The XIXth Century Depiction of Mental Illness

19 although these states are not implicitly referred

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19 Although these states are not implicitly referred to (as the id, ego, and super-ego) in Freud’s terms, literature post-Darwin and pre-Freud depict these states e.g. Conrad’s depiction of Kurtz in Heart of Darnkess .
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inner conflict between the super-ego and the id, the piety of the mother and aggressive violence of his father. He “remains kneeling at his stool [in church] no matter how long the service,” but also kills a defenseless mouse, and other animals, in identification with the id-like violence of his father (Flaubert 45). In the midst of wild animals, Saint Julian truly has the most “savage heart” that reflects the unconscious overexpression of the id 20 ; this disorder leads to his psychosomatic vision of a talking stag, the admonishing father figure. Flaubert’s depiction of King Herod’s hysteria, induced by his lust in “Herodias,” serves as another example of illness from witihin. Tetrarch Herod initially remains strong in his will against his ferocious wife, Herodias, who screams at her husband to “Kill [John the Baptist]!” (103). However, when Herodias uses her attractive daughter, who “might have been Herodias, as she used to be in her youth,” King Herod succumbs horrifically quickly, suggesting an uncontrollable aspect of inner illness. (100). The Tetrarch’s strong super-ego folds, and he cries that “[Herodias’ daughter] shall have Capernaum! The plain of Tiberias! All my citadels!” (101). More importantly, he grants the voluptuous young woman the head of John the Baptist, something he had long rejected his wife; Herod’s id manifests itself in lust, and induces a state of hysteria in the Tetrarch. Almost deprived of John the Baptist’s head, Herodias “vented her anger in a stream of coarse and unseemly abuse” (103). Flaubert uses both the Tetrarch Herod and his wife, Herodias, to reveal the role that Human Nature plays in the inducement of mental illness. 20 Baudelaire refers to this dark side of Human Nature as the “Beast within.”
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Joseph Conrad also explores the modern understanding that mental illness stems from dysfunction within the Nature of man through a depiction of Kurtz and Marlow. Like a child, Kurtz’s action is heavily dictated by the id as he “lacked restraint in the gratification of his various lusts 21 ” and lives according to a domineering pleasure principle (Conrad 44). Through constant pleasure seeking, Kurtz reverts to a child-like state and “kicks himself loose of the earth”, which reveals an underlying imbalance between his super-ego and id, leaning more towards the latter (172). Unable to face his own “Heart of Darkness,” Kurtz is consumed by the eventual expression of the id, represented by his “savage and superb” African Mistress (186). Kurtz is emblematic of the modern Europeans at the time, such as the “pilgrims,” who Conrad may suggest are the true savages, having lost all sense of self-discipline 22 (139). Moreover, Conrad may use Kurtz as a depiction of mental illness that results from a failure to acknowledge the id, the “Heart of Darkness” within man. For example, Marlow escapes Kurtz’s fate through an acknowledgement of the id; he recognizes a sense of kinship with the native Africans who “howled, and leaped, and spun, and made horrid faces” (132). In the
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