The American Heritage dictionary defines psychology as “the science that deals with mental processes and behavior.” The difference between a literature and a psychology major is that a literature major is already seeing their patients. Every day a literature major opens up their books, and finds out something else upon a host of characters psyches. They are presented with odd situations, with broken characters, and they must come to an understanding of whom that character is in order to understand their actions. Literature aids us in our understanding of reality by giving us fictionalized example of how real people would act in intense situations. A good author makes you believe his or her characters are real, and understand why they do what they do. This is particularly apparent in Araby by James Joyce, and As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner
Araby, by James Joyce allows its reader to see life through the eyes of an adolescent struggling to be a man. It allows the reader to see the reality of what it’s like to feel unaccomplished and pathetic. The boy in the story is trying to make his voyage to the bazaar, his new adventure to mean that he’s entered a new phase of life. Time suddenly seems to slow down in the story as the boy waits for Saturday to arrive. “I could not call my wandering thoughts together” he complains “I had hardly any practice with the serious work of life which, now that it stood between me and my desire seemed to me child’s play, ugly monotonous child’s play.” (Joyce, 29) Illustrated in the story are the real emotions the boy is feeling as both a man too old to be child, and a child too young to be a man.
The boy’s arrival at the bazaar, and inability to purchase anything shows him that he is not ready to be the man he is striving to be by triumphantly impressing Mangan’s sister. The story is a study on the popular reality of adolescence. “Gazing up into the darkness I saw myself as a creature derided by vanity; and my eyes burned with anguish and anger” reflects the boy, finally realizing that the whole quest was frivolous, the girl was a fantasy. So, in this end he has gained some self-realization. His ability to recognize his youth and his ignorance is a growth. This sort of insight into the psyche of an adolescent could be found after years of study of adolescent psychology, or it could be learned through a powerful illustration like Araby. Araby, like much literature, provides us with an example of how many young boys feel about life–frustrated, unaccomplished, and eager to grow up.
In “As I Lay Dying” by William Faulkner we the reader get a unique opportunity to understand and see into the psyche of nearly every character in the book. We get a full picture of the character’s reality by seeing the actions of the novel from various perspectives. Faulkner teaches As I Lay Dying readers that no one perspective is correct, which is a valuable lesson to bring to the real world. The novel, simply from the way it is written, teaches us a great deal about how different people’s views of situations effect how they interact within them. In the novel Cash is able to feel accomplished, important, and like he can do something about his mother’s death by building a coffin.
Dewey Dell cannot understand this, she is disgusted that he’s built his coffin right outside the window where Addie can see it. Neither one of them communicates with each other or allows their emotions to be revealed. This sort of breakdown of communication between families is often a cause of fighting within households. Often, we do not understand that different people almost always have different perspectives, and explaining them could prevent resentment and anger. By giving us various narrators and no overall “judge” of the situation, Faulkner is allowing us to see this about both the novel, and reality.
Often in literature gives us an example of how people act in real life. I find myself relating literary examples to what’s happening in my life almost every day. How often do we as a society hear the term “Big Brother” in reference to the way our government is acting? Many novels we read in class gave us an understanding on how people interact with each other in real life. A true literary analyst sees the characters world as a reality, and often feels like a psychologist, trying to get the root of the meaning of a character’s actions.