A Psychoanalytical Reading of Eva Luna
The primary ideal of a psychoanalytic reading is that literary texts are similar to dreams because they are both manifestations of a person’s psyche, and can be analysed in order to discover the author’s unconscious meanings. Eva Luna, written by Isabelle Allende, is comprised of complex characters that each have their own histories, that are described in depth through their childhood and actions within the story, demonstrating the talent of Isabelle Allende herself. Her story is entered around Eva Luna and her eventual partner, Rolf Carle, who both come from dysfunctional homes. Their characters are constructed gradually from their birth into adulthood, allowing every aspect of their desires and anxieties to be explored. With this understanding of the characters and their motivations, it becomes possible to discover Allende’s unconscious symbols and illustrations of her own neurosis.
Despite his dysfunctional upbringing, Rolf Carle becomes a successful journalist, much like Allende herself prior to her career as an author. A significant aspect of his career was his constant obsession with not only reporting news about the politics of his country, but playing a role in those politics in order to promote the form of government he thought was best for his country: “From that day forward, Rolf Carle was not content simply to register events; he used his contacts to advance the cause of the rebellion.” His consistent need to meddle beyond his job description is a symptom of placing the responsibility of protecting his country on his shoulders alone. During his childhood, Rolf Carle witnessed his mother being controlled by the tyranny of his abusive father, as he and his brother were too young to intervene: “jochen and Rolf glimpsed the terror in their mothers eyes, and saw her shivering.” His choice to become a journalist may be due to his shame for being unable to protect his mother. He now sees the tyrannical government of his country in a similar way to his father, as they both present a cruel authority. His active participation in politics is due to his need to protect the people of his country, to compensate for his inability to protect his mother, an act he now uses to process his guilt. Allende, having also been a journalist, may have made her vocational decision for similar reasons. Although she did not have an abusive father, she has shown to also feel guilt over the loss of her father. Her action in becoming a journalist may be due to her need to resolve issues in her country, that she was never able to resolve within her own childhood. Another aspect of journalism is the requirement for travel.
According to psychoanalysis, a person who travels may seek to ‘escape’ an emotional trauma. A line that gives the reader information about Rolf’s life after the end of the novel says: “many years later, on the other side of the world, he awakened one morning weeping under the white mosquito netting.” This line shows that despite moving away, Rolf was still effected by his experiences into his adulthood. This is demonstrative of how travelling us usually a coping mechanism that causes people to suppress their emotions, rather than process them, causing them to be unable to move past their anxieties. Allende, who also travelled as a journalist, may have also done so out of a need caused by her childhood, and may be unconsciously showing how it failed to properly resolve her issues. By psychoanalysing Rolf Carle and his mental inflictions, a greater understanding of various aspects of Allende’s life can be better understood, allowing the novel itself to be of greater significance in its reflection of the feelings of its writer.
The character Eva Luna spends the majority of her adolescence between different houses in different jobs, attempting to find a patron who will treat her well. During this series of leaving various homes in search of new places to live, Eva develops a fear of abandonment, that compounds damage caused to her by the loss of her mother. During the revolt of the whores, La Senora suddenly realises that Eva has become a liability to her, and quickly detaches herself from Eva’s dependence: “I sank down between two columns of a building and gathered strength to combat the sense of abandonment I had felt on other occasions and was beginning to experience now.” Here, Eva’s loss of a home causes her deep emotional pain.
At the time that this novel was written, Isabelle Allende had suffered through various significant changes in her life. She had been blacklisted by her government, and had separated with her husband. This ‘sense of abandonment’ that Eva describes could be reflective of the conflicts in Allende’s life, stemming from feeling abandoned by both her country and her husband. Eva pleads with La Senora: “where do you want me to go, I don’t have any place.” This would describe an identity crisis that Allende is experiencing, having lost her sense of place in her country, as well as having to leave her extended family behind. Her loss causes her to feel alone in a new country and without the support of the people she can come to know in her home town. The phrase ‘I don’t have a place’ shows her inability to establish herself and who she is, she is feeling lost and is having difficulty coping with the changes in her life. By understanding the purpose and validity of the feelings and emotions of various characters within Eva Luna, a greater understanding of the quality of the texts itself is achieved.
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