Psychology of Human Behavior in Literary Works

Cite this

Human beings tend to think that they are always in full cognition of what they do and the choice of their behavior all the time. Human behavior is one of the societies’ standard metrics to evaluate and describe people. Age and pain constitute some of the physical factors that affect human behavior. The state of a human brain; how stable the brain is when making a decision dictates how right the decision will be. Life events and the drive to get what a person needs make four significant factors that dictate human behavior. Understanding the psychology of human behavior allows for a more critical evaluation of human behavior by looking at its action and root. Understanding the psychology of human conduct also helps us make the right decisions in day-to-day life.

Literary works depict the psychology of human behavior through the traits of different characters and their choices. Janet E. Gardener, through her anthology of short stories, A Portable Anthology, has compiled literary works that widely explore human behavior. Some of these articles in the collection are ‘Jerry & Molly,’ ‘Girl,’ and ‘Araby.’ Other article is the novel, The River and the Source by Margaret Ogolla. In these literary works, many different reasons can be traced that regulate the behavior and psychology of the heroes. The authors use literary tropes, hidden metaphors and symbols to realize their ideas, as, for example, Joyce’s works depict the city of “silence” Dublin, where residents can only speak in whispers (Eskandari 411). Analysis of life situations and the consequences that they cause through these techniques will allow studying better the subtle aspects of psychology in certain contexts.

Jerry and Molly and Sam

This short story discusses the life of a family man Al who lives with his wife Sandy and his two children, Mary, and his son, Alex. Al is experiencing a hard time in his life and which influences the decisions that he makes. The story revolves around how he plans to throw away their dog Suzy, which was given as a present by his wife’s younger sister, Sandy. He hates the dog because the dog misbehaves by leaving pee stains on the carpet and tearing clothes. His wife is more tolerant of the dog’s behavior, but she also gets tired and curses the dog or beats her children to keep the dog out of their rooms and the living room. Al is also undergoing a hard time because his employers are laying people off at the job. He also finds himself entangled in an extramarital affair with Jill, where he cannot get himself out. Al plans to take out the dog one evening, leave her in the open, and get done with her. On his way back home, he passes by his side girlfriend and then heads home. He is by chaos at home as his two children and his wife lament over the loss.

Almost everything that we do is influenced by the emotions that we are experiencing at a particular time. An irrational mind will make foolish decisions, all in an attempt to escape the stressful, painful reality. ‘He’d met Jill about three months ago when he was feeling depressed and jittery with all the talk of layoffs just beginning…’ ̶ the layoffs at work stressed Al at the moment, and the fact that the communication between him and his wife was poor led him to cheat in his relationship (Carver 129). Jill, the girl he cheated with, was very soft and caring, and she asked him about his day and gave him a welcoming hug and a kiss. The human mind is structured such that it strives to find maximum comfort, which makes a person search for temporary happiness without caring about the long-term consequences.

Everyone is willing to give up even what they cherish most to sacrifice what they want to achieve. “Betty tolerated the dog at greater durations, would go along apparently unruffled for a time, but suddenly she would come upon it, with fists clenched, call it a bastard…” ̶ Betty became so upset that the dog was missing all of a sudden (Carver 129). She accommodated the dog that used to pee in the living room and tear the family’s clothes because she argued that it was her first dog and she was willing to keep her. Al’s children, Mary and Alex, loved the dog so much that they were ready to go on a hunt for the dog at night.


Araby is the story of a young boy who lives with his aunt and uncle in a house which originally belonged to a priest. They live in a quiet neighborhood, and he only plays with one of his friends, Mangan. His aunt is a salesperson, and he helps her with the marketing on Saturday evenings in the noisy streets. The young boy falls in love with his friend’s sister and all he does all day and night is fantasize with her.

As we grow physically, so does our mental capacity grow. When we look back at the decision and the things that we did during our early ages, most of them are impulsive and immature compared to what we do right now.

