What Is Intellectual Freedom? – Libraries & The Right To Read

Experiences, Thoughts

What is Intellectual Freedom? 

Every person has the right to unrestricted access to information from all viewpoints, both while seeking the information out and when receiving it. Intellectual freedom offers open access to all forms of expression so that all arguments for or against a cause or movement can be examined. Intellectual Freedom is important for every individual regardless of who they are. Our democratic system is built on the principle of intellectual freedom. 

We anticipate that our people will rule themselves. But in order to act properly, our populace must be informed. In a variety of formats, libraries offer people the concepts and data they need to educate themselves. The right to possess, receive, and transmit ideas is included in intellectual freedom.

Photo by Element5 Digital

It has been quite a while since I updated my blog here! But, there’s been many changes these past few months of 2022. Today is a great day for me to update things considering it’s about -30°F outside and I finally have a minute of time!

School has ended for me as I’ve just recently completed my degree program for Creative Writing & English. Wooh! Now to move on to other projects, tasks, and life things. 

I’ve always spent a lot of my free time in libraries and I can officially say that now I’m employed at one. It’s an honor and a great pleasure for me to work for and in one of the best libraries in the country.

It’s not just my personal opinion either – this library is an award-winning library and I’m ultra happy to be there.

Due to the nature of the subject, I, unfortunately, will not be revealing exactly where. Sorry to disappoint you! Just kidding. I’m not sorry. Don’t take it personal. 😉

Photo by Vincenzo Malagoli

Since I’ve been working in the library now, I’ve learned about Intellectual Freedom – which has always been important to me despite the fact that I initially didn’t know what it was called.

According to the American Library Association, 

“Intellectual freedom is the right of every individual to both seek and receive information from all points of view without restriction. It provides for free access to all expressions of ideas through which any and all sides of a question, cause or movement may be explored.”

I want to explain exactly what this means in a wonderfully creative and not-so-boring way. The account I’ll be sharing here was provided by Jamie LaRue, the current library director and the previous director of the ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom.

He frequently talks about the difficulties that today’s libraries face, the reasons behind these difficulties, and the function of the contemporary library.

Let’s Tell A Story

Scenario: A mother and son walk into the local library. They are browsing books and find many picture books in the kids section. The little boy picks up a book about dinosaurs and wants to check it out. 

The mother says no to the little boy and tells him he can’t read the book because dinosaurs were not in the Bible, and she only wants him to learn about things that are in the Bible. 

The mother refuses to check out the book for the child. She tells the library staff that she doesn’t want her son to have access to those kinds of books.

The next day, the child comes to the library alone. He goes right to the same section that he and his mother browsed the day before and picks up the book about dinosaurs.

He takes the book to the checkout and brings the book home. Shortly after, the mother arrives at the library with the son. 

The mother approaches the staff and says, “You knew I didn’t want him reading this. Why did you let him?”

The library staff explains to the woman that they are not allowed to dictate to the child what he chooses to read. This, my dear friends, is INTELLECTUAL FREEDOM. 

The mother is furious. She becomes enraged. She makes the boy return the book and she takes him home. 

The very next day, the same little boy comes back to the library. He finds the same book about the dinosaurs and sits down in a comfy spot and starts to read it.

The library staff look at each other and observe the boy. One librarian says, “Should we take the book from him?” And the other says, “Nope. Let him read it. It’s his right.” 

Photo by Mau00ebl BALLAND

Now this story might not be exactly the same way Mr. LaRue told it, but I’ve told it from my memory and the lesson still does suffice. Censorship is a large problem in libraries across the country and this problem continues to grow. 

In 1939 the American Library Association adopted Intellectual Freedom as part of the Library Bill of Rights.

YES, There is a Library Bill of Rights, and if you didn’t know that I hope you are just as shocked as I was when I found out and that you scream to the mountaintops about it now that you know! 

What is the Library Bill of Rights? 

The Library Bill of Rights is a statement issued by the American Library Association that expresses library users’ rights to intellectual freedom as well as the association’s expectations of libraries to respect those rights. To view, the Library Bill of Rights visit the ALA and click here: Library Bill of Rights | Advocacy, Legislation & Issues (ala.org)

The measure, first proposed in 1938 by library director Forrest Spaulding, was intended to speak out against “increasing intolerance, repression of free speech, and censorship harming the rights of minorities and individuals.”

Photo by Yan Krukov

The Library Bill of Rights is critically important to every American citizen because it is correlated to the freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment. 

Free and easy access to information is significantly aided by the provision of library services that are supported by public funds.

With the First Amendment being considered, one would think that Book Bans are not that serious – but in fact, they are.

Did you know that fairy tales in general are one of the most challenging genres for book bans and censorship? These older tales are being contested, as opposed to more recent and diverse works.

Some readers simply don’t enjoy works that contradict their own particular beliefs. They take action and work to have books banned and taken out of libraries if a book contradicts their own personal beliefs. To me, that is absolutely unacceptable. 

Here’s a question. Would you rather: 

A. Have your children study skills and gather information in a secure environment like a library?

B. Find out information alone and on the street?

For me, the answer is clear and simple. A. It will always be A. 

Why Are Fairy Tales Being Censored? Are Parents Really Attempting to Ban Fairy Tales? 

YES. They certainly are. And with the research and information by LaRue, I’ll tell you why. Do you remember the story of Little Red Riding Hood and the Big Bad Wolf?

Of course, you do – it’s a classic. In some variations of the story, the old grandmother drinks wine. Dun, dun, dun! Believe it or not – to some people this is “promoting alcoholism to children.” Granny must be an alcoholic! 

Painting by Gustave Dore

With all due respect, if a wolf just tried to eat me or disguise himself and try to eat my family member, I feel like more than a glass of wine is appropriate as a coping mechanism for such a drastic situation. LaRue touches on this subject in more depth in the Personal Values and Institutional Purpose: Intellectual Freedom Issues in 2022 video which can be viewed for free on YouTube. 

Real fairy tales are spooky and sinister, but that’s how they should be. Books create imaginative defenses against the ailments and threats of the outside world. We get stronger as readers. These trivial objections aim to downplay the book’s profound meaning. Whether or not someone else’s opinions or ideas align with our own personal beliefs, it is up to us, as readers and leaders, to resist censorship and constantly promote intellectual freedom!


To kind of sum up my feelings about classic fairy tales, I will say this. Real fairy tales are spooky and sinister, but that’s how they should be. Books create imaginative defenses against the ailments and threats of the outside world. We get stronger as readers.

These trivial objections aim to downplay the book’s profound meaning. Whether or not someone else’s opinions or ideas align with our own personal beliefs, it is up to us, as readers and leaders, to resist censorship and constantly promote intellectual freedom! 


We all lose when books are banned.

Important resources that would help students better comprehend themselves and the world around them are inaccessible to them. If parents don’t pay attention, they could miss out on important teaching moments with their children. And communities miss out on a chance to grow and develop mutual appreciation and understanding.

Although attempts to censor books are nothing new, 2021 saw more of them than any year in the more than two decades since the American Library Association began keeping records.


Keep yourself informed. Stay informed on what is going on in the municipal councils, school boards, and library boards in your area as well as the state legislature in where you serve.

Send your mayor, state and federal legislators, and senators letters explaining your perspective and asking them to support your position. Attend the board meetings of the schools and libraries in your area.

