Few psychoanalytic concepts have received such vehement criticism as that laid at the feet of the Oedipus complex and yet it is ingrained in the very fabric of society. From William Shakespeare’s Hamlet (1600) to Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds (1963) it has been manifest in works of fiction and art for centuries and yet for many it is a concept that cannot be accepted. Some too will argue the point (Karlsson, 2010) that psychoanalysis itself is a product of the culture in which it was posited, namely European (though to which part of Europe debate continues), and this shall form the basis for this dissertation. Taking Haruki Murakami’s Kafka on the Shore as a core text, evidence will be put forward to show the portrayal of the Oedipus complex in a novel born of a culture that until the mid-nineteenth century remained closed to Europe and which has evolved a collection of philosophies and understandings all its own.
In order to approach such a task this dissertation will be divided up into three sections, each applying Lacanian psychoanalytic understanding (rooted in Freudian psychoanalysis) to the story of the title character of Murakami’s work. The first of these sections will pertain to a discussion of the Lacanian Mirror Stage concept and how it is represented in the opening chapters of the novel. What will emerge in this chapter is, not only the importance of the mirror stage in the formation of identity, but also the importance of metaphor in the Lacanian understanding of the psyche.
This study of the mirror stage will pave the way for the second chapter which will examine the Oedipus complex itself and link it to the events and emotions experienced by Kafka throughout his journey. Integral to this chapter is the understanding of both Freudian and Lacanian theories regarding the complex with particular focus on the role of the father (Lacanian Nom-du-Père) in proceedings. This
will ultimately introduce the contrasting oedipal (Freud) and structural (Lacan) models favoured by the two eminent analysts.
The final chapter will deal with what Freud termed it in 1924 ‘The Dissolution of the Oedipus Complex.’ An analysis of Kafka’s actions after the realisation of his acts with his mother will offer clues regarding the psychical structure he will have taken up. Through a comparison of the ending of the novel and those elements of the story that run parallel with the castration idea with similar themes in the ancient Oedipus Rex myth, this chapter will put forward evidence to suggest a far from straightforward dissolution of Kafka’s Oedipus complex. Author keywords: Oedipus complex, name-of-the-father