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 Essay, Page Two

Freud and the Text

 Although there is a feeling of cohesive delight at piecing together this “unconscious narrative,” we should perhaps question a little more deeply this Freudian framework. For Freud, “creative writing, like a day-dream, is a continuation of, and a substitute for, what was once the play of childhood” (427). The manifestation of “play” as daydream-text is, for the author, a fulfillment of a “phantasy” (a childhood wish fulfilled) (424). For the reader, says Freud, reading is a “yield of pleasure which he [the author] offers us in the presentation of his phantasies” (428). The creation of text, then, is a fulfillment of the Id; and so is the reading of it. The hero also plays a special role for Freud:

    The feeling of security with which I follow the hero through his perilous adventures is…the true heroic feeling… “Nothing can happen to me![6] It seems to me, however, that through this revealing characteristic or invulnerability we can immediately recognize His Majesty the Ego, the hero alike of every day-dream and of every story. (425)

The victory of Pip over Orlick is almost a guaranteed one, according to Freud; for within the text, the Hero as Ego is the invulnerable mainstay of the “day-dream.” However, the implication that Freud raises, that the text is both the super-projection of the Ego, and the release of the Id, creates a tension between the two forces that is not fully explained. This “play of tension” allows room for the type of confrontation between Pip (Ego) and Orlick (Id). And the text itself, as the creation of the Id, also allows for something else-- the destruction of the projected Ego. Freud continues:

    The fact that all the women in the novel invariably fall in love with the hero can hardly be looked on as a portrayal of reality, but it is easily understood as a necessary constituent of a day-dream. (426)

Whether Pip finally marries Estella is an ambiguous conclusion whose ambiguity relies upon the edition of the text itself. Most editions contain Chapter 59, which Dickens wrote upon the instance of his friend Edward Bulwer Lytton, who “pleaded with him to unite Pip and Estella” (Dickens 494). The original text, which finished with Chapter 58, was very clear in that Pip and Estella went entirely separate ways. The supplementary Chapter 59 introduces several shades of ambiguity with several different endings, ranging from “I saw no shadow of another parting from her” (current Penguin edition, the “happiest”), to “I saw the shadow of no parting from her” (first bound edition, very ambiguous), to the definitely more conclusive and true to the original “I did not see the shadow of our subsequent parting looming over us” (1868 edition) (Dickens 496). George Barnard Shaw, one of few who preferred the original ending, saw the revised ending(s) as “psychologically wrong” (Dickens 496). A Freudian reading, however, would see the “happiest” ending, where Pip stays with Estella, as the “psychologically” right ending, satisfying the dream of the projected Ego. Why did Dickens and Shaw prefer the unhappy ending? The answer seems to lie beyond Freud’s centrist and sexist schematic, which sees the male-hero (Ego) as the meaningful centre to a system of “dream logic” created by the Id. The problem with Freud’s scheme is that even though he uses literature as a means to analyse the author, he does not pay enough attention to the implications within, and of, the text itself.


All material Copyleft t.c. van Veen, 2000