Jane Eyre

A Psychoanalytic Criticism of Emma, Jane Eyre, and Tess of the D'Urbervilles

Although his methods have largely been discredited, Sigmund Freud's theories about the unconscious, the subconscious, and repression are extremely useful when applied to literary texts. None of the three novels discussed here - Jane Austen's Emma, Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre, and Thomas Hardy's Tess of the D'Urbervilles - contain overtly psychoanalytic themes such as frequent dreams or psychological diseases (aside from the madwoman in the attic found in Jane Eyre), yet they can all be read with the aim of discovering latent themes, displaced or repressed thoughts and feelings, and subconscious desires. The traditional approach to psychoanalytic criticism involves the neglect of a work's other contexts (historical, socioeconomic, etc.), thus making it extremely difficult to gain significant insight into these texts by means of Freudian psychoanalytic criticism alone.

Sigmund Freud revolutionized human psychology by suggesting that people are motivated mainly by unconscious powers. He stated that "much of what lies in the unconscious mind has been put there by consciousness, which acts as a censor, driving underground unconscious or conscious thoughts or instincts that it deems unacceptable"...

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