 If you’ve enjoyed this post let me know in the comments. If you have any questions or suggestions on future topics you’d like to see me write about let me know! Thanks for stopping by. #READBANNEDBOOKS 

To learn more about how YOU can fight for your RIGHT TO READ visit www.uniteagainstbookbans.org

By the way, check out this really awesome beanie I designed 🙂 READ BANNED BOOKS Embroidered Beanie by Bookages – Etsy 


A Smattering Selection of Lexical Analyses on Edgar Allan Poe & H.P. Lovecraft

Fiction Writing, Literature Reviews, Psychology
Photo credit: MCrassus Art

Note: If you are a student, I don’t mind if you reference my work. Just cite your sources. It’s too easy to NOT cite sources. Purdue has this amazing tool that you can use to copy and paste links, and automatically generate MLA (and other) formats for your source. Research and Citation Generator Purdue Owl

Lovecraft and Poe are two of the most well-known horror authors of all time. The two chosen pieces in this essay are classic examples of horror-themed literature. “Memory” by Lovecraft and “The Tell-Tale Heart” by Poe, each makes excellent use of various linguistic branches. Within the essay, you will uncover exactly how these authors mastered linguistic techniques such as syntax, semantics, morphology, and phonetics. Starting with Lovecraft’s Memory, it’s important to point out that he was directly influenced by Poe himself. Additionally, “Memory” by H.P. Lovecraft and “The Tell-Tale Heart” by Edgar Allen Poe were published eighty years apart. American horror and science fiction author H. P. Lovecraft wrote “Memory” as a flash fiction short story in 1919, and it was published in May 1923 in The National Amateur. Unfamiliar with contemporary living, a genie and a demon question one another about societal developments in this short story. The narrative is about a demon’s ignorance of its past and shows how the current world disregards its own cultural history. Lovecraft’s story is brilliantly detailed. He didn’t extend the story, kept it short, and ended it on a quiet note, giving the audience time to absorb such a meaningful tale.

Photo credit: Beyond Easy

An example of phonetics is how the letter “b” in the word “moonbeam” is spoken – you start out with your lips together.  Here’s an example from “Memory” by H.P. Lovecraft. “The Genie that haunts the moonbeams spake to the Daemon of the Valley…” (Lovecraft, 1923) When speaking aloud, pushing your lips together causes the “b”, sound to emerge. The vocal cords vibrate and generate noise as a result of the air being pumped over them from your lungs. Your lips then split abruptly, letting the air out, creating a “b” sound. This is a simple example of phonological techniques within H.P. Lovecraft’s memory in comparison to his other works, such as the story of Cthulhu. H. P. Lovecraft frequently uses the adjectives “obscene” and “blasphemous” throughout his body of work to express a sense that something is the subject of revulsion or that it is in some way debased. “B” sounds are often found in his work and the word blasphemous or blasphemy has been discovered within his works almost 100 times making this a major phonetic example in his writing (Ruth). 

Photo credit: Andrew Mar

Moving on to Poe, “The Tell-Tale Heart” is a short story that was first published in 1843. In this work, the unnamed narrator of the tale attempts to persuade the reader of the narrator’s sanity. In doing so, he simultaneously narrates a murder that he has committed. “The Tell-Tale Heart” appears in the gothic and horror fiction categories. The narrator freely boasts about his intelligence and his cunning behavior. He insists that he is not mentally ill. He chooses to murder the elderly man despite his affection for him. Regardless of the fact that he has no malice toward the elderly man, for no apparent reason he resolves to kill him. Many examples within this story feature grammatical, syntactical, and morphological elements. “True! — nervous — very, very dreadfully nervous I had been and am; but why will you say that I am mad?” (Poe).

Edgar Allan Poe Canvas Print
by Leah Saulnier The Painting Maniac

In linguistics, morphology is the study of how words are put together. For example, the word dreadfully is put together from three parts: dread, ful, and ly. Morphemes such as dreadful are used in Poe’s work to enhance the drama and suspense of the story. His ability to select the ideal word to express semantic intent provides morphological awareness in addition to fluency when choosing specific words for dramatic effect. The use of the chosen words found throughout each of these works relates to morphological and phonological concepts. The other author noted here, H.P. Lovecraft, is notorious for the use of his phonological techniques, particularly with the story of Cthulhu. Edgar Allen Poe may be considered more of a morpheme genius who utilizes repetition and specific word usage in his poems to get the idea of morphological words across, whether people are aware he is doing it or not. The below example shows morphemes within, “cautiously” as well as the repetition of the word; thus creating a poetic and dramatic suspense effect in writing. “And then, when my head was well in the room, I undid the lantern cautiously — oh, so cautiously — cautiously (for the hinges creaked) — I undid it just so much that a single thin ray fell upon the vulture eye.” 

Great writers employ a multitude of literary devices, branches, and techniques. Personification is one technique that writers use to capture the attention of their audiences. “Death, in approaching him had stalked with his black shadow”, (Poe). The semantics used by these two authors and writers have a great effect on readers. “In the valley of Nis the accursed waning moon shines thinly, tearing a path for its light with feeble horns through the lethal foliage of a great upas-tree” (Lovecraft).  We know very well that death may not physically approach us as if it walking towards us. We also know that the moon cannot tear a path, unless its crescent tips are described metaphorically. Both writers used various techniques for semantics. Such techniques are found in Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart” and H.P. Lovecraft’s “Memory”. Both are written in a fashion that allows them to be candidates for the subject of linguistic analysis.

Photo by IrenHorrors

Analysis of language, words, and stylistic elements are easily reviewed when examining the works of Lovecraft and Poe. Semantics connect language structures to non-linguistic concepts and mental models to explain how native speakers understand sentences. The use of registers in the language is also critical in terms of linguistic analysis. According to Linguistics for Everyone: An Introduction., a register is a “manner of speaking or writing style adopted for a particular audience (e.g., formal versus informal)”. There are several registers that we either consciously or unconsciously switch between each day depending on the nature of conversation or writing. Register types may include formal, frozen, intimate, casual, and consultative. “Every language in the world has five registers, or levels of formality: frozen, formal, consultative, casual, and intimate, according to Dutch linguist Martin Joos” (Language Registers OEYC).  At the formal and consultative levels, both require careful word choice and sentence structure. The register that Lovecraft and Poe primarily write in is formal, although the register may change within stories. An example from “Memory” is, “These beings were like the waters of the river Than, not to be understood. Their deeds I recall not, for they were but of the moment” (Lovecraft). This excerpt displays formal language usage. “Deeds that may not be recalled” are formal when compared to “actions that can’t be remembered”. This register appeals to the audience of Lovecraft who is composed of writers, readers, and horror and science lovers. The specific language choice by Lovecraft creates a conspicuous effect. 

Photo credit: IrenHorrors

In Poe’s work, the narrative comes off as less formal, and more descriptive. “Oh, you would have laughed to see how cunningly I thrust it in! I moved it slowly — very, very slowly so that I might not disturb the old man’s sleep” (Poe). The narrative confession of “The Tell-Tale Heart”, is created to sound as if the protagonist is speaking to a friend.  There are several instances of figurative language, repetition, and patterns, in Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart” that help inform the reader of the meaning behind the story. Hyperbole and specific syntax are employed to highlight the tension and paranoia the narrator is experiencing. The narrative structure and word arrangement are employed to justify the actions the narrator performs against the man. Another important signal is the unceasing heartbeat, which alludes to the sound of the narrator’s inner conscience or anxiety creating a pattern of suspense and repetition. Poe uses several terms repeatedly for emphasis throughout this short narrative, including louder and louder, very, very, and uneasy. There are numerous instances of the term “mad” used. These linguistic examples inspired H.P. Lovecraft’s future literary acknowledgments. 

