Psychology is the study of human emotions and behaviours which gathered its momentum in the nineteenth century before it was accommodated under the umbrella of Philosophy. It was in the same period that G. Stanley Hall became the first to attain a PhD in Psychology. In 1879 WilhelmWundt, established the first experimental psychology lab in University of Leipzig andSigmund Freud started offering therapy to patients.In 1900 he publishes his “Interpretation of Dreams” and in 1912 Edward Thorndike publishes “Animal Intelligence” which leads to the development of the theory of operant conditioning. Later Max Wertheimer publishes “Experimental Studies of the Perception of Movement” which leads to the development of Gestalt psychology.
Morphological Psychology developed by Wilber Salber is a deep psychological theory which stems out from Gestalt psychology which is a branch of psychoanalysis. The theory tries to understand the transitions and metamorphosis of our mind. It uncovers the motivational tensions in everyday human behaviour. It concerns with gestalt formation and transition. The approach throws light on the psychological background of everyday activities. As a theory of gestalt formation and transition, it explores the psychological background of everyday activities in one’s life which may go unnoticed like the gestalt of control in everyday activities like cleaning, driving a car etc. The small things in one’s life will have much effect in everyday life like the desire for omnipotence and omnipresence created a mobile phone which gives the satisfaction being attained the state of desire.
Sigmund Freud’s theories provides the gateway to the unconscious mind, suggested that the childhood fears and anxieties would result in causing problems in adulthood, that the past traumatic experiences would stay within the unconscious mind leading to acts with hidden motivations and dreams with unconscious desires. In Freud’s The Interpretation of Dreams (1899) he explored the possibility of universal symbols. The symbols where discovered effective by Sherner in 1861.
Symbols act as a transforming factor in dreams which transforms the oppressive images to more acceptable things in one’s dream. The credibility and flexibility of his observations are still debated upon but his work was a path opener for the development and expansion of psychology.
Freud’s the interpretation of Dreams is the epitome on dream analysis, dreams being an expression of man’s desires and conflicts. Freud formulates many terms and theories which became the foundation of psychoanalysis. According to him “It opens the way to understand neural disorders. Dreams tell us many an unpleasant biological truth about ourselves and only very free minds can thrive on such a diet. Self-deception is a plant which withers fast in the pellucid atmosphere of dream investigation” (Dream Psychology: Psychoanalysis for beginners).He considered dreams to be the royal road to knowledge to the unconscious.
The theory of Gestalt psychology considers the totality of mind and behaviour. Max Wertheimer wrote. “There are wholes, the behaviour of which is not determined by that of their individual elements, but where the part-processes are themselves determined by the intrinsic nature of the whole. It is the hope of Gestalt theory to determine the nature of such wholes” (A Source Book of Gestalt Psychology). It is from this theory the theory of Morphological Psychology develops where it tries to identify the system which creates and recreate conceptions in one’s mind.The behavior patterns are recognized through the theory in order to gain insight into how a consumer choose a particular product whether it is based on its colour or other factors which would help in designing and selling a product. It has been used to understand social issues and with morphological research, we can build models of human motivation.
Authors around the world have experimented with Fiction and psychology. Some of them include Margaret Atwood, Stephen King, Ian McEwen, Kazuo Ishiguro, Zadie Smith, Toni Morrison, Khaled Hosseini, Thomas Cromwell, Ann Patchett, Jennifer Egan, Elena Ferrante, FrericklBackman, Jonl Nesbo, Haruki Murakami, Han Kang. Many of them have successfully merged both of types.
The books dealing with psychologicalaspects especially the metamorphoses of human beings into beasts start from an earlier time. Starting with Ovid’s The Metamorphoses (8AD) which ends with the transformation of Caesar to a god, Metamorphosis(1915)by Franz Kafka,StrangeCase of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde(1886) by Robert Louis Stevenson, the story of Beauty and the Beast where a beast transforms into a man are some of the stories of transformation. Unlike the traditional way of transformation South Korean writer Han Kang’s,The Vegetarian(Portobello Books,2017) deals with the mental transformation of the protagonist.
The South Korean writer Han Kang, the daughter of writer Han Seung was born in Gwanju.Her novels deals with the psychological aspects of transition. She came in to a literary career with the publication of the short story The Scarlet Anchor(1994)which won the Seoul Shinmun spring literary contest. The Man Booker Prize-winning Novel The Vegetarian was Kang’s first novel translated into English, by Deborah Smith.Her other translated works include Convalescence(ASIA Publishers,2013), HumanActs(PortobelloBooks, 2016) and The White Book(Portobello Books,2017). The themes of her books are based on resistance against violence.
