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International Journal of Research and Innovation in Social Science (IJRISS) | Volume V, Issue V, May 2021 | ISSN 2454–6186

Exploring the Concept of Containment, Childhood Development and Silence in Alex Michaelides’s Novel The Silent Patient: A Psychoanalytic Critique

Mohammad Afzal Hossain
Lecturer, Department of English, Mawlana Bhashani Science and Technology University, Bangladesh

IJRISS Call for paper

Abstract- This paper focuses to appropriate and apply the concepts of “container- contained” and “holding and holding environment” theorized respectively by Wilfred Bion and Donald Winnicott, across the nature of Alicia’s relationships with her father and husband to understand the resultant silence after her husband’s murder in the novel The Silent Patient. The objective of this paper is to explore and investigate how the nature of child Alicia’s relationship with her father impacted her childhood psychic development and how this leads to her husband’s murder from psychoanalytic perspectives of Bion and Winnicott. The childhood development of Alicia has been traced and explored deploying various concepts developed by Freud, Bion,Winnicott and Lacan using in-depth qualitative methods like content analysis and textual analysis. The paper finds that, the nature of Alicia’s relationship with her husband and the murder has interconnectedness with the nature of relationship Alicia had with her father. Alicia didn’t get a containing and holding environment during childhood. The importance of this paper lies in its scope and spectrum of revisiting the reinforced focus on having a contained and safe childhood development.

Keywords: Container-Contained, Childhood Development, Silence, Psychoanalysis, Holding Environment.


The way one’s childhood is developed plays a very vital role in forming the personality and identity of one during the subsequent stages of life. This view of identity and predicament development has been widely explored and applied in a varied range of literature. Significance of childhood experiences and memory in forming the adult identity is the basis for conceptualizing the personality development and disorder in the psychoanalytic realm of Freud. Freud is not the only one who has drawn extensively from childhood memories and experiences to analyze and understand some mental and psychic process in adults, Lacan (2013) has his own tripartite (Imaginary,