Poetry analysis gives focus to an interpretation of the surface text, whereas a psychological perspective allows a look under the text, onto the character. The purpose of this assignment is to understand what events lead up to these behaviors using a psychological approach to This is Just to Say by William Carlos Williams. Interpretation will be given in four concepts of Sigmund Freud’s Psychodynamic Theory; psychoanalysis, The psyche, dream interpretation, and ultimately the final diagnosis. Relation to the poem and the speaker’s personality seems ordinary on the surface, but deeper meaning expresses the conflict inside the mind which struggles to hold control of acting on sexual urges through the use of our defenses.
Williams’s poem interestingly mirrors that of a confessional, with all other characters unknown, the speaker seems to be speaking openly in an indirect and disconnected manner. Reflecting a therapy session similar to free association or Freud’s “talking cure” in which the patient was allowed to express any thoughts they had on their mind freely.
(Sammons) Free association is part of psychoanalysis to make the unconscious, conscious in hopes to reveal the character’s true motives to address and relieve the conflict. Conflicts between what we want and what is right can create a significant disturbance in personality for those unable to balance out these demands. In other words, personality types reflect on our (in)ability to control inner conflict and rechanneled energies*, this job is placed on the ego, explained ahead.
Freud believes many of our actions are made before our awareness provoked by hidden desires that lie deep within us, some inappropriate to satisfy.
Thus we create defense mechanisms. We protect ourselves from these things by forcing them out of the conscious mind and into the unconscious, this process is called repression*. The trouble is, nothing stays hidden forever, and the disturbing stuff in the unconscious is always trying to escape* which we fight to avoid to avoid guilt from the conscience.
For instance, true desires of indulging in sexual activity with another’s partner are repressed and replaced with more innocent food indulgence. The unconscious behavior is the sexual desire, the impulses created to satisfy one’s sexual instincts. A conscious process is shown when the character acknowledges the plums were probably being saved for breakfast by the owner of the plums.
Matter of fact, conflicting emotions from these demands are derived from three mental processes of personality; the id, ego, and super-ego. Mental stability is dependent on the ego to create a balance of self-satisfaction (id) and social responsibility (the super-ego). The id was the impulse that created the desire to consume the plums also, an unconscious process. This mental process is considered selfish, and impulsive supplies the energy of the libido to the personality and is motivated through rewards of the pleasure principle.
The ego follows the reality principle; it is the rational thought to consider the possibility of the plums being saved to eat by the owner in the morning, this being a conscious process. Despite this consideration, the ego was no longer able to suppress these demands of satisfying the id, ultimately eating the plums in response to the self-pleasing action being chosen and awareness of how it negatively affects the other person. The superego brings on the guilt to the conscience as the judgment of succumbing to self-satisfaction.
The following concept is held in high regard along with free association is the concept of dream interpretation. After undergoing free association, the ego’s defenses come down and the id’s desires, although still hidden, can be better interpreted. Motives that are seen as socially inappropriate will replace themselves with manifest dreams through dream work. Dream-work creates symbols that are said to be replacements for actual images from latent thoughts (unconscious desires). Real meaning shares the first property with its symbol,* this will be applied to the poem to uncover its true motives. If we analyze the words and interpret their meaning using the concept of sexuality being the drive of impulse created by the id, hidden meaning can be implied of plums, icebox, saving, breakfast, delicious, sweet, and cold. In other words, these words can be thought of as symbols, for instance, plums can represent the object which is stimulating these inner sexual desires. Icebox could suggest the nature of being preserved; saving one’s virginity; breakfast symbolizing the act of marriage. The significance of deliciousness and sweetness are manifest in the high level of gratification or fulfillment after succumbing to sexual desire. Emphasis is added to the persevered innocence of one’s virginity in place of cold.
So what does this all mean? After undoing the defenses and dream-work, it is believed the character is dealing with neurosis. When repressed feelings cannot be sufficiently expressed in dreams, they are blocked creating unresolved conflict between the ego and id.*Anxiety disorders exist when the ego becomes over-whelmed and losses control of maintaining a balance between our impulses and morals, The character is struggling to suppress these forbidden urges, already making excuses for acting on impulse. The pressure to seek satisfaction is overpowering the ego which is the cause of neurotic anxiety. The character is aware of the consequences, asking for forgiveness in an attempt to lessen moral anxiety felt by the super-ego as punishment if they ultimately decide on self-gratification.
In sum, revealing one’s unconscious thoughts through psychoanalysis is theorized as achievable by easing defenses through free association, analyzing the intensity of the psyche, and interpreting dreams and their symbolic meaning. To highlight, psychoanalysis is not meant to diagnose behaviors or symptoms displayed. It focuses on having the patient open up, analyzing what words are said, and then drawing meaning so they can face what is truly upsetting their balance. In this case, the character desired to seek sexual satisfaction with someone who is being saved for marriage to someone else. This desire is immoral, socially unacceptable, and inappropriate, yet impulse seems to be too much on this character and is dealing with the anxieties from both the id and super-ego. They must face these unconscious desires, acknowledging these urges can help in satisfaction either by a sexual release of tension or sublimation.