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Outline your understanding of the Oedipus complex and its significance for psychoanalysis.

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  • Essay length: 1601 words
  • Submitted: 22/12/2003
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AS and A Level Classics

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Outline your understanding of the Oedipus complex and its significance for psychoanalysis

The Oedipus complex is felt to be one of Freud's most well-known and controversial theories. This essay will analyse Freud's definition of the Oedipus complex and will attempt to explain why it is so controversial. Freud's theory of infantile sexual development will be discussed, as the Oedipus complex is an important stage in this development and finally, the importance of the theory to psychoanalysis will be examined.

To understand the Oedipus complex, the origins of Oedipus must be explained. The term stems from the Greek myth of Oedipus who unknowingly killed his father and unwittingly married his mother. This was his fate and in trying to avoid it, both Oedipus and his parents enabled him to fulfil the prophecy (Bettelheim, 1983). Freud used this story to illustrate his theory that there is a stage in psychosexual development when male children start to develop sexual interests in their mother and see their father as a rival resulting in a wish to do their father harm (Storr, 2001, p.33).

There is a difference in this stage between male and female children. This will be discussed later.

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