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Schmukler, A.G. (1990). American Imago. XLV, 1988: Shame in Edith Wharton's The Mother's Recompense. Lev Raphael. Pp. 187-203.. Psychoanal Q., 59:517.
Psychoanalytic Electronic Publishing: American Imago. XLV, 1988: Shame in Edith Wharton's The Mother's Recompense. Lev Raphael. Pp. 187-203.

(1990). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 59:517

American Imago. XLV, 1988: Shame in Edith Wharton's The Mother's Recompense. Lev Raphael. Pp. 187-203.

Anita G. Schmukler

The role of unconscious shame, in its "crippling impact on human personality," is explored in the work of Edith Wharton, with particular emphasis on the character of Kate in The Mother's Recompense. Raphael suggests that Wharton's writing has been insufficiently appreciated, partly because the profound impact of unconscious shame has been overlooked. The author quotes Kaufman, who points out that shame is first experienced interpersonally, and later becomes internalized and "experienced as a deep abiding sense of being defective, never quite good enough as a person." When this material is repressed, external perceptions are distorted so that they continually confirm the sense of shame. The effects of unconscious shame are examined in a study of Kate, who repeatedly engages in "doomed relationships." Kate experiences pain and isolation in confessing sexual secrets to Fred, whose unanticipated response of surprise and scorn heighten her sense of humiliation and result in her withdrawal from him. Apparently, this has been misunderstood by critics, who struggle to find meaning in Kate's departure. The author observes that the sense of shame may have origins in early triadic situations, in which the young child feels excluded and unworthy. Contempt is among a series of intense feelings used defensively to subdue the emergence into consciousness of a profound, repressed sense of shame.

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Article Citation

Schmukler, A.G. (1990). American Imago. XLV, 1988. Psychoanal. Q., 59:517

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