Julien Sorel's Death Drive

Topics: Jacques Lacan, The Imaginary, The Symbolic Pages: 2 (504 words) Published: February 25, 2013
Julien Sorel’s Death Drive: From the Paranoid-Schizoid Position to the Guillotine For the majority of The Red and the Black, from the time Julien enters the narrative to his final moments in his cell, his life of fraud and hypocrisy has been, in Kleinian terms, a ceaseless stage of the “paranoid-schizoid position.” In Lacanian terms, Julien is trapped in the Imaginary and cannot successfully find his role within the Symbolic Order. In other words, Julien has been fractured and moving back and forth between “good” and “bad,” as seen in his relationship between various pairings of extreme opposites: conservative and liberal politics, plebian aspirations and aristocratic boredom, the church and the army, Mme. de Rênal and Mathilde. This stage of development is when an individual should develop a subject-object relationship and develop a reconciled ego. Klein and Lacan argue that complete maturation and development of a healthy ego are only found through the mother. As seen in the text and the articles by Felman, Finch, and Algazi, because Julien never developed his own identity, his only two options in life are madness and death. Just as Algazi argues, it is only, when in prison, cut off from the Symbolic Order and visited by his “mother-mistress,” that he is finally able to reconcile his fractured psyche (593). In discovering the I, one must be able to identify the Other. However, this is nearly impossible to do in French society at this time. Binaries are constantly changing as both sides gain and lose privileged positions. Julien has no stable, consistent object to measure himself against. Conservatives and liberals are constantly swapping sides and power. The church and the army are shifting driving forces and authorities in Julien’s life. The protagonist is not only caught in the middle, but he often becomes a pawn or a target that is manipulated and redefined by someone else. His clothes often define who he is at certain stages in life, but even in one role...
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