THE OEDIPUS COMPLEX

The Oedipus complex represents the core of neurosis for Freud; this concept explains a great deal.

Before that, we should know what Oedipus complex is.

The Oedipus complex, as Freud pointed out, is named after a Greek mythological hero. The fact that Freud named this complex after a mythical figure suggests the important role that myths play in our consciousness and lives.

The story of Oedipus begins with the marriage of King Laius of Thebes to his distant cousin, Jocasta. An oracle makes a prophecy that Laius will be killed by his son, so when jocasta gives birth to Oedipus, Laius binds the infant’s feet and orders that he be left on a mountaintop to die. Laius is unaware that Oedipus has been rescued from the mountain by a shepherd and taken to King Polybus of Corinth, who raises him as his son. Oedipus believes Polybus is his father, so when, as a young man, he hears Apollo has said Oedipus is fated to kill his father, he leaves Corinth to avoid harming Polybus. As he travels to Thebes and meets Laius at a crossroads. the two men get into a fight, and Laius is killed. Oedipus then goes on to Thebes, which is being plagued by the Sphinx, a monster that looks like a winged lion and has the face of a woman. The Sphinx devours any wayfarer who cannot answer this riddle: What creature goes on four feet in the morning, two at noon, and three in the evening?

Oedipus seeks out the Sphinx and correctly answers the riddle she poses: The creature is man, who crawls in infancy, walks on two legs in the prime of life, and uses a cane to walk in old age. When Oedipus answers the riddle, the Sphinx kills herself and Thebes is saved. Oedipus is then welcomed into the city with great fanfare, and the Thebans make him their king. He marries the wife of the former king, Jocasta-not realizing she is his mother-and they have two children. When the children are grown up, Thebes is visited by another plague. Oedipus sends jocasta’s brother, Creon, to consult the oracle at Delphi to find out what might be done to lift the plague. Creon comes back with the answer: Whoever murdered King Laius must be punished. Oedipus then sends Tiresias, a blind prophet (who had once been a woman), to the oracle to find out the name of the king’s murderer. When Tiresias returns, he at first refuses to tell Oedipus what he has learned. When Oedipus accuses Tiresias of not telling him the answer because Tiresias himself was involved in the killing of King Laius, Tiresias finally tells Oedipus, “You are the murderer.” When it becomes clear that Oedipus has killed his own father and married his mother,jocasta kills herself and Oedipus blinds himself in his grief.

This myth, Freud suggests, is a template that explains the developmental processes all children undergo. The child is attracted to the parent of the opposite sex and becomes hostile toward the parent of the same sex. Most children are able to resolve their Oedipal difficulties and lead normal lives, but those who can’t end up with many psychological difficulties. For Freud, Oedipal conflicts are the core of neuroses.

Individual

According to psychoanalytic theory, every individual passes through a stage in which he or she desires the parent of the opposite sex-all of this, of course, on an unconscious level. Most people learn to master their Oedipus complexes; neurotic individuals are plagued by theirs. In little boys this mastery is aided by an unconscious fear of castration-castration anxiety-and in little girls it is aided by jealousy of men and what is termed penis envy.

Boys

Little boys. according to Freudian theory, sexualize their love for their mothers and wish to displace their fathers and monopolize their mothers’ affection. Their fear of retaliation by their fathers then leads them to renounce their love of their mothers, to identify with the masculinity of their fathers, to rechannel their love outside of the family, and to direct their interest toward other females.

Girls

With little girls, the situation is different. They do not have to fear castration (some theorists suggest they believe they have already lost their penises) and so do not relinquish their Oedipal desires as quickly as boys do. But girls do fear the loss of the love of both their parents and so avoid this loss by reidentifying with their mothers and turning, eventually, to males other than their fathers as a means of obtaining babies (and. indirectly, their lost penises)..

Heracles complex and Jocasta complex

Freud also wrote about several other related complexes of interest here. For example, the Heracles complex is characterized by a hatred of the father for his children. The father sees the children as rivals for the affection of his wife and so wishes to get rid of the children. The jocasta complex (named for the mother of Oedipus) is characterized by abnormal attachment of the mother to her son; it is found in varying degrees of intensity, from simple overattachment to incestuous relations.

Importance of Myth

Freud’s argument is that myths affect our psychological development. These sacred stories shape many of the things we do, although we are unaware of this influence. Thus many films and television programs and many of our rituals, such as holding New Year’s Eve parties, have unrecognized sacred or mythological content. Myths are an important component of our psyches, our media and popular culture, and our everyday lives. 

Myth … is a traditional religious charter, which operates by validating laws, customs, rites, institutions and beliefs, or explaining socio-cultural situations and natural phenomena, and taking the form of stories, believed to be true, about divine beings and heroes.

MEDIA AND THE OEDIPUS COMPLEX

We spent time on Oedipus complex to understand the relationship in many contemporary films, television programs, and other mass mediated texts. Whenever you have a trio of a younger man, an older man, and a woman, or a younger woman, an older woman, and a man, there is reason to suspect that the Oedipus complex may be motivating, to varying degrees, the characters. At the very least, we can find Oedipal themes in such stories.

James bond’s The Man with the Golden Gun offer a fairly explicit rehearsal of the Oedipus myth. Bond is sent away to a foreign land, is given another name, loses his memory so that like Oedipus, he lacks a knowledge of his true identity and parentage, eventually leaves those who have adoptedhim (Kissy) and journeys back to his homeland where (having been captured and brainwashedby the KGB en route) he attempts, in the opening pages of The Man with the Golden Gun, to kill M.

Bond, as the authors point out, is continually threatened by symbolic castration by the powerful figures that capture him in various adventures. Bennett and Woollacott suggest we find these Oedipal themes in the Bond adventures because Fleming had not resolved his Oedipal problems: he was excessively fond of his mother and hostile toward his father. In Bond novels and films, he meets and is attracted to a beautiful woman. Later, a powerful and older male figure captures Bond and plans to kill him. Bond always finds a way to escape and kill the villain and then is able to have a sexual relationship with the woman.

We can find the Oedipus complex or Oedipal themes in many texts. This can be explained relatively easily. If Freud is correct about the Oedipus complex, everyone experiences it. and residues of this experience then linger in the unconscious of scriptwriters and filmmakers and all the people who experience their work. From a psychoanalytic perspective, we can say that one reason we are drawn to stories. regardless of the medium, is that these stories either help us resolve our Oedipal problems or confirm that we have resolved them.