OEDIPUS COMPLEX: For Freud, the childhood desire to sleep with the mother and to kill the father. Freud describes the source of this complex in his Introductory Lectures (Twenty-First Lecture): "You all know the Greek legend of King Oedipus, who was destined by fate to kill his father and take his mother to wife, who did everything possible to escape the oracle's decree and punished himself by blinding when he learned that he had none the less unwittingly committed both these crimes" (16.330). According to Freud, Sophocles' play, Oedipus Rex, illustrates a formative stage in each individual's psychosexual development, when the young child transfers his love object from the breast (the oral phase) to the mother. At this time, the child desires the mother and resents (even secretly desires the murder) of the father. (The Oedipus complex is closely connected to the castration complex.) Such primal desires are, of course, quickly repressed but, even among the mentally sane, they will arise again in dreams or in literature. Among those individuals who do not progress properly into the genital phase, the Oedipus Complex, according to Freud, can still be playing out its psychdrama in various displaced, abnormal, and/or exaggerated ways. See also Freud Module 3 on repression and Freud Module 1 on psychosexual development.
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