The Oedipus complex states that, as infants, all individuals are attracted to their opposite-sex parent and have a strong hate for their same-sex parent. According to Freud, these thoughts are repressed as people grow and change, but may come back in a form of a dream. Sigmund Freud successfully persuades his audience while explaining his complex by showing them a deep reflection of their mind that they may not have been able to interpret at all before. He does so by, first, linking his theory to two well-known pieces of literature so his hypothesis could be easier understood and have more of a possibility to relate to the audience.
He also sways his audience by his use of strong and assertive diction and tone, which conveys his self-confidence and determination. Finally, a very important rhetoric factor Freud uses while explaining the Oedipus complex is the fact that he was the first to find a pattern and explanation for the specific neurotic behavior that was occurring.
Sigmund Freud increases his persuasion by examining two classic pieces of Western literature that are very popular within all types of audiences. The two stories he examined are the notable tragedies of Oedipus Rex and Hamlet. Freud believes these stories are prime examples of his hypothesis concerning the mentality of children and how their minds evolve.
The difference between the two tragedies is that Oedipus Rex evidently shows the urges that all individuals experience within their dreams and Hamlet only hints at these urges because they are repressed until consequences take place. He introduces the classic tragedies because they are very moving and recognizable among Western culture within any time period. Because of these two reasons, Freud believes that including the two tragedies in his book is effective because it helps the readers understand that his hypothesis is not foreign to Western culture. In other words, readers have already known about the psychological condition they are just not consciously aware of it.
Oedipus Rex is a play written by Sophocles regarding a curse put on a king named Oedipus. As an infant, Oedipus’ parents were warned that their child would be the murderer of his own father and would take his place as his mother’s husband. In knowing this, his parents gave him away in hopes of never encountering him again. Years later, Oedipus found himself in a quarrel against an unknown man and ended up killing him. Soon after, the throne of the city of Thebes was rewarded to Oedipus after solving a riddle.
Eventually, King Oedipus is soon aware that a curse has fallen on Thebes and investigates to see how to lift it. Oedipus finds out that the only way to lift this curse is to find and punish the murderer of the former king named Laius. He explores his city in hopes of finding this unknown man, but instead he discovers through outside sources that he, in fact, is the wanted murderer. This news brings up an old memory to Oedipus of a man telling him that he will kill his own father and wed his mother. Comprehending this information, Oedipus concludes that the appalling news is true and blinds himself out of guilt (918-919).
The prevalent lesson that is to be learned from this tragedy is giving in to the will of the gods and realization of his own helplessness. However, Freud’s logic claims that, if a story positively affects a “modern” audience just as much as a “contemporary Greek” one, then the impact does not come from the “contrast” between the will of the gods and his own helplessness but from the reasoning behind it (919). Freud asserts that there must be something in one’s minds allowing one to recognize the forceful power of destiny. Otherwise stated, Oedipus’ destiny affects and appeals to all audiences because their dreams convince them that they might have had the same curse as him. Given this, Freud avers that viewers experience what is identified as childhood “wish fulfillment” when reading this tragedy (920). Therefore, viewers have a strong feeling of success in that they escaped their own impulses and did not become psychoneurotic unlike Oedipus. Freud believes that the purpose of Oedipus Rex is to convince readers to recognize these impulses brought on by nature within themselves and to not be ignorant like Oedipus.
Sigmund Freud also reckons that the tragedy of Hamlet represents specific characteristics of his complex. This play written by Shakespeare revolves around a character named Hamlet and his hesitation on taking revenge yet there is no explanation in the text as to why the hesitation is evident. Hamlet has committed other acts of violence throughout his life but, oddly enough, hesitates to take action on the man who killed his father and took his mother in marriage. Freud suspects that the hesitation takes place within Hamlet because the man represents childhood wish fulfillments. So, consequently, Hamlet goes through stages of blame directed at himself instead of loathing towards his father’s murderer. According to Freud, the blame he experiences reminds him that he is no better than that man but does not know exactly why.
Freud strongly believes that these two pieces of literature represent the complex he proposes because he knows that the poet’s mind reflects onto his plays. If the complex is true, that means it takes place in the poet’s mind which hence proves that the complex takes place within reality and the real world. Freud declares that his purpose behind over-studying the minds of these poets is to try to fully understand and reveal their deepest impulses and interpretations.
Sigmund Freud’s use of diction in his book successfully sways the readers by providing a confident and educational tone. His tone never portrays himself as an angry or unintelligent man, which no one wants to listen to or learn from. The first line of his book establishes his credibility stating that he has extensive experience with mental lives. Freud conveys a certain authority over people who are not very knowledgeable in this subject because he shows great intellect which makes viewers want to learn more from him. However, he does not show he wants to have power and control over his audience; he only wants to educate. Freud shows empathy by defending the people who have suffered from neurotic behavior and self-punishment caused by guilt. He urges not to feel guilty because all individuals have the same tendencies whether they are aware of it or not. The book also has a confident tone by use of Freud’s self-confident diction. One of the many examples of the portrayal of Freud’s confidence is the use of the word “clearly” in the sentence, “It is clearly the key to the tragedy…” (919). The word “clearly” in this sentence exerts confidence by respectfully implying that this explanation makes the most sense and is the most applicable to the specific situation. These factors show that Freud’s tone and diction do not give the reader the desire to turn away or disagree.
While this may not necessarily apply to more modern audiences, Freud’s book had great rhetoric by plainly providing an answer to readers. During the time period this book came out and thrived, there were not many studies of the mind especially regarding concepts like Freud’s psychoanalytic theory. This gave him an opportunity to give answers or just to invoke theories within curious minds. Freud’s book appeals to anyone but may focus more closely on people who have experienced such neurotic behavior that he describes or people who just have a deep interest of the mind. This type of audience is eager to find answers that may not have ever been provided for them and Freud’s may assist them with that.
Overall, Sigmund Freud’s use of rhetoric was successful in showing his audience a reflection of their mind that they may not have seen before. He does so by connecting his theory to two classic plays that are well-known to his audience so they can be convinced that his theory already exists and so they can make an easier connection. Freud also persuades his audience by his use of confident tone and diction and by taking advantage of the fact that no one has found an explanation for this type of mental activity. While Freud uses great rhetoric throughout his book, it still does not prove his theory to be right or wrong. Sigmund Freud’s theory is still significant being that it has been carried along to present day and still not completely proven wrong.