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Through a Psychoanalytic Lens

brain image creativeWhile reading through my summative novel, The Art of Racing in the Rain, I’ve noticed that many of the characters have acted strangely or questionably, which drove me to wonder what could be going on inside their minds.  Which is why I’ve decided to analyze the novel through a psychoanalytical lens; to shed some light on some of the characters’ thought processes.

Firstly, I’ve noticed Enzo has always been strangely fond of Denny, even since the time they first met.  Despite the fact that Denny’s relationship of Enzo borders on the relationship between father and son, I still think that Enzo took to Denny a little too quickly, especially seeing how his previous owner didn’t even pay for anesthetic for the cutting of his dew claw.  I think the reason for this is because while on the farm where he was born, Enzo didn’t receive much special attention.  There were many other pups just like him, rarely giving him the time for special attention.  It is in the nature of everyone, human or dog, Stop-Barking-Dogto want to be the center of attention, so when Denny chose Enzo as his pet, Enzo acted on his ego and tried to be as appealing as possible in order to stay at the center of attention.  When Eve showed up in Denny’s life, Enzo felt that he was being pushed out of the center of Denny’s attention and therefore resented her.  Though not stated in the book, I think that Enzo might have even acted on his id and decide to attack her, however his superego would probably have held him back.

phoenixwright-objectionSecondly, after Eve’s death, her parents, or as Enzo calls them, the “Twins”, wanted to adopt their granddaughter, Zoe.  Naturally, Denny disagreed, wanting to raise Zoe himself.  Although they mean well, I couldn’t help wondering if this is what the Twins wanted all along;  for Denny to disagree.  Think about it.  The Twins’ daughter had just died, leaving them distraught and grief-stricken.  To vent some of this grief, the Twins, (not so much Eve’s mother, who was held back by her superego) decided to act on their id and emotionally attack Denny by stealing his daughter, using their wealth to their advantage.  This urge is made stronger by the Twins’ belief that Denny wasn’t a good husband for Eve, which they think contributed to her death.  After Denny defeats them in court, the Twins are forced to relinquish Zoe, however it is never said whether they’ve gotten over the death of their daughter or their resentment of Denny.

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Got What It Takes To Own a Dog?

What does it take to be a good dog owner?  If happen to be one, you probably already know.  By which case, you probably also know that Denny, in The Art of Racing in the Rain, is a good dog owner too.  For those who don’t, let me enlighten you.

Akc-logoAccording to the American Kennel Club (AKC) (http://www.akc.org/public_education/responsible_dog_owner.cfm), the main responsibilities of a good dog owner include keeping the dog safe, healthy, and trained, as well as being committed and a good friend.  In the novel, Denny absolutely adores his dog, Enzo.  At the first sign of any injury or illness, Denny immediately takes Enzo to the vet, proving his loving concern for Enzo’s well-being and safety.  Every time Enzo “does his business” in the house, Denny doesn’t hesitate to clean it up, and even goes out of his way to make a dog flap for him leading to the garden, showing his commitment and love for Enzo.  Finally, Denny, even though he thinks Enzo can’t understand, talks to him as if he were another human, which proves his powerful bond with Enzo as, not only an owner, but also a friend.

In addition, the AKC also states that a responsible dog owner should choose a dog suited to his or her lifestyle in order dog playing catchto  maintain the best relationship possible.  Just as Denny has to remain fit and athletic to maintain his career as a race car driver, Enzo is also very energetic and active.  This is illustrated by the fact that the two often take walks and play fetch together. Furthermore, possibly through his relationship with Denny, Enzo displays a strong interest in [watching] race car driving and watching TV, allowing the pair to bond more closely over common interests.

In conclusion, I think that Denny is the very image of a perfect dog owner, proven by his fulfillment of almost every responsibility stated by the AKC.

