Psychoanalytic Criticism of "Collector of Treasures"

Topics: Psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud, March 24 Pages: 6 (2084 words) Published: March 27, 2011
Richard Paguirigan
English 116 / Dr. Osborne
March 24, 2011
Research Paper #1
Psychoanalytic Criticism of
“The Collector of Treasures”

On its surface, “The Collector of Treasures”, by Bessie Head profiles the poignant yet beautiful story about how a woman’s friendships, dedication to family, happiness and pride can remain intact even when confronted with the challenges of living on limited resources, sexism, adversity and oppression in a post-colonial, traditionally patriarchal African society. The backdrop is a small village in post-independence Rhodesia, South Africa in 1966. Head brings these issues to light from the perspective of a woman struggling to support and raise her children in the vacuum left by their irresponsible father who left them to fend for themselves. Head’s seemingly explicit and sensory approach is welcome. However, beneath this realistic portrayal lies its true narrative. In “The Collector of Treasures”, Head provides readers, through her complex characters and interspersed symbolism, an opportunity to decipher meaning from a deeper perspective, that of a woman’s psyche. Bessie Head had a traumatic life. She was born in South Africa in 1937, the illegitimate daughter of a white woman and a black man, and was put into foster care as a child. Her marriage ended in divorce; she lived as a refugee in Botswana for years and died at the young age of 49. But, she put her difficult experiences to good use in her fiction and became one of Africa’s best known women writers (Drinker). This paper will examine the form and technique used by the author to tell her story, touch upon the theory of psychoanalytic criticism which this writer will use to critically analyze the story and, in contrast to its literal content, make an evaluation of the symbolic significance of her work from which the real meaning or message can be gleaned.

(Body 1) –The story, "The Collector of Treasures", is about a woman who has a difficult life and murders her husband, but who somehow always manages to find moments of happiness (treasures) in the pain (Drinker). The story opens with our protagonist, Dikeledi Mokopi’s arrival at prison for the act she commits at the end of the story, whereby she murders her husband by slicing off his penis. Further on, the story flashes back to a time before the murder took place, some years before, where we find that Dikeledi got pregnant three times in four years by her husband, Garesego who left her, moving around from one woman to another in the village like a “sex-crazed” dog. Despite continuing to live in the same village after eight years, neither one speaks to the other. During this time, Garesego never takes responsibility for his wife or sons, and Dikeledi sought no financial support from him. She seems quite content, having managed all these years to provide her sons with food, clothing, shelter and money for their primary school educations through the gifts of food and small earnings she makes from sewing, knitting and weaving baskets for neighbors and others in the village.

Her best friend and neighbor Kenalepe’s husband, Paul, is the antithesis of everything that Garesego stands for. He and Kenalepe have a loving marriage and wonderful sex life. Dikeledi is surprised to find that men like Paul exist, men who don’t act like sex-crazed animals and respect their women. Inspired by this revelation, she approaches Garesego a second time, not for intimacy, but to try to persuade him to contribute to their oldest son’s secondary school education, which is more expensive than the primary school he had been attending and which the younger boys currently attend. She has managed to save most of the money herself and needs Garesego to cover only the remainder, a small sum which she knows he can easily afford. However, he snidely suggests that she ask her neighbor Paul, whom he...

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"Collector of Treasures." 31 Aug 2008. hpcnet.org. 24 Mar 2011 .
Drinker, Tea. "Bessie Head, The Collector of Treasures and Other Botswana Village Tales (1977)." 27 Feb 2011. wordpress.com. 24 Mar 2011 .
Head, Bessie. "The Collector of Treasures." Other Voices, Other Vistas - A Superb Collection of Contemporary Multicultural Fiction. Ed. Barbara H. Solomon. New York: New American Library, 1992. 52-73.
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