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Dickens : Psychoanalysis

t.c. van Veen, University of British Columbia.

Text as Allegory

It is my intent in this paper to try an experiment. I shall begin in the usual fashion by analysing text [1] with theory-- in this case, Freudian theory. However, as we follow the problems arising from this analysis, I will trace the problems of the theory back to the text, in a sense using the theory as allegory for the “text” itself by using principles of Jacques Lacan. The “act of writing” of this essay explores the “multidirectional relationship” possible between theory (in this case, psychoanalysis) and literature as noted by Soshana Felman in “The Case of Poe:”

    Lacan…[through] his outstanding demonstration that there is more than one way to implicate psychoanalysis in literature; that how to implicate psychoanalysis in literature is itself a question for interpretation…that to situate in a text the analytical…is not necessarily to recognize a known, to find an answer, but also, and perhaps more challengingly, to locate an unknown, to find a question. (681)

 

Investigating Orlick as the Unconscious

The antithetical nature of Orlick to Pip can perhaps be explained by understanding Orlick as the (textual) manifestation of Pip’s unconscious. Upon Orlick’s first introduction into Great Expectations on page 139, he is a “fellow of that obstinate disposition” who is “never in a hurry, and always slouching” (140). He is further likened to “Cain, or the Wandering Jew, as if he had no idea where he was going and no intention of ever coming back.” The idea of Orlick as destiny-less and as devoid of agency, as opposed to Pip’s “great expectations,” reoccurs when Orlick finally confronts Pip at the quarry and explains why he hit Mrs. Gargery: “‘I tell you it was your doing - I tell you it was done through you’” (437). Orlick’s placement of blame upon Pip (“‘You cost me that place;’” “‘How dared you to come betwixt me and a young woman I liked?’” (435)) comes from a person without agency, without the ability to create his or her own destiny: “the Wandering Jew.” And in this novel we see the atypical Dickensian Jew shunned by one who does control Pip’s destiny, Mr. Jaggers: “My guardian threw his supplicant [the Jew] off with supreme indifference, and left him dancing on the pavement as if it were red-hot” (192) [2].

Orlick can be seen to act out Pip’s unconscious desires. Pip “feel[s] more ashamed of home than ever” (136) at the conclusion of Chapter 14, and almost immediately in Chapter 15 occurs Orlick’s introduction (“Joe kept a journeyman at weekly wages whose name was Orlick” (139)), and the subsequent fight with Joe. Orlick only seems to enter the text at the point where Pip’s egoist class-consciousness permeates the text (“I should never like Joe’s trade;” “It is a most miserable thing to feel ashamed of home” (134)). A Freudian explanation might read that Pip secretly, in the form of his unconscious, wants to fight Joe, because he does not like “Joe’s trade” (134), which entails the subjection of his ego through his apprenticeship as a low-class blacksmith [3]. This is usually considered to be the Freudian model of repression and subsequent manifestation of this repressed desire as neurosis (in this case, of violence). Orlick’s act of robbing and humiliating Pumblechook (475) can likewise be seen as a similar act of unconscious revenge by the “Orlick-Id” of Pip, and Orlick’s revelation that it was he who hit Mrs. Gargery with the leg-iron (437) cements the idea of Orlick acting as Pip’s unconscious avenger [4]. When Orlick finally meets Pip at the quarry, it is the ultimate Freudian showdown of Id and Ego. Pip, at this point, is feeling some compassion for Magwitch, even though his unconscious, as Orlick, still wishes Magwitch dead [5]. It is this final struggle within Pip which manifests as the struggle at the quarry, and indeed, if the “Orlick-Id” had won, Orlick’s wish would be true: “‘I won’t have a rag of you, I won’t have a bone of you, left on earth’” (436). For Freud, the Ego is what allows us to be social and “decent” Subjects; without it, one would only have the Id, and the complete and incoherent pursuit of all childhood desire (422). For all purposes, if Orlick had won, Pip would be dead as a character and negated textually. It is the textual implication we shall now turn to.

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All material Copyleft t.c. van Veen, 2000