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Foreign Affairs By Allison Laurie Essay

1699 words - 7 pages

As one of the many infamous psychologists of the 20th century, Sigmund Freud attempted to explain why people act and speak as they do. He divided the human mind into three different states, overlapping from consciousness to unconsciousness, and maintained that ideas or “psychic energy” could neither be created nor destroyed, but simply flowed back and forth between the states (Alexander). According the Freud, the unconscious mind was further divided between the overtly moral superego and the pleasure-seeking id. The id serves to explain the irrational actions people make, often suggesting that the violation of laws, rules, and codes of etiquette are acceptable in the pursuit of pleasure. It begins to wave its influence over one’s actions during infancy, or as Freud interpreted the beginning of sexual desires in humans. Young males develop an Oedipus Complex or “attachment to the parent of the opposite sex accompanied by envious and aggressive feelings towards the parent of the same sex” (Dollof) and young females develop a similar Electra Complex. However, they are often prevented from acting on their desires due to fear of the same sex parent, or current mate of their object of attraction. Then, they suppress these feelings back into the unconscious mind for the majority of their adolescence and begin to feel contempt for the parent of the same sex. This development shapes their attractions, perceptions, and general attitudes towards people throughout their lifetimes. Illicit desires, social sympathy, and conversely social apathy all emerge during childhood. Should all this information be found valid, then the key to understanding adult behavior lies buried within childhood.

Author Alison Lurie undertakes the task of interpreting the effects of childhood influences on adult behavior in her novel, Foreign Affairs. The male lead of the story, Fred Turner, a young, attractive English professor, is most affected by his attraction to women. Fred acknowledges he has many romantic options available, yet is extremely specific in his choices of lovers. His interest in women is based on the relationships he had with his parents and as is common other young males, he shows symptoms of an Oedipus Complex, preferring his mother over his father. When describing the reasons for his favorable appearance, he talks of his mother passionately, “It was soon clear that he had inherited his mother’s brunette, lushly romantically good looks: her thick wavy dark hair, he wide-set cilia-fringed brown eyes” (Lurie 27). He describes his mother as “lush” and “romantic,” where he would be expected to use “beautiful” or “pretty.” This supports Freudian theory, in the sense that Fred is (or was) drawn to something he cannot have, motivated by the id. His attention to detail points to something much deeper than a mere description would, even from an English professor. The idea of an Oedipus Complex is further reinforced by Fred’s aversion for his father. He marries Roo with...

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