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Topic: What really happens in Mary Postagate?
Monica Manzolillo
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What really happens in Mary Postagate?
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:


http://www.learningliterature.it/norman-page-postgate/


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!


GerrySalvati
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Re: What really happens in Mary Postagate?
on: May 27, 2019, 20:01

All good things come to an end! Mary Postgate is a story that concerns with loss, fear, repression and alienation. Do you think that this short story is somehow a sort of precursor of modernist works?


Virginia Vicidomini
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v.vicidomini8@studenti.unisa.it'
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Re: What really happens in Mary Postagate?
on: May 31, 2019, 16:08

I think that Marys pathological behaviour can be seen in the last part of the short story, when she could not suppress her hatred for Germans anymore. Indeed, after seeing the soldier, all the horrors and sorrows, that she has witnessed, pushed her in a state of insanity.

I reckon that the war could be an occasion for the repressed impulses to emerge because it was in this warlike context that Wynn and Edna died, and Marys hatred was just a reaction to that. When Edna found the soldier, the only thing she could do was to act in the same way. Like the soldier who was accused to be the cause of Ednas death, Mary decide that the only way to deal with him was to be merciless.

Regarding Marys hallucinations, I think that when she thought that Edna was killed by a bomb may be just the result of her imagination. Indeed, she could almost hear the beat of his propellers overhead, but there was nothing to see and she said No. An aeroplane. I thought I heard in on the Heath. At the beginning she was sure that it was a bomb, but when she described it, she only said that she could almost hear or was nothing to see or I thought I heard. By reading these, the reader could think that Mary imagined everything and that she wanted a sort of an excuse to accuse the enemy. The fact that her assumption could be wrong is demonstrated by the Dr. Hennis who stated that the accident was caused by the fall of the stable. However, the situation is very ambiguous because the Dr. Hennis then asked Mary to say anything and not to cause panic in the village, as he assumed it might have been a bomb. And then, when Mary returned home, Miss Fowler declared that a couple of aeroplanes had passed half an hour ago and Mary answered, I thought I heard them. So, as Norman Page wrote in his essay, there is a complication because Mary imagined one aeroplane but the were two real ones, and if they passed over, as Miss Flower stated, the soldier under the oak should have come from somewhere. So, I reckon that even the soldier may be an hallucination because no one else saw him and nothing is said regarding his corpse. Maybe Mary imagined him because she needed to get rid of the pain and the anger caused by the war. Also, I believe that she entered this status of trance when she was near the destructor and 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. She leaned forward and listened, smiling. There could be no mistake. She closed her eyes and drank it in. once it ceased abruptly. While in the previous passage she had the hallucination of the soldier but she kept burning Wynns clothes, in this part she was completely absorbed by her sensations and she is detached from reality.

As far as the soldiers nationality is concerned, the first words that he said were Laty!Laty!Laty! and by hearing that Mary had no doubts about his nationality, she was sure he was German. Mary based her assumptions on his pronunciation of the words Laty and Toctor but then he spoke French. Therefore, If the soldier is real, he maybe a German who tried to communicate in French since his French was not authentic. Or if the soldier existed only in Marys imagination, she just wanted him to be German and, as Norman Page wrote, since Mary knew small German, she had difficult in conceiving a conversation in German and she decided to use French.


Virginia Vicidomini
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v.vicidomini8@studenti.unisa.it'
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Re: What really happens in Mary Postagate?
on: May 31, 2019, 18:14

Quote from GerrySalvati on May 27, 2019, 20:01

All good things come to an end! Mary Postgate is a story that concerns with loss, fear, repression and alienation. Do you think that this short story is somehow a sort of precursor of modernist works?


I think that Mary Postgate could be a precursor of modernist work considering that it has some features of a modernist text. The short story is characterized by ambiguity, indeed, not everything is clear and there are some gaps in the narration. The reader has to cooperate to give a meaning to what happens, and this is why there could be different interpretation. The plot is not the essential part, but the short story reveals that human consciousness has different layers and it focuses on the conflicts and frustrations of characters inner self. Also, it deals with the event of contemporary life and in this case with the feeling of loss, fear, repression and alienation.


Michela Cinotti
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Re: What really happens in Mary Postagate?
on: June 4, 2019, 10:58

I found the essay very useful, since it confirmed some of my theories on what really happens in Mary Postgate.

As also my collegue Virginia said, it is in the last part of the story that the psychological frame of the character is better displayed. Nevertheless, in my opinion, we can see that Mary Postgates behaviour cannot be considered completely sane, from the beginning. Her obsession for facts and for carrying out her duties could be a symptom of some kind of control issues, deriving maybe from a painful past. Mary Postgates mind doesnt dwell on emotional events because maybe are out of her control. This idea came to my mind, because while she is burning Winnys stuff and waiting for the aviator to die, the narrator tells us that: Mary had seen death more than once. She came of a family that had a knack of dying under, as she told Miss Fowler, most distressing circumstances. and still: She would stay where she was till she was entirely satisfied that It was dead ” dead as dear papa in the late eighties; aunt Mary in eighty-nine; mamma in ninety-one; cousin Dick in ninety-five; Lady McCauslands housemaid in ninety-nine; Lady McCauslands sister in nineteen hundred and one; Wynn buried five days ago; and Edna Gerritt still waiting for decent earth to hide her. It looks as though the war brought out all the sufferance she went through and she processes it through burning Winnys old stuff and the hatred for the man who, supposedly, killed Edna. I think that the aviator embodies in a certain sense this sufferance and is therefore an allucination; in these few line I reported it is referred to as It not He, as if it was a thing. Also earlier, when she hears the aeroplane, she is never sure whether she has really seen or heard it, but she tells everybody that it was a bomb who killed little Edna. It looks as though she has to bestow her pain upon an external cause to deal with it. It seems that the war experience, which becomes real for her after the death of Winny, brings down the apparent rigidity that characterises Mary.


