You Can Never Forget the Past: A Psychoanalytical
Approach to Literature
Two seemingly unrelated novels written by authors in completely different time periods share one commonality, each features a protagonist possessing autobiographical characteristics similar to those of the authors. The psychoanalytical approach to literature is the most effective approach in explaining how the authors created the protagonists in their stories and why the characters carry out the actions observed in the novels. An analysis of the novels The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan and Of Human Bondage by William Somerset Maugham reveals that both authors use their protagonists to mirror their own personal lives as they reveal the inevitable impact that one’s past has on his/her outlook and philosophies towards life.
Amy Tan was born in Oakland, California in 1952 as a Chinese-American in a “predominantly white” (Adams NP) neighborhood. Her parents emigrated to America from China in the 1940’s with her older brothers (Adams NP). Tan’s mother was very set in her ways as a Chinese woman, attempting to inflict into Amy the same strict customs she had grown up with. Tan was raised in a strict Christian house and was “expected to become a neurosurgeon by trade and a concert pianist by hobby” (Adams NP). Brought up with very high expectations,
Tan was never content with her Chinese heritage and the life her parents had
planned out for her. Amy Tan grew up with the persistent desire to become more “Americanized”. Critic, Bella Adams stated, “Although Americanization had it’s advantages…it also demanded that Amy ignore her Chinese cultural background, often out of shame.” As she matured, Amy became ashamed of her Chinese features, even attempting to sleep with a clothespin on her nose in order to “Westernize” her face (Adams NP). Adding to her lack of identity, at age fourteen Amy learned that she had two half-sisters living in China from her mother’s first marriage. This...