Edgar Allen Poe Analytical Essay

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  • Topic: Sigmund Freud, Psychodynamics, Psychology
  • Pages : 6 (2194 words )
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  • Published : January 28, 2011
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When looking at a piece of literature through a psychological approach it is easy to apply Sigmund Freud’s theories of the id, ego, and superego, which focus on conscious and unconscious behavior. When analyzing many of Poe’s works, critics tend to look through a psychological lens. Specifically in Poe’s The Black Cat. Some critics believe that Poe’s alcoholism is reflected in the piece, but many, such as James W. Gargano “advised the tales readers to avoid the biographical pitfall of seeing Poe and the first-person narrator of The Black Cat as ‘identical literary twins’” (Piacentino 1). It is due to his childhood that Poe’s narrator in The Black Cat subconsciously places animals before humans, thus leading to him to murder his wife. In reading The Black Cat the theories of Sigmund Freud are applicable. Freud’s theories sprout from the idea that unconscious events with in ones mind should be more heavily emphasized because most of ones actions are from this part of the mind, with out awareness. He believes that the mind works so most thoughts and emotions are buried beneath ones conscious thoughts (Guerin 123). Freud segregated the mind into three parts: the id, the ego, and the superego (Decker 2). The id is where ones aggressions and desires come from. It is there to please ones instincts with pleasure that has no regard for consequence. “The id as defined by Freud is identical in many respects to the Devil as defined by theologians.” If the id wasn't balanced with the ego, and super ego, the id would undoubtedly lead to destruction of ones self, and others (Guerin 125). When Poe’s narrator murders his cat, and later his wife, his id is not in balance with the ego and superego, thus allowing him to act upon impulse with out thinking. Because the id would wreak havoc amongst the mind it is necessary to have the ego and superego there to create a balance. The ego is the "rational governing agent of the psyche" (Guerin 126). It’s necessary to make sure the id’s impulses can be suppressed, so that one can have “non destructive behavioral patterns.” Freud once stated "in popular language, we may say that the ego stands for reason and circumspection, while the id stands for the untamed passions” (Guerin 126). Lastly, there is the superego, which is the polar opposite of the id. It works around morals, and doing what is right. The super ego strives for perfection. It is important to be knowledgeable in the three parts of the psyche because if any of the three governing agents of the mind were to become too powerful it would lead toward self destruction. In explaining the correlation of the id, ego and super ego Freud said: “We might say that the id would make us devils, that the superego would have us behave as angels (or worse as creatures of absolute social conformity) and that it remains for the ego to keep us healthy human beings by maintaining a balance between these two opposing forces” (Guerin 127). This particular balancing act is vital toward a normal, functional psyche. This is relevant to The Black Cat because in the beginning of the story the narrator seems to have a balanced psyche; he is able to act as a normal person. He is nice to his wife, and his pets, especially his favored black cat. Towards the end however, we see a very different side of the narrator. Somewhere his brain had a malfunction, and the id became more powerful then the ego and superego could keep in balance. When his id over came him, he was easily able to act upon impulse. The first example the readers sees of this dysfunctional behavior is after the narrator comes home drunk. He feels the cat is neglecting him, and he gouges out his beloved cats eye. Later he will act upon the id’s impulses again, and murder his wife. Freud also commented on psychodynamic theories. “Psychodynamic theories focus on how human behavior and relationships are shaped by conscious and unconscious influences” (Bruce 2). Psychodynamic theories are a...
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