Psychoanalytic Criticism

Topics: Black people, White people, Sigmund Freud Pages: 4 (1542 words) Published: February 7, 2013
Psychoanalytic Criticism
Sigmund Freud, a well-known psychologist, believes the unconscious can be unlocked through dreams. He defined the unconscious as, “the storehouse of those painful experiences and emotions, those wounds, fears, guilty desires, and unresolved conflicts we do not know about because we feel we will be overwhelmed by them” (Tyson). Psychoanalytic criticism, a form of criticism which allows the reader to psychoanalyze an author’s unconscious through the characters of his or her work(s), is heavily influenced by Freudian theories of psychology. Since Sigmund Freud explored the workings of the unconscious, he found that his patients developed many defense and anxiety mechanisms to cope with disagreeable ideas, painful memories, feelings or impulses. Nella Larson, author to of Passing, created two diverse characters showing different signs to support Freud’s defense mechanisms and repression—Clare Kendry and Irene Redfield. Clare Kendry, one of the main characters in the book, represses much of her black history to meet societal expectations. At the beginning of Passing, Larson gives a short backstory to Clare’s life; portraying her biracial background. As the novel progressed, readers meet “an attractive-looking woman…with those dark, almost black, eyes and [a] wide mouth like a scarlet flower against the ivory of her skin” (Larson, 9). Once this eye-catching woman introduces herself to her longtime friend, Irene Redfield, as Clare, she declares she has passed into the white community. During the civil rights movement, if a biracial individual’s skin complexion appeared closer to white than black; he or she would be able to pass into the white society. As she tells the story of her lost years to Irene, one can tell Clare has repressed her black history as a result of moving in with two white aunts after her father died. She has this a locus in the family since her aunts were racist against the black community. This prejudice against...
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