Oedipus Complex

In: Other Topics

Submitted By melpida
Words 2893
Pages 12
Date: 21 February 2012

Write an essay about the Oedipus complex. Your essay should explore the history of the concept, its development in psychoanalytic thinking and its wider implications. You should illustrate your understanding with detailed examples from your work setting and/or placement.

Essay submitted for the award of MSc in Psychodynamic Counselling and Psychotherapy at Birkbeck College, University of London


This paper attempts to trace the evolution of Freud’s concept of the Oedipus complex within psychoanalysis. One case will be considered in detail to illustrate relevant theoretical formulations focussing mainly on the work of Freud, Klein, Britton and Bion. The wider implications of the Oedipus complex will also be considered before I conclude.

History of the Oedipus complex and Freud’s theoretic evolution

Freud used the term Oedipus complex to describe a boy's feelings of desire for his mother and hostility towards his father which he regarded as a universal event of early childhood. The term is derived from the Greek myth of Oedipus who unwittingly killed his father and married his mother. In a letter to Fliess dating back to 1897, Freud (1954) attributes these ideas to his self analysis and indirectly to the Greek myth as presented in the popular Sophocles’ play ‘Oedipus Rex’.

During the late 1890s Freud, theorised that fantasies built around the Oedipus complex were the primary cause of hysteria and other neurotic symptoms. The idea is explored in Studies on Hysteria, where Freud (1895), traced his patients’ symptoms of hysteria to sexual seductions by their fathers.

The concept was introduced in ‘The Interpretation of Dreams’ (1900), and is central to Freud’s (1905) analysis of Dora. He further elaborated his ideas in the case study of Little Hans (1909), but the term ‘Oedipus complex’ itself first…...

Similar Documents


...of the plots conflict. Oedipus is about a man that leaves his city of Corinth after he is told he is going to kill his father and have sex with his mother. Scared he leaves for another city called Thebes. At the cross roads he meet an old man and five of his servants. They were picking on him so enraged he killed the old man and four of the servants. The one servant that lived went back went back and told Queen Jocasta that her husband was killed by a bunch of thieves. Oedipus still on his way to Thebes he meets and defects a Sphix. Now seen as a hero the people of Thebes worship him. Jocasta still needing a new king decided to make Oedipus it. Oedipus ashamed of his past decided it was best not to tell anyone. Little did we know that he wasn’t the only one keeping secrets but queen Jocasta also had secrets from her past. Jocasts secret was that she was pregnant once before but was told that her child was going to kill his father, scared she decided to get rid of the baby. After Oedipus became king a plague hit the city making everyone sick. Wanting to get rid of the plague he sent his brother in law to find out how to get rid of it. When his brother in law returned he told Oedipus that they had to find and banish the murderer of Lauis the pervious king. Oedipus is then told by Teirresia that he was the person to kill the king. In disbelief he yells at the old man and accuses Creon of putting him up to saying that. Creon angry about what Oedipus said starts to fight......

Words: 788 - Pages: 4


...Oedipus the King – STUDY GUIDE Section 1 – Greek Culture Home of the Greek Gods & Goddesses… Mount Olympus King of the Gods… Zeus Type of politics that began in Athens… Democracy God of War & Wisdom… Athena Peloponnesian War between… Athens & Sparta Wealthy landowners… Aristocrats Women were appreciated in… Sparta Most famous artist… Sculptor Women treated like slaves in… Athens City that liked poetry, writing and art… Athens Military state… Sparta Another word for slaves… helots Type of poetry written… lyric Word comes from a small harp called… lyre Greek kept literature alive by… singing Popular sports competition still done today… Olympics Winner of Olympics won… Olive Branch Section 2 – First Readings Oedipus the King Writer of Oedipus the King… Sophocles Write 120 plays but only ____ survived… Seven Tragedy means… Goat God of wine… Dionysus Lyrics chanted called dythrims chanted to… Dionysus To become king, Oedipus solved… the riddle of the sphinx Contrast between audience and character… Dramatic irony City is suffering from… plague The plague causes… Stillborn children Animals to die Crops to die Women/mothers dying Who did Oedipus send to Delphi too figure out the problem… Creon Apollo says the cause of affliction is that… the murderer of Lauis is in Thebes Blind prophet who says Oedipus is the murderer… Tiresius Oedipus says Tiresius is worthless prophet because… should have solved the riddle and saved the......

