Psychoanalytic Criticism of “Collector of Treasures”

Head brings these Issues to light room 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. Seemingly explicit and sensory approach Is welcome. However, beneath this realistic portrayal lies its true narrative. In Collector of Head provides readers, through her complex characters and interspersed symbolism, an opportunity to decipher meaning from a deeper perspective, that of a psyche.

Bessie Head had a traumatic life. She was born in South Africa in 1 937, 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? 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 correctly which this writer will use to critically analyze the story and, in contrast to Its literal content, make an evaluation of the symbolic coalescence of her work from which the real meaning or message can be gleaned. Body 1) 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, Disliked arrival at prison for the act she commits at the end of the story, whereby she murders her husband by slicing off his pen’s. Further on, the story flashes back to a time before the murder took place, some years before, where we find that Disliked got pregnant three times in four years by her husband, Grassers who left her, moving around from one woman to another in the village Like dog. Despite continuing to live In the same village after eight years, neither one speaks to the other.

During this time, Grassers never takes responsibility for his wife or sons, and Disliked sought no financial support from him. 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 husband, Paul, is the antithesis of everything that Grassers stands for. He and Kankakee have a loving marriage and wonderful sex life. Disliked is surprised to find that men like Paul exist, men who act like sex-crazed animals and respect their women.

Inspired by this revelation, she approaches Grassers a second time, not for intimacy, but to try to persuade him to contribute to their oldest 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 Grassers 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 believes has been supporting her and the children in exchange for sex, for the money.

She ignores him, and proudly goes on about her business. Later, Grassers contacts Disliked about the possibly giving her the money for their son? education, tells her he is coming back home and expects to have a hot bath prepared for him upon arrival. Disliked knows that this can only mean one thing, that he wants only to have sex with her, and with no assurances that he will even give her the money. This, and the fact that Grassers displayed no interest in the children whatsoever during his visit, makes Disliked very angry.

She proceeds to give him food and drink, methodically prepares his bath and finishes the last of the household chores and then puts the children to bed. She returns to her hut and finds Grassers fast asleep, whereupon she pulls out a knife she has hidden under the bed and slices off his penis. His bellowing screams awaken their oldest son who walks in to find his father dead, whereupon Disliked orders him to summon the police. As he takes off into the night, she hears another set of footsteps running away from the hut.

It is her friend Kankakee running back to her own yard to summon Paul Thebe’s ho, after stepping into the hut and assessing the carnage, looks at Disliked and tells her not to worry about the children. He reassures her that he will take them as his own and give them all a secondary school education. (Body 2) Psychoanalytical theory – overview) As various web sites suggest, Bessie Head led a short and trouble-filled life. But from all accounts, she was a remarkable and a loving person but possessed of her demons, which she grappled.

Indeed, she could be and often was very difficult. (CACHE). Thus, this writer will attempt to prove that Head’s work is an expression of the secret, repressed life that he led, through her words which are symbolic of the psychological struggles she endured, and her characters whose hidden motivations or psychological composition can be explained. Psychoanalysis attempts to understand the workings and source of unconscious desire, needs, anxieties, and behavior of writers, readers, and specific cultural phenomena.

Psychoanalysts want to understand human behavioral patterns and also cultural behavior patterns (some focus on the psyche of a single author while others see culture as a kind of body with symptoms to diagnose, etc. ). In short, psychoanalysts assume that the unconscious exists and that texts contain and reveal culture. A reader’s interpretation can be studied to reveal a reader’s unconscious desire, anxieties, etc. For example, asking you to tell me which fairy tale character you identify with may reveal some kind of psychological concern or preoccupation.

In other words, we want to satisfy our desire, but we can’t because they are socially unacceptable. As a result, we repress those unacceptable desires and impulses. However, we can never fully repress our cravings and they are expressed when we interact with people, talk or write. (Barron). Some important terminology that is used in psychoanalytical theory to distinguish between the intertwined narratives include which is the obvious or literal content in a text, and ? which is the content that is hidden or repressed.

Readers may see the text as an expression of the secret, repressed life, symbolic of her inner struggles and turmoil, though not always. Others may disregard the author completely, preferring instead to look to the characters in the text and using psychoanalytical theory to uncover hidden motives and deduce psychological keep. Then there are those who use the text to uncover the obsessions, neuroses, etc. , of specific readers by analyzing the readers responses. This is not unlike the Reader-Response or subjective method. However, it is the reader of the text specifically that is the target of psychoanalysis based on their response.

Using the theories of a particular psychoanalytic thinker (Freud, Adler, Jung, Lagan), these critics see the text as if it were a kind of dream. This means that the text hides, represses its real content behind manifest content. Dream work involves (Freud) condensation, displacement. The interpreter must make his or her way through the literal level to the symbolic import, the meaning the writer cannot say overtly because it would be too painful. As one critic puts it, “a psychological criticism notices patterns of language beneath the surface and understands the verbal play as if the text were a patient recalling more than she/he (Daddy). Body 3) Form & technique used by the author, purpose) On the surface, the story is simple – the language direct and uncluttered. The story highlights tensions between men and women, tradition and post-colonial, communal gift economy and fatalism, and between different religious beliefs. It depicts the breakdown of older communal ways of life in the face of encroaching capitalist, western values and the impact this shift has on people (Drinker). The story is predominantly descriptive in style and form.

Head uses an assortment of literary devices to great effect including simile, had experienced such terror during the awaiting-trial period that she looked more like a skeleton than a human being. The skin creaked tautly over her (Head 55. 33), and personification, swept by, then dusk, then dark and still the truck droned on, impersonally, (53. 5). Head also utilizes metonymy such as when she was describing the transformation of men in society, all the new he had developed a paunch, his eyes were bloodshot, his face bloated, and the odor of the beer and sex from the previous night clung faintly around him. ?C,-1?0 (68. 13) and metaphor, ? yet she had always found gold amidst the ash, deep loves that had Joined her heart to the hearts of others. She smiled tenderly at Kebob because she knew already that she had found another such love. She was the collector of treasures? articulating the word states, men do not think that e need tenderness and (56. 24). The manifest content of Head? story comprises a diverse set of themes interwoven to create the fabric of her work. Thus, her purpose is multi-fold.

The social imbalances between men and women are evident in the story Collector of While the woman struggles for her own individual freedom, the man embraces his and neglects his duties as a father and husband. Freedom is not being alone, without responsibility. It is being loved and storing treasures of friendship throughout life. A woman can never be free if she knows her husband is always getting drunk and leaping around. Similarly, a man cannot experience freedom if his wife loves another or shows bitterness.