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The word selections in “Memory”, by Lovecraft, are examples of linguistics that help readers understand the meaning of the story. “Daemon of the Valley”, a Lovecraft character, is one example. The spelling of Daemon was used instead of the modern American English dialect: demon. According to Etymology Online, the spelling and usage of the word “daemon” originated around c. 1200 and stemmed from the Latin version, “daemon” which meant “spirit,” and was translated from Greek “daimōn”. Lovecraft’s “Memory”, was initially published in 1919. By this time, the word “demon” was already in use in language and texts, indicating this choice of spelling was deliberate. Lovecraft’s choice of using “Daemon” instead of “Demon” for his character, “Daemon of the Valley” stems from the style of his writing which contains elements of Latin. Lovecraft was known to play with words and would later go on to create a fictional language. He was familiar with Latin and French despite American English being his primary dialect. The choice to use “daemon” gives the work a more ancient and mysterious quality, corresponding directly to the linguistics of his literature and the overall feel he presented to his audience through his writing. The overall style of each short horror tale by these authors adds suspense, drama, and beautifully demonstrated literary devices that convey the messages of each story to their respective audiences. 

When Poe utilizes repetition, he indeed makes the narrator look more and more insane throughout the passage. His lack of punctuation and instances of improper grammar also adds to the suspense of the story. In Lovecraft’s short horror story, his style, use of semantics, and register dramatize the tale. “Memory” was a reference and metaphor describing the ancient earth. The chaotic ancient planet indicates the presence of congestion in the contemporary world. These techniques and linguistic styles are what truly made these stories worth studying and worthy of reminiscing old gothic horror literature. Memory” features very specific word choices and grammar in a nonstandard way. What is standard about Lovecraft’s linguistic ability is the simple fact that he is deviant with his writing. The words “sooth” and “spake” are found in the story, both of which by modern definition are considered “archaic” forms of “truth”, and“spoke/speak”. “For all time did their builders erect them, and in sooth they yet serve nobly, for beneath them the grey toad makes his habitation.”

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The writing is poetic, full of imagery, and anything but basic. His grammar has subtle hints of the past. This sentence for example; “Their aspect I recall dimly, for it was like to that of the little apes in the trees” (Lovecraft). There is an inappropriate use of “to” within the former sentence according to modern American English grammar.  Despite dozens of missing commas, it’s still easy to redirect analysis to grammar instead of punctuation within, “The Tell-Tale Heart”, by Poe. An example of grammatical error in this classic piece can be found here, “Yes, he has been trying to comfort himself with these suppositions: but he had found all in vain. All in vain; because Death, in approaching him had stalked with his black shadow before him, and enveloped the victim.” The underlined portion of the sentence shows improper grammar. When referring to “suppositions” of the narrator, “all in vain”, would appear proper, or standard if “of it” or “of them”, had been included in the sentence. Yet, in using repetition perhaps Poe excused himself politely from following grammar and punctuation rules for the sake of toying with syntax and semantics – which may be useful if you’re one of the greatest suspense writers of all time. 

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Poe’s writing style may be extremely infuriating (to some), despite the fact that we admire his precision and his densely packed, elegantly phrased, yet oddly harsh lines; each of which is subject to a lengthy discussion. There are no dialogues in the ever-famous “The Tell-Tale Heart”, and it reads more like a confession than a conversation. The old man’s vulture eye, a sign of the narrator’s conflict between his mind and heart, is one of the most crucial emblems. Poe’s use of language may hinder the original text due to the fact that the syntax utilized in the era he wrote is far less common now. Because our culture has become considerably less formal in regards to communication over the course of these years, our syntax has altered a great deal as a result of this shift to contemporary English. By analyzing an excerpt from “The Tell-Tale Heart”, it is evident that a dramatic shift in word use and placement within writing has transformed over the last few centuries since, “The Tell-Tale Heart”, was originally published. The following example will reveal such evidence. 

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Excerpt: II. 7-15, by Edgar Allan Poe: “It is impossible to say how first the idea entered my brain; but once conceived, it haunted me day and night. Object there was none. Passion there was none. I loved the old man. He had never wronged me. He had never given me insult. For his gold I had no desire. I think it was his eye! yes, it was this! One of his eyes resembled that of a vulture — a pale blue eye, with a film over it. Whenever it fell upon me, my blood ran cold; and so, by degrees — very gradually — I made up my mind to take the life of the old man, and thus rid myself of the eye forever (Poe). 

Here is a rewritten excerpt suited for contemporary audiences. “I’m not quite sure how I first came up with the idea, but once I did, the thought haunted me day and night. There was no objection, no passion. It’s true, I did love the old man. He had never done me wrong. He never insulted me at all. He had money sure, but I never had a desire for that. I think, it was his eye. Yes, it had to be his eye… His eye was bright and blue, with a strange film over it. His eye looked just like a vulture’s eye. Whenever he looked at me, I felt sick. So, over time I decided to kill him. If I could kill him, I’d never have to look at that eye again.”

Photo credit: Welchtoons

The first change was to rewrite the excerpt in a modern form of American English. Poe was a notorious Gothic literature writer. His form and style of writing focused primarily on tone, figurative language, punctuation, and sentence structure (which I’ve now rearranged.) Poe’s tendency to add suspense is expressed through the use of specific punctuation. There are many dashes and choppy sentences. The rewritten version has full sentences yet the idea of the excerpt is still comprehended the same. Instead of a dash, quotations like so “…” are utilized. These quotations are more common in this era in terms of written communication. The largest change is the syntax of the excerpt. The tone is quite similar even though the sentences rewritten sentences have more fluidity. Despite the changes, the overall theme remains – horror. The semantics are fairly unchanged in the updated version. To better suit the present audience, specific changes were considered for the passage. We do not generally say “by degrees” nowadays, so the sentence is reworded with similar words or a synonym phrase to say, “So, over time”.

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The horrific elements that made Poe famous are evident in “The Tell-Tale Heart,” which was first printed in 1843 in The Pioneer (Britannica). Poe participated in the 19th-century American gothic literary movement, which rose to prominence at the same time as Romanticism. American gothic literature addressed the human experience via irrationality, lunacy, tragedy, and otherworldly horror in contrast to Romanticism, which placed an emphasis on the individual’s power and the magnificent reality of nature (Hume). The barrier between fiction and actuality is frequently blurred by the presence of characters who are afflicted with melancholy, madness, and obsession.

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Lovecraft’s use of language in the narrative, “Memory”, may also be viewed by some as difficult to understand due to the nature of the words and syntax being used. In this short quote from “Memory”, we can observe how much language has changed since the narrative was originally written in 1919. “Vast are the stones which sleep beneath coverlets of dank moss, and mighty were the walls from which they fell. For all time did their builders erect them, and in sooth they yet serve nobly, for beneath them the grey toad makes his habitation” (Lovecraft).  If this were reworded to modern syntax it might say, “Many stones rest underneath a bed of damp moss. The stones fell from the walls that long ago, were mighty. The walls were built to last, but now have become the home of the small gray toad.”

