Oedipus 2 Essay

2106 words - 8 pages

Oedipus The King, through the Eyes of Freud Both Sophocles' Oedipus the King and Freud's Civilization and Its Discontents discuss the deeply rooted innate conflicts of mankind and the approach in which he may or may not overcome them. In Sophocles' work, the internal conflicts are revealed as Oedipus develops a sense of guilt when he realizes that he has killed his father and married his mother. Freud invokes this concept and identifies with this Sophoclean sense of humanity's tragic condition in his discussion of the symptoms of inner conflict and the feelings of guilt and unhappiness that indubitably arise from them. Freud discusses the humanistic instinct for happiness in terms of the libidinal drive, Eros. On discussing mankind's libidinal drive, Freud considers the pleasure principle, a notion that all people act in ways to increase personal enjoyment and happiness. "As we see, what decides the purpose of life is simply the program of the pleasure principle. This principle dominates the operation of the mental apparatus from the start." (Freud, 25) According to Freud, happiness can only be reached by total instinctual gratification, or, in much simpler terms, by having sex: mankind's most intense pleasure and source of deepest happiness. However, this is impossible, because in order for civilization to exist, men must employ their energies in the service of society, thus sacrificing individual personal satisfaction. Freud states that he is strongly concerned of the outcome of the inevitable conflict produced by the demands of man's instinctual drive on the one hand, and the repressive requirements of civilization on the other. By creating substitute gratification, civilization is able to partially compensate individuals by redirecting libidinal energies into socially acceptable forms of bliss. The purpose of society therefore becomes to divert mankind from individual sexual gratification into socially productive and acceptable activities, also known as the civilizing process. Therefore, this conflict is invariably resolved in favor of civilization as all people are born into a restrictive civilization in which human innate instincts are repressed at the expense of human happiness. Freud believed that in order to exist in this society, the mind must repress many of its primitive and sexual fantasies into an unconscious level, where they gain tremendous power to shape our thoughts, actions and especially our illnesses. He stated, "If civilization imposes such great sacrifices not only on man's sexuality but on his aggressiveness, we can understand better why it is hard for him to be happy in that civilization. In fact, primitive man was better off in knowing no restrictions of instinct. To counterbalance this, his prospects of enjoying this happiness for any length of time were very slender. Civilized man has exchanged a portion of his possibilities of happiness for a portion of security." (Freud, 73) The concept that no civilized man has...

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