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Applying Psychoanalytic Theory

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  • If you think you need more review on the basics of Psychoanalytic Theory, CLICK HERE.

    Applying the Psychoanalytic Theory

    If not, then lets move onto applying the theory. When you use the Psychoanalytic Theory, you can focus on three things: the characters, the author, or the reader.


    When you focus on the characters, you want to pay attention to their motives to discover what their "secret life" is. You might see how their actions represent desires within the id, the ego, or the superego. Watch the video to the right to see an example of this.

    In the video you see how Ralph, Jack, and Piggy from the story all express different desires within the id, the ego, and the superego. By discovering this, we get to see more into the life of the character.

    The Author and Symbols

    The second piece you could focus on when apply Psychoanalytic Theory is the author. Here, you want to see what can be revealed about the author's "hidden life." The text could express a secret the author has, something the author has repressed, or it could reveal internal struggles of the author.

    When focusing on this, you want to keep an eye out for symbols. Symbols are things that represent bigger or abstract ideas. Characters themselves can be symbols. Noticing symbols, can reveal hidden meanings the author is revealing.

    The Reader

    The final piece you could focus on is the reader. Unlike New Historicism, that took into account the bias of a reader, Psychoanalytic critics analyze what is revealed about the reader. They see what is subconsiously revealed about the reader. They discover what the reader likes or is drawn to in a piece of literature, or what a reader finds uncomfortable or dislikes about a story, and see that as a reflection of the reader themselves.

    For example, as a reader you may find yourself drawn to a character but not be able to explain why you like them. The traits or desires of that character might reveal or reflect something about the reader that they were unaware of before.