It’s Destiny…

dog think

One of the interesting aspects of  The Art of Racing in the Rain is that there are multiple themes that are all equally important and thought-provoking.  One of the most important ones is the idea that “which you manifest is before you”, which essentially means that you and you alone have control over your destiny.  This can apply to race car driving, because however you decide to turn at a bend can determine how well you perform in a race, which is one of the many connections Enzo makes.

I personally agree to this theme.  Of course your own actions determine how your life will play out.  If you decide not to do a homework assignment, of course you will fail it and lower your course mark.   If you decide to get a pet dog, of course you will have to take responsibility for it.  It goes without saying.

On the other hand, many people believe that their destinies are beyond their control as a result of outside forces.  For Choicesexample, a shareholder investing in a company has no idea how the investment will go, which depends on the company’s financial performance.  However, I think that it is one’s response or reaction to any difficulty that shapes their destiny.  Similar to how Albus Dumbledore believed that “It is our choices that show what we truly are” in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix,  I believe that the choice one makes about whether or not to accept their destiny can ultimately change it.  Let’s say that a person is heading out for an important job interview, and upon arriving, realizes that his interviewer is the person he made a bad impression on the day before.  In this situation, the person’s decision on how to act during the interview is very crucial: he can either give up and guarantee his rejection, or he can persevere and attempt to make a good impression, giving him a chance.

In conclusion, although I agree with the statement, “which you manifest is before you”, I think that it is your choices in the face of difficulties that truly shapes your destiny.

A Dog’s World

the-art-of-racing-in-the-rainThe novel I chose for my summative novel study, The Art of Racing in the Rain, grabbed my attention because of the fact that the story is narrated by a dog.  Though I was curious to explore an entirely new method of storytelling, I wasn’t really sure whether a story told by “man’s best friend” would be very reliable.  However, after reading through the book, I quickly realized that this kind of story told through the eyes of a dog is a genius idea.

As a result of hours spent watching TV, the narrator, Enzo, displays amazing deductive reasoning skills and human-like thought processes, allowing him to accurately analyze and reflect on his surroundings.  An interesting aspect about Enzo is that he frequently makes metaphorical connections between events in the story and race car driving, his owner’s passion, which is astonishing because, even as a dog, he possesses a philosophical thought process that rivals that of a regular human being.man and dog

Furthermore, the fact that Enzo is a dog means that he is isolated from many events that take place among his human friends, allowing him more time to observe rather than being involved in those events.  This is as opposed to human narrators, who, being humans, have more responsibilities in stories, allowing less time for observation.

Another aspect I like about Enzo is that, although he thinks like a human, he does sometimes succumb to his “dog-like” desires, such as playing fetch, which, though comic relief, is still interesting and funny.

The Queen of Mystery

Gertrude, Hamlet’s mother and the queen of Denmark, is one of the most mysterious characters in the play.  Did she marry Claudius because she loved him, or out of convenience?  Did she play a role in the murder of the late King Hamlet?  Does she truly love her son?  These questions can be answered numerous ways depending on how someone reads the play, but the truth still remains uncertain.

Throughout the play, Gertrude never expresses any sorrow for the loss of her late husband, but is shown expressing her love to her current husband, Claudius.  This may lead some people to believe that she did not love her former husband and did indeed play a role in his murder, however if this is the case, wouldn’t it be logical to think that she would be unloving towards her son as well? This, however, is not the case.  Gertrude has expressed her worry over Hamlet’s hamlet_gertrudecontinued sorrow for his father and later, his madness, showing that she does care about him.  Which is strange, considering that Hamlet is a living reminder of her past life with Hamlet Sr. , whom she supposedly didn’t love.  On the other hand, in act IV scene I, Gertrude reports the events that occurs in her room, including Hamlet’s murder of Polonius, to Claudius, showing her betrayal of her Hamlet and thrusting the question of whether or not she loves her son into uncertainty.  Due to the fact that she dies before Hamlet in the last scene of the play, the audience never gets to see her reaction to the death of her son, which may have shown her true feelings about him.

puzzledAnother factor in the play that makes Gertrude a mysterious character in the play is her unawareness.  In the last half of the play, Claudius makes several attempts on Hamlet’s life, which include using Laertes’ feeling of vengeance and using poisoned wine, all of which Gertrude is unaware of.  Had she been aware of this, she would have had to react in some way, revealing how she truly feels about Hamlet, however this was not the case.  Furthermore, Gertrude is unaware of how her former husband really died, which, if she had known, may have revealed how she actually felt about him. However as this was not the case, the question of whether she truly loved him or not is shrouded in mystery.

