Thanksgiving as seen from Academia II: A Psychoanalytic Viewpoint

18 Nov

Wallendorf and Arnould say that Thanksgiving Day has a number of close symbolic links to infancy. Historically it’s associated with the beginning or infancy of the nation. They say: “Thanksgiving allows each participant to return to the contentment and security of an infant wearing comfortable clothing who falls asleep after being well fed. Sitting in relative silence, each participant is fed plain soft food by a nurturing woman and then is taken outside for a walk.” According to Wallendorf and Arnould, in American’s calendar of rituals, Thanksgiving is the equivalent of Sigmund Freud’s oral stage of development. As such it comes before the retentive conflict of Christmas and the sexually charged New Year’s Eve. The connection to infancy is also seen in the way people dress. Generally people wear soft fabrics such as jeans and sweaters, fleece sweat suits, and sneakers. Elasticized waistbands and other comfortable clothing features are common. Wallendorf and Arnould say our typical Thanksgiving wardrobes “recall the contemporary one-piece, all-purpose infant garment, sometimes known as “Dr. Dentons”. This is clothing that can move from meal time to play time to naptime without a change.” Besides the centerpiece turkey, there are many soft foods served at Thanksgiving (mashed potatoes, stuffing, yams, etc,) . Many people smoosh their food together at this meal. While this may symbolize family togetherness, it also converts food into the consistency that infants consume. I’m not sure I really believe all of this psychoanalytic stuff, but it certainly is something to think about.

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