Words: 529 - Pages: 3

Oedipus Complex

...“My Oedipus” a story written by Frank O’Connor tells a story about a young boy named Larry and his feelings towards his father. When his father came home from World War II, Larry finds himself jealous of his father and hating that he is home. Larry fears losing his mothers attention, so he finds himself competing with his father for his mothers attention. This story focuses on Larry getting use to his father being home from the war. And how it effects his relationship with his mother. Since Larry is not the only one at the house for his mother to care for he feels that he has to do more to keep her attention focused on him. When Larry’s father returned home he felt that his mother started acting different towards him. His mother would ask him to not come and get into her bed in the morning because his father needed his rest. Therefore Larry felt as if his mother was choosing his father over him. Larry did the opposite of what his mother asked him to do. He would come in every morning, get in the bed and start talking to his mother. Mother did not like that. At times it may seem that mother is desperately trying to please father, she is actually drawing more attention to herself. Throughout the story mother says, “Just a moment, Larry” or “Do be quiet, Larry”. When she says these types of things, she is only making the competitions between Larry and his father more intense. When mother pushes Larry away in these situations, it makes him jealous of the attention his mother...

Words: 652 - Pages: 3


...supernatural force. For example: Luke didn’t tie his shoes therefore he tripped & scraped his knee which made him go back home for a band-aid and he missed his bus. This might just sound like mere coincidence but many people think it’s a natural force. Some identify this force as ‘Fate’ or in religious terms, ‘God’s will’. In the play Oedipus the King, Sophocles gives a very powerful message about fate. He believes that no matter how hard one tries to escape their fate or destiny, it is just impossible. Oedipus’ fate is made when he receives a prophecy that claims he will kill his father and sleep with his mother. This fate takes course when Oedipus is already out of the way of it which proves Sophocles’ theory of being unable to escape fate. The myth which inspired Sigmund Freud, The story of Oedipus, suggests that neither the parents nor the growing child can avoid their fate (Jacobs). It is pretty vague to state that absolutely no one can escape their fate because everyone is fated to die. The fate of death supports the fact that there is something planned for the individual human being. Something no one has control over. Oedipus The King, by historical play writer, Sophocles, is a story that preaches the inevitable force of fate and the uncontrollable consequences it has when it is tried to be cheated....

Words: 329 - Pages: 2


...Sam Rogers Michael Brush English Composition II 24 March 2013 Oedipus’s Downfall The downfall of Oedipus is entirely the responsibility of the gods and not himself. A plague has stricken Thebes. It is said plague will end when the murderer of Laius, former king of Thebes, is caught and expelled; the murderer is within the city. Oedipus, current King of Thebes, vows to find the murderer, and put an end to the terrible plague. Oedipus is driven by the fate intended by the gods, and there is nothing he can do to prevent the horrible, shameful prophecy from coming true. The ancient Greeks believed that their gods could see the future, and that certain people could access this information. In the play, Oedipus the King, Prophets or seers, like blind Tiresias, saw visions of things to come. At the end of scene one, Teiresias exclaims, “To the children with whom he lives now he will be brother and father-the very same; to her who bore him, son and husband-the very same who came to his father’s bed, wet with his father’s blood (1077).” This is a restatement of the prophecy that told of Oedipus murdering his father, becoming king, and marrying his mother. King Laius of Thebes receives a prophecy saying that he would have a son by Queen Jocasta, and that his “doom would be death at the hands of his own son (1081).” King Laius, Jocasta, and Oedipus all work to prevent the prophecies from coming to pass, but their efforts to thwart the prophecies are what......

