From the Interpretations of Dreams
From Chapter V. The Material and Sources of Dreams
[The Oedipus Complex]
“If Oedipus Rex moves a modern audience no less than it did the contemporary Greek one, the explanation can only be that its effect does not line in the contrast between destiny and human will, but is to be looked for in the particular nature of the material on which that contrast is exemplified. There must be something which makes a voice within us ready to recognize the compelling force of destiny in the Oedipus . . . His destiny moves us only because it might have been ours – because the oracle laid the same curse upon us before our birth as upon him . . . our first sexual impulse towards our mother and our first hatred and our first murderous wish against our father” (815-16).
In this statement, Freud conveys that the long-lasting appreciation of Shakespeare’s Oedipus Rex stems from our ability as viewers and readers to relate to Oedipus’ destiny. In fact, our destiny is that of Oedipus, we have an infantile sexual desire for our mothers and wish to murder our fathers (for women this is later suggested to be the other way around and is entitled the Electra complex). When reading this, I could not help but recall a scene from the sitcom Roseanne in which Darlene’s boyfriend, David, who lives with the Connor family has a dream involving him having sex with Darlene’s mother. In lieu of comedy, David reveals that he had a dream of another Connor woman and Darlene’s sister, Becky, believes that the dream involves her. However, it is soon revealed that the dream involved Roseanne, resulting in an awkward heart-to-heart moment between David and Roseanne. In typical Roseanne fashion, Roseanne claims that the dream makes perfect sense, she is attractive, they see each other every day, what is there not to dream about? Yet Freud would perhaps argue that because David has an estranged relationship with his own mother and that because Roseanne has assumed this role, David is destined to have such an incest-ridden dream. As this dream occurs when David is an adult, it is met with “feelings of repulsion” as he is ashamed to discuss it and initially chooses to move out (817). However, unlike Oedipus, David does not kill Roseanne’s husband, Dan, nor shows any indication of a will to do so (Freud would probably counter that David is repressing this wish) and after the dream is discussed, David and Darlene remain happily together (yet psychoanalytically, one could say that David truly desired Roseanne and settled for Darlene because she was the closest obtainment that David could have, yet I highly doubt that it the case). The very notion of a sexual dream concerning one’s own mother takes the status of the mother (familiar and homely) and turns it into something unfamiliar through the dream-action of incest: the uncanny.