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Why would they act the way they act? Essay


Thirteen Hours is a chef-d’oeuvre story on Detective Inspector Benny Griessel explaining the events of the work he does in order to solve murders and save people from criminals.

As the story opens, a young woman’s body is discovered in a churchyard located in Cape Town, and thus as a detective, Benny has no option but to provide help. Benny boasts in experience from the old times and so he does not fit in the contemporary South African police force comfortably; however, it is clear that the young detectives cannot match his experience (Meyer 51).

For instance, they cannot handle the major investigation that arises after learning that the murder victim comes from the United States. Therefore, at this point Benny becomes Inspector Vusumuzi Ndabeni’s mentor courtesy of his invaluable experience. The characters in this story have repressed desires that initially make them to behave in certain ways, which underscores the psychoanalytical theory founded by Sigmund Freud.

The theory holds that people behave in a particular manner as some inner forces, which dwell outside their awareness, direct their behaviors (Tyson and Tyson 105). Sometimes people do things or engage in actions without knowing why they are doing them. Therefore, using the psychoanalytical theory, this paper seeks to find out why some of the characters in Thirteen Hours act the way they act.

The psychoanalytical theory stands out conspicuously through Alexandra Bernard who is a fading singer and quite alcoholic. She wakes up only to find her dead husband lying beside her after he is shot after which her house cleaner decides to call the police.

It is clear that Alexandra, also known as Alexa, is drinking herself silly maybe consciously or unconsciously as a way of repressing the unpleasant feelings she has of being a falling musician. Fame comes with class and the thought of losing the same can drive someone crazy and thus the conscious mind acts in defense thus pushing people to indulgence as a way of escapism.

Probably, she feels that she is no longer famous and nobody listens to her music, and thus she feels disappointed and unwanted hence she resorts to alcoholism perhaps for consolation. On the other hand, she may also be indulging in excessive alcoholism to forget what she knows about her husband’s flagrant affairs. In reality, people overwhelmed with difficult challenges seek solace in alcohol indulgence as a way of getting numb.

Eventually they become addicted even without their knowledge and it gets extremely hard to quit deliberately. According to the psychoanalytical theory, the unconscious mind stores thoughts, feelings, urges, as well as memories, which are outside the domain of one’s conscious awareness (Tyson and Tyson 91).

In many cases, the unconscious mind harbors unpleasant or unacceptable thoughts; for instance, feelings of conflict, pain, or anxiety. In this case, Alexa might be experiencing such feelings, which then explains her pathetic alcoholism. She appears as the first suspect her husband’s murder especially since she has such motives but later in the story, the reader realizes that she is not her husband’s murderer.

Detective Benny Griessal’s character also highlights the psychoanalytical theory. He is one character whose sole aim is solving crimes and keeping away from the media.

He states that the last thing he wants is to be in the spotlight probably due to his personal life, which harbors struggles that he would consciously not want anybody and especially the media to know. For one, he is struggling with alcoholism and has been sober for half a year. Additionally, he and his wife do not live together after she chased him away from their home, but he wants to reconnect with his only daughter even though their relationship has been rocky.

The psychoanalytical theory states that the conscious mind entails everything that people know to exist (Lacan et al. 35). This aspect explains why Benny does not want the media to enquire about the murder cases since he is one of the top people handling it. The media is famous of scrutinizing investigations coupled with the detectives in charge of the cases, and thus it may come across confidential and private information that Benny wants to keep private.

This assertion underscores why Benny has to act fast and be aggressive in apprehending criminals for he does not want the media to dig deeper into his private life. In addition, he has assured Rachel’s father that he will do everything in his power to get back his daughter alive and apprehend the criminals behind the crime (Meyer 89).

The psychoanalytical theory explains why Rachel escapes especially after her American tourist friend dies in the most inhumane way after her assailants slit her throat as she watches.

She also cannot trust the police as some are collaborating with the culprits to ensure that they capture and kill her. This move is evident since criminals seem to be always a step ahead of police, which means that someone in the police force is tipping them off, which shows a form of corruption and even Benny warns the commissioner that things will get uglier (Meyer 45).

Rachel consciously decides not to trust anyone even the police, as she is not sure of the ‘good’ and ‘bad’ police officers. The psychoanalytical theory is thus evident in Rachel’s case since her conscious mind is telling her to run for her dear life as the criminals are looking for her for having witnessed her friend’s murder.

Rachel is scared and determined to get away from the people who killed her friend. At some instances, she even asks for help from strangers now that she cannot trust the police officers. Based on the psychoanalytical theory, her conscious mind tells her that things might become messier and that is why she behaves the way she behaves.

Fransman Dekker is another character who represses her desires in the story. He does not understand why he gets a white person to mentor him especially since he believes that he is a very good cop. He comes off as a racist and thinks he gets a white person as a mentor because he is black. His repressed desires of wanting to prove that he is a better cop as compared to Benny, a white man, stands out clearly courtesy of his unending complains.

He is a suitable and ardent cop, but has a temper and he does not hide his disappointment when it comes to the racial hiring practice. At one time, he almost looses his temper because of the affirmative action results (Meyer 68). His behavior is a category of the psychoanalytical theory as part of the conscious mind. He does what he does because he is aware that he does not like people undermining him just because he is black. According to him, when a white person is in charge it is an indication of racial prejudice.

The set up of the story is in South Africa where Apartheid ran deep in the society and thus blacks and whites could not mingle. Even after the end of apartheid, tension was still high between the whites and blacks, thus the issue of racialism was not over in some people’s mind like that of Fransman Dekker. The racial and tribal differences as well as the changing historical roles could not alleviate the challenges faced in solving crimes by the police force.

Meyer’s story comes out as a thriller especially how he clearly brings out the behaviors of all the characters (Robinson Para.6). Psychoanalytical theory comes out very well especially in the aforementioned characters who engage in some behaviors for conscious or subconscious reasons. Just like in Meyer’s Thirteen Hours story, we live in a world where at times we use our conscious mind while at others we use our subconscious mind.

This scenario plays out predominantly when we have to face a certain situation and our personalities want to come out such that we cannot hide them. Through the characters, Meyer convinces the reader that despite the story being fiction, whatever the characters go through is what people face in the real world. Similar to the story, people in the real world go through situations whereby they cannot hold their desires, and thus whether consciously or unconsciously, their desires come out.

Works Cited

Lacan, Jacques, Jacques-Alain, Miller, and Alan Sheridan. The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis (The Seminar of Jacques Lacan, Book 11), New York: Norton, 1998. Print.

Meyer, Deon. Thirteen Hours, New York: Grove Press, 2011. Print.

Robinson, Uriah. Thirteen hours by Deon Meyer, 2010. Web. <>

Tyson, Phyllis, and Robert Tyson. Psychoanalytic theories of development: An Integration, Connecticut: Yale University Press, 1993. Print.

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IvyPanda. "Why would they act the way they act?" May 23, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/why-would-they-act-the-way-they-act/.

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IvyPanda. 2019. "Why would they act the way they act?" May 23, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/why-would-they-act-the-way-they-act/.

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IvyPanda. (2019) 'Why would they act the way they act'. 23 May.

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