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Freud, an Austrian psychologist and neurolo gist (1856-1939) created an entirely new approach to the understanding of human personality. Through his skill as a scientist, physician, and writer, Freud comb ined his own observation and study to propound the theory of psychoanalysis. Acc ording to Bressler (1994), Freud believed that “the unresolved conflicts that give rise to any neurosis constitute the stuff of literature. A work of literature…was the external expression of the author’s minds.” Since its introduction, this theory has been instrumental to literary critics in analyzing, not just the author, bu t the characters portrayed in a literary work to reveal the motivations and inte nsions behind their actions. Using this approach has enabled literary critics to dive beneath the surface level of a text and ascertain its true meaning. This assignment undertakes a psychoanalytic criticism of Ola Rotimi’s The Gods Are Not To Blame. It gives the highlights of the psychoanalytic or Freudian theory and applies the tenets of this critical theory to the analysis of the central ch aracter of the text, Odewale. The aim is to reveal the how the complex interacti on between the Oedipus complex, the psychic zones and the unconscious is dramati zed in The Gods Are Not To Blame. THE PSYCHOANALYTIC THEORY THE PSYCHIC ZONES The effort to clarify the bewildering number of interrelated observations uncove red by psychoanalytic exploration led to the development of a model of the struc ture of the psychic system. In his theory, Freud outlines three psychic zones de signated as the id, ego, and superego. THE ID The first psychic zone is concerned with the sexual and aggressive tendencies th at arise from the body, as distinguished from the mind. Freud gave the name “id” to these unconscious drives. The id knows nothing of morality or reality. It seeks only to gratify the instinctual drives which claim immediate satisfaction and op erates solely according to the pleasure principle. The id tries to gratify these urges by any way it can. Freud held that the biological drives of a young perso n are often frustrated by delays and restricted by the demands of parents and ot her older members of the family. As time passes, the demands of the community or society also become important obstacles to id gratification. THE EGO In adapting to the environment, the child begins to acquire a second psychic zon e, the “ego”, or set of conscious perceptions, memories, and thoughts that enable th e person to deal effectively with reality. The ego is the domain of such functio ns as perception, thinking, and motor control that can accurately assess environ mental conditions. To defend itself against unacceptable impulses, the ego devel ops defense mechanisms. These include repression, the exclusion of impulses from conscious awareness; projection, the process of ascribing to others one s own u nacknowledged desires; and reaction formation, the establishment of a pattern of behavior directly opposed to a strong unconscious need. The ego obeys the reali ty principle. In many cases the ego reduces the conflict between the child’s insti nctive desires and reality by at least partially fulfilling the id impulses thro ugh socially acceptable behavior. Often, however, the conflict disappears on the conscious level as unfulfilled impulses are repressed into the unconscious mind . THE SUPEREGO As the child also grows older, he absorbs the teachings of family and society; h e develops a superego, or conscience, that frequently conflicts with the drives of the id. Id impulses become unacceptable, more often because of prohibitions i mposed on the individual by the parents and others. The totality of these demand
Freud thought that the Oedipus complex was the most important event of a boy’s childhood and had a great effect on his subsequent adult life. guilt. Ad ult sexuality. beginning in childhood. or drives. the unconscious and the pre-conscious processes. Freud believed. The play dramatizes man’s helplessness in the hand of fate or the struggle between humanity and the divine. Fr eud believed that the unconscious psychiatric processes follow laws different fr om those that govern conscious experience. a boy with an Oedipus complex feels guilt and experie nces strong emotional conflicts. the king’s messenger. The preconscious is defined as that lat ent mental activity based on an individual’s early experiences as a child that usu ally directly or indirectly influences an individual’s actions. Freud believes. In an attempt to avert this tragedy. to be killed in the evil grove. the action of the play moves in inexorably towards i . anger and guilt in his unconscious. the Ifa Priest d ivines for him a terrible future – that he will “kill his father and marry his mothe r”. The baby is handed over to Gbonka. Occurring at about four to six years of ag e. PSYCHOANALYTIC CRITICISM OF THE GODS ARE NOT TO BLAME Ola Rotimi’s The Gods Are Not To Blame is an adaptation of Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex. On the other hand. Freud claimed that in nearly all cases the boy represses the desire for his mother and the jealousy toward his father. and genital zones). The female equivalent for this complex is the p enis envy. especially to parents. that originate in chil dhood. The term O edipus complex. The laws of logic. the person may feel shame or guilt. and corresponding to various stages in the relatio n of the child to adults. irrational thoughts. When Odewale is born. thoughts and feelings that belong together may be shifted or displaced out of context. two disparate ideas or images may be condensed into one. Under the influence of the unconsciou s. indispensable for conscious thinking. thoughts may be dramatized in the form of images rather than expressed as abstract concepts. According to Freud. involving a variety of body functions or areas (or al. Gbonka refrains from killing the chi ld out of pity but instead. in psychoanalysis refers to a son’s largely unconscious sexual at traction toward his mother accompanied by jealousy toward his father. and certain objects may be represented symbolically by images of other objects. If the demands of the superego are not fulfilled. the conscious mental process involves the mental activities w hich an individual is directly aware of. dreams and nightmares. derived from the Greek legend of Oedipus. anal. by the time of adulthood. THE MENTAL PROCESES Another important component of the psychoanalytic theory involves the three ment al processes: the conscious. As a result of this unconscious e xperience. In this the function of which is to control the ego in accordance with the internalized standards of parental figures. From this point. is an end product of a complex process of develop ment. do not apply to these unconscious mental productions. THE OEDIPUS COMPLEX Oedipus Complex.s and prohibitions constitutes the major content of the third psychic zone. the child has stored many p ainful memories of repressed sexual desires. this hidden ca che of repressed desires and wishes continues to affect the conscious in the for m of inferiority feelings. King Adetusa and Queen Ojuola decide to “ki ll the unlucky messenger of the gods”. the child at this stage of development becomes capable of an emotional attach ment to the parent of the opposite sex that is similar to the adult s relationsh ip to a mate. Since the unconscious and conscious are part of the same psyche. A basic assumption of Freudian theory is that the unconscious conflicts in an in dividuals psyche involve instinctual impulses. a Greek tragedy. gives him to Master Ogundele. the superego. the child simultaneously reacts as a rival to the parent of the sa me sex. although the resemblance between the symbol and the original object may be vague or farfetched. who raises the child a s his own.
