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A Freudian Psychoanalytic Interpretation of Toni Morrison's Song of Solomon

Author LiuZuoZuo
Tutor LiMin
School Shandong Normal University
Course English Language and Literature
Keywords Song of Solomon Psychoanalysis Personality Structure DefenseMechanisms Dream Interpretation
CLC I712.074
Type Master's thesis
Year 2014
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Song of Solomon, published in1977, is the only one with a black male as theprotagonist among the novels by Toni Morrison. It lays the foundation for Morrison’simportant position in American literary circle. By using her rich imagination anddelicate psychological description, Morrison profoundly reveals the characters’ subtleinner world and changes in human nature. Through the presentation of the strugglesthe characters faced in spiritual dilemmas and the vivid description of theprotagonist’s dreams, Morrison demonstrates the characters’ complex psychologicalstructure and inner world.Song of Solomon is a rich and perfect bildungsroman. Milkman’s and Guitar’sgrowing process are perfect examples to Freud’s personality structure theory; selfdefenses, caused by the conflicts between primitive desires and lofty morality in thegrowing process, are excellent reflected on several obscure figures; Morrisondescribes several dreams which have tight connections with the plot; and the trail ofFreud’s dream theory can be found in every dream. Therefore, this paper intends tointerpret the novel from the perspective of Freudian psychoanalytical theory, andpersonality structure theory, defense mechanisms and dream theory will be employed.In addition to the introduction and conclusion, the main part of this paperconsists of three chapters. The introduction briefly reviews Toni Morrison’sachievements, literary status and researches on Song of Solomon home and abroad,and presents the reasons for using Freudian psychoanalytical theory as the theoreticalbasis for this study.The first chapter briefly introduces Freud’s personality structure theory andmainly analyzes the different personality development of the protagonist Milkmanand his friend Guitar. Although trapped in various contradictions and confusions,Milkman takes his way to the south to find the history of his family under theguidance of his friend Guitar and his aunt Pilate who is Milkman’s spiritual mother. On Milkman’s way of finding his family history, affected by the blacks, family historyand traditional black culture, Milkman’s personality which is controlled by the idcontrolled by the pleasure principle at first gradually transforms to the ego which isguided by the reality principle, and finally achieves its sublimation, getting to thestage of the super-ego. In contrast, Guitar, who always behaves wise and providesreasonable words to Milkman, embarks on a way of revenge owing to his father’sterrible death and the murders of black people brought by white people. Thus Guitar’spersonality begins to shift from the rational ego and lofty super-ego to the idcontrolled by primitive instincts. Through the analysis of the two characters, thispaper not only presents the changes of characters’ inner world from the spiritual levelbut also demonstrates that personal growing environment has an important impact onone’s personality.The second chapter chooses four characters that have significant impact on thedevelopment of Milkman’s personality as the research objects. They are Guitar,Macon Dead, Ruth and Pilate. Freud’s defense mechanisms are employed to analyzethe four characters’ self defense when they are faced with the conflicts frompsychology and society.The third chapter interprets three dreams in the novel from the perspective ofFreud’s dream theory. With a special idea, Morrison writes three dreams which havetight connections with the plot; they are dreamed by Milkman in different developingstages of his personality, namely, Milkman’s dreams about his mother, his childhoodand the flight. Through the interpretation of the three dreams, not only are Milkman’sinner changes more vividly demonstrated but also Freud’s dream theory is confirmedthat the reality is the source of a dream and the dream is a kind of psychologicalphenomenon and a way of wish-fulfillment.The conclusion again emphasizes the significance of using Freudianpsychoanalytic theory as the theoretical framework for this paper. The interpretationsof the novel by using Freud’s theory not only deeply dig into the inner world of thecharacters but also caters to Morrison’s rethink of her black people’s future. Thedevelopment of personality without rationality and human nature, distant from the traditional black culture, can not create a bright future for black people; staying rootedin the national culture, focusing on the problems and conflicts of their own race, andachieving the sublimation of human nature, are the key points to get spiritual freedom.The psychological development and how to defend the self in order to keep acomplete personality in the novel are experienced by modern generations. The authorhopes that this research can bring some inspiration to the contemporary society.

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