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In comparison to the worlds Poe and Lovecraft are from, ours is vastly different. In contemporary literature, there is now an ever-expanding body of past writings by authors from all walks of life that has made American literature more complex and inclusive than it was at the beginning of the twenty-first century (Britannica). With the sheer differences in word use, syntax, tone, and structure there is clear evidence of how historical and cultural influences have made their mark on the way we write, read, and communicate today. 

Works Cited

Ganguly, Rohit. “Memory by HP Lovecraft.” Wordbred, 26 Sept. 2017, https://wordbred.com/reviews/memory-by-hp-lovecraft/ 

Master List of Morphemes Suffixes, Prefixes, Roots Suffix Meaning … https://www.fldoe.org/core/fileparse.php/16294/urlt/morphemeML.pdf 

“Memory” by H. P. Lovecraft, https://www.hplovecraft.com/writings/texts/fiction/m.aspx 

A Narrative Discourse Analysis of Poe’s Short Story The Tell … – Eric. https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ1239146.pdf  . 

Denham, Kristin E., and Anne C. Lobeck. Linguistics for Everyone: An Introduction. Wadsworth Cengage Learning, 2013.

Zakyoung. “The Tell-Tale Heart.” The Poe Museum, 28 Dec. 2021, https://poemuseum.org/the-tell-tale-heart/

 “[PDF] Language Registers OEYC .” [PDF] Language Registers OEYC, https://nanopdf.com/download/language-registers-oeyc_pdf

 “Daemon (n.).” Etymology, https://www.etymonline.com/word/daemon

“Sooth (n.).” Etymology, https://www.etymonline.com/word/sooth

“Spake.” Etymology, https://www.etymonline.com/word/spake#etymonline_v_48957

“The Tell-Tale Heart.” The Poe Museum, 28 Dec. 2021, https://poemuseum.org/the-tell-tale-heart/

“The Tell-Tale Heart | Story by Poe.” Encyclopedia Britannica, http://www.britannica.com, https://www.britannica.com/topic/The-Tell-Tale-Heart.  Accessed 27 July 2022. 

Hume, Robert D. “Gothic Versus Romantic: A Revaluation of The Gothic Novel.” PMLA/Publications of the Modern Language Association of America, vol. 84, no. 2, 1969, pp. 282–290., doi:10.2307/1261285    

“Periods of American Literature | Britannica.” Encyclopedia Britannicahttp://www.britannica.com, https://www.britannica.com/list/periods-of-american-literature.  Accessed 27 July 2022. 

X, Ruth. “It’s Not Squamous. the 10 Words H.P. Lovecraft Used Most Often.” Tor.com, 6 Mar. 2015 https://www.tor.com/2015/02/16/its-not-squamous-the-10-words-hp-lovecraft-used-most-often/

Sophie’s Advocate: A Short Story for the Ages

Fiction Writing, Short Stories

This is a short story that was written sometime at the beginning of 2022. This is my first self-published fictional short story. It features elements of contemporary and political issues regarding women and teenage pregnancy. Take of it what you will. How the story ends is entirely up to you.

A strand of black hair fell in front of Sophie’s face as she sat in the bathroom silently crying. She was already running late for school. As she cried in the bathroom in complete stillness, her little sister Sasha knocked on the door.

Sophie knew she needed to get out of the bathroom and quickly dried her tears. Her mom shouted from the hallway and told her to open up because Sasha had to brush her teeth. It was 7:13 am on a crisp fall morning in Boston. Sophie opened the door and let Sasha in. Sophie picked up her little sister and embraced her with a huge hug. Her thoughts were running 1000 miles per minute as she set Sasha back down.

She coaxed Sasha over to the sink to help her brush her teeth. “Soapy?” little Sasha asks, “What’s that?”, as she pointed to the tiny pink pregnancy test on the counter. 

 Soapy was Sophie’s nickname since Sasha learned how to talk. She could never pronounce “Sophie”, so as a toddler she resorted to Soapy. Ever since then, it stuck. It’s like when Sophie was little and her mother laughed when she called chocolate milk “cawlet milk”. Sophie quickly snatched the test up and put it in the back pocket of her blue jeans.

 “It’s nothing, Sasha. Here, put some toothpaste on your brush.”

Sophie squeezed the toothpaste onto her sister’s toothbrush and made a fart noise. Sasha burst into laughter and Sophie smiled at her, satisfied that she distracted Sasha from the pregnancy test. Sophie turned on the water and rushed out of the bathroom. She told her mom she was leaving for school, grabbed her backpack, and ran out the door.  

Sophie ran down the gray, cold cement steps of the red brick two-flat condo. The smell of fall leaves on the ground swirled into Sophie’s nose. The thought of her dad crossed her mind. She wondered what he would think of her being pregnant if he was still around and didn’t abandon her, her mom, and Sasha. Slinging her blue backpack over her shoulder she ran toward the bus stop. She looked behind her and saw that the bus was nearby and catching up quickly. In unison, she and the bus raced to the bus stop on Massachusetts Avenue, side by side.

Catching her breath as the doors swung open violently, she got on the bus, waved her bus card, and plopped down onto a seat near the back of the bus. As she sat down, the pregnancy test in the back pocket of her jeans pushed itself into her as a reminder that it was still there. Her heart pounded and beads of sweat dripped down her neck.  She thought of what she would tell Russ.

Worried about how it might affect their relationship, Sophie realized how much she loved him. Sophie loved Russ more than anything. They had been together for three years. She envisioned holding a newborn and the idea of giving birth at the age of 17. As her thoughts scrambled, an elderly man got on the bus and sat in the handicapped seat. He pulled out a newspaper from his inside coat pocket and a bag of cocaine from the other. Sophie was amused at the sight and laughed quietly to herself waiting for the bus driver to notice. The man dipped a penny into his bag and held it to his nose. His clothes were raggedy and she could smell him from across the bus.

The bus sped over a pothole and the old man hollered, “Come on, man! Don’t you know how to fucking drive? Damn these potholes!”

The bus driver had surely upset him now for making him spill. “I’m not sure who you’re getting loud with. Yell at me again, and you can walk the rest of the way.”

The old man got up from his seat and he slipped the tiny bag into his pocket. Hobbling over to the bus driver he started banging on the dashboard.

“That’s it! You’re off!”, the bus driver yelled.

He stopped the bus and stood up appearing much taller than the old man.

“This is bullshit! It’s freezing out there this morning!”, the old man yelled and cursed the bus driver’s name all the way off the bus and down the cold pavement. This caused Sophie to arrive at school even later. 

Sophie continued to daydream about lunchtime because she knew she’d see Russ in the cafeteria. She slouched at her desk and stared out the window, unable to focus. Chewing gum helped her with her anxiety, but it was not allowed. Her English teacher always made sure to give Sophie a hard time about it. Sophie chewed away relentlessly. She suddenly felt the heat of a million eyes staring at her. The entire class was silent.

“Sophie?!” her teacher exclaimed.

Her head snapped right into the direction of Ms. McCauley.

“Huh?”, said Sophie. “You’re chewing gum again. You know it isn’t allowed,” Ms. McCauley said.

Sophie’s eyes squinted and her brows pushed together in the middle of her forehead as if they were trying to touch each other.

Sophie yelled back, “UGH! I’m not hurting anyone.”

