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Review of The Psychoanalysis as a Discipline and Its Concepts

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Psychoanalysis is a discipline which focuses on human mind, its different states: conscious, sub-conscious and unconscious, and human behavior. It is basically a set of therapeutic techniques which attempts to focus on human unconsciousness, mental disorders and their proposed remedies. Sigmund Freud (1856-1939), an Austrian Psychologist and Psychoanalyst, is considered to be the pioneer of the very discipline. Psychoanalysis contains many approaches which lead to the understanding of human mind and behavior ever since 1880s as it was very famous in that era, even used now, too (Barry, 1994, p.70). According to Freud, psychoanalysis is based on one’s experiences what one comes across in one’s daily life. It is not only a method of research but also a treatment. Freud’s approach is one of the approaches which lead to psychoanalysis (Freud, 1913).

Another approach in this arena is of Jacques Lacan (1901-1981), a French Psychoanalyst, whose main focus is on the unconscious part of the human mind. He attributes the unconscious as a major part of our existence. He states that the unconscious is very much structured like a language. He supports the views of Ferdinand de Saussure (1857-1913) on language and highlights the importance of signifier-signified relationship in language as a basic concept of unconscious too (Lacan, 1957).

The very research paper mainly focuses on Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalysis and its basic concepts. Freud gave his concepts and ideas in the form of essays or detailed lectures on psychoanalysis. Later on those essays and lectures were published in the form of books. Moreover, these were translated in many languages, too, as originally published in German. Freud’s psychoanalysis focuses on conscious, sub-conscious or conscience and unconscious as equals to ego, super-ego and id, respectively. He emphasizes them as major parts of human personality whose direct effect is on human actions (Freud, 1923, pp. 2). Another major aspect of Freud’s theory is human sexuality. He draws Oedipal and Electoral conflicts as the major conflicts of humans in infancy. Oedipal complex is characterized by sexual attraction towards one’s mother and elimination of father while Electoral complex is characterized by sexual attraction towards one’s father and elimination of mother (Freud, 1923, pp. 23-26).

Another conception related to these ones is of repression which is the putting back of undesired events, instincts and conflicts of human mind into unconscious (Freud, 1923, p. 3). Concerning this, another key point of the very approach is libido which is human sexual drive. It has three stages of its focus which are oral, anal and phallic. He further relates the idea of Thanatos and Eros which are death and love drives respectively (Freud, 1923, p. 20-22).

Dream-work is another concept, introduced by Sigmund Freud. He states that the dreams are the royal path to a person’s unconscious. The very concept consists of two further elaborations: displacement, and condensation. Displacement is the symbolic representation of one person or event by the other because of some close association etc. and condensation in which persons or events are condensed in a single image (Freud, 1899, p. 193).

Projection and defense mechanism are other aspects of Freudian psychoanalysis. Projection occurs when one projects one’s feelings and thoughts on others as others’ parts of personality. Defense mechanism refers to protection or defense of one’s feelings and thoughts and avoidance of their acceptance. According to Freud, parapraxis or Freudian slip occurs when one’s unconscious conflicts find their outlet in other actions like slips of the tongue or other unwanted and unintended actions etc. (Freud, 1901, pp. 209-210)

Freud’s psychoanalysis has wide applications in psychology as well as literature. In psychology it attempts to detect the causes and proposes the remedies of human mental or psychological disorders while in literature psychoanalytical criticism of different literary texts is conducted. According to Ellman (1994), Freud’s psychoanalysis is still famous because it still irritates public despite acceptance of its beauty. She argues that Freudian psychoanalysis has never left irritating people which has become increased over past few years (Ellman, 1994, p.1). Because of the growing interest, psychoanalytical criticisms are conducted widely. It makes the analysis of literary text on the basis of psychoanalysis. More probably, it scans the whole text in psychic context. Freudian psychoanalytical concepts are applied on the literary text for instance if it is a novel, the very concepts could be applied on the author’s description of setting, background, characters, their dialogues, etc.

According to Wright (1984), Freudian psychoanalysis focuses on a person’s inner desires which ultimately lead him or her to social goals. The very thing becomes the reason or cause of mould of culture. As literature explores the different aspects of culture and society, psychoanalytic criticism combines both society and human persona. It completes the circle which goes from an individual to society and back from society to an individual. She emphasizes the importance of language in psychoanalysis. But she further argues that when words become unable to express an individual’s desires, psychoanalysis presents itself which directs one to one’s unconscious realm of desires (Wright, 1984, p.1).

Sigmund Freud himself states the importance of words and language in psychoanalysis. According to Freud, the exchange of words between the client and analyst bears very importance. In this regard, he gives the idea of free association in which a person is allowed to speak freely of his or her thoughts, feelings and experiences in the absence of analyst. So that a person’s unconscious becomes consciousness (Wright, 1984, pp. 1-2). In psychoanalytical criticism, the same thing is applied. Like free association, a researcher also pays heed to dialogues of characters and tries to get the implicit feelings and desires of them.

