The Phantom in Contemporary American Fiction

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  • Title: The Phantom in Contemporary American Fiction: A Psychoanalytic Interpretation of Silent Presences for Three Characters
  • Author(s): Gail Shanley Corso
  • Publisher: Common Ground Research Networks
  • Collection: Common Ground Research Networks
  • Series: New Directions in the Humanities
  • Journal Title: The International Journal of Literary Humanities
  • Keywords: Phantom, Cryptonymy, Esther Rashkin, Family Secrets, J.D. Salinger, “The Catcher in the Rye,” Alice McDermott, “Child of My Heart,” Harper Lee, “Go Set a Watchman,” “To Kill a Mockingbird”
  • Volume: 15
  • Issue: 4
  • Year: 2017
  • ISSN: 2327-7912 (Print)
  • ISSN: 2327-8676 (Online)
  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.18848/2327-7912/CGP/v15i04/23-34
  • Citation: Corso, Gail Shanley. 2017. "The Phantom in Contemporary American Fiction: A Psychoanalytic Interpretation of Silent Presences for Three Characters." The International Journal of Literary Humanities 15 (4): 23-34. doi:10.18848/2327-7912/CGP/v15i04/23-34.
  • Extent: 12 pages

Abstract

Through cryptonymy, the phantom, as explained by Esther Rashkin’s theory for psychoanalytic analysis, is revealed. Symbols and silences for three first-person protagonists in four contemporary American novels are analyzed. Holden Caulfield in J. D. Salinger’s “The Catcher in the Rye,” Scout or Jean Louise Finch in Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird” and “Go Set a Watchman,” and Theresa in Alice McDermott’s “Child of My Heart” reveal their unresolved grief caused by trauma or loss of a loved one. Characters reveal their conflicted identities, their clash with family and cultural norms, and their consequent fallout from society, or ambivalence to it. Discourse and symbols in a text tangential to the movement of the plot reveal encrypted elements of the truth, often a deep family secret. Storytelling though in each story allows for hope that the narrator or protagonist heals.