 Sophie, you can go to the office and claim your detention slip, Ms. McCauley said.

Sophie got out of her seat, scooting her chair back so loud that it screeched on the floor. She purposely wanted to disrupt the class for disrupting her daydreams.

Slamming the old wooden door on her way out she heard Ms. McCauley’s voice echoing down the hall.

“Shakespeare’s plays can be divided up into different categories: Comedies, histories, and tragedies.” Sophie heard the words; Comedies, histories, and tragedies. If my life were a play it must be a tragedy, she thought to herself. 

She sat in the office waiting to schedule her detention while still chewing her gum when she saw Mr. Tuffin, the school social worker. Peering through the glass window of the main office door she spotted him instantly. His hair was silver and white making him look as cold as ice, which Sophie always thought was ironic considering he was the opposite.

His blue plaid button-down shirt was part of an unwritten dress code that all the staff his age also wore. Mr. Tuffin used his hands when he talked. His ring finger had a gold band and his hands looked as wrinkled as laundry that hadn’t been folded for days. He was talking to the sophomore science teacher. Mr. Tuffin was the only person who truly was able to see the good in Sophie. They met when she went to peer-mediation for a fight she got into with another girl on the first day of freshman year. He spotted her sitting in the office.

Ending the conversation with his colleague he came into the office where Sophie was sitting.

“By the looks of it, you’re not excited to be here, huh? What happened?” he asked her. 

“I was chewing gum”, she said, as a giant bubble formed on her lips and popped carelessly.

“A classic Sophie Seskas move! Nice,” he exclaimed. He was always cheerful and tried to find humor in everything.

“You know the rules,” he said. “Yeah, yeah. And you know more” she hinted.

“Soph, you’re a good kid. You shouldn’t be in trouble so often. I know things have been rough since your dad left, but you’re smarter than that.” he told her. 

She looked at him like a puppy looks at its owner after having an accident in the house. She knew he was right. Mr. Tuffin said she was just a diamond in the rough. Chewing gum was the least of her worries now. She didn’t care about detention or her dad. She wanted to speak to the Dean and head to lunch so she could see Russ. Besides that, she really could use a cigarette, or maybe a joint.

After getting her detention slip from the Dean to bring home to her mom to sign, she finally got to the cafeteria. Russ was standing near a corner of the lunchroom with a group of friends. Dressed in hoodies and sweatpants of all colors of the rainbow they resembled a living canvas of spilled paint. She managed to get Russ alone. 

 He was much taller than her, and his eyes were the color of dark chocolate. His hair was long and brown and flowed naturally like a river. His olive skin was opposite to hers, and she liked that about him.

“Sophie, relax,” he assured her. “Russ! How can I?” she said with tears in her eyes. She looked around at the other kids in the cafeteria. The smell of burgers made her want to throw up. She hoped nobody would notice her crying.

“This is serious,” she said.

“Maybe it’s a false positive,” he assured her. 

“Maybe that’s a false hope.” She mimicked him.

“What are we going to do?” she asked. Russ was shocked by the news and could tell that Sophie was more than upset.

In a reassuring tone, he told her, “We will figure it out together. Meet me by the tree after class.”

The tree was their spot. It was where they always hung out after school. A giant oak stood tall on the lawn near the track and football fields. She anticipated the last bell’s ring more anxious than a child on Christmas morning.

 After school, they smoked under the tree.

“Did you tell anyone, Russ?” Sophie asked him as the smoke blew out of her mouth.

“No… Well, I told Johnnie,” his voice cracked. Her eyes widened.

“You shouldn’t have told anyone yet! Damn it”, she kicked the tree.

“Everyone will find out sooner or later anyway if we decide to keep it” Russ told her. They stayed near the tree for hours as they contemplated what to do. They stayed near the tree until the stars came out despite the cold winds of autumn.

 Sophie strolled home after dark. Her mom waited up for her.

“Anything you want to tell me?” her mother asked quietly so as to not wake Sasha.

Sophie closed the door softly behind her. Her mother, Maria, gave her the look of death with green eyes that pierced her like the sting of a bullet. Her mother looked just like her, only older, wiser, and a little more stout. Maria knew that Sophie was acting out due to her dad leaving them. She tried to go easy on Sophie when she could, but Sophie’s behavior was impossible to manage at times. Maria missed the days when Sophie was still innocent and ignorant of the evil and heartbreak of the world. 

“Mrs. Bernardi called tonight,” Maria announced. Sophie’s heartbeat thundered in her chest. She knew Johnnie told his mom. Johnnie Bernardi was the biggest snitch and unfortunately, best friends with Russ.

“Asshole” Sophie mumbled under her breath, “Hell, of course, she did!”

The next day Maria and Russ’s mom, Angelica, spoke on the phone and decided that Sophie would get an abortion.

“They are simply too young. This can’t happen,” said Mrs. Angelica Jones.

Russ’s mom also wasn’t fond of Sophie. Sophie felt confused, alone, and unsure of what to think or do. What would happen to her if she had an abortion? She wondered if it would kill her. Would it damage her insides? How could she go through with it? There was a baby inside of her. It was her and Russ’s baby. There was no way she could go through with it. Maria and Angelica scheduled Sophie’s appointment as soon as they found out.

On the morning of the procedure, she didn’t bother to style her hair or put on makeup. It’s not like she had any reason to be glamorous. She was nervous and shaking the entire car ride to the clinic. When she and her mom pulled up there was a large group of people standing outside on the sidewalk just near the entrance. They dressed in bright orange vests and were carrying large signs; the enormous signs that you only see at a protest. The signs had blood-red paint which Sophie thought was used as symbolism.

Crosses were painted on the signboards, and the group chanted about how abortion is murder. God will give you hope. God will give you strength. Don’t kill your baby. It’s an innocent child. They shouted. They weren’t new to what they were doing. They must have rehearsed more than a cheer squad getting ready for finals.

“MURDERER!” they screamed at her.

They spewed hatred and verses from their bibles as she went into the clinic, not even 18 years old, with her very embarrassed mother by her side. Sophie and her mother said nothing. The air was filled with such a strong silence that it consumed them entirely.

 Sophie had a decision to make. She considered the words of the women outside, even though they seemed like religious nut freaks. She thought of Russ and his dark chocolate eyes and his olive skin. She wondered how the baby would look. She felt it inside of her. Sophie was not ready to part. She thought of what the baby’s nose would be like. Would it be wide or upturned? Would the baby be a boy? A girl? Sophie wondered. 


Her mother called her to the desk where she was filling out paperwork.

“You need to sign this. You need to consent to the procedure.” 

 She couldn’t look her mother in the eye. She took the pen. As she lifted the pen, she imagined running out of the clinic and the protestors cheering her on. They would shout for her. Those protesters would celebrate for her. They’d celebrate as if Sophie had just crossed the finish line of the Boston Marathon. The applause was so loud now in Sophie’s mind. Her hand trembled as she held the pen. She reminded herself of who she was and how much she’d endured in her life so far.

Sophie realized that this decision was solely up to her; and was one only she could make. The only one who could truly advocate for her in this world was herself. 

If you were Sophie – what would you do? This story was written with the intention of sharing a fictional point of view of a direct inside look at millions of stories just like these. While fictional, this story has many truthful elements that take place not just in the USA but across the world.

