Psychoanalysis: Unconscious Mind and William Empson Essay

Submitted By dhan00
Words: 1213
Pages: 5

Psychoanalyst and Seven Types of Ambiguity Every piece of literature carries a social aspect, for every author has to acknowledge the society and their audience. In order to appeal to the general public, an underlying idea needs to be centralized in order to grasp the reader’s attention precisely and quickly. In addition, there is ambiguity in all great pieces of poetry or stories to offer a room for the readers to interpret according to their own experiences or mindset. There are always the subtle ideas that are not as prominently obvious, which can lead the story into a new direction according depending on the reader’s interpretation. In order to effectively understand these aspects in literature, several literary theories should be acknowledged, like psychoanalysis by Sigmund Freud and seven types of ambiguity by William Empson. Psychoanalysis and the seven types of ambiguity meet in terms of understanding the ambiguities in “The Turn of the Screw” by Henry James. Both theories contribute to thoroughly comprehending what these ambiguities in the story mean, according to society’s teachings. Psychoanalysis, originated by Sigmund Freud, breaks up the general human mind in to two categories: the conscious and the unconscious. The conscious is what people are aware of at all times. This is the aspect of the mental processing that people can talk about in rational ways. Some of the “conscious” thoughts include sensations, perceptions, memories, feelings, and fantasies. Then there is the unconscious, which is the “reservoir” for feelings, thoughts, urges, and memories. Most of the contents of the unconscious thoughts are either unacceptable or unpleasant, which according to Freud is the reason why they’re hidden beneath our conscious thoughts. However, Freud’s biggest argument in his theory was that the unconscious ideas are bound to have an influence one way or another on the way people behave and percept the world. In relation to “The Turn of the Screw”, the reader’s response stem largely from their unconscious ideas about an adult and a child’s relationship. In many cases, the act of being overly affectionate to a child becomes a pedophilic behavior in society; there often is a prominent line that cannot be crossed between an adult and a child. However, the relationship the readers are exposed to in the story is a very intimate one between Miles and the Governess. There are several instances where they embrace and kiss each other, because the Governess becomes afraid that she will lose him to the ghost of Peter Quint. On page 97, she describes Miles as “…the most beautiful [she] had ever found...” showing her admiration for his beauty as well as her subtly implied attraction. However, regardless of the implications that Miles and the Governess are very close, it is the conscious and the unconscious mind of the readers that affect the viewpoint of the entire story. In society, the act of intimacy with a child is frowned on and therefore, it is discouraged and also forbidden. At the back of every person’s mind there is the unconscious thought of pedophilia being the definition to over-affection towards a child. Thus, the Governess’s act of closeness with Miles becomes oddly strange for the readers to become adapted to. At the end, many of the readers are led to think that perhaps the Governess lets out her sexual frustration by using Miles, or that Mile’s beauty is too captivation for the Governess to be attracted to him. Either way, the reader’s unconscious or the subconscious mind about the act of pedophilia affect the viewpoint of the story as a whole, thus already creating a bias on the Governess’s characterization, as well as the central focus of the plot. In relation to the psychoanalysis theory by Sigmund Freud, William Empson worked closed with this idea of interpretation as well. However, he used a term called the seven types of ambiguities, listing all possible ambiguities that can exist within a poem or a