This psychoanalytical study is the study of the novel “The Comeback” written by Ella Berman in 2020. Frued (1950) proclaims that Psychoanalysis theory deals with the specific premises of the workings of the mind. Most of the novel’s chapters deal with Grace’s character, who is exploited and manipulated at the age of fourteen by The Hollywood director, Able Yorke. She seems to have fame and a reputation as a superstar but on the inside, she is broken and living a miserable life because of the traumatic experiences of sexual abuse. She becomes addicted to alcohol and other drugs. Freud (1896) names this situation the effect of trauma. This dissertation provides the understanding of Trauma theory through the character of the protagonist of the novel The Comeback, and it also presents the execution of the psychoanalysis theory by exploring the unknown and hidden perspectives of Grace’s character. This research highlights how childhood sexual abuse impacts the development of Grace’s character, and how sexual abuse leads to her Abnormal behavior.
It is a very common observation that the human mind tends to retain some memories even if they are bad or good, any experience which leaves an impact on a person’s life stays in the memory. That particular experience becomes eternalized in the memory of that person. Although the event that happened once, does not go on happening again and again, the memory of the traumatized victim, becomes eternal. It happens again and again and always leaves the person in the same agonized state in which he/she was left when encountered with that very experience for the first time. There are times when a sudden outburst, a certain event, or even the slightest idea can lead to the disorientation of thoughts and activities, just because the person feels that he is experiencing the same event again, only that he is not and it is just his memory of the circumstance which makes him feel like this.
As camera introduces us to invisible optics as does psychoanalysis to unconscious impulses. The theory of psychoanalysis is the most imposing theory we have in the post-war period. It was birthed by the Austrian neurologist Sigmund Freud in the 1950s, who provided a radically new approach to the analysis and treatment of ‘abnormal’, sexual, and traumas’ behavior. It deals with the dynamics of the workings of the mind and focuses on the state of mind of the author or the state of mind of characters created by the author. The closest connection between literature and psychoanalysis has always been located in literary theory. Among these literary theories to literature, psychoanalysis is one of the modern theories that are used in English literature. Caruth (1996) explained the relationship between literature and psychoanalysis as
“If Freud turns to literature to describe the traumatic experience, it is because literature
itself is interested in the complex relationship between knowing and not knowing, and it is at this specific point at which knowing and not knowing to intersect that the psychoanalytic theory of
traumatic experience and the language of literature meet.” (Caruth 1996)
It is regarded as a theory of behavior organization and the dynamics of the mind. Despite that, psychoanalysis study is considered a fascinating lens and constructive approach in the application of interpretative analysis of any text. This dissertation details the psychoanalytical study of the novel “The Comeback” penned by Ella Berman in 2020.
Grace is the protagonist of the novel. The whole story revolves around her. she is a young actress who becomes a victim of sexual abuse at the age of fourteen. Hollywood director, Able Yorke takes her to America and introduces her to the Hollywood industry. She becomes a
Hollywood star of a wildly successful film series, but all decisions about her life are in the hands of a controlling and manipulative director, Able Yorke. Grace depends on him, so he manipulates and exploits her to the maximum. Although, she seems to have fame and a reputation as a superstar. However, this was only one side of the coin, but behind that public facade, Grace was raped by the same person, Able Yorke, who makes her a superstar in the industry. Because of this trauma, she becomes addicted to alcohol and drugs so that she can escape from her miserable life.
One day, on the cusp of awards season, she completely disappears from the public eye. She spends years quietly. She has a complicated relationship with everyone. She lost the connection with her parents, sister, and husband, whom she holds up as a saint. Grace returns to Los Angeles after a year, and she struggles with her future. She tries hard to repair her relationships with her loved ones and studio executives alike. Unfortunately, she observes the same situation-those who run Hollywood, like Yorke, are still in power, and still exploiting that power to take advantage of young stars.
This psychoanalytical study discusses the mechanisms to find out the hidden meaning of a literary text of the novel “The Comeback” particularly with the character of Grace. It also helps us to understand, the execution of the trauma theory such as: how childhood sexual abuse trauma impacts the development of Grace’s character and how leads it to her Abnormal
The main objectives of this dissertation are
- To study the impact of childhood sexual abuse on the development of Grace’s character
- To study how sexual abuse causes abnormal behavior of the protagonist
The psychoanalysis theory is one of the most consuming modern theories used in literary analysis of the different genres. Despite this, psychoanalysis has a close connection with literature or not, it has become one of the most interesting mechanisms for interpreting the hidden meaning of the text. Psychoanalysis is not simply a branch of medicine, but also it is used to understand various fields such as philosophy, culture, religion, and first and for most use in literature. So, significant numbers of studies can be found where researchers applied psychoanalysis theory to different texts.