Teenage pregnancy and abortion will forever be debatable and controversial issues that people may in fact never agree on. What I hope readers take from this story is the fact that we all make our own choices. While the choices we make might not be agreeable to some – it is best to remember that the choices we make must be ones that benefit our own lives regardless of what other people may think. Life is short and pretty wild. Be careful, stay safe, and be smart.

A Glimpse of Nature and Paganism in Medieval Poetry


Recently, I found myself wandering around the pages of one of my textbooks. I stumbled upon the poem, The Wanderer.

The Wanderer is a beautiful and ancient poem that details the themes of grief, acceptance, and struggle. Indecisiveness, lament, nature, and paganism also make a strong appearance in the poem. The poets of the Middle Ages were skilled at writing and creating poems and verses that were impactful without having to overshare details or overuse words. This technique is found in The Wanderer, making it a perfect piece of medieval literature to examine and analyze. The version of the poem that I specifically refer to in this article is from the Norton Anthology of English Literature. Tenth edition.

The Wanderer in the Exeter Book manuscript

    The Wanderer falls into the genre of elegy and is expressed by lament. These literary devices were common in Germanic-inspired Anglo-Saxon poems. “The lament of The Wanderer is an excellent example of the elegiac mood..” (Greenblatt, 2018). Readers of this poem are able to recognize lament and elegiac tones throughout The Wanderer, and also in other epic poems, such as Beowulf (Greenblatt, 2018).  

    After analyzing The Wanderer it was exciting to see many elements of mythology, paganism, nature, and religion all combined. Throughout the poem, the tone remains somber and reminiscent. As “the wanderer” recalls memories; nature, elegy, and paganism are found throughout. What is striking is the similarity of this poem to the concept of Ragnarok found in Norse Mythology. This is a personal theory of mine after the examination of the poem and of Norse myth. The connection to Ragnarok seems evident as Ragnarok was said to have been the end of days for men and the gods. The connection between The Wanderer, Ragnarok, and nature and paganism are intertwined tightly within the poem’s verses. The Wanderer describes elements of death, mentions nature, and appears to be struggling overall with the concept of death, as well as the concept of leaving his pagan ways behind him which is a symbol of elegy. Lament and elegy within The Wanderer include the death of family, friends, traditions, humankind, and personal beliefs. 

    Based on personal analysis there appears to be a direct link between The Wanderer and the Germanic god Odin. Though there are several examples, line 80 of The Wanderer shows the connection well: 

“Battle took some, bore them away; a bird carried on above the high waves; the gray wolf took another, divided him with death; dreary spirited an eorl buried in an earthen pit. “Mankind’s Creator laid waste this middle-earth..” (Lines 80-85) 

“Odin the Wanderer” (1886) by Georg von Rosen

The mention of battle resembles Odin, due to Odin depicted as god of war. Associated with ravens and Valkyries; the bird carrying the spirits on high waves could be a symbol for the ravens or Valkyries which Odin is deeply connected with. Mention of “the gray wolf”, as personal theory, is symbolic of Fenrir, who is one of the direct causes of Ragnarok in Norse myth. The gray wolf taking “another” represents death. As Larrington mentions in her Poetic Edda translation, Fenrir is who takes Odin down. Another tale of Norse myth is The Binding of Fenrir which is a widely popular story that explains why and how Fenrir contributes to Ragnarok or the end of the world. 

Prior to Ragnarok taking place, the Norse myths say that a great winter would take place and would last for several years (Fimbulwinter/Fimbulvetr). The last bit of The Wanderer, specifically in lines 95-115, mention the darkness, the cold, and the winter that is symbolic of an end of ways and days, such as Ragnarok. The world serpent in Nordic myth also plays a key role in Ragnarok and line 97 of The Wanderer poem references only walls being left that have serpents on them. This is a foreshadowing of Ragnarok thus demonstrating heavily pagan viewpoints in The Wanderer. By the end of line 115, paganism has vanished, a new world or kingdom is born, and “middle earth” is no longer mentioned. The Wanderer appears to have let go of his traditions, and has accepted the “Father in Heaven” who has a “fortress for all”. 

Portion of The Ragnarök Frieze (Freyr, Gullinbursti, Skadi) by Herman Ernst Freund Germanic Mythology

Odin is present in this poem as well as Christ. Mention of Germanic customs, traditions, gods, and nature are therefore common themes in The Wanderer. Odin himself was a wanderer. Several stanzas found in the Wanderer highly reflect viewpoints in The Havamal, also called “The Sayings of the High One”, or “The Words of Odin”. (See lines 65-72 of The Wanderer). The resemblance to Larrington’s translation of The Havamal is nearly identical thus reflecting the paganism and nature found in The Wanderer. What is truly fascinating regarding that is The Wanderer poem pre-dates the Eddas and Havamal by several hundred years.

Stanza 6 and 7 in Carolyne Larrington’s Havamal translation directly relate to Lines 65-72 of The Wanderer. 

“About his intelligence, no man should be boastful,/rather cautious of mind;/when a wise and silent man comes to a homestead/blame seldom befalls the wary;/ for no more dependable friend can a man ever get/than a store of common sense” (Sayings of the High One, Stanza 6, Larrington, 2014). 

“The careful guest, who comes to a meal,/keeps silent, with hearing finely attuned;’ he listens with his ears, / and looks about with his eyes; / so every wise man spies out what’s ahead (Sayings of the High One, Stanza 7, Larrington, 2014). 

Identifying similarities in The Wanderer can be done by examining lines 62-72. 

“… So this middle-earth / from day to day dwindles and fails; /, therefore, no one is wise without his share of winters / in the world’s kingdom. / A wise man must be patient, / not too hot of heart nor hasty of speech, / not reluctant to fight nor too reckless, / not too timid nor too glad, not too greedy, and never eager to commit until he can be sure. / A man should hold back his boast until / that time has come when he truly knows / to direct his heart on the right path” (Greenblatt, 2018). 

The resemblances stood out instantly based on new examination and previous analyses of each text. The ideas mentioned in each ancient poem reflect Germanic pagan viewpoints which did often include nature. 

The little bit of this poem has so many symbols and devices that one could write a book on how paganism and nature around without. The examples above are only from a small analysis and prior readings that led to the connection of the sources used. For people in the middle ages, life was hard for plenty of reasons. It is important to not overlook the conflicting feelings of religion among the ancient people, as well as the importance of nature and old sayings full of wisdom.  


Greenblatt, Stephen, et al. The Norton Anthology of English Literature. TENTH ed., W.W. Norton & Company, 2018. 

Larrington, Carolyne. The Poetic Edda Translated by Carolyne Larrington. Oxford University Press, 2014. 

Blog That I Recommend for More Reading:

The Norse Mythology Blog – The Wanderer (Seigfried 2016)


    She is fury.
Fury like the waves
    Of the Michigan Lake
         On a stormy day.

She sees them.

       Sitting on a window’s ledge
            Atop a high rise, she is
                     H a n g i n g

Letting the wind feel her
                    And free her
As she lets the smoke rise
Out of her lips and let it kiss
                   The Sky
               With Passion.

She sends her whispers into the galaxy
Where the darkest purple clouds live
                           And black waves

                     No - it is not a dream.
               It is a very real scene.
A memory of her youth; so pristine.

The Mist of Skógar

Experiences, Poetry, Travel
I can taste the mist and sense the air beneath my skin.
Shadowed by the spirits who kiss me in the wind. 
When the cold air blows; I hear their stories told.

