Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Oepidus/Electra Complex?

So our discussion about the Moses allusion in Unbearable Lightness today got me thinking about Freud (still mad...) and specifically about the Oedipus complex. Tereza and Tomas definitely do not have a typical romantic relationship or a father-daughter relationship. So what is it? I did a little research on the Oedipus complex, or the Electra complex as it is called in young females, and found that the complex is largely driven by a psychological drive in a young female to compete with her mother for her father's affection. While Tereza's father is never discussed, her feelings toward her mother could be seen as competitive if Tereza's mother represents lightness. If we make Tomas the "father" figure, Tereza feels that she must compete with the lightness (i.e. her mother) in order to keep Tomas' love. This may seem like a stretch, but Kundera's reference to Oedipus later in the book (p. 175) convinced me that there is some connection. Thoughts?


alex Monier said...

With all due respect, this is possibly one of the most contrived literary inferences I've ever read. However, I can see that if you reaaaaaaaaally stretched it, it might be able to work. I really like the Moses reference, and can agree that there is somewhat of a correspondence with Tereza wanting the love of her 'caretaker'. However, I don't think she's particularly competing with her mother. I would also like to see some further proof that her mother was actually "light" seeing as how she seemed to me more like a terrified person fleeing from responsibility more than a philosophically "light" person, if that makes sense.

Sri Korrapati said...

Just saying (Not as my blogpost) I agree with Iris. Alex, you need to be a little more open. No doubtably, Oedipus is a motif in The Unbearable Lightness Of Being (how do I Italicize). Tereza definitely is in battle with her mother. They have conflicting views on so much, and Tereza eventually escapes because she is self proclaimed as weak and was obviously not in any shape able to beat her mother. I agree it wasn't as much of a competition as her mother gloating her power over Tereza. When Tereza moves away, she showed her mother that her mother had no more power over Tereza. This was Tereza's retaliation in the "competition."
I don't think they are fighting for a father. I think they compete for privacy and personal rights. Tereza and her mother can be seen as the Czech and the secret police (like when her mother read her diary). The concentration camp reference is also repeatedly made.
I like the contrast between the Moses reference and the Oedipus reference. Tomas saves her from the river. At first we think of it as a Moses reference (just because Moses is a little more popular in our predominantly Jewish-Christian society). Tereza sees herself as being taken in by royalty. Soon we see that she doesn't get the rights and privacy she looks for because Tomas does not reserve his body for her. Oedipus did not get royalty. Instead, he grew up to a fate of blinding himself. Tereza ends up having to just deal with Tomas's infidelities and tries (and fails) to ignore them (blind herself to them).

Isabel Celata said...

Although I understand Iris's point of view, I personally would not argue that Tereza is competing with her mother's lightness in order to keep Tomas' love. I'm not denying that Oedipus is prominent in the book nor that Tomas is sometimes viewed as Tereza's father figure, simply that Tereza feels like she must compete with her mother for Tomas's love. The competition I see Tereza dealing with is Tomas's mistresses, namely Sabina, and the fact that Tomas is so easily able to sleep with other people. Instead of competing with her mother's lightness, if you see her mom as light, I feel that she is struggling with her heaviness and desiring Tomas's lightness.

Sri, I agree that Tereza and her mother obviously have issues with privacy and personal rights. However, I don't agree that Tereza's mother lost all power over Tereza when Tereza moved away. Although Tereza is no longer physically under her mother's dominion, her mother's ideas still have significant sway over Tereza's thoughts.

Sri Korrapati said...

Isabel, I agree with you, but from her mother's perspective, she does feel powerless. She even lies about being terminally ill just to get Tereza to come back to her. Even thought Tereza's carrying her mother's influence everywhere, her mother also feels the loss of Tereza. So, in conclusion, I feel that they both lost.