Words: 1122 - Pages: 5


...Irony Used By Sophocles in Oedipus The King Sophocles’ play Oedipus The King is filled with many situations of Irony from beginning to the end. There is irony in Oedipus’ name itself; also Oedipus’ entire life from birth is set up to be a tragedy spoken by the god’s. In the end of the play there is also irony in the way Oedipus becomes blind, both literally and metaphorically. Another example of irony in this play is the three-way crossroads where Oedipus slain his own father. Oedipus gets his name, as the Corinthian messenger tells us in Oedipus The King, from the fact that he was left in the mountains with his ankles pinned together. Jocasta explains that Laios abandoned him in this state on a barren mountain shortly after he was born. The injury leaves Oedipus with a vivid scar for the rest of his life. Oedipus’s injury symbolizes the way in which fate has marked him and set him apart. It also symbolizes the way his movements have been confined and constrained since birth, by Apollo’s prophecy to Laios. There is irony in the way Sophocles picks this name for Oedipus because it shows how he is marked and doomed for the rest of his life. Another instance of irony in this play is when Jocasta says that “Laios was killed by marauding strangers where three highways meet” (1081). This crossroads is referred to many different times during the play, and it symbolizes the crucial moment, long before the events of the play, when Oedipus began to fulfill the dreadful prophecy......

Words: 690 - Pages: 3


...Oedipus Is to Blame In Sophicle's Oedipus The King, Oedipus plays the lead character in the play. Oedipus plays blindfolded throughout the play. His character that he betrays is typical of those who honestly believe they have no part in the situation that occurs. I agree with Bernard Knox that Oedipus is responsible for the tragic outcome of the play. Oedipus's investigation of the death of King Laius is the reason for the tragic ending. The scene where Oedipus opens the investigation is the first step toward his downfall. Oedipus covers up the murder and is nervous when he hears the news. It is Oedipus's continuous effort to find the murderer. He wants to find the murderers of the king, not knowing that he is the murderer. Oedipus is the head investigator for the murder of King Laius. Even though he tells the people of Thebes that, "I am ready to help." He promises the people that he would do anything to find the murderers of Laius. Trying to seek all knowledge of the situation, Oedipus request the presence of the servant that was pardoned. The servant not knowing the request has arrived to give Oedipus some shocking news about his royal family. Oedipus, seeing his responsibility, demands anyone who knows about the murder to come forth. The City of Thebes is weak and powerless after the death of the king Laius. Oedipus says, "My spirit grieves for the city, for myself and all of you." If Oedipus...

Words: 498 - Pages: 2


...n Sophocles' Oedipus the King, the themes of fate and free will are very strong throughout the play. Only one, however, brought about Oedipus' downfall and death. Both points could be argued to great effect. In ancient Greece, fate was considered to be a rudimentary part of daily life. Every aspect of life depended and was based upon fate (Nagle 100). It is common belief to assume that mankind does indeed have free will and each individual can decide the outcome of his or her life. Fate and free will both decide the fate of Oedipus the King. Both sides of the argument can be greatly supported. The Greeks believed in the idea that personality of the individual greatly affected his or her life (Nagle 120). Their personality was what decides their own free will. A wise man will make good decisions in his life; an ignorant and stubborn man won't be so fortunate. The character traits of a person have a certain positive or negative affect on the choices that he or she makes. For Oedipus, one of these attributes was the desire for knowledge and truth about his own existence. This driving force in the play led to the truth of his origin. This ties in with his own aspect of free will. His free will is based on his drive for knowledge. Throughout the entire play, Oedipus pushes Tiresias, Creon, Jocasta, the oracle, the messenger, and the shepherd for information regarding his beginnings. Each one of these characters in some way or form refused to give him a thorough......

Words: 1496 - Pages: 6


...People are often placed in situations where the truth needs to heard. Oedipus’ actions reveal the universal truth: the truth does not always want to be heard. In Oedipus Rex, the idea of the truth is apparent. Oedipus knows he is cursed, however, he does not want to believe it will ever occur. Oedipus goes through many crossroads, and is challenged with the truth. Tiresias, the blind prophet, is known for expressing the truth, “I say that you are Laius’ murderer – He whom you seek” (14). Oedipus refuses to believe the truth, since the blame is on him. Defensively, allegations are made by Oedipus, as soon as he does not hear the answer he intends: “Know, I am suspect you joined a hatch the deed; Yea, did it – all but slaying with your own hands” (13). Tiresias tries to convince Oedipus he is speaking the truth, however Oedipus only hears what he wants to hear. Hearing the truth can create exonerate actions. Oedipus holds onto the one detail, which would not make him the murderer, “robbers abroad / Have murdered, at a place where three roads meet” (26). However, in the back of his mind, he knows he killed a man where three roads meet, “It seems I have but now / Proffered myself to a tremendous curse” (27). This event questions the truth-seeking process Oedipus is undertaking. Accepting a role in someone’s life can be a strenuous task. Not knowing, Jocasta is a mother and a wife to Oedipus. She trusts Oedipus to hear, the oracle of Laius, “That so it should befall, that......

