Psychoanalysis in Joyce’s “An Encounter”
In James Joyce’s short story “An Encounter,” a young boy recounts an adventure he had when skipping school with a classmate. Throughout the story, many Freudian themes are present, including Freud’s stages of psychosexual development and subconscious narration that contains sexual imagery. These are exhibited in passages that contain phallic symbols and provocative speech. When considering Freudian stages present in the short story, the most evident examples are the confusion of the boy’s current psychosexual stage and the phallic stage to which his classmates are still present. The story starts with the boy explaining how his classmates and he were introduced to stories of the Wild West by his older classmate, Joe Dillon, and how the boys began to emulate the characters in the books by meeting up and staging fake battles in the Dillon’s backyard. While his classmates loved the battles, however, the boy expresses how he was never as intrigued as they were. The boy explains how, during the battles: “A spirit of unruliness diffused itself among us and, under its influence, differences of culture and constitution were waived. We banded ourselves together, some boldly, some in jest and some almost in fear: and of the number of these latter, the reluctant Indians who were afraid to seem studious or lacking in robustness, I was one. The adventures … were remote from my nature but, at least, they opened doors of escape. I liked better some American detective stories which were traversed from time to time by unkempt fierce and beautiful girls” (8). This short passage begins to establish the differences between the boy and his classmates in regards to psychosexual development. Stories of the Wild West are very masculine in nature and the heroes are typically valiant, narcissistic, prideful men who kill other men who try to jeopardize their masculine, or phallic, supremacy. The boy’s classmates who emulate these...
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