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Thompson, C. (1938). Applied: Ben Karpman in collaboration with several students at Howard University (coloured). 'Imitation of Life.' Psychoanalytic Review, 1936, Vol. XXIII, No. 2, pp. 149–172.. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 19:107-108.
Psychoanalytic Electronic Publishing: Applied: Ben Karpman in collaboration with several students at Howard University (coloured). 'Imitation of Life.' Psychoanalytic Review, 1936, Vol. XXIII, No. 2, pp. 149–172.

(1938). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 19:107-108

Applied: Ben Karpman in collaboration with several students at Howard University (coloured). 'Imitation of Life.' Psychoanalytic Review, 1936, Vol. XXIII, No. 2, pp. 149–172.

Clara Thompson

This paper is a collection of psycho-analytic observations on Fannie Hurst's novel, Imitation of Life. The novel deals with the lives of two families—one white and one coloured—each consisting of a widow and her only child, a daughter. The novel presents an intuitive study of two psycho-analytic problems: (1) frigidity and the capacity of woman to

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sublimate, and (2) the psychology of biracial relations. This paper chiefly concerns itself with the second problem and is a study of the relationship of the negro mother Delilah and her near white daughter, Peola. In the mother is found the ambivalent attitude of teaching her child from earliest years the duty of humility and inferiority which belongs to the coloured race in America, while at the same time her unconscious attitude teaches the child that she, the child, is superior to the race because she has a light skin. The mother's life work has really been the production of a child superior to herself, but she is unable to make the renunciation necessary for the child's success. The child has only one aim—doubtless fostered originally by the mother's unconscious attitude—to pass for white, and she finally achieves her goal in marriage to a white man. Her hatred of her black blood is tied up with her hatred of her mother whose colour stands between her and freedom. In her relations with her mother she adopts the attitude of superiority characteristic of the white towards the negro. Although this attitude crushes the mother, and the final break of the child from her race (and her mother) is instrumental in hastening Delilah's death; nevertheless it is also the fulfilment of Delilah's life ambition that one of her own blood should become white.

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Article Citation

Thompson, C. (1938). Applied. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 19:107-108

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