dares to insult his tribe “… I can bear the insults to myself. and patriotic – a man who has the highest este em for his tribe. In this way. Thus. he is confronted with the bitter truth of who he really is – a man who has killed his father and has mar ried his mother. hot temper is still with you. Freud claimed that in nearly all cas es. he is made king. the conflict in Odewale’s persona lity becomes obvious. An important component of psychoanalysis that becomes in evident in The Gods Are Not To Blame involves the Oedipus complex. Odewale does not choose to kill his father and marry his mother but th e text reveals that he chooses to become a pugnacious defender of his tribe. When viewed from the psychoanalytic perspective. In fact. when the ol d man. unaware that he himself was the killer. Rotimi portrays him as a c omplex man— sensitive. he concei ves himself as “a son of the tribe of Ijekun Yemoja” and thus an alien in the land o f Kutuje.ts climax. Since the term Oe dipus complex is derived from the Greek legend of Oedipus. Odewale responds aggressively in fury. After conque ring the enemy. It is in one of such instances that he commits the crime of patricide. noble. t . a failure of his ego to adequa tely suppress the instinctively violent reactions of the id. With t he ensuing guilt and shame. It is due to this trait that Alaka calls him “the scorpion that must not be vexed” and says: I am glad to see that your youthful. Odewale’s fierce temper often impels him to act precipitously. But although he initially views the accusations of “murderer and bedsharer” as indic ations of intrigue and jealousy by Aderopo. the whole play revolves around Odewale’s ignorance of his true identity. Odewale plucks out his eyes to fulfill his earlier o ath and departs into exile. b oth by his own actions and forces beyond his control. but to call my tribe a bush tribe”. Odewale’s fatal flaw however lies in his reckless and impulsive anger. Like Oedipus of Sophocles. in assuming the role of the “defender of his p eople” he lays himself open to disaster. my brother. he arrives to find the village grief -stricken under the oppression of a neighboring community of Ikolu. This is similar to the p rocess of psychoanalysis. This negative flaw in his character can be interpreted as psychotic. He is furious at Baba Fakunle’s claim that he is the cause of village’s problem. caring. Odewale is finally forced to confron t the secret of who he really is. A stranger to Kutuje. the boy represses sexual desire for his mother and the jealousy toward his f ather. Odewale’s awareness of his anomalous status as an exalted outsider makes him extremely suspicious of his subjects.tribal hybrid. Rotimi expl ores the character of individuals who project their fears and suppressed and una cknowledged desires on other people. Rotimi’s adaptation of the story to the Nigerian context dramatizes the life of a hero whose actions. When a new threat arrives in the form of a curs e on the city. his father. When he learns of the manner of King Adetus a’s death. He persists with the self-examination. All attempts by Odewale to distance himself from his destiny only ser ve to relentlessly lead him down the path to tragedy. As psychological insight dawns. br other. Odewale is a tragic hero who is driven to his doom. Because he believes that Master Ogundele and his wife are his parents. despite attempts by the other characters to conceal the truth. Odewale promises to find the culprit. It is at this point that the superego seats in judgment. The result of this unconscious experience is that a boy with an Oedipus c omplex feels guilt and experiences strong emotional conflicts. The irony of his tribalist violence is that is that it creates his later predicamen t as an inter. he begins to suspect his subjects of regicide. Thus in several ins tances when he is enraged in the text. Also.
conflicts. Life becomes an attempt to establish equilibrium between drives. not by the old king’s insult to the Ijekun tribe. anger. These conflicts are retained in the unconscious. CONCLUSION Conflict arises in a person’s conscious mind when one set of beliefs impacts adver sely on another area of belief. In killing his father and marrying his mother. causing emotional suffering felt as disappointme nt. The Gods Are Not To Blame is a dramatization of a tragic hero’s futile effort s to find such equilibrium and the resulting conflicts which lead to his doom. but by Odewale’s unconscious desire to remove the father figure to pave way for his subsequent p ossession of his mother. or frustration. and real ity. . transcends the realm of childhood fantasy to that of reality. A lthough the play centers is a parable of the struggle between humanity and divin ity. Freud believed that by understanding the crucial events and fantasy wishes of childhood. This is the ultimate expression of his repressed oedipa l desires. The implication therefore is that the crime of patricide that Odewale commits i s thus motivated. Odewale epitomizes the true essence of the Oedipus myth. psychoanalysis could shed understanding on later adult character d evelopment with its attendant conflicts and neurotic symptoms.hough unconscious.
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