Defense Mechanisms Unruly Id and Neddy
The idea of the human mind being composed of both a conscious and unconscious has been around for quite some time. Not until Sigmund Freud elaborated on these structures though were the ideas so popular and accepted. Freud described our conscious mind as what we are aware of in any present situation including our thoughts, ideas and perceptions. Freud also introduced us to the idea of the preconscious mind, which is closely related to the conscious in that it holds thoughts and ideas that are easily available to be brought to the conscious. The most important aspect of the mind, as Freud would tell us, is that of the unconscious realm that holds information not readily available to us. It is proposed that much of the information in the unconscious is stored there because we cannot bear to think about it. Closely related to the conscious, preconscious and unconscious minds are structures Freud believes determine our behavior: the id, ego, and superego. When reading a piece of literature the main focus is almost always on the characters. We try to understand their thoughts, feelings, perceptions, and drives. In The Swimmer, John Cheever forces us to ask ourselves what it is that compels Neddy to push himself beyond his limits and forget such critical aspects of his life. By analyzing Neddy’s id, ego, and superego, we begin to see a clearer picture of what drives his strange behavior.
The id, located in the unconscious, is thought to be the primitive part of our
psyche and the source of our motivations that drive us to fulfill our needs immediately. Freud believed that the id consisted of two parts: one driven by the life instinct, or pleasure principle, and the other driven by the death instinct. The life instinct promotes life of the individual and species by motivating him to eat and procreate. The death instinct refers to our desires to be still, at peace, and have no more needs. This instinct manifests itself by alcohol and drug abuse, getting lost in a book, craving sleep, or sometimes as seriously as suicide. Throughout the whole story of The Swimmer, we are constantly asking the question “why?” We first wonder why Neddy is pushing himself to the point of exhaustion while undertaking this journey, then we begin to wonder what it is that happened to Neddy and his family, and we finally wonder why Neddy himself cannot remember the crucial event or the times leading up to it. If we take a look at the Freud’s theories of the id we begin to answer some of these questions. The life instinct, or pleasure principle, offers an explanation as to why Neddy is drinking heavily throughout the story. He is attempting to maximize his pleasure and avoid pain and discomfort. The death instinct also offers a possible answer to why he is drinking so heavily while undertaking such a difficult journey. His id may be pushing him to be still, at peace, and with no more needs....