Psychoanalytic Criticism - My Brother Eli

Psychoanalytic Criticism
& "My Brother Eli"
Origins of the Unconscious
"You don't always get what you consciously want, but you always get what you unconsciously need."
unconscious- the store house of painful experiences
Here is where Eli stored the memories of his parents and unhappy childhood
repression- expunging from conscious
Eli quite possibly repressed many memories from his boyhood, which he felt to be unhappy
"I want something I don't know I want and cannot have."
Perhaps the thing Eli did not know he wanted was a motherly love- he could not have it because his was dead.
Sibling rivalry- competitions among siblings for parental attention
A sibling rivalry took place as neither of the parents paid attention to the children
Lou found this love in Mr. Bentley while Eli never found it at all
Defenses, Anxiety and Core Issues
defenses- process by which the contents of our unconscious are kept in the unconscious
By puffing himself up and thriving on his success, Eli kept his pain out of his conscious mind
selective perception- hearing/ seeing only what we can handle
Eli did not see the pain of his children or wives, which he abandons, but saw only the pain he felt he himself was caused.
denial- believing that a problem does not exist or that it never occurred
Eli never seems to admit that he and Lou do not get along well.
avoidance- staying away from people/ situations
Eli avoids his children and grandchildren, as well as Lou and Arlene
displacement- blaming others and taking our anger out on them
Eli takes his anger out on the couple at Arlene's dinner
projection- someone else has this problem
Eli projects that it is Lou who has a problem
fear of intimacy- fear of emotional involvement
The fact that Eli has been married 6 times and also engaged in affairs and prositution suggets that he has low self-esteem and an intimacy issue
fear of abandonment
Perhaps Eli does not become intimate with his wives because he fears their abandoning him when they come to know him
oedipal fixation- dysfunctional bond with parent of the opposite sex
Eli had a very dysfunctional bond with his mother--he did not have one at all.
The Meaning of Death
death work- psychological and physical self-destruction
Eli ultimately drives himself into demensia
the thought of our own death keys into our fear of abandonment
As Eli fears and dreads death, he perhaps feels as though he will be abandoned
fear of death can result in fear of intimacy and being attached to lfie
A fear of intimacy is shown in Eli's multiple wives- never staying with one long enough to get close
fear of death can become so terrible that death is the only escape from the fear= suicide
Perhaps Eli felt that the only way to escape his death and cease to dread it was to cause it
thantos- death drive
The Meaning of Sexuality
eros- sex drive
A great sex drive in seen in Eli's wives- particularly the final and youngest one
sexuality is an inescapable human reality to which we must have a relationship
libido- sexual energy
superego- social values we internalize, feeling guilty when we should not
ego- conscious self that experiences the external world
Eli's ego was very large; he came off as though he was very confident though inside this was probably not the case
Symbolic Language
metaphors- stand-in objects, ,dissimilar
Metaphors were used in Eli's novels for things that had happened in his lfie
metonymy- object associated with or part of another object is used as the whole object
condensation- substitution of a person or object for a dissimliar one which are thus brought together
This tool is one commonly used by Eli as he writes about his brother and each of his wives in his books