The psychological perspective of literary criticism explores the emotional scaffolding on which both our characters and authors hang. What is it that makes them tick? How are they affected by their inner desires and torn by their post traumatic experiences? Literature offers a glimpse into mind that isn’t normally revealed in quotidian drudgery, by lifting the veil on one’s inner thoughts and other self. Normally closeted and for personal viewing only, the author in committing thought to paper, whether intentionally or not, reveals the slings and arrows of inner psyche; a tantalizing glimpse of that which normally lays well hidden in the back of the sock drawer. That being said we have to question whether or not literature is simply words on a page, or if it truly holds some deeper more significant connotation? This is what psychological criticism is about, the search for the clues that open windows on personal conflicts, identity crisis’s, moral arrogance and ultimately the essence of self.
Very often characters, as we are accustomed to in the theatre, hold mirrors up to their readers so that the balance of character profile can be reflected upon. After all, when considering characters aren’t we judging them by our own values and experiences? In order to assist in character analysis the application of Freudian method is used to discover the personality or personalities within the personality. By way of the Id, the Ego and the Super Ego psychological critique helps us understand the Oedipal and Electra complexes, the revelation of arrested development and an innate narcissistic adherence to the Pleasure Principle. Psychological criticism is nothing more than applying laymen’s observations and pseudo psychology in order to understand that which is important to us. One might question the methodology and ask, “Are we interpreting neurosis or simply applying our own?”
The process is subjective and, although we are offered early twentieth century quackery, is dependent upon one’s own experience. After all what else does the reader have to compare his characters to? Do we appreciate a character because he reminds us of ourselves or because of who we would like to be? Should we be repulsed or are we simply following super-ego tramlines and acknowledging that which societal conditioning has already dictated?
Freud was once asked whilst posing with a cigar in his mouth what the connotation of this symbolism might infer. Freud simply smiled, took the cigar from his mouth and said, “Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar!”
Does the mind rule the body, or the body rule the mind? I don’t know.