Quote from monica on May 27, 2019, 18:50
Here we are at our last post.
In this last section we will focus again on the main character of Mary Postagate.
I think that many of you already know what psychological criticism is. It is an approach to literature that draws upon psychoanalytic theories, especially those of Sigmund Freud or Jacques Lacan to understand more fully the text, the writer, and the reader. The basis of this approach is the idea of the existence of a human unconscious: those impulses, desires, and feelings about which a person is unaware but which influence emotions and behavior. Critics use psychological approaches to explore the motivations of characters and the symbolic meanings of events, while biographers speculate about a writer's own motivations, conscious or unconscious, in a literary work. Psychological approaches are also used to describe and analyze the reader's personal responses to a text.
In "Mary Postgate" by R. Kipling there are many elements that can be interesting form a psychological perspective.
So your last task is now to read again the short-story and try to identify in which way can the main character's behaviour be considered as pathological. Can war be considered as an occasion for the repressed impulses to emerge in your opinion? Can we say that Mary suffers from hallucinations in the final section of the story? Does she really see a soldier? And is this soldier French or German? In which precise moment do you think she enters in a trance state where she is completely detached from reality?
These are very interesting questions what do you think?
Here is an essay that can help you to elaborate your ideas:
PS: Please note that the course by Professor De Giovanni is finished and that on June 5th there will be exams so I advice to complete all of the sections in the forum before that date so that we can give you your credits. Thanks a lot. Remember that lenght is not important. it is important what you say!
PS2: We would also be very glad if you could spend a couple of minutes filling in the final questionnaire in the forum home page. Thanks a lot!
I would say that one of the first signs the reader has of Marys psychological issues is, without doubt, the fact that she seems to have closed all sorts of communications with her inner self. This is clear when, every time she starts to think about situations which might be difficult to face only rationally, she stops herself and she says one must not dwell on these things. The lack of access to her deepest feelings and sensations is also evident when Wynn compares Mary to an empty tin can; the reader would expect a strong reaction from Mary, but instead she seems not to have even heard what Wynn had told her at all, responding with her usual passivity to the boys insults: Why? Was Wynn saying anything?. Her decision to ignore Wynns comment seems strange even to Mrs Fowler, who feels immediately entitled to tell Wynn off by saying I suppose thats how your superior officer talks to you?. Even when Wynn dies, there is only one moment during which Mary feels the weight of the event on her shoulders the room was whirling round Mary Postgate; nevertheless, the vortex of emotions which the reader would expect to overwhelm and devastate Mary does not seem affect her: but she found herself quite steady in the midst of it. This is why Mary does not give in to her feelings for When and coldly says to Mrs Fowler Theres nothing to cry for. He has done his duty as much as Mrs Grants son did.
One more clue of Marys psychological issues is made clear when she has to face the little girls death. The reader can notice how Mary, without actual evidence supporting her thoughts and ideas on the matter, tries to convince herself firstly that it was a bomb dropped by an aeroplane which killed Edna(I thought I heard it on the Heath, but I fancied it was one of ours. It must have shut off its engines as it came down. Thats why we didnt notice it. After having spoken to Dr Hennis, however, Mary seems not to be so sure of her previous convictions anymore. As a consequence, the doubt remains if what Mary saw was something belonging to her own perception of things, or if it was something which took place. What is certain is that Marys mind is easily deceived by the doctors suggestion that what she heard was the collapse of a building rather than an explosion and, even though at the beginning Mary seems quite sure of having heard the noise of an aeroplane, she begins to wonder whether to give credit to her own version of the accident or to the doctors. Evidence of this internal contradiction in Marys shifting mind can be detected in the following section of the text:
After all, she told herself, it might, just possibly, have been the collapse of the old stable that had done all those things to poor little Edna. She was sorry she had even hinted at other things, but Nurse Eden was discretion itself. By the time she reached home the affair seemed increasingly remote by its very monstrosity. As she came in, Miss Fowler told her that a couple of aeroplanes had passed half an hour ago.
I thought I heard them, she replied.
In the last part of the text it is difficult to state whether Mary actually sees a soldier or the figure in front of herself is just a hallucination provoked by her psychological problems. What I find interesting is, as Virginia said, that the soldier speaking a mixture of French and German could be a solution found by Marys mind in order to properly imagine the figure of the enemy, since the reader knows that Mary does not know German very well, it would be just as difficult for her to understand it (and that is probably why the soldier speaks French) as to speak it (the sentence she says is grammatically incorrect). What can come to support this argument is the fact that Mary seems to enter a sort of state of trance when she has to burn Wynns clothes and objects with the destructor (an increasing rapture laid hold on her. She ceased to think. She gave herself up to feel. Her long pleasure was broken by a sound that she had waited for in agony several times in her life) so we can imagine that her altered state is what provokes her vision of the enemy.