The very research paper also depicts psychoanalytical criticism of a literary text. It is applied on one of the characters of the novel, The Grapes of Wrath (1939) which is written by John Steinbeck. John Steinbeck is a twentieth century American novelist whose writings contain the depiction of Great Depression era. Through his works, he stirs a universal sympathy for those who were the serious victims of the very decade. Bloom (1996) considers Steinbeck as a liberal and sympathetic writer who achieves a sort of permanence in fiction writing (Bloom, 1996, p.1). According to him, though The Grapes of Wrath depicts a specific period it is still a popular fiction work. He tries to locate Steinbeck among his contemporary writers. In fact, he compares William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying with Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath. He further argues that Steinbeck has not achieved that much popularity which is achieved by his contemporary fiction writers like Willa Cather, Theodore Dreiser, Ernest Hemingway, Scott Fitzgerald, Nathanael West and Flannery O’Conner. On the very argument, he expresses his regret for Steinbeck as not among successful writers of his age. In comparison with Hemingway, Steinbeck’s popular writings are not read that much widely which Hemingway’s failures are read (Bloom, 1996, p.1).

Harold quotes the late Antony Burgess’s views on the very thing that Hemingway was the hurdle or a sort of obstacle in the way of Steinbeck’s success. Steinbeck thinks his style of writing unique to himself which is half-biblical while Hemingway too bears the same art of writing. Steinbeck thinks his portraiture of women as tolerant and stressed a kind of feature unique to him but D.H. Lawrence has the same art of depiction. This feature can be seen by comparing Elisa Allen in The Chrysanthemums, which is a short story by Steinbeck with March in Lawrence’s The Fox. Further Harold again compares Joads of Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath with Bundrens of Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying and states that Steinbeck’s characters lack dignity and persuasiveness which Faulkner’s characters have. According to Burgess, an efficient writer like Steinbeck should not have written the literary pieces particular to a certain period (Bloom, 1996, p.2). It was a kind of challenge for Steinbeck to write such a period-particular book like The Grapes of Wrath.

The one of the major reasons behind the novel being a tremendous task is that it depicts the elements of Great Depression. According to Robbins, WWI was the major cause of Great Depression which was the stock exchange crash in New York in autumn of 1929. Because of which people lost their economy. Where the war was a big demand of heavy mechanical equipments, there it also affected the Wall Street. Robbins considers the Great Depression as the incomparable downturn of the economy in the whole world. He further states that before the war there was no concept of economic difficulties. But after the war, there was sudden crash of stock exchange which left the investors deprived of their investments. Everyone knew the sudden ups and downs of the economy and trade. The depression in business and the unavailability of employments were the prevailing attitudes of that decade. The lack of stability in politics and the chaos of war became the ingredients of the instability to the whole system. According to Robbins, the war was also the consequence of such political instabilities. But at the same time it should not be considered, in Robbins’ opinion, that the world before the war and the Great Depression was a utopia. Obviously all the political upheavals among the countries were before the war, which lead to such adversities (Robbins, 1934, pp. 1-3).

To depict such a frustration of a decade was not a less huge task for a writer of fiction. According to Bloom (1996), Steinbeck’s whole interest was deeply rooted in the depiction of the Great Depression. His main ambition was to make Americans comprehend and realize the miseries of those rural people who starved and suffered the most in the era of Depression. That is the very reason which becomes the basis of the story’s long descriptions of Oklahoma at the start. In Harold’s opinion, once the area of Great Plains was green with grass. But when people removed grass in order to sow wheat and to feed their cattle, the wind blew away the soil as the drought hit the ground. The storm of dust even darkened the sky. It travelled to far off countries even to Atlantic Ocean too. The very dust gathered in front of houses, fences and barns, and ultimately caused people to leave their houses. It not only damaged the acres of land but also became the major cause of rural people’s suffrage. In one of Steinbeck’s journal, he adores and admires the courage and bravery of Joads even more than his (Bloom, 1996, p.4).

The Grapes of Wrath presents a dark and hopeless picture of the circumstances of the very era as it gives a realistic portrait of the events. The novel gives a detailed account of a family which is in quest of its identity in the society. It conveys the idea of self-realization which in Steinbeck’s opinion is “Manself”. In spite of all the pre-planned details of the events of the novel, Steinbeck did not have a particular mindset in order to choose the title of the novel. The very title of the novel The Grapes of Wrath is picked from The Battle Hymn of the Republic, whose undertone can easily be felt. The book drew a huge storm of arguments among critics. There were different opinions and different point of views. Some regarded it a loathsome text while some thought it a climax of maturity and experience in John Steinbeck (Bloom, 1996, p.5).

The novel itself bears some unique characteristics which give it a prominence among the fiction writings written on the Great Depression. It involves a great struggle of both individuals and groups for self-realization and self-identity (Bloom, 1996, p.5). It highlights the sufferings and miseries of those who live their lives from hand to mouth. Those rural “Okies” earn their living by picking fruits and cotton on a very less earning. The novel is written in such a way that it arouses the sympathies of readers towards the victims of the Great Depression. Moreover, it highlights the brutal, rude, contemptuous and selfish attitude of Californians towards Oklahomans especially Californian police officers (The Grapes of Wrath, 1939).

The very novel contains the quasi-biblical discussions by the different characters (Bloom, 1996, p.1). Like, one of the characters in the novel is a preacher and at the same time his actions and morality do not conform to the bible. Though he himself has given up the church and no more a preacher, he still all the time thinks and talks like preachers (The Grapes of Wrath, 1939). Above all, the novel draws a real portrait of the sufferers, their conditions, migration, states and the Great Depression too. Even the real names of areas like Hoverville are used in the novel.

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Review of the Psychoanalysis as a Discipline and Its Concepts. (2019, March 12). GradesFixer. Retrieved February 1, 2023, from
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