Sexual repression in atonement

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  • Publicado : 9 de noviembre de 2010
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1. Introduction.
In this essay we want to analyze the presence of sexual repression in the book Atonement (Vintage Books 2002) written by Ian McEwan. This book, due to its structure, makes the reader able to see different events from different points of view, the one of Briony and the ones of Cecilia and Robbie, the three main characters of the story.
We will try to analyze this presence ofsexual repression using the psychoanalyst point of view. Psychoanalysis was developed by the prestigious neurologist Sigmund Freud during the 1890’s and is a technique that, according to Paul C. Holinger[1]’s online article What is Psychoanalysis? What Is Child Psychoanalysis “attempts to understand the inner psychological world of human beings” (What is Psychoanalysis? What Is Childhttp://www.psychologytoday.com). This concept we will define better later on.
The aims we have set ourselves in this essay are to define some primary concepts first, in order to make an easier understanding of the analysis to the reader, put the reader in precedents in order to establish a connection between those concepts and some passages from the book in order to prove our theory, and finally arrive to aconclusion.

2. Previous Concepts.
In order to understand some analysis on the extracts of the novel, it would be useful to understand first what psychoanalysis is. As we mentioned before, the concept of psychoanalysis was established by Sigmund Freud in the 1890’s and its basis are, according to Manuel Asensi Pérez (2003: 527), “1) that certain singular somatic alterations are the result of apsychic influence; 2) that there are unconscious frames of mind processes, and 3) that some techniques like the association of ideas can make of the unconscious something touchable, and experimental object.”

We would also like to point out, in order to make those previous statements more understandable, that “the main discovering of psychoanalysis is the existence of a psychic zone that he(Freud) names unconscious… confirmed by a series of psychical events that can not have their origin in the will and the conscience of those who suffer them.”(Asensi 2003: 529). By this Freud was saying that there is an invisible and unknowable part of our mind that rules and guides our behaviour. It may be the origin of phobias, philias and many psychological problems. This unconscious part wasnamed by Freud id, also known as it, the rational and conscious part of our mind he named ego, also known as I, and the critical and moral functional part was named superego.

Following with the definition of concepts it is essential for the profitable further reading of this essay to define the meaning of sexual repression. Doctor Marcelo A. La Falce[2] defines sexual repression, frompsychoanalysis, as “the mechanisms of defence of the ego through which the psychism moves further away form the conscience an unpleasant or dangerous content, in this case sexual, for its balance […] It is a way to prevent something… an abstention of the representation of certain feelings” (The Sexual Repression, http//:www.aagop.com.ar)

In his online article Dr. Marcelo A. La Falce distinguishes twotypes of sexual repression, the unconscious repression that acts as a defense mechanism against the sexual thoughts that influence the behavior of the individual without he realizes about it, and the conscious repression in which the individual rejects voluntarily all related to his sexuality because he considers it morally incorrect. Both types can break out sexual disorders. (The SexualRepression, http//:www.aagop.com.ar).

In McEwan’s novel repression is present mainly on the first part of the novel. We can even say that if there had been no sexual repression, there would not have been a novel. So having defined the key concepts that would make the reader understand this essay, we will proceed to make an analysis of some passages of the novel that we consider key in the process of...
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