Khotimah (2004) in his thesis “psychoanalysis of Native Son (1940)” discusses Bigger’s
Character utilizing psychoanalysis theory which includes Freud’s psychoanalysis and the Motivation theory of Human behavior by Fryer and Morgan and King. The thesis attempts to uncover every psychological aspect of Bigger’s character through his behavior. This dissertation has a similar approach especially in psychoanalysis theory, although the object of the analysis is different.
Maupassant in his short story “TheNecklace” (1888) has been analyzed several times as a psychoanalytical study by different researchers. On J Stor, several articles have been published where different researcher prepares psychoanalytical study of the short story The Necklace. Bement in his article (2011) who offers an interpretation of Maupassant’s development of the plot of The Necklace, believing that he may have considered the implications of both greed and innocence to form his story. He comments upon the surprise ending in The Necklace and its correlation to psychological realism and relates with psychoanalysis theory. O’Faolain in his article (2013) in which he asserts that the cleverness of The Necklace lies not in the surprise ending but its realistic portrayal of human relationships and society. He said the shock ending of The Necklace is the highlight of the story, condemning Maupassant’s portrayal of relationships as vague and unconvincing and his plot as improbable. In finding, all these articles’ authors implement psychoanalysis theory on “The Necklace”.
Anumpa (2016) in his article on ” Cry the Peacock” portrays the psychic tumult of a young and sensitive married girl Maya who is haunted by a childhood prophecy of a fatal disaster. She is the daughter of a rich advocate in Lucknow. Being alone in the family, her mother being dead and brother having gone to America to carve his independent destiny, she gets the most of her father’s affection and attention and in her moments of affliction exclaims to herself: “No one, no one else, loves me as my father does”. The excessive love Maya gets from her father makes her have a lop-sided view of life. She feels the world to be a toy made especially for her, painted in her favorite colors and set moving according to her tunes. On the other side, according to Ayub (2018) ” Cry the Peacock (1963) “is about Neurosis and its impact on human personality that have engaged the attention of both psychologists and creative writers. By following the impact of Freud and with the development of various psychological theories in the nineteenth and the twentieth centuries, he examines how Maya, the protagonist of Anita
Desai’s Cry, The Peacock is forced into a psychotic state on account of an incompatible and unsympathetic marital relationship
Anthony (1956) claimed that D.H. Lawrence’s novel “Sons and Lovers “gives grounds for a psychoanalytic interpretation. The protagonist of the novel reexamined his relationship with his mother and her psychological effect on his sexuality which relates to one of Freud’s most famous theories known as the Oedipus Complex (1899). According to Ramos, the work of
D. H. Lawrence provides evidence of personality development of Oedipal conflict and the pre-
Oedipal establishment of a sense of self. In the same regard, Jones (1922) in “A Psycho-
Analytic Study of Hamlet” argues (1922) that William Shakespeare’s tragic hero, Hamlet, suffers from an Oedipus Complex one of Freud’s theories the idea that a male character is driven by unconscious desires to kill his father and marry his mother.
Sarge (2019) Applied Psychoanalytic Theory to Macbeth. He suggests that the dynamic character that is Macbeth all parts of Freud’s psyche surface while choice characters such as
Lady Macbeth and King Duncan largely represent one psyche personality. Correspondingly, Levine (2020) stated that the power of psychological suggestion motivates Macbeth to act on his repressed desires. They are the contrasting counterparts Id and Superego, which are the most imposing concept of Freud in psychoanalysis theory.
Apart from the above particular research, a significant number of researches have been conducted to identify research articles, investigating the correlation between sexual abuse and its aftereffects. Many studies also examined multiple or single incidents of abuse and both childhood and adult victimization.
- How do childhood sexual abuse and its aftereffects impact the development of Grace’s character?
- To what extent does the sexual abuse of the protagonist show her abnormal behavior?
Numerous theories deal with mind and behavior; however, the most known theory is psychoanalysis theory. It was developed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries by Austrian Neurologist Sigmund Freud who provided a radically new approach to the analysis and treatment of ‘abnormal’, sexual, and any kind of traumas’ behavior. Before this, critics ignore the behavioral errors and look for a physiological explanation of ‘abnormality,’ however, with the introduction of Freudian theories, critics recognized that abnormal behavior is not meaningless but always happens because of an intense cause, and Freud named its trauma.