They tell me to close my eyes, and in the darkness I’ll see. 
Unseen cyphers and traditions they teach are boundless and bold. 
In exchange I left them my heart and they keep it for infinity; in the mist of Skógar.
Skógafoss Waterfall in Iceland by KimberlyAnneInc.
Skógafoss Waterfall in Iceland by KimberlyAnneInc.
For the Landvættir and my Best
Skógafoss Waterfall in Iceland by KimberlyAnneInc.

Celestial Windows©

Experiences, Mythology, Poetry

Celestial Windows© – a Prose Poem by KimberlyAnneInc

Running again I see you chasing me. Is it impossible for me to see without eyes on the back of my head? I’m cornered as you climb through the window to get inside. The tiny little white square window that you somehow managed to open. How can you fit inside? In a world where nothing is solid of course, it makes sense. You push your way through and seep inside like liquid. This is impossible but you have your ways. I cannot escape and I’m trapped. Pushed into the corner and the walls made of light brown wood melted and pushed into me right back. You’ve done this many times and when I try to run you always catch me. Sometimes I want to make up with you but I know that when I do it will always end the same. It always ends the same. You grab the cell phone out of my hand. You question me again. You corner me. You squeeze me and it hurts. You do not let me go. In fear and fright, I scream and I cry but only in a way that I can recognize. You are not able to see. The walls start to melt around us as they push us closer together like flowing waters against rock pushing, pushing, pushing, until the imprints are made, the curves are present on the gray cold stone. Exactly what I don’t want. In terror, I freeze. I won’t let you see it. Smile at you so I can play tricks too just like you. I wish I could be like you. I want to crawl out of the window that you climbed in but my feet do not work. Solid like a cold gray stone. How can I escape this moment? The only thing that is left for me to do is wake. Wake. At my wake, they will stand vigil. 

They will stand watch like Cerberus who barks in the lot. Watching and waiting like I will wake up. Wake. I just want to wake. Up. Lately, I’ve been so down. Like the pits within the earth, the ones that are covered in green moss and brown dirt. How much farther can I go? Digging and digging, below. Picking the colors from the earth as I become the meadow and picking at my flesh; this is what I do now. I pick them and dig. I cry out for Charon, please come and help. Escaping this place is what I must do. Digging and digging I want to go. I’ve had my wake and I cannot wake, take me across the waters made of souls dark and light and warm and cold. The agony above somehow compares to Theogony of all. Styx pushes and it melts but it’s nothing like you, not even with all of its shadows. Yours tops it all as a veil over the sun. 

Running again the craft of Charon cruises down the bed made of spirit as it carries me to a castle. Here you will find me but you certainly won’t catch me. I’ve found something much more powerful than you but only in the most fervent way. Abducting myself to travel to another realm with a barrier in between and live with all of the things unseen. It’s better this way I think while passing through Elysium and the Meadows of Asphodel. Finally making my way through after many journeys I find myself in Tartarus which somehow is better than being Up and awake and in the presence of you. Persephone may want to run and if she does I hope she comes to you. I will send her myself and then take her place and look into the eyes of a god who can’t be worse than you. Hades would stand with a seraphic grin as I tell him all of the things and with his own celestial windows bearing his spirit I’d feel safe and warm in this otherworldly underworldly place that is somehow swarming with the ice of frozen souls but none would compare to you. Tired no more I wouldn’t run. No longer can I see you chasing me. I’m too busy filling bowls with seeds of pomegranate fruit and all on my own because it’s all much better than you. Shoving the seeds into my mouth and swallowing them down, planting myself there forever so that I never see you again but somehow if I do in this world they will already know you. Seeds, all of the seeds make it easier for me. You can run now I am the Queen and in the realm of the dead in the far depths of the Underworld, I am more alive than ever. This new sweet taste of disposition is something I envision Cupid’s bow and arrow would never be vigorous enough to create as I stare into the celestial windows.

Psychology & Literature

Psychology, Thoughts

The older I become, the more aware I become. I think this is a sign that I may actually be a normal human; if there is such a thing. When I speak of becoming aware, I mean seeing things, realizing things, or understanding things differently than I did when I was a younger person, for example. I’m 31 years old right now. Looking back, it’s easy to see how my thought process was so much different 15 years ago, compared to today. What pains me though, is that my young brain and self were loaded up with circumstances that should be considered unbearable for a child or young person to have to endure. I’m able to look back and see that now. I knew then that many things were wrong with certain aspects of my life. 

As a child, you use your peers or childhood friends and playmates as a comparison. I’d often look at the other kids I knew, and view their families through a very observant lens. Comparing, and contrasting, and even as far as discussing the differences between families. We’d talk and say things like, “Do your parents smoke too?”. Basic and simple observances were made to figure out ourselves and our own community. The difference now though, is when you make certain comparisons as an adult – you are able to find more reasoning behind why certain situations happen. Instead of, “Do your parents smoke too?”, it becomes – Why? (A very in depth “why”, if you think on a critical level).

As children, and humans, we are able to observe and see. We are able to absorb. But we don’t question the depths of what we are seeing. In my adult life, I’m able to dig deep. I’m able to fully analyze and comprehend things in my day-to-day life, and things about my childhood too. The fact that my knowledge and experience have increased over the years has helped me tremendously to process events that many consider painful. Of course, not everything in life is so gloomy or down. Don’t be fooled completely by my words. But the topic I want to discuss is in fact, not so bright – but may lead people to a better understanding of what is happening in their own lives, or around them; which in return can create a figurative or metaphorical brightness. 

Over the last several years, I’ve been really trying to find myself more so than ever before. There’s been many things I’ve done to try and better myself and my life. I feel like, considering my earlier years, I owe it to myself and to my child to be the best version of me that I possibly can. I enrolled back in school, and I studied Psychology/Social psychology initially but changed my major to Creative Writing and English instead. The change came this year after some tough thinking, but it was a decision that I felt was best for me and the lifestyle I’m trying to create for myself. I was unsure what it would be like trying to obtain a Creative Writing and English degree, but now I’m finally experiencing it. “Words are magic”, is a belief that I will always hold true and near to my heart and my life! Of course, they are! How can they not be? 

This term I am currently taking a World Mythology class, and a Critical Approach to Lit class – which is basically a class about different types of Literary Theories. Literary Theory is a term that I’d like to think is a title that we use to describe different ways of analyzing literature. Some have written books on “Literary Theory”, itself, stating that it can be a number of things. I can’t give you a book on the subject at this time, so I’ve only provided a short definition written in a simple way that makes it easy to understand. At first, I really disliked this class. It shocked me to dislike this class. I thought to myself, maybe something is wrong with me? I’m obsessed with books, and stories, and fairy tales, mythology, and legends of all kinds; but this Critical Lit class was boring me more than anything. That is until we started talking about the Psychoanalytical approach of criticizing and viewing literature. I did not care about Structuralism, Marxist theory, Formalism, or New Criticism. I’m not downplaying their importance, they just were not something I was immensely interested in. The Psychoanalytical approach, however, piqued my interest instantly. I’ve studied the works of Freud before, and of course Jung. I studied them before I was even in school again and I admire their thoughts as well as their contributions to humanity. Studying this psychoanalytical approach and how it can be applied to literature was eye-opening for me. Not just due to the way this approach can be used in literature, but because of how this psychoanalytical approach could be applied to life and many of those situations that just leave us thinking: “What the hell just happened?” 

