Freud and Eponine

I have started looking at Freud for the theory side of my work. Coming across some really interesting quotes in 'Into the Image' by Kevin Robins. I am looking further at his texts and reading 'Civilisation and Its Discontents' as I feel I can reflect on Freud's writings to make my series stronger. 

The first thing that gets my attention is this quote


'Normally there is nothing we are more certain of than the feeling of ourself, our own ego' 


When referring to religion, and the face he cannot get the "oceanic" feeling his friend has when he describes his beliefs. He continues:


'on the contrary the ego extends inwards without any sharp delimitation, into an unconscious mental entity which we call the id and to which it forms a facade, was first discovered by psycho-analytic research, and the latter still has much to tell us about the relations of the ego and id'


all of this great back information to what he says next, which is what I am most interested in with this writing


'But towards the outer world, at any rate, the ego seems to itself clearly and sharply outlined and delimited. There is only one state of mind in which it fails to do this - an unusual state, it is true, but not one that can be judged as pathological. At its height, the state of being in love threatens to obliterate the boundaries between ego and object. Against all the evidence of his senses, the man in love declares that he and his beloved are one, and is prepared to behave as if it were a fact. A thing that can be temporarily effaced by a physiological function must also of course be liable to disturbance by morbid processes. From pathology we have come to know a large number of states in which the boundary line between ego and outer world become uncertain, or in which they are actually incorrectly perceived——cases in which parts of a man’’s own body, even component parts of his own mind, perceptions, thoughts, feelings, appear to him alien and not belonging to himself; other cases in which a man ascribes to the external world things that clearly originate in himself, and that ought to be acknowledged by him. So the ego’’s cognizance of itself is subject to disturbance, and the boundaries between it and the outer world are not immovable.'


I think this is so interesting because he is showing how love changes the ego, and how a person in love can be delusional giving things that could never really be given to another person.


I do believe this theory applies to my character Eponine, it can be applied to everybody. But particularly here, it makes me see how by believing she was in love with Marius, she began to loose her mind when he did not love her back. 






I enjoy how his work discusses religion, the way he perceives the "oceanic" feeling,  


'That feeling of oneness with the universe which is its ideational content sounds very like a first attempt at the consolations of religion.'


I think by shooting against the caves and the rock I can present this idea. Eponine in the book wants to die with Marius and go to heaven, which is delusional as he never paid her any interest. Because of her religious beliefs I can play up to Freud's idea that the "oceanic" feeling is a feeling of oneness. By shooing through material, and reflecting the texture of the rock in the organza and the styling I will be reflecting upon this idea. 




With Freud talking about the purpose of human life, he believes religion offers an answer. He  also talks about an answer without religion:


'We will turn, therefore, to the less ambitious problem: what the behaviour of men themselves reveals as the purpose and object of their lives, what they demand of life and wish to attain in it. The answer to this can hardly be in doubt: they seek happiness, they want to become happy and to remain so. There are two sides to this striving, a positive and a negative; it aims on the one hand at eliminating pain and discomfort, on the other at the experience of intense pleasures. In its narrower sense, the word happiness relates only to the last. Thus human activities branch off in two directions——corresponding to this double goal——according to which of the two they aim at realizing, either predominantly or even exclusively.'




This is an interesting theory, looking at happiness as the reason for living is so very interesting. With the work I am making it does reflect on my own mental state. The character I am looking at is desperate, in need of this love, and unable to ever be happy. Why does love play such a huge part in our lives? And why do we let it destroy us?


What is called happiness in its narrowest sense comes from the satisfaction——most often instantaneous——of pent-up needs which have reached great intensity, and by its very nature can only be a transitory experience. When any condition desired by the pleasure-principle is protracted, it results in a feeling only of mild comfort; we are so constituted that we can only intensely enjoy contrasts, much less intensely states in themselves. 8 Our possibilities of happiness are thus limited from the start by our very constitution. It is much less difficult to be unhappy. Suffering comes from three quarters: from our own body, which is destined to decay and dissolution, and cannot even dispense with anxiety and pain as danger-signals; from the outer world, which can rage against us with the most powerful and pitiless forces of destruction; and finally from our relations with other men. The unhappiness which has this last origin we find perhaps more painful than any other; we tend to regard it more or less as a gratuitous addition, although it cannot be any less an inevitable fate than the suffering that proceeds from other sources.




