What does Freud use the idea of London monuments to illustrate?
Freud uses London monuments to demonstrate how, for many neurotics, certain actions or symbols are "residues, or mnemic symbols" of traumatic events in the patient's past. He illustrates his point by describing monuments as a type of mnemic symbol, and points out that London is full of monuments to tragic events and deceased people. For example, Charing Cross is a monument commemorating a place where Queen Eleanor's casket rested on its way to her final resting place. It was erected by her grieving husband, a "Plantagenet king of the thirteenth century." Similarly, not far from London Bridge is a column commemorating the London Fire, a tragic event in which thousands of individuals perished. Most Londoners walk past these monuments everyday without giving them a second thought. On the other hand, Freud asks:
What should we think of a Londoner who paused today in a deep melancholy before the memorial of Queen Eleanor’s funeral instead of going about his business in the hurry that modern working conditions demand or instead of feeling the joy over the youthful queen of his own heart? Or again what should we think of a Londoner who sheds tears before the Monument that commemorates the reduction of his beloved metropolis to ashes although it has long since risen again in far greater brilliance?
Freud's point is that neurotics are very much like the Londoners who are overwhelmed with grief everytime they encounter one of these memorials. They cannot free themselves from the traumas of the past, which are sometimes triggered by mnemic symbols or events, and thus they struggle to live normal lives. "This fixation of mental life to pathogenic traumas," Freud asserts, "is one of the most significant and practically important characteristics of neurosis."