Classics: Myth and Literature
Mythological Impact on Human Nature
When I heard the word myth in the past any made up children’s story with outrageous characters and talking inanimate objects came to mind, Disney’s Hercules being just one example of my thoughts. As I got older I began to notice that my definition of myth was far off. The word myth literally comes from the Greek word mythos, meaning “story”, but these stories mean a lot more than just the literal definition. Although these mythological stories may not be of emotional and spiritual significance to us now, it is important that we realize the significance of myth to the ancient peoples and why. It is through their literature we can discover the likes, dislikes, fears, religious aspects, and even more about the lifestyle of these ancient people. Researchers have spent years doing just that – studying the reflections of mythology on human nature. Out of the many researchers on this topic, Sigmund Freud’s approach as a psychologist and Mircea Eliade’s approach to religion were of most interest to me.
Sigmund Freud believed in the conscious versus the unconscious mind. The conscious mind being fully aware of present perceptions, thoughts, fantasies, and the unconscious mind being the source of human desires, or needs, that we cannot control, such as sex, hunger, sleep, etc. This brought on the first part of Freud’s psychological approach to Mythology focusing on a stage of development in young boys. This concept is called the Oedipus complex, in which a young boy wants all his mother’s love and affection and out of jealousy the unconscious part of his mind wishes for the elimination of his father. This Oedipus complex can also be expressed in a feminine form in which the daughter is attached more to the father and finds a rivalry within her mother. In the story of Oedipus, son of Laius whom fears the birth of his son after the Oracle of Apollo at Delphi told him that any son born to Laius would kill him and eventually marry his wife. “Laius attempted to avoid the fate foretold by the oracle by ordering the infant to be exposed up Mt. Cithearon, with a spike driven through his ankles” (Page 413). Out of pity of the servant assigned to this awful task, instead Oedipus is given to king of Corinth, Polybus. Eventually Oedipus returns to his homeland to kill his father and marry his mother.
Although the story of Oedipus and his parents is of an extreme, as many myth’s and stories are, I think it is safe to say that we unknowingly attach ourselves to the opposite sex parent, even more so at a young age. Personally this very idea takes place in my own household; I have two brothers and they have always been attached to my mother and very protective of her as well. I used to think that coming from a split family and living with my mother is what created this bond because it is not nearly as strong with my father. For a matter of fact they argue and challenge each other on a regular basis. For me, my bond with my father was more existent when I was child and there are still some times that my father and I connect. However, my mother and I have no rivalry; in fact, we are indeed really good friends that talk, share laughter, and enjoy many of the same hobbies. Needless to say I realized that rivalries between mother and daughter are quite normal considering many of my friends are lacking the bond that my mother and I share.
The second part of Freud’s approach led to the development of a process called dream-work, consisting of three mental activities: condensation of elements, displacement of elements, and representation of elements through symbols, often sexual. It is from the Oedipus story when the son kills the father in order to have possession of the mother that Freud developed a theory of heritage among the ancient people. According to Freud:
“The murder and the eating of the father led to