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The relationship shared between Georg Bendemann and his father had always been unstable and toxic. Georg’s father had total control over him both psychologically and professionally up until the passing of the mother. As a result of the power held over Georg by his father, he had been a pitiful, compliant, lonesome person most of his life. While speaking of Georg, the narrator mentions, “Perhaps during his mother’s lifetime his father’s insistence on having everything his own way in the business had hindered him from developing any real activity of his own”
Because of the fathers dominance and controlling behavior, he made all of the business decisions and had no time for Georg’s input on anything. His lack of practice held him back from becoming a strong, independent business man. However, once the mother passed away a dramatic shift occurred between Georg and his father’s relationship.After the death of his mother, Georg begins to call the shots, while his father seems to have lost all power. We can see that the father’s power has dissolved when he says, “I’m not equal to things any longer, my memory’s failing, I haven’t an eye for so many things any longer”
During his father’s decline, Georg takes the initiative to become the self-assertive individual that he has always longed to be. In addition to that, Georg takes full control of his father’s business and goes as far as to getting engaged to relieve his non-existent social life. It is obvious that Georg’s life seems to take a turn for the better. However, it is this same turn-around that becomes problematic for Georg. Due to Georg’s rough past he finds it very difficult to adjust to a new lifestyle and continues to look for his father’s approval. He specifically wants his father’s advice on whether or not to mail a letter to his friend in St.Petersburg about his new engagement. Georg says to his father, “But before I posted the letter I wanted to let you know”
However, Georg doesn’t receive the parental approval he wished for during his discussion with his father and mentally falls apart. Georg continues to run his father’s business, and continues to be successful while roles continue to reverse, Georg assumes a parental or authoritative role over his father. He treats him like a child and undresses him and gets him ready for bed. However, his father reacts to the child-like treatment and lashes out. He “threw the blankets off with a strength that sent them all flying in a moment… And He accuses Georg of betraying his friend and disgracing the memory of his mother. Additionally, in the story the father talks about Georg’s friend as follows: “He would have been a son after my own heart”. Father prefers Georg’s double to be his son because he cannot challenge his authority, as he is the weaker one. Georg’s friend is the powerless double of Georg, possessing all the weak, negative attributes unlike Georg. Besides, Georg’s father states that “the death of our dear mother hit me harder than it did you”.
In Freudian sense, for Georg, Frieda Brandenfeld was a substitute for his mother, as a sexual object. On the other hand, father had no sexual substitutions like Georg’s, so the rivalry between Georg and his father heightened. We can also say that Georg, by finding a sexual object, had successfully ended up his mourning of his mother, while the father still faces struggle, and is mourning. The father then becomes so engulfed in anger and sentences Georg to death. This encounter leads to the reversal of the father-son roles. In the end, this lifelong battle that had been fought between Georg and his father leads him to fight an even greater battle with himself. Ultimately, Georg loses by letting go of his newly found life and independence. His father’s influence over him was so great that he commits suicide and allows external forces to decide his fatal outcome.
Freudian psychoanalysis would say his father represents his super-ego and that it was his super-ego that sentenced him to death. Georg commits suicide due to the order of his super ego, which usually orders irrational, unexplainable actions in the psyche. Since Georg projects the image of his father to his own psyche as the super ego, he obeys to the order of his father. Ultimately, Georg loses by letting go of his newly found independence and instead, letting external forces decide his fatal outcome.
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