Michela Cinotti
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m.cinotti@studenti.unisa.it'
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Re: What really happens in Mary Postagate?
on: June 4, 2019, 11:17

Quote from GerrySalvati on May 27, 2019, 20:01

All good things come to an end! Mary Postgate is a story that concerns with loss, fear, repression and alienation. Do you think that this short story is somehow a sort of precursor of modernist works?


It could be a precursor of modernists works, since in the text we find many ambiguities and gaps in the narration. For example, when Mary runs to the doctor to tell him that little Edna died because of a bomb, the first think he asks her is not to say anything to anybody to avoid clamour. Soon after he tells her that a rotten stable killed the little girl, so Mary starts to feel sorry for having hinted at something else and quite forgets the atrocity she saw. When she goes back home, the first thing Mrs Fowler tells her is that she heard two aeroplanes flying around. An observation which could give credit to Marys version of the accident. So the reader is induced to think two things: that Mary was right and that the doctor covered things up not to generate clamour or that he understood that Mary was hallucinating. This idea could be supported by the fact that when she first came in his office, the doctor wanted to give her something to calm her down, but she refuses. The reader doesnt know who to believe to, because many elements seem to clash. The text is open to many different interpretations.


Barbara Benincasa
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Re: What really happens in Mary Postagate?
on: June 4, 2019, 15:51

I think that Mary Postgate reaches the peak of ambiguity in the end. Throughout the whole text we get that Mary is a sort of passive character, a person who is inexistent without all the other characters. For instance when Miss Fowler says Would you ever have been anything except a companion? she cant imagine Mary to be anything else.

Nevertheless Mary does not know what imagination is, indeed she replies Ive no imagination Im afraid.

This leads me to the end of the story.

Personally I believe that all the actions that surround Mary in the end are mere representation of her imagination. If we think about how every detail is portrayed it seemed to her that she could almost hear the beat of his propellers overhead I thought I heard it on the Heath I thought I heard an explosion too. All the words I have underlined are used to give a sense of ambiguity, it may have happened, it may not. We dont know. But there is a crescendo as in the last part she says firmly I saw it, I heard it too while Dr. Hennis is still trying to convince her otherwise.

The ambiguity increases when she returns home where Miss Fowler tells her that two airplanes had passed, so the narration leads the reader to think that Mary is right even though there is a discrepancy as she only heard one airplane.

Moreover I found interesting what Malcom Page said about the fallen airman. He states that his nationality is deliberately unspecified, so that the wounded man may possibly be a Frenchman, an ally, which increases the horror of the tale. Mary is convinced that the pilot was German based on the way he pronounced certain words but there is no certainty of his nationality. My opinion is that Mary needed him to be German as, since she had lost many people in her life and many more to come because of the war, she wanted to take revenge for all the ones she cared about. Indeed she changes at the end of the story, instead of the passive character I have previously described, Mary becomes another person, someone who is not afraid to watch and do anything while someone (the enemy in this case) is dying.


Barbara Benincasa
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B.BENINCASA1@studenti.unisa.it'
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Re: What really happens in Mary Postagate?
on: June 4, 2019, 15:55

Quote from GerrySalvati on May 27, 2019, 20:01

All good things come to an end! Mary Postgate is a story that concerns with loss, fear, repression and alienation. Do you think that this short story is somehow a sort of precursor of modernist works?


As Virginia and Michela have pointed out, I believe that the story may be a precursor of modernist works as the whole text is ambiguous and open to different interpretations. Thus, the readers task is to read carefully the story and try to convey a possible meaning of it. Since there are many gaps in the text, many readers can iunderstand the story in different ways.

It could also be regarded as a precursor of modernist works because the most important characteristic of the story is the psychological profile that depicts the characters


Alessandro Pinto
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Re: What really happens in Mary Postagate?
on: June 4, 2019, 16:24

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:


http://www.learningliterature.it/norman-page-postgate/


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.


Alessandro Pinto
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Re: What really happens in Mary Postagate?
on: June 4, 2019, 17:10

Quote from GerrySalvati on May 27, 2019, 20:01

All good things come to an end! Mary Postgate is a story that concerns with loss, fear, repression and alienation. Do you think that this short story is somehow a sort of precursor of modernist works?


I would say this short story certainly has some elements in common with modernist texts. First of all the story is deeply ambiguous, a feature that we know to be typical of modernist literature. In particular, the main character's behaviour is most peculiar, it does not seem to follow any rational and organised path but, instead, it seems the result of some psychological issues (and, as Virginia Woolf says, "for the moderns 'that,' the point of interest, lies very likely in the dark places of psychology"). As a consequence to this ambiguity, the reader necessarily needs to cooperate in order to produce meaning and to fill the numerous gaps in the text, which is also the way in which the story can be read from different perspectives. One more feature this text shares with modernist texts is the open ending: at the end the reader does not know anything else about Marys revelation, nor about why she all of a sudden feels relaxed and satisfied. It is then the reader who has to connect all the elements and the suggestions in the text in order to understand what is happening.


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