“Sometimes a Cigar is just a Cigar”

Sigmund Freud, the most intriguing name in psychology, especially psychoanalysis had given forth his memorable and controversial concepts of the unconscious, which are based on the mind, sexuality, and instincts. He suggested a three-tier personality theory according to which there are the id, ego and superego where id is the part which constantly aims at satisfying primal instincts immediately. he also gave theories of infantile sex based on Oedipal and Electra Complexes, according to which a child, at around 3-5 years of age develops a sexual attraction towards the parent of the opposite sex. Another key idea by Freud was libido, which is the energy drive associate with sexual desire, or more generalised Eros (life instinct) and Thanatos (death instinct). Freud called certain techniques defence mechanisms, which are used by individuals for repressing or forgetting their sexual drives which are conflicting or disapproved of.

Sometimes however, even Freud reminded that, “Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.” this means that we, as readers or critics do not have to associate sexual symbols or images unnecessary to anything that is mentioned in the text. Some images can be taken literally or interpreted using any other school of criticism. this can be explained using the following example-

‘A Narrow Fellow in the Grass’ by Emily Dickinson is read by most people as a poetry about the relationship between humans and animals, or the kindly disposition of the narrator towards animals is seen by some as her reclusive nature and indifference towards social intimacy. However, some critics do read it with a Freudian approach, where the snake is compared to man’s primary sexual organ and metaphors like ‘zero at the bone’ is compared to the feeling of tightness or breathlessness in a person because of an ecstasy which he or she feels during a sexual activity.

This interpretation of the poem is one of the least accurate and an unnecessary interpretation of the poem. This way, one forces the reading of the poem into a very small, limited, and perverse scope. The other two interpretations are accurate and well established and better enjoyed by readers and critics alike.

Link to the poetry ‘A Narrow Fellow in the Grass’: www.poetryfoundation.org/poems-and-poets/poems/detail/49909

(courtesy: Poetry Foundation)


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