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This paper examines The Coal Tattoo by Silas House and its focus on psychological self-reflection by its two main characters, Easter and Anneth Sizemore. Anneth, the younger of the sisters, is characterized as a “wild child,” chasing after men and sex in an attempt to discover her identity and fulfill a longing within her that may be too large to satisfy. The Sizemore girls’ mother, Birdie, committed suicide when Anneth was five years old. Through a Lacanian lens, Anneth’s entrance into subjectivity is a violent and incomplete one, which evolves into an incomplete sense of her “imaginary” self and an intensified longing for her real desires while these two warring elements intensely disrupt her sense of existence and placement within the symbolic order. Anneth’s entrance into the symbolic was irreparably disrupted, and she is the picture of social rebellion: multiple marriages, going to bars, underage drinking, smoking, and becoming pregnant. The unhealthy state of her identity manifests itself in a myriad of ways, including psychic restlessness and the intensification of her desire for the Other. Anneth only feels a partial sense of wholeness when she listens to music, using music as an incomplete expression of her desire. Within a Lacanian context, due to the linguistic nature of music, she is incapable of fully articulating desire; however, because music is also non-linguistic, she is able to achieve a partial expression of desire, though she cannot articulate it herself and it cannot be articulated fully even through music.


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19 Jul 2022
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  • Alternative title
    • Searching for Purpose: Silas House’s The Coal Tattoo

  • DPLA rights
    • Brooke Boling, 2018

  • Journal title
    • Papers & Publications

  • Volume
    • 7

  • Issue
    • 1

  • Date submitted

    19 July 2022

  • Keywords
  • Additional information
    • Author Biography:

      Brooke Boling graduated in May 2018 with an undergraduate degree in English and a double concentration in Literature and Writing/Rhetoric. She is currently pursuing her MA in English at the University of Louisville. Her primary areas of research focus within English are psychoanalysis, feminism, 18th/19th century British literature, and 21st century Appalachian literature. She plans to eventually receive a doctoral degree in English literature and join the faculty of a university English department.

      Graduation Date:

      May 2018