Poe and Psychoanalytic Criticism Essay

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The School of Psychoanalytic Criticism “The Cask of Amontillado” and its author Edgar Allan Poe are excellent references for applying psychoanalytic interpretations to an author and his work. Psychoanalytic criticism uses a Freudian theory of a three level psyche, the ego, the super-ego, and the id to gain a better understanding of the deeper or hidden meaning within literature and an understanding of the psychological identity of the author, the characters or the reader. Freud theorized that our psyche has three levels. The ego is the rational part of our psyche known as the consciousness. The super-ego is the part of our psyche that is dictated by the values of first our parents and then later society known as the conscience. The …show more content…
Psychoanalytic critics might theorize that Poe was morbidly captivated with the theme of “death of a beautiful women”, because of the loss of his mother at only a year old and then the loss of his wife at such an early age. Poe’s tragic loss is transcended from reality to his works of fiction through the Freudian concept of dream work, where real events or desires are transformed into dream images. According to Barry there are two important facets of this concept, displacement; where one person or event is represented by another which is associated by the later and condensation, where a number of people, events or meanings are combined and represented by a single image in a dream. (Barry 94) Psychoanalytic critics can apply this concept to literature because similar to a dream, literature does not express absolute ideas and themes. Literature communicates to its readers through symbolism and abstract meanings that have concrete images. Applying psychoanalytic criticism using Freudian concepts can often be very helpful in solving debates in literature. Barry describes a debate among critics not being able to agree on why Hamlet has trouble killing his uncle when he was able to kill other people in the play. “Psychoanalytic criticism offers a neat and simple solution: Hamlet cannot avenge this crime because he is guilty of wanting to commit the same crime himself. He has an Oedipus complex” (Barry 101). I think this school of