The Interpretation of Dreams Characters

Character Analysis

Sigmund Freud

Sigmund Freud (1856–1939) is universally considered the ‘‘father’’ of psychoanalysis, a term that he first used in 1896. Upon his father’s death, Freud began a process of intensive self-analysis, which resulted in the writing of The Interpretation of Dreams (1899). This ‘‘magnum opus’’ (as many have called it) puts forth Freud’s early theories of the unconscious, which he was to develop throughout the remaining forty years of his life. The Interpretation of Dreams includes extensive, detailed analysis of many of Freud’s own dreams, as well as those of his friends, family, and clinical patients. He asserts that, contrary to the current scientific opinion, dreams are meaningful and that though they often seem nonsensical and absurd, dreams actually function according to a logic and language different from that of waking life. It is the task of the analyst to ‘‘translate’’ the language of dreams, which resembles a form of ‘‘hieroglyphics,’’ or word-pictures, into everyday speech. Through this process, analysis of dream-content can reveal valuable insight into the workings of the unconscious mind.

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Other Characters

Josef Breuer
Josef Breuer (1842–1925) was an Austrian physician with whom Freud co-wrote Studies in Hysteria in 1895. Their findings were based on Breuer’s work with a patient, referred to by the pseudonym ‘‘Anna O.,’’ who suffered from hysteria. Breuer found that Anna O.’s symptoms were relieved after he put her in a state of mind resembling hypnosis and she described an early childhood experience that had brought on her illness. Anna O. called this process the ‘‘talking cure,’’ a term that Freud and Breuer adopted to describe their new method. By the late 1890s, Freud, in his characteristic way, found that his intense ten-year-long friendship with Breuer had cooled, in part due to differences regarding psychoanalytic theory. However, Freud considered Breuer, and not himself, to be the true father of psychoanalytic theory. In The Interpretation of Dreams, Freud refers to Breuer by the pseudonym ‘‘Dr. M.’’ in describing his appearance in the ‘‘Irma’’ dream. Freud had this dream the night after writing down the case history of a patient named Irma to present it to Breuer for further consultation. In the dream, Breuer appears with several colleagues who examine Irma. In this same dream, Breuer appears as a ‘‘composite figure’’ with one of Freud’s brothers; he makes the association between the two that ‘‘I was out of humor with both of them’’ for rejecting suggestions he had recently made to them. Freud concludes that the dream is in part a wish-fulfillment in which he portrays ‘‘Dr. M.’’ (Breuer) as an incompetent physician, thus reassuring himself of his own professional competence, which had been put into question (in his waking life) with regard to his only partial success in treating Irma.

Brücke
See Ernst Wilhelm von Brücke

Fleischl
See Professor Ernst Fleischl von Marxow

Wilhelm Fliess
Wilhelm Fliess (1858–1928), a Berlin physician, was a close friend of Freud’s and an important professional influence. An unfortunate incident occurred in 1895 when Freud referred a patient of his, a female hysteric, to Fliess for an operation on her nose. Freud at that time subscribed to Fliess’s theory that the nose and the sexual organs were linked. Because of his own theory that hysteria was sexual in nature, he thought that by operating on her nose, Fliess might be able to cure the patient of hysteria. After the operation, however, the patient suffered from near-fatal nosebleeds. When a different physician examined her, he found that Fliess had accidentally left half a meter of gauze in her nasal cavity. This was quite an embarrassment to Freud, who nonetheless felt obliged to defend his friend’s professional competence. The figure of Fliess, referred to as ‘‘my Berlin friend Fl., ’’ appears in several of Freud’s dreams, as described in The Interpretation of Dreams. One of these dreams is sparked by criticism in a professional journal of Fliess’s recent book. Freud, fearing professional criticism of his own work, has a dream in which he stands in for Fliess and the book critic is discredited. Freud’s dream is thus a wish-fulfillment that those who may come to criticize him professionally are unfounded in their opinions. Freud uses this as an example to demonstrate that ‘‘there is no dream that is not prompted by egoistic movies.’’ In this dream, for example, the dreamer (Freud) ‘‘makes my friend’s case my own.’’ Another dream is sparked by Freud’s concern that Fliess may soon die as the result of a recent operation. The dream recalls associations with a past habit on the part of Freud of arriving late to work. In Fliess’s case, Freud fears he may arrive in Berlin (where Fliess lives) ‘‘too late’’—that Fliess will already be dead. The Complete Letters of Sigmund Freud to Wilhelm Fliess, 1877–1904, edited by Jeffrey Masson, was published in 1985.

Amalia Freud
Amalia (maiden name Nathansohn) Freud (1835–1930) was Freud’s mother. In The Interpretation of Dreams, he describes a dream in which one figure, a woman in a kitchen rubbing dough between her hands to make dumplings, evokes associations with his mother. In another dream, from age seven or eight, he dreamed that his mother had died. In these dreams, his mother is associated with both nourishment and death. Freud’s strong childhood attachment to his mother and his corresponding feelings of jealousy toward his father became the basis of his theory of the Oedipus complex, one of the fundamental theories of psychoanalysis.

Anna Freud
Anna Freud (1895–1982) was Freud’s youngest child. In The Interpretation of Dreams, Freud describes a dream from Anna’s second year of life. She had gotten sick in the morning and was given nothing more to eat for the rest of the day. Her nurse had attributed the illness to eating too many strawberries. That night, Anna was heard to utter in her sleep: ‘‘Anna F[r]eud, strawberry, wild strawberry, scrambled eggs, mash.’’ Freud observed that this was clearly the expression of a wish-fulfillment on the part of the child, who had been denied food of any kind and strawberries in particular: ‘‘the menu no doubt included everything that would have seemed to her a desirable meal.’’ Having been told that she had eaten too many strawberries, Freud notes, ‘‘she took her revenge in her dream for this annoying report.’’ As an adult, Anna maintained a very close relationship with her father, becoming his constant companion toward the end of his life. She also made a name for herself as a psychoanalyst in her own right, pioneering in the fields of child and adolescent psychology. From 1925 to 1928,...

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