digging, of course, will no longer be the literal labor, but rather a poetic ways in which he will dig with his words. Through Freudian eyes, one may see two interpretations of this poem with oedipal overtones. First, Heaney illustrates the psychodynamic nature of humans in their pursuit of happiness, which in this case is the son pursuing his dream to be a writer even though his father wants him to be a farmer. The psychological state of the speaker may lead one to think that the son had a great appreciation for his father but feels he is a disappointment. So in this case, the son disregarded the oedipal complex or rivalry with his father by using his superego and just wanted his father to be proud of him. He knows he wasn’t meant to follow in his father’s footsteps with being a farmer and that he was meant to write. However, the reader can then justify that the speaker is proud of being a writer and wants to gain his father’s approval by digging, but with his pen. Heaney admired his father and instead of repressing the memories when his father died, he used this poem as a reminder of his father’s talents as a farmer. Also, another interpretation of this poem or elegy involves the son wanting the father dead. Notice how Heaney elegizes his father almost twenty-five years before he is to die. Also the opening image of the poem, with the pen as a gun, has Heaney dealing with death in order to write and in the closing stanza, the pen or gun becomes a spade. Therefore, interpreting that Heaney had a desire to kill his father, maybe in order to continuing writing or prove to everyone else that he is better than his father. This would make the elegy very ironic because instead of honoring him, he was hoping the whole time his father would die. My Papa’s Waltz also involves a father and son relationship, but in this case, the son is more of the adult figure....
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