Academic journal article IUP Journal of English Studies

The Traits of Reciprocal Determinism in Helen Macdonald's H Is for Hawk

Academic journal article IUP Journal of English Studies

The Traits of Reciprocal Determinism in Helen Macdonald's H Is for Hawk

Article excerpt


Understanding human behavior is likely never to become a reality. Behavioral sciences attempt an investigation of human and animal behavior through controlled and naturalistic observation. There were studies conducted regarding the determining factors of human thoughts and actions. Thus the philosophical idea "determinism" gained importance in behavioral studies. Determinism is the philosophical position that for every event, including human interactions, there exist conditions that could cause no other event. The roots of the notion of determinism surely lie in a very common philosophical idea of sufficient reason "that everything can, in principle, be explained, or that everything that is, has a sufficient reason for being and being as it is, and not otherwise" (Hoefer 2016).

Reciprocal determinism is a theory set forth by psychologist Albert Bandura (Bandura and Walters 1963). When two events influence each other simultaneously, it causes reciprocal causation. Bandura here accepts the chances of a person's behavior being conditioned. Reciprocal determinism is based on the transforming of an individual's behavior by cognitive processes and external social stimulus. "Triadic reciprocal causation" is a term introduced by Bandura to refer to the ascendancy ofthree sets of factors (Figure 1):

1. Personal Factors

a. Cognitive events (memory, anticipation, planning and judging)

b. Affective events

c. Biological events

2. Environment

a. Physical surroundings

b. Family and friends

c. Social influences

3. Behavior

a. Motor responses

b. Verbal responses

c. Social interactions

Rice (2016) suggests that reciprocal determinism considers how what we do and who we spend time with-our behavior-impacts upon and changes the life conditions in the environment we experience and how we respond cognitively and emotionally, and possibly psychologically too, as a person to the environmental feedback we then receive. This paper is a study of Helen Macdonald's heart-wrenching, talon-sharp memoir H Is for Hawk based on reciprocal determinism and triadic reciprocal causation. The book is a kind of weird mixture of how the author deals with the sudden death of her father by training a notoriously difficult species of hawk. The book also includes a mini-biography of T H White.

Mutual Influence of Environment and Frequency of Behavior

Physical Setting on Motor Responses and Vice Versa

Physical settings affect our actions positively, negatively, or not at all. Being aware of the physical environment and its impact can help us create new areas or redesign the existing to meet our needs. Motor responses are voluntary movement response to stimuli, which may be internal or external. In H Is for Hawk, Helen accedes to the influence of physical setting on the motor responses saying, "Pieces of this place had disappeared since I was last here. . . . That morning I felt like the deer. I was in the grip of very old emotional ways of moving through a landscape, experiencing forms of attention and deportment beyond conscious control" (Macdonald 2014, 5).1 The narration here portrays how the behavior of Helen changes as she moves out of the comfort zone of Cambridge classrooms and libraries to the wilderness. Here, the environment shift (from Cambridge to the forest) affects the behavior (passive to attentive) of Helen. And the behavior (longing for isolation from human world) also affects the creation or the shift of the environment (Cambridge to the woods). Thus, behavior and environment are mutually coexisting factors.

Physical Setting on Verbal Responses and Vice Versa

Physical setting can be the primary source of mood, symbolism, or conflict. A person is often judged by his/her verbal responses at various environments. Mabel was irked by the shift in the terrain and Helen reacts to it voicing, "I hate him for upsetting my hawk - actually hate him, am outraged by his existence. …

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