Discuss how the characters use psychological defense mechanisms to protect the ego from dangerous truths within the Whitsun Weddings and Talking heads.

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Lainy Fletcher

Discuss how the characters use psychological defence mechanisms to protect the ego from dangerous truths within the Whitsun Weddings and Talking heads.

According to Freudian theory, the ego, Latin for “I”, prevents us from acting on our basic biological drives, but also works to achieve a balance with our moral standards created by out social environment. The ego is both conscious and unconscious. Freud established that our ego creates defence mechanisms to cope with conflicts between reality and either society's morals, norms, and taboos. Within the Whitsun weddings, the characters view themselves as isolated through the way they view other people. The speaker gets a sense of who they are through measuring themselves through other people. They will see other people and measure their life from them. As a result of this the characters in Self’s the man and Mr Bleaney struggle to accept their loneliness because they have deluded themselves into believing that they are better off alone, and that is the lifestyle they have chosen. When they almost come to terms with this hard truth, they fall back into doubt with “I don’t know” and “or I suppose I can”. In A Chip In The Sugar , there is still a sense of this however, the characters have an initial idea of who they are, or how they want to appear to others, but they are usually wrong, which is ironic.  

Graham, in Bennett’s A Chip in the Sugar is resentful of his mother’s relationship with Mr Turnbull. Graham and Mr Turnbull compete for Vera’s attention. Graham describes Mr Turnbull sarcastically, “Only his lordship says he’s got a bad back.” To Graham this is a small victory, whilst he may not be superior to Mr Turnbull, but certainly at this moment he feels of more use to his mother. The use of “his lordship” whilst intended sarcastically, highlights the superiority anxieties Graham is having about Mr Turnbull’s presence. Graham’s ego instead of coming to terms with the fears of losing his mother displaces his anger towards Mr Turnbull. Displacement is a Freudian defence mechanism in which individuals find a different outlet for feelings and transfer anger towards an “out group” a person such as Mr Turnbull who is not directly involved with Graham’s problems but aggravates them.

Graham does not accept his mental illness within the monologue. It is apparent to the audience by the fact that Graham was “making paper flowers at one stage”. The fact that Graham does not directly mention his illness and only alludes to it with the mention of therapy classes and “watching like they used to do before, I thought that chapter was closed” creates a sense that Graham struggles to accept his mental although it is a prominent feature which plagues his life. In the cafe scene, once Graham believes the topic of his mental illness is established, Graham says “I went to the toilet.” This shows that Graham struggles to accept, and is possibly embarrassed by his mental illness. He understands that his mother is going to tell Mr Turnbull; therefore he escapes the conversation, thus escaping being forced to accept hurtful information which would damage his ego. However, it can be perceived that Graham was actually present for this conversation and where Graham said “I went to the toilet” is actually where Graham’s unconscious mind has rationalised the events, and reinterpreted them to make them safer for the ego by blocking out the information. When Graham says “when I came back” instead of meaning physically returning from the toilet, means that he zoned back into the conversation.  A Chip in the Sugar is a monologue, and similarly to a soliloquy, the characters have to be truthful. However, if Graham is subconsciously rationalising and reinterpreting this information, he believes himself to be telling the truth and not flouting the rules of the soliloquy.

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Graham appears to have an exaggerated perception of his own abilities with his reference to reading Guardian and saying that is mother has “picked up enough from me”.  This is an example of Freud’s sublimination defence mechanism as Graham is directing his energy into other activities which are perceived as positive aspects of the personality.

In A Chip in the Sugar alludes to Graham’s homosexuality with the homosexual-pornographic magazines during an argument with his mother towards to dénouement of the monologue.

 “I know what kind of magazines you read”, I said “chess”… she said “they never are chess. Chess with no ...

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