15 October 2012
A Prospectus: Reading Hurtson’s Their Eyes Were Watching God from a Psychoanalytical Perspective Psychoanalytic theory has shown that infants start identifying themselves and recognize that they are individuals, separate from their mothers, at six months of age. At that age, the individuals’ own identity starts to form as they relate their reflection in the mirror to their own self. This is when texts such as Their Eyes Were Watching God become relevant. The protagonist, Janie Crawford, struggles to construct her own identity and experiences a severe sense of loss in her childhood. Meanwhile, Janie recognizes her African American identity through her projection in the picture in respect to Lacan’s Mirror Stage. The projection of Janie’s identity in the picture as a child not only makes her realize her black origin, but also identify her sexuality as she can only, initially, identify her dress and her hair. This delayed self-recognition disrupts Janie emotionally and explains her inability to maintain a successful marriage throughout the novel. Freud’s psychoanalysis suggests that any disruption in one of the stages of development will negatively result in failure in one or more of the individual’s aspect of life (Bertens 158), which is evident in the novel. Even though Janie goes through the stages of development depicted in both Lacan and Freud’s theories, Janie starts going through these stages later in her childhood, at six years old. According to Lacan’s Mirror Stage (2010), in the first six months, the infant does not distinguish his own self from that of his parents or even the world around him. However, they can only identify that the images in the mirror, or any other projection, like the picture in Janie’s case, when they are about eighteen months old. This delay in Janie’s development is related to the social and familial issues that Janie has experienced in her childhood. The first encounter of the infant with the self in...
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