Words: 477 - Pages: 2


...Oedipus was a mythical Greek king of Thebes, a tragic hero in the Greek mythology. Oedipus accidentally fulfilled the prophecy and despite his efforts not to, he end up killing his father and marrying his mother, and brought disaster to his city and family. It is well known that “Oedipus represents two enduring themes of Greek myth and drama: the flawed nature of humanity and an individual's role in the course of destiny in a harsh universe”. Is Oedipus character his destiny? Is what happens to Oedipus his fault, why or why not? First of all, yes, Oedipus character is his destiny. Indeed, before the play, the final outcome of the play is known before Oedipus is even born. And in fact, "his life is clouded with the presage of disaster; he was destined to one day kill his father and to become his own mother's husband". We can say that Oedipus destiny was pre-determined. No matter how good person he was, in one way or another he would have fulfilled the prophecy and end up in disaster. So, due to the prophecy, Oedipus had only a small part in his own downfall. But, what happened to Oedipus is also his fault. Indeed, he is too determined to find out who he is and it shouldn't be so important to him. He is also too proud to listen to the gods; he thinks he can get out of following through on his fate. Oedipus was a very proud man. I think his pride was his biggest character flaw and because of this pride, the conclusion of the play was tragic. To conclude, the......

Words: 291 - Pages: 2


...hero definition and how that applies to the play IV. The big revaltion in the play that Oedipus sees V. Talk about Apollos power and the meaning of that and conclude to paper with that. The first criterion of a Greek tragedy is that the protagonist be a good person; doubly blessed with a good heart and noble intention. Sophocles reveals immediately at the start of the play that Oedipus is such a man. As is common in the Greek tragedy Oedipus is also an aristocrat. Born of the King and Queen of Thebes he is of true nobility. Oedipus on the other-hand believes his parents are the King and Queen of Corinth. Oedipus was abandoned as a baby and adopted by them. Because that information is known to the audience and not to Oedipus prior to the start of the play, it is a perfect example of tragic irony because when he declares that he will find the murderer he is the man that he pursues. Here he is told by Tiresias,” I say you are the murderer you hunt” (1235). The theme of Oedipus the King is not clear-cut. The theme in this tragic play seems to be you can‘t escape your fate. Contentment leads to ignorance as Oedipus lends fate a hand in his bitter end. This trait is touched-on in these lines spoken by Creon. “Look at you, sullen in yielding, brutal in your rage- you’ll go too far. It’s perfect justice: natures like yours are hardest on themselves” (Sophocles 1242-1243). Oedipus is a true hero in the Greek tragedy. He has the fate of the community in his hands along......

Words: 1827 - Pages: 8


... Extract 4 (Sophocles, Oedipus the King) In Greek Tragedy the medium, as in all forms of poetry is language, to convey a story through an imitation of an action, or as Aristotle defines in S.H. Butcher’s translation of Poetics “Tragedy is a mimesis of a praxis.” (Jones, 2000). This translates to an imitation/ representation of an action. Oedipus the King is structured into five episodes with a prologue to begin, each scene is introduced by the Chorus (the citizens of Thebes) who depict the state of affairs within Thebes. The city is plagued, as a Priest describes to Oedipus “look around you, see with your own eyes- our ship pitches wildly, cannot lift her head from the depths, the red waves of death… Thebes is dying. A blight on the fresh crops and rich pastures, cattle sicken and die, and the women die in labor, children stillborn, and the plague, the fiery god of fever hurls down on the city.” (L 28 – 34) This shows us that Thebes is being punished, and Oedipus, as the King of Thebes is begged by his subjects to put an end to the curse. This shows a good use of dramatic irony, as in fact it was Oedipus who is responsible for the actions of the gods. Oedipus has two conflicts going on within him, the first is that he does not want to kill who he believes is his father, “the man who reared me” (L 916) and the second is he does not want to lay with his mother. These conflicts have followed Oedipus and his father Laius throughout the play,......