You know, those situations, don’t you? The ones where you are experiencing a moment with a person and although it’s a memorable moment, it’s not necessarily a good one. If you have seen some of my poems on my blog, you will realize that the majority have a certain theme. The theme is not something that I have entire control over. Most of it stems from my unconscious as I’m just simply writing experiences that I’ve witnessed in some form or another that have tremendously impacted my life in a significant way. 

Applying the Psychoanalytic approach was genius to me. I’ve always wondered why people do the things that they do. People, or characters! I feel like every action we take, or every single thing we do is caused by a deeper thought or feeling inside of us that we may not consciously even be aware of. Freud was able to prove this theory, and I think this is why I fell in love with his ideas. I’m ashamed to say that I’ve only halfway read through, “The Interpretation of Dreams”, by Sigmund Freud. Someday I hope I can finish the book all the way through, in between my studies. I can only hope to read all of the books on my to-read list, in this lifetime! Freud, the creator of the psychoanalytic approach, left us with some amazing and valuable information. So much that I can only fit a tiny bit into this blog post. 

From him, my own viewpoints have been confirmed and reassured. He believed that our minds had a way of pushing unconscious feelings to the surface through a variety of actions or circumstances. This goes back to the “Why?”, that I mentioned earlier. When thinking of Literature in general, and analyzing characters or stories, we ask the same question – “Why?” Why is a character doing or saying ______? Literature is full of stories that are left to our own interpretation and this is where critical literary theories come from. Freud taught us that, “the conscious mind often performed significant transformations on unconscious material”, (Michael, 2017) I want to dig a little deeper into what this actually means. Our conscious behavior is highly influenced by thoughts, feelings, or emotions within us that we simply cannot even grasp because they are stuck in a realm of our unconscious. So even if we do not realize something is affecting us, it certainly can be. 

The Freud family gifted us with the concept of defense mechanisms. Finally, as an adult, I have learned what to call these mechanisms that I’ve witnessed for so many years from a multitude of situations and human experiences in my life. The defense mechanisms that we are all too familiar with are actions that come from thoughts that have been repressed within us. It shook me to learn that these behaviors are actually named. These behaviors, many of us have witnessed, and some of us of course have even acted out. It is human nature, and none of us are perfect. If the behaviors are witnessed by a child, you have to realize that those experiences are locked away within the child and may influence behaviors as an adult. Making this connection of literature, psychology, childhood and adulthood, is kind of like the same feeling you get when you walk into your own surprise birthday party, or unwrap a special present that was unexpected. It was a wow moment! I will now discuss in a bit more detail, intellectualization, projection, reaction formation, regression, suppression, sublimation, and rationalization. These are the defense mechanisms that humans use in a variety of situations. If you are unfamiliar with these, you may experience that surprise birthday party feeling I was mentioning. Now let’s unwrap this gift. 

What is projection? – Projection is a defense mechanism in which an individual will reflect their own thoughts or actions onto someone else. An example of what this could look like would be an extremely jealous partner who is a cheater, but accuses their spouse of cheating. The cheater is projecting what he dislikes about himself, and what he/she knows is wrong onto their significant other. Another example of projection could be a person who is overweight, but is constantly ridiculing how other people look, or the eating habits of other people. Projection comes in many forms and can be found in romantic relationships, friendships, and even family dynamics. Projection takes place most often when a person has a serious dislike about something within themselves, but tries to put a spotlight on another in order to deflect their own thoughts, behaviors, and actions. 

What is reaction formation? – Reaction formation is when a person wishes to hide their true thoughts or feelings on a subject; and instead, they display opposite thoughts and feelings in response to what they truly think. An example of this would be a person who is homosexual in secrecy, but on a surface level, they preach to everyone they know about how they despise gay and homosexual people. Have you ever heard the term, “Kill them with kindness”? This is another example of reaction formation. Instead of literally killing a person you don’t like, we use this term to cover up true feelings and insist that we are nice to them; so nice to them in fact that it may make them sick! That is reaction formation. 

What is regression? – Regress means to return to a previous or lower state. When regression is at hand, it means we are reversing into a backward or more immature mind state or thought process. When this occurs, a person may display behaviors that seem juvenile in comparison to their actual age. An example of this would be an adult who has a major meltdown over something that is not so major. A parent has just got home from a hard day at work, they are tired, angry and unhappy with their day – and maybe even part of their life; their child accidentally breaks something or spills something. The parent reacts in a big way, when in reality the problem is quite small and can be fixed or cleaned up. This is regression. We return to a thought process that has us respond quickly, often angrily, or temper tantrum like – without thinking. What kind of people have temper tantrums? Toddlers. The answer is toddlers. We are all guilty of this in some way or another perhaps. 

What is rationalization? – Rationalizing involves trying to make sense of a situation. Rationalization as a defense mechanism is when an individual tries to explain or justify their behaviors in a logical way. Think of this: Person A. slaps Person B.. Person B. then says, “Why did you do that?”, to which Person A. responds with, “YOU MADE me mad, so that is why I slapped you. It’s your fault.” Person A. is trying to rationalize their abuse by blaming Person B. the one who actually received the abuse. Person B. does not control Person A, and has zero control over the thoughts or actions of Person A. Person B. is not responsible for this behavior, no matter what Person A. says. Rationalization can include blame shifting, and Person A. will try to make sense of their behavior by reassuring themselves that they have a good reason for acting as such, even if the reason is incorrect. This is, according to Freud, an attempt to make the action acceptable according to the ego. 

There are more defense mechanisms that we, as human beings use whether we realize it or not. Intellectualization and suppression are also on the list. Suppression obviously includes suppressing thoughts, feelings, emotions, etc. When you suppress something it is bound to come out at some point or another. This can lead a person to “bottle up” and then “explode”. The worst part of this, is since we are all different, there is no telling exactly how or when a person will “explode” and what their actions will consist of. Intellectualization is a more logical defense mechanism, and leads us back to that question: “Why?”  When you use intellectualization as a defense mechanism, you try to think of a logical and accurate reason as to why something has happened. When you intellectualize a situation, you will be better off because you will be using logic to find an answer, instead of reacting in such a way that leads you to something else, like, regression, for example. 

If you are still reading, thank you so much. Now that we have covered these, I hope you are able to see how the psychoanalytic theory can not only be applied to literature but of course, also to life itself. Literature is a big part of our lives and every time we read a good work of literature, we are using our mind to piece together the story, and make sense of it in our world. Just like we are doing with our day-to-day situations. Most of our actions, or the actions of others have a tendency to come from our unconscious mind. To tie this back in with literature, Macbeth, by Shakespeare shows us exactly what Freud is talking about when it comes to the unconscious mind playing a part in our conscious thoughts and behaviors. In Macbeth, handwashing is a symbol of trying to cleanse what subconsciously cannot be cleansed. I won’t go into much more detail than that, but if you know the story, you will know what I mean. The handwashing soliloquy has also become a meme, thanks to coronavirus. 

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‘Out damned spot’: the hand-washing scene that became a Coronavirus meme (penguin.co.uk)

Ryan, Michael. Literary Theory: A Practical Introduction. Available from: MBS Direct, (3rd Edition). Wiley Global Research (STMS), 2017.