“I lay on the floor in the front parlor watching her door. The blind was pulled down to within an inch of the sash so that I could not be seen. When she came out on the doorstep, my heart leaped. I kept her brown figure always in my eye and, when we came near the point at which our ways diverged, I quickened my pace and passed her.” (Joyce 85)

The boy was in love with the girl, but he did not have the guts to speak about what he felt. Perhaps, if the boy had been a little bit more mature, he would have had the courage to face what he wanted.

It is where we grow, the people who bring us up, our playmates, and our society that influences the people that we become. Like religion and certain cultures and beliefs, most of these factors come by chance and not by choice. Societies have advanced so much way beyond what they were earlier, and issues are approached differently. “We walked through the flaring streets, jostled by drunken men and bargaining women, amid the curses of laborers, the shrill litanies of shop-boys”: the description vividly shows that the boy’s society and the boy himself are poor and under-civilized (Joyce 92). The boy’s family status and the conditions he worked with might have been intimidating that he thought himself not worthy of the girl’s attention. The author shows the subtle psychological characteristics of growing up that are almost always associated with disappointment (Eskandari 418). This feeling oozes literally from everywhere – from the unsightly description of the location, to poverty, including the intellectual, which so influences the lives of heroes and the city.

The River and the Source

The story is about some African communities, and it spans three generations, from the first pre-colonial generation to a modern era. Akoko, the main character, is the daughter of the chief Odero Gogni (Makuto). She is raised well by her parents and society, and she grows to become the most admired girl in the village. When the time comes, she is married off by her father to Owuor Kembo, a neighboring chief.

The culture of a place influences the choices that a person makes later in life. Akoko grew up in a male-dominated society where they believed that a woman should respect and submit to his husband. A woman was supposed to keep herself pure until a favorable husband was found for her. The same case happened to Akoko, where he suffered mistreatments from his stepbrother Otieno after his husband died. Akoko wanted to explore, but social barriers and principles tied her, so she could not. Nevertheless, the author puts the wisest phrases into the lips of female characters, making them resonant characters. The values of motherhood, solidarity and attitudes towards them have not changed for three generations, despite the ongoing events (Rotich 190). Characters such as Ogola, although they did not openly declare their life principles, throughout the work challenge the established patriarchy (Rotich 194). Akoko, who is one of the most important girls in the village, behaves in the same way.

Works Cited

Carver, Raymond. “Jerry and Molly and Sam.” Literature: A Portable Anthology, Edited by Janet E. Gardener, Beverly Lawn, et al, Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2013, pp. 122-136.

Joyce, James. “Araby.” Literature: A Portable Anthology, Edited by Janet E. Gardener, Beverly Lawn, et al, Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2013, pp. 85-89.

Makuto, Victor. A Study Guide to the River and the Source Margret Ogolla. 2016.

Eskandari, Safoura. “Language Discourse in James Joyce’s Short Stories The Grace and The Araby: A Cultural Studies.” Budapest International Research and Critics in Linguistics and Education (BirLE), vol. 3, no. 1, 2020, pp. 411-420.

Rotich, Anne. “Motherhood and Feminism in Margaret Ogola’s Novel, The River and the Source.” Language in Contemporary African Cultures and Societies, 2018, p. 183-195.

Cite this paper

Select style


PsychologyWriting. (2023, March 7). Psychology of Human Behavior in Literary Works. Retrieved from


PsychologyWriting. (2023, March 7). Psychology of Human Behavior in Literary Works.

Work Cited

"Psychology of Human Behavior in Literary Works." PsychologyWriting, 7 Mar. 2023,


PsychologyWriting. (2023) 'Psychology of Human Behavior in Literary Works'. 7 March.


PsychologyWriting. 2023. "Psychology of Human Behavior in Literary Works." March 7, 2023.

1. PsychologyWriting. "Psychology of Human Behavior in Literary Works." March 7, 2023.


PsychologyWriting. "Psychology of Human Behavior in Literary Works." March 7, 2023.