Ego and Super Ego in Dante's Inferno Essay

1193 Words Nov 12th, 2012 5 Pages
Catherine Craven
GHUM200, Tu/Th 12:25
October 23rd, 2012
Compare the relationship between Virgil and Dante in Inferno with Sigmund Freud’s discussion of the conscience or super-ego in Civilization and Its Discontents. How does Freud explain and characterize the relationship between super-ego and ego in the individual? Cite examples of the interaction between Virgil and Dante and compare closely with Freud’s discussion of the psychical agencies, super-ego and ego: To what extent does the dynamic between Virgil and Dante illustrate the same pattern or features?

Freud meets Dante: Ego and Super-Ego in Inferno In his book Civilization and Its Discontents, Sigmund Freud offers an explanation for why, as individuals, we tend to punish
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However, According to Freud, the super-ego exists as a way to level out the ego, and, in a way, keep it in check. Therefore, the super-ego is responsible for an individual’s conscience, or, their ability to feel guilt. Freud continues his explanation of these concepts by asserting the idea that the super-ego calls our attention to our own failures and misconducts, and attempts to assist us in learning from them in order to avoid making similar mistakes in the future. Furthermore, the conscience is the form in which the super-ego controls our actions and thoughts, and creates guilt within us. Therefore, the ego is the decision-making, acting part of an individual, while the super-ego acts as the ego’s voice of authority and control (Freud).

Moreover, the relationship between the characters of Dante and Virgil in Dante’s Inferno stands as an excellent example of the relationship between the ego and the super-ego. In the opening of the poem, the character of Dante finds himself lost in a place he does not know, surrounded by terrifying beasts. In this dark moment, Virgil, a ghost from an earlier time, comes forwards and reveals to Dante that, because sin has obstructed his path to God, he must journey through hell and purgatory in order to return to life, as he once knew it. This journey, according to Virgil, would allow Dante to overcome his sin and, at last, find God’s love. However, Dante does not believe he can complete the journey alone, at which point Virgil

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