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Dostoevsky and parricide

Freud, Sigmund 1928b [1927], 'Dostoevsky and parricide', SE 21: 173-94. PFL 14: 437-60.

Before the problem of the creative artist analysis must, alas, lay down its arms. (1928b, SE 21: 177) [This is the first page of text: page 441 in PFL.]

In little things he was a sadist towards others, and in bigger things a sadist towards himself, in fact a masochist—that is to say the mildest kindliest, most helpful person possible. 443

… there are people who are complete masochists without being neurotic. 443

For neurosis is after all only a sign that the ego has not succeeded in making a synthesis, that in attempting to do so it has forfeited its unity. 443

… the sexual processes, which are fundamentally of toxic origin: the earliest physicians describe coition as a minor epilepsy, and thus recognized in the sexual act a mitigation and adaptation of the epileptic method of discharging stimuli. 445

… identification with a dead person … 447

Parricide, according to a well-known view, is the principal and primal crime of humanity as well as of the individual (See my Totem and Taboo, 1912-13). 448

The two attitude of mind combine to produce identification with the father … 448

So alien to our consciousness are the things by which our unconscious mental life is governed! 449

… the father finally makes permanent place for itself in the ego. 449 and sa 450

Thus the formula for Dostoevsky is as follows: a person with a specially strong innate bisexual disposition, who can defend himself with special intensity against dependence on a specially severe father. 450

His early symptoms of death-like attacks can thus be understood as a father identification on the part of his ego, which is permitted by his super-ego as a punishment: "You wanted to kill your father in order to be your father yourself. Now you are your father, but a dead father"—the regular mechanism of hysterical symptoms. And further: "Now your father is killing you." 450

Both of them, the ego and the super-ego, carry on the role of father. 451

Now it is a dangerous thing if reality fulfils such repressed wishes. 451

Here we have a glimpse of the psychological justification of the punishments inflicted by society. It is a fact that large groups of criminals want to be punished. Their super-ego demands it and so saves itself the necessity for inflicting the punishment itself. 452

They also determined his attitude in the two other spheres in which the father-relation is the decisive factor, his attitude towards the authority of the State and towards belief in God. 452

It can scarcely be owing to chance that three of the masterpieces of literary of all time—the Œdipus Rex of Sophocles, Shakespeare's Hamlet and Dostoevsky's The Brothers Karamazov—should all deal with the same subject, parricide. In all three, moreover, the motive for the deed, sexual rivalry for a woman, is laid bare. 453

The Greek drama, while retaining the crime, introduces the indispensable toning-down in a masterly fashion by projecting the hero's unconscious motive into reality in the form of a compulsion by a destiny which is alien to him. 453

In the English play the presentation is more indirect; the hero does not commit the crime himself; it is carried out by someone else, for whom it is not parricide. 454

[In BK the hero is the brother of the killer. Hamlet is his nephew.] 454

It is a matter of indifference who actually committed the crime; psychology is only concerned to know who desired it emotionally and who welcomed it when it was done. And for that reason all of the brothers, except the contrasted figure of Alyosha, are equally guilty—the impulsive sensualist [Ivan?], the sceptical cynic [Dmitri?] and the epileptic criminal [Smerdyakov?]. 455

A criminal is to him [Dostoevsky] almost a Redeemer, who has taken on himself the guilt which must else have been borne by others. 455

[Dostoevsky] dealt first with the common criminal (whose motives are egotistical) and the political and religious criminal; and not until the end of his life did he come back to the primal criminal, the parricide, and use him, in a work of art, for making his confession. 456

[gambling and masturbation 456 ff.]


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