Freud's Inspiration for Oedipus Complex Theory

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Sigmund Freud was so thoroughly inspired and intrigued by this play that he came up with the “Oedipus Complex.” This complex was part of his psychoanalytic theory, which in basis is the desire or possessiveness of the parent of the opposite sex and the rivalry or competition of the same-sex parent. Freud introduced this in 1899, in his article Interpretation of Dreams. The Oedipus Complex is inspired by the Greek Oedipus Rex play, in how Oedipus had killed his father, which seems like the rivalry for the same-sex parent, and the desire for the opposite sex parent, which demonstrates the relationship between Jocasta and Oedipus.

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Freud believes that such a complex occurs in the phallic stage, from ages three to five years old. The children tend to suppress and eliminate the unconscious desires once they grow older or identify closer with the same-sex parent. If such family relationships are passed on healthily with the appropriate amount of affection, then the stage usually passes on naturally and easily. There must be a certain amount of balance, that is, one parent cannot be excessively affectionate, nor excessively distanced from the child. However, in the presence of trauma, the child may go through an “infantile neurosis”, which in this case, like many other traumas, may continue permanently through the development of the child all the way to their transition as an adult. Another factor that is part of overcoming such a complex is the subject’s superego, a fraction of an adult’s conscious mind. Freud believed that the reactions made against his published complex were a great advancement in society’s natural morality.

Freud’s psychoanalytic achievements were always generally accepted by the science society and taught as respectable theories in schools in present. However, how much can we truly in Freud’s extent of credibility in such theory, and its relationship with its origins of the name itself?

In the play, Oedipus Rex, Jocasta, and Oedipus’ relationship is seen through the middle to ending of the play. At the end of the play, once the full truth came out, Jocasta commits suicide by hanging herself in the bedroom she shared with his son and his ex-husband. Oedipus finds her, and traumatized and terrified of his acts, blinds himself with Jocasta’s accessories. One of my interpretations from this play is that Jocasta had known that Oedipus was her son way beforehand, but her love for him was both motherly and from a spouse. In many points, Oedipus talks about his past and had mentioned to Jocasta about the same prophecy that she had shared with her husband Laius. Even though the audience was able to solve such a mystery from an early point in the play, Jocasta was apparently unable to decipher that her son was in fact her former husband, or perhaps, she knew but did not want to accept such repelling truth.

One of the lines in the play that may prove that Jocasta was open-minded about the union between a mother and son was when Oedipus confesses how intimidated he was about the prophecy’s part in which he married his mother, Jocasta then tries to calm him down, saying “As to your mother’s marriage bed, -don’t fear it. Before this, in dreams too, as well as oracles, many a man has lain with his own mother.” (p. 717, lines 1043-1045). This also applies in contemporary times; sexual dreams do not necessarily mean lust for that individual. In the play, however, Jocasta normalizes a mother-to-son relationship, she seems somewhat not to be repelled by it. She also concludes by saying, “But he to whom such things are nothing bears his life most easily.” (p. 717, lines 1246-1247). Through these lines, however, she seems to be more consoling towards Oedipus, showing more sympathy rather than acceptance towards her incest.

Jocasta also starts to stop Oedipus on his search for his real past, specifically in lines 1120-1145. In this scene, the messenger starts speaking about how Oedipus was found as a baby, and by now Jocasta has already figured out the truth. Jocasta tried and implores Oedipus to not continue with his investigation, while she seems to be in grief and sadness. “I beg you-do not hunt this out-I beg you if you have any care for your own life. What I am suffering is enough” (p. 719, line 1127-1129). As Oedipus keeps insisting, she becomes more desperate and says, “O Oedipus, unhappy Oedipus! that is all I can call you, and the last thing I shall ever call you.” (p. 720, lines 1144-1146). These are her last words in the play, demonstrating her upcoming suicide and her sympathy and shame she feels for her son. Jocasta was traumatized by the truth, given that incest was ultimately performed by her. It can be assumed, that perhaps Jocasta’s duty as a spouse might’ve been conscious or unconscious maternal love for Oedipus.

When Oedipus finds out that Jocasta is her biological mother, he is in both shame and rage, and goes immediately to confront her, only to find her already dead. Oedipus’ is so traumatized and in so much hate of himself that he takes his own eyes out, he concludes “I do not know with what eyes I could look upon…gladden me?” (p. 728, lines 1436-1441) Oedipus cannot stare at himself, his mother’s shame, or even his own children, since they’re all part of incest and the murder of his own father. This prophecy was not well-looked upon, neither by the audience nor the characters themselves. The chorus at the end of the play, says “O generations of men, how I count you as equal with those who live not at all!” (p. 724, lines 1257-1259) and “Oedipus, you are my pattern of this, Oedipus, you and your fate! Luckless Oedipus, whom of all men, I envy not at all.” (p. 724, lines 1264-1266) These lines seem to demonstrate how Oedipus’ curse will prevail permanently since those who live Oedipus’ life are doomed forever. 

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