Detail description is found on the unconscious mind by Freud. He defines the unconscious as the part of the mind that lies outside the somewhat vague and porous boundaries of consciousness. He also relates unconsciousness to the Laws of transformation. These principles govern the process of repression Psychoanalytic Theory used in English Literature: the unconscious works as the theoretical function of making the relation between adult behavior intelligible and childhood experience.
Freud proposed three structures of the psyche or personality. Id refers to a selfish, primitive, childish pleasure-oriented part of the personality with no ability to delay gratification.
Whereas Super Ego refers to internalized societal and parental standards of ‘good’ and ‘bad’, ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ behavior’, and Ego refers to the moderator between the Id and Super-Ego which seeks compromises to pacify both. It is not clear what would count as evidence sufficient to confirm or refute theoretical claims. The theory is based on an inadequate conceptualization of the experience of women. The theory overemphasizes the role of sexuality causes in human psychological development that leads to trauma.
According to Judith Herman (I992), trauma theory has provided a framework for understanding how individuals process devastating experiences. Psychological trauma is an affliction of the powerless. At the moment of trauma, the victim is rendered helpless by overwhelming force. Traumatic events overwhelm the ordinary systems of care that give people a sense of control, connection, and meaning. Traumatic events are extraordinary, not because they occur rarely, but rather because they overwhelm the ordinary human adaptations to life. According to the Comprehensive Textbook of Psychiatry, the common denominator of psychological trauma is a feeling of “intense fear, helplessness, loss of control, and the threat of annihilation.”
Traumatic events shatter our basic assumptions that we will be safe, that we are good people, that our future relations would not do anything to harm us. Trauma-reactions are psychophysiological responses to the overwhelming events that the individual cannot integrate (Herman, 1992). Sexual abuse cannot be assimilated with our sense of self in the world. The dissociative process plays an important role in this regard. Braun (1990) describes it as follows: Dissociating is to sever the association of one thing from another. In psychiatry, dissociation is a defensive process that can intercede between affective states and thoughts to separate them from the mainstream of consciousness, between parts of behavioral chains, or between effects, behaviors, and thoughts. Dissociation may affect or distort the input level of perception.
Another important aspect of the traumatic response is hyperarousal. This includes startle reactions, irritability, hypervigilance, and difficulty with modulating the intensity of the effect. “After a traumatic experience, the human system of self-preservation seems to go on to permanent alert, as if the danger might return at any moment. Physiological arousal continues unabated” (Herman, 1992). It is believed that this hyperarousal is physiological as well as psychological in nature. There is evidence that trauma causes lasting biochemical and neuroanatomical changes (Greenberg, 1998).
The Comeback belongs to the psychological genre. Psychoanalysis and trauma theory have been used as a theoretical framework for the research. The comeback is a psychological novel, in which the thoughts, feelings, and motivations of Grace and other characters have greater interest than their external action or words. There are clear pieces of evidence that the internal states of Grace’s character and the emotional reactions lead to her abnormal behavior.
So, the novel I have chosen entirely fits the psychoanalysis theory.
This psychoanalysis study starts with the abstract which summarizes the major aspects of the entire dissertation in a prescribed sequence that included: the overall purpose of the study, the research problem, and at the end major theory of the paper. The second heading is the heading of the introduction, which contains five Steps. the first step has Introduced the topic and defined theories. Then background and introduction of the novel. After this, there is the research problem and objectives of the dissertation. The next heading is about literature review which provides a description and comprehensive summary of each source. After the literature review, chapter one starts which deals with the research question, how sexual abuse impacts the development of the character of Grace, where I have provided bulk evidence from the novel’s text to support ideas. The backup text gives the idea of the negative impact of the sexual abuse Grace experienced in the novel. It is justified that Grace is a disturbing character who was manipulated, exploited, and the victim of sexual abuse starting at the age of fourteen. Chapter 1 leads to chapter 2, in which I have talked about the abnormal actions of Grace. Chapter 2 is backed up with the evidence from the text of the novel. Chapter 2 talks about the character of Grace, who is not easy to understand. She is trying not only to cope with all that has been taken away from her but also what has been done to her. Lastly, there is the conclusion which provides a summary of the whole study.