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Van Bark, B.S. (1961). The Alienated Person in Literature. Am. J. Psychoanal., 21(2):183-193.

(1961). American Journal of Psychoanalysis, 21(2):183-193

The Alienated Person in Literature

Bella S. Van Bark, M.D.

Alienation From self refers to the largely unconscious subjective experience of being remote from self.1 Since no person is the completely integrated man, alienation to some degree is the common lot. To put it differently: to some degree we all become—and at times need to be—deaf, dumb, and blind to ourselves to go on living. What concerns us here is the condition of exaggerated alienation generated by many sources, both within and without the individual. Alienation from self and from others accounts for much of the disaster which can affect a person, influence his pattern of living, and disturb his personality growth.

The surface phenomena pointing to alienation are often subtle, sometimes gross; an acute observer can readily catch them. The deeper phenomena have long been the concern of both writers and psychoanalysts. In this contribution I shall try to illustrate how the intuitive perceptiveness of the creative writer has grasped these profound psychological processes and shaped them into forms and substances which can have a profound impact on the reader. What the psychoanalyst arrives at after many months and even years of work is often presented to him in a compact symbol or image with many levels of meaning and implications.

In titling this paper, “The Alienated Person in Literature,” I was not implying the existence of an entity either in psychological or literary terms. What I have in mind is the use of literature to illustrate various aspects of alienation.

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