The Vegetarian tells the story of the protagonist Yeong-hye who after a dream suddenly decides to take up the Vegetarian diet, which is told by her husband, brother-in-law and sister in a structure of threenovellas. She undergoes different stages of change. In the final chapter she stops eating and refusing to take anything other than water.It is the story of Yeong-hye said by focusing more on the views of other characters in the novel. Theyform the social system around her including her husband Mr. Cheong, the anonymous brother- in- law and sister In-hye. The protagonist’s sudden decision to take a vegetarian diet because of a dream she had one day disturbs the family who always looked down upon her as she was the youngest and most disciplined. The book is different in the way she presents her characters,who are placed in a situation of psychological tension and complex thoughts, the protagonist herself is a faded image, the reader has to solve the puzzle oneself. There is no other visible motivation or reason for her transformation but only a dream which has a drastic change in her thinking.
The work according to the author explores her own thoughts and experiences. Yeong Hye like Han Kang lives in a dominant patriarchal setup. Kang also in her twenties adopted a vegetarian diet but had to withdraw due to health reasons. So in a way, the novel contains autobiographical elements.In the novel nature acts as a refuge for all those who face the conflict of identity and reality. Nature is given the ultimate authority over humankind. Identifying oneself with nature is like a union with the authority thus enjoying the power of nature.
In the novel, Yeong Hye has a tendency to identify her as the supreme authority crushing patriarchal structure thus questioning the gender constructs. By refuting the most important element of their culture, meat, she is questioning the tradition itself. Meat dishes are strongly associated with the South Korean culture and also a major ingredient in their dishes and withdrawal from it shows the withdrawal from the human world. The story is about her transition from a life like that of a parasite to an independent tree well rooted in nature. “The Vegetarian was all about questioning innocence, human violence and becoming beings that reject violence” (Chandran and Pai par.15)
The work is similar to the novel The MetamorphosisbyFranz Kafka which according to her “it had left an impression” upon her but doesn’t have any direct influence. In an interview she says
Of course, I read Kafka when I was a teenager like everyone else, and I think Kafka has become part of this world. I like his works. Then there is also a traditional story about a scholar in the Joseon Dynasty, the old Korea. In this story, there is a scholar who comes from his hard office work. When he enters his room, it is filled with flowers and trees and he sleeps beside the trees and he talks with the trees; that is the way he seeks peace. And I remember I read a line from a 1920s poet, the name of the poet is Yi Sang. It says, “I want to believe human beings should be plants.” I read it when I was a university student. Well, Kafka, this traditional story, Yi Sang, and many other things just lived inside me. None of them was a direct influence.
The author is fascinated by the concept turning to another form often to find peace for the individual self. The short story The Fruit of My Women(1997) is a predecessor of the novel in which the women turns in to a plant and her husband waters and take care of the plant.
Divided into three parts The Vegetarian, Mongolian Mark and Flaming Trees the book contains the questions posing the purpose of human existence, the question of identity, which lingers in every human mind without answers. The conflict of normality and abnormality complicates the novel more. The work according to the author explores her own thoughts and experiences.It is also the first Korean novel nominated for the award of Booker prize. The book was successful in South-Korea it was only after Kang attained 2016 Man Booker International Prize it gained universal attention and varied researches were widely undertaken after the wide acceptance of the book by the literary community.
Various studies consider her transformation as a result of her attempt to escape or as a silent withdrawal from the order of conformity, as a social protest against the existence of herself. But even though it disturbs the entire social circle she maintains her will to continue with the vegetarian diet, to be in her own world where she thinks she can have more meaning to her existence as a plant rather than being a social animal. She constructs her own world within the social world. Prof. Salber called these worlds as Stundenwelten or Hour worlds.
In January2016 a research paper titledKorean Daphne: becoming a plant in Kang’s Vegetarianby Iona Alexandrescu a senior lecturer of Autonomous University of Barcelonacameup. The study traces the process through which the change happens in Yeung Hye as she breaks away from what the others expect her to be. By imagining the change to a plant she became an avatar of mythological figure of Daphne, the nymph who loved Plato but was changed to a tree. On14 October of the same year another article was published, “Against Human Nature: The post-Human Nightmare in The Vegetarian” Erica O Galioto, Spencer Peechart examines the relations and repercussions between the society and Post-Humanity through Lacanian Psychoanalytic theory.
A large number of studies came up in the year 2017.On 18 December 2017 a dissertation titled The Interpretation of Yeong Hye’s dreams in Han Kang’s The Vegetarian: a Psychoanalysis study given by Mochammed Moulana applied Jungian Psychoanalysis to examine the main characters. This study attempts to deliver the idea that the main character Yeong Hye constructs the dreams as a warning against the brutality growing inside her, as a relation she becomes a vegetarian. Her change as a need to detach from the patriarchy system and self-changing to vegetarian indicating that she wants to show her feminine traits being close to nature. The study indicates that she wants to lead a life detached from brutality.