Psychoanalysis In Herman Melville's Billy Budd

1297 Words 6 Pages
The human psyche has long been a mystery to scholars and philosophers alike. Long working to analyze the cognitive process, scholars strive to make sense of human actions. Psychoanalytic theory, popularized by Sigmund Freud through his works, The Uncanny and Beyond the Pleasure Principle, focuses on gaining deeper understanding of human behavior on the psychological level. In terms of literary criticism, psychoanalysis provides a way to analyze where a character’s actions stem from and thus allowing readers to gain a profounder understanding of their psychological state. Applying Freud’s psychoanalytic to an analysis of Herman Melville’s novella, Billy Budd, will shed light on certain aspects of the story. In particular, looking closely at …show more content…
As a good and moral character, he can give into impulses as he tries to balance the morals of society with his instinctual drives. In one instance, Billy sees the result of a punishment for acting out of line. “He resolved that never through remissness would he make himself liable to such a visitation or do or omit aught that might merit even verbal reproof” (Melville 33). Yet he finds himself getting into petty trouble. This shows how Billy as the ego works to adhere to the rules of the society, but impulses of the id still come through. As the ego Billy attempts to keep in mind the moral expectations of his society in which he lives, while also keeping his instincts in check. The instincts will always make their way to the surface in some way, and for Billy this is occasionally done through violence. John Claggart identifies as the id. View him as the untamed instinct, driven by pleasure. He acts as a metaphorical “devil on the shoulder”. Described, “ [in] his heart he would seem to riot in complete exemption from the law, having apparently little to do with reason further than to employ it as an ambidexter implement for effecting the irrational” (Melville 41). Claggart operates to further his own agenda, whatever that agenda may be. He acts with a narcissistic rage that burns within him. He carries out his own purpose with a sense of being above the law. Due to the fact that he is the “master at arms”, …show more content…
His settled convictions were as a dike against those invading waters of novel opinion, social, political, and otherwise, which carried away as in a torrent no few minds in those days, minds by nature not inferior to his own

Related Documents