Trevor, who are you really fighting here?

Jacqueline’s Woodson’s novel, Feathers, is a rather short book, but one thing it isn’t short on is rich, fully developed characters. There is Frannie, Simon, their caring parents, their bible-loving grandmother, and her classmates: Samantha, Maribel, Rayray, Jesus boy, and Trevor. I’m going to admit that I have a bit of fascination with Trevor, specifically within the realm of young adult literature. Much of young adult literature is focused on the main character fulfilling some sort of destiny, discovering they have the power to shape their destiny, or coming to terms and accepting whom they are. Since Trevor is more of an antagonist in the novel, he does none of this.

fighting-figures-500x455Trevor is black, but he has blue eyes and is “light, lighter than most of the other kids who went to” the predominantly black school where the novel takes place. Rumor has it that Trevor’s daddy “was a white man who lived across the highway”. When Rayray, Trevor’s friend, asked him about the race of his absentee father, Trevor’s response was a punch so hard that it not only silenced Rayray, but the whole class too, as they never brought up the subject with Trevor again.

I wanted desperately to get inside Trevor’s head. To hear the thoughts that were racing up and down his adolescent brain. What were the “desires, fears, needs and conflicts of which (he was) unaware.” Was he in denial? Did he honestly not believe that his father was white? He clearly shows signs of displacement by transferring his anger to the white character Jesus, who he inadvertently named. “Jesus” was not the first name that came to mind when the young white male student shows up to the classroom for the first time. Trevor calls the white student a bad name, not once but twice and only stops when threatened by the teacher. Instead Trevor mocks the boy by saying he looks like Jesus, the name stuck.

           5599ff999498d021dbd44eec48e6f82cTrevor projects the anger that he has for having a white absentee father on Jesus. I thought for a while that he might be practicing avoidance by not engaging in situations with anyone who is white, but he actively seeks out a fight with Jesus. The animosity between Trevor and Jesus boils over into that fight after Trevor meets Jesus’ father. Jesus has, throughout the novel, said that his parents are both black. His father comes to pick him up after school one day in front of Trevor. While everyone says “hello” to Jesus’ father, Trevor just stands there dumbfounded. He is at a loss for words because he is being confronted with the one thing that he so desperately wants, a black father who cares about his son.

            The next time we see Jesus and Trevor together, there is a fight, but who is the fight really between? Sure, there is the actual physical fight that happens between the two boys, but this fight goes deeper then that. Trevor is lashing out at Jesus, because he is a clear representation of his father. Trevor only ever sees his father through his own reflection. Trevor is really fighting his own insecurities of being from a biracial family. mimic

Getting inside of a young character’s head through the text and trying to decode their actions through their unconscious responses is the core of looking at text through a psychoanalytical lens. This perspective can help us as teachers get out of our own heads and into theirs. Psychoanalytic criticism of a character or a text can help teachers see the fears and insecurities of their students. Looking at the struggles of identity that Trevor has might help you understand some struggles that one of your students might have.

refrences:

Feathers by Woodson, Jacqueline

Critical Theory Today by Tyson, Lois

MAS 2015

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One thought on “Trevor, who are you really fighting here?

  1. MAS your post is absolutely accurate in uncovering Trevor as a character in the novel. You’re honest about how the psychoanalytic lens explains the reasons behind Trevor’s behaviors and actions. Trevor’s past makes a reader very curious to know what the situation was between his mother and his father. There are just so many different possibilities as to what really happened between Trevor’s parents. Also equally important to wonder is if his actions were truly done unconsciously? Is it possible that his mind as an adolescent could be doing this bullying unconsciously? Could all the anger he feels toward his parents be the only cause of his anger as well? While Woodson does give us rich characterizations of Trevor and believed that less is more for the reader, we, as the readers, can honestly feel the importance of the key details she left out about Trevor and this must be understood solely because he is not our protagonist. Again, I loved your post it really brought me into evaluating Trevor from the psychoanalytical perspective.

    – DML

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