October 26, 2009
A Psychoanalysis on W;t
Sigmund Freud's idea of the id is exceptionally easy to see in the development of Margret Edson's characters in her play W;t. Edson's use of drama enables readers and viewers to feel the affects the id can have on a person if it is too restrained, or if it is released too far.
Freud speaks of the id and its relationship to the ego and superego in his book New Introductory Lectures on Psycho-Analysis. Freud explains that "The id… knows no source of value: no good and evil, no mortality" (Freud, 93). Because the id does not know these things, when its weight is not balanced by the superego a person becomes purely instinctual. They act on their deepest desires that even they may not be aware that they have. Usually, a person is able to balance their id by having equal weight on the superego end. The ego sits in between trying to ensure that the balance stays in place. Often, one side is able to take control and either the id or the superego becomes overbearing.
In the beginning of W;t, Edson's main character Vivian is ruled particularly by her superego. On page 15 of the play Doctor of Philosophy E.M. Ashford encourages Vivian to "Go out" and spend time away from the library. Instead Vivian finds that she is uncomfortable with the change and returns to the very place she was told to avoid. Vivian feels that her work is the most important aspect in her life. W;t uses the library as a symbol for Vivian's superego and outside of the library is her id.
As the play moves forward, and Vivian's cancer takes more control she reluctantly begins to see that there is something more to life than just wit, but she cannot come to terms with it. She finds that she wants Jason to take time away from his research in order to care about her, but he is driven by his super ego in the same way that she was.
With the help of Susie, Vivian finally realizes that "Now is the time for simplicity. Now is the time for… kindness" (W;t, 69). She realizes that when she allows herself to be completely taken over by her superego's desire for knowledge she is missing out on the positive side of the id, and depriving other's of it as well.
After this recollection, Vivian's id begins to balance out her super ego. She is straightforward about the pain of the chemo, allowing herself to express the feeling she has without words, something she would not usually do. She also begins to accept the kindness of Susie and wishes for it in others.
When Vivian's kidney's fail, Jason is frantic and loses control of his superego. His only concern is to save his research. Against Vivian's previously expressed will, Jason tries to revive her and calls for the code team. This act of only worrying about his own desires shows that Jason has been taken over by his id. When Susie tries to stop him Jason's superego kicks in and he is able to see that what he has done was very wrong.
The id, ego, and superego are very easy to unbalance. Edson's play demonstrates that a balanced mind can be beautiful, but one that is unbalanced can result in loneliness and even ruin your life completely.