The idea that it is less difficult to be unhappy makes sense. Eponine never tried with anybody else, and was left alone in her own heartbreak.





if a man thinks himself happy if he has merely escaped unhappiness or weathered trouble; if in general the task of avoiding pain forces that of obtaining pleasure into the background. Reflection shows that there are very different ways of attempting to perform this task; and all these ways have been recommended by the various schools of wisdom in the art of life and put into practice by men. Unbridled gratification of all desires forces itself into the foreground as the most alluring guiding principle in life, but it entails preferring enjoyment to caution and penalizes itself after short indulgence. The other methods, in which avoidance of pain is the main motive, are differentiated according to the source of the suffering against which they are mainly directed. Some of these measures are extreme and some moderate, some are one-sided and some deal with several aspects of the matter at once. Voluntary loneliness, isolation from others, is the readiest safeguard against the unhappiness that may arise out of human relations.





The gratification of instincts is happiness, but when the outer world lets us starve, refuses us satisfaction of our needs, they become the cause of very great suffering. So the hope is born that by influencing these impulses one may escape some measure of suffering. This type of defence against pain no longer relates to the sensory apparatus; it seeks to control the internal sources of our needs themselves.

This quote can be directly applied to Eponine, the 'outer world' being Marius, not giving her the gratification she needs. She is therefore mentally starved and is made to suffer, which you see in the songs in the musical, and when she dies in the book.




Another method operates more energetically and throughly; is regards reality as the source of all suffering, as the one and only enemy, with whom life is intolerable and with whom, therefore, all relations must be broken off if one is to be happy in any way at all. The hermit turns his back on this world; he will have nothing to do with it. But one can do more than that; one can try to re-creat it, try to build up another instead, from which the most unbearable features are eliminated and replaced by other corresponding to ones own wishes. He who in his despair and defiance sets out on this path will not as a rule get very far; reality will be too strong for him. 


I believe Eponine is between a normal and delusional mental state, the lyrics to 'on my own' reflect on this idea of her living in a non-reality


Sometimes I walk alone at night
When everybody else is sleeping
I think of him and then I'm happy
With the company I'm keeping
The city goes to bed
And I can live inside my head

On my own
Pretending he's beside me
All alone
I walk with him till morning
Without him
I feel his arms around me
And when I lose my way I close my eyes
And he has found me


'I can live inside my head' does reflect on Freud's idea of re-creating her own world and being happy in it. 



I do not suppose that I have enumerated all the methods by which men strive to win happiness and keep suffering at bay, and I know, too, that the material might have been arranged differently. One of these methods I have not yet mentioned at all——not because I had forgotten it, but because it will interest us in another connection. How would it be possible to forget this way of all others of practising the art of life! It is conspicuous for its remarkable capacity to combine characteristic features. Needless to say, it, too, strives to bring about independence of fate—— as we may best call it——and with this object it looks for satisfaction within the mind, and uses the capacity for displacing libido which we mentioned before, but it does not turn away from the outer world; on the contrary, it takes a firm hold of its objects and obtains happiness from an emotional relation to them. Nor is it content to strive for avoidance of pain——that goal of weary resignation; rather it passes that by heedlessly and holds fast to the deep-rooted, passionate striving for a positive fulfilment of happiness. Perhaps it really comes nearer to this goal than any other method. I am

-10-speaking, of course, of that way of life which makes love the centre of all things and anticipates all happiness from loving and being loved. This attitude is familiar enough to all of us; one of the forms in which love manifests itself, sexual love, gives us our most intense experience of an overwhelming pleasurable sensation and so furnishes a prototype for our strivings after happiness. What is more natural than that we should persist in seeking happiness along the path by which we first encountered it? The weak side of this way of living is clearly evident; and were it not for this, no human being would ever have thought of abandoning this path to happiness in favour of any other. We are never so defenceless against suffering as when we love, never so forlornly unhappy as when we have lost our love-object or its love. But this does not complete the story of that way of life which bases happiness on love; there is much more to be said about it.


This makes you realise the intensity of pain when you think about Eponine. That she has not lost love, but never had the chance to experience it back. Love is the centre of her world, but it will never be complete. The book implies she is a child prostitute, and in that terms her sexual experience would not have been the same of that of the 'overwhelming pleasurable sensation' of an experience with a lover. 


This research backs up my concept, it shows how I can have a much deeper theory to my image making. Photographically it enhances my concept development and the way I will be producing these images. 

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