Words: 913 - Pages: 4


...Day Two Journal Assignment Examples of Oedipus and Jocasta dismissing the prophecy: Jocasta: “Now, you remember the story: Laios was killed by marauding strangers where three highways meet; But his child had not been three days in this world before the King had pierced the baby’s ankles and left him to die on a lonely mountainside. Thus, Apollo never caused that child to kill his father, and it was not Laios’s fate to die at the hands of his son, as he had feared. This is what prophets and prophecies are worth! Have no dread of them.” “No. From now on, where oracles are concerned I would not waste a second thought on any.” Oedipus: “Why, “marauders”, you said, Killed the King, according to this man’s story. If he maintains that still, if there were several, Clearly the guilt is not mine: I was alone.” “He has brought this decrepit fortune-teller, this collector of dirty pennies, this prophet fraud---“ What do you think of the word “fate”? How about “free will”? How are these related, or are they? “Fate” is an individual’s unchangeable path to a certain predicted outcome. It is a word that describes the results that an individual will inevitably face due to the decisions they chose prior. “Free will” describes a person’s ability to act in a manner in however way they choose to do so in a way they see fit. It portrays actions uncontrolled and unmanipulated by no one else except for one person. I feel that-in a way- these two words are somewhat related to one another due......

Words: 526 - Pages: 3


...Oedipus was great play that contained quite the drama and suspense. Basically Oedipus was abandoned by his parents at birth and brought up into another royal family. As Oedipus becomes older he takes the reign of Thebes and later tries to investigate who murdered the previous king before him. What Oedipus did not know is he himself committed the murder. See Oedipus’ fate was foreseen long ago by the greater Gods, it was said the he would kill his own father and marry his own mother. So he did, not without recognition of who his real parents were. Oedipus was shattered by what he had done so he blinded himself by the power of Apollo and Iocaste his wife/biological mother committed suicide. The prophecy revealed what Oedipus destiny would be, he tried to avoid it with his freewill. Fate played role in everyone around Oedipus and himself. When Laios and Iocaste had Oedipus they took him to the Oracle at Delphi, there they were told of Oedipus’ destiny; to kill Laios and marry Iocaste. The couple decided to pierce his feet and abandon him on a mountainside by a Shepard. The Shepard did not follow through and gave Oedipus to a herdsman from Corinth, where he was then raised by Polybus and Merope. As Oedipus grew into a man he eventually discovered that he was not their biological son and also learned of the prophecy he was given. Fate then stepped in again when Oedipus tried to outsmart his destiny by feeling to Thebes from Corinth. He then ended up at a division of three roads;...

Words: 487 - Pages: 2


...In reading the story of Oedipus, I noticed the theme of fate throughout the events that occurred to Oedipus. In three occasions, Oedipus tried to be protected against the fate he was prophesized to fulfill. Jocasta, his birth mother, attempted to steer her infant son from his fate by giving him away to slaves soon after his birth. After being summoned by a grown Oedipus, the servant from Corinth also tried to protect him against the truth of his fate. Tieresias also attempted to withhold the truth of Oedipus’ fate with no success. In all three instances, I saw how Oedipus’ pride got in the way of the protection everyone was trying to offer him. Oedipus was arrogant and stubborn in his nature and believed his commands had to be obeyed by the people he summoned because he was king. He argued with Jocasta, the servant Corinth, and Teiresias when they tried to cover his fate, but his pride caused all three to tell him the hurtful truth. In the beginning of the story, Laius consults the Oracle of Apollo in order to find out why he and his wife couldn’t conceive. A prophecy came from the Oracle, telling Laius that any son they may conceive would end up killing Laius and marrying his wife. When the time came that Jocasta bore a son, she gave him away to a servant in order to leave him out to die. Her attempts to avoid the prophecy from being fulfilled were unsuccessful when the infant Oedipus was handed over from servant to servant until finally being adopted by Polybus, the king......

Words: 1311 - Pages: 6