Action vs. Thought

Does action come before thought, or does thought come before action?  Naturally, most people would say that thought comes first because of the famous quote, “think before you act”.  These people have a point. It is smart to think about what you are doing first, instead of just rashly acting without a single thought and end up regretting it later. However, sometimes if you think before acting, you may start second guessing your actions and end up not acting at all, which you may also regret.

hamlet_prayTake Hamlet for example. Upon hearing the circumstances of his father’s death, Hamlet swears revenge against his uncle Claudius, the accused murderer. Hamlet devises several complicated plans to aid his revenge, including feigning madness and setting up a play reenacting his father’s death to prompt a guilty reaction from Claudius, and is often seen speaking thoughtfully about his predicament. However, despite the amount of thought he has put into this, Hamlet has not directly acted even once against Claudius.  The closest he has ever come to doing so is when he comes across Claudius praying, alone and defenseless.  Hamlet debates whether to kill him or not, but ultimately decides not to because of his reasoning that death in prayer means being sent to heaven, where Hamlet does not want him to go.  The fact that Hamlet doesn’t just kill him on the spot shows that he has put too much thought into his plans, leading him to second guess his actions.

Laertes, another major character, thinks oppositely of Hamlet, always acting before thinking. For example, upon hearing of his father’s death, Laertes, blaming the king, storms Elsinore Castle and threatens him, all the while not thinking of the consequences, which could include imprisonment, even execution. Later, after being informed of Hamlet as his father’s cause of death, Laertes immediately swears revenge against him, without taking the time to think about the circumstances.  Laertes’ tendency to act before thinking proves to be his downfall, which is illustrated in act V scene V. Here, Laertes and Hamlet fatally wound each other using a poisoned sword during a fencing match, and it is only after this that Laertes decides to think about his actions and forgive Hamlet.  Had he done this earlier, Laertes could have prevented the match from ever happening, saving the lives of at least four people.

You mad, Hamlet?

In the last scene of the first act of Hamlet, Hamlet declares that he will feign madness as part of his plan to investigate Claudius as the murderer of his late father.  Though the audience knows that Hamlet’s madness in subsequent scenes is fake, one cannot help but wonder if Hamlet has truly gone mad after all, as a result of his overwhelming feelings of hatred for his uncle and sorrow for his father.

ImageTake Act III, scene I for example.  Here, Hamlet walks into the hall while speaking thoughtfully and soon runs into Ophelia, who is under orders to return Hamlet’s letters of love.  Hamlet, however,  denies sending her anything and claims both to have loved her once, and never to have loved her at all.  He goes on to rant about how beauty can be deceiving and how he wishes to “have no more marriage[s]”, leaving Ophelia distraught and Claudius doubtful that Hamlet’s madness is caused by his love for Ophelia.

In this scene, the fact that Hamlet feigns his supposed madness has become uncertain, because I don’t think Hamlet has achieved anything by ranting at Ophelia.  Think about it.  Hamlet first decided to feign madness in order to draw suspicion away from his investigation of Claudius.  So how does this act against Ophelia help with his investigation?  Furthermore, by snapping at Ophelia, the woman whom Hamlet is supposedly in love with, Hamlet just drew even more attention to himself, impeding his investigation.  The point here is that this act does not help Hamlet in the slightest, proving that Hamlet may have actually succumbed to madness as a result of his emotions.