Which characters represent the id, ego, and super ego in Louise Erdrich's works?

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Tamara K. H. | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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It was Sigmund Freud who developed a psychoanalytical theory of personality, grouping all human personalities into three divisions that he named the id, the ego, and the superego. More specifically, the id represents our primitive instinctive side, the side that only acts for immediate gratification of any desire, such as the satisfaction of hunger, thirst, or even lust. The ego is the part of our personality that checks the instinctive impulses of the id in order to deal with reality. Finally, the superego is  the part that acts based on moral standards, society's sense of right and wrong. We can use Freud's psychoanalytical theory when examining a text through psychoanalytical criticism. Since the id, the ego, and the superego apply to all of humankind's personalities, they can be applied to just about any character. We can use Louise Erdrich's The Plague of Doves as an example.

The Plague of Doves is set on the Ojibwe reservation in North Dakota, just outside of the town Pluto. The novel especially concerns the murder of a Pluto farm family, particularly the ensuing consequences of the murder. The story starts out with four young Native Americans of the Ojibwe tribe, Mooshum, Cuthbert Peace, Asignak, and Holy Track, traveling to Pluto just as the murder takes place. They stop at the farm because they become alarmed by the sound of the unmilked cows crying out. We can clearly see both the id and the ego portrayed in Cuthbert's and Asignak's different reactions to the situation. First, Cuthbert instinctively wants to help the cows, but Asignak tries to get them all away from the farm and uninvolved because he senses danger and knows that society is likely to blame the Indians for the danger. Cuthbert shows further instincts when he wants to help the baby, leading to the discovery of the murder. It can be argued that Cuthbert's instinctive acts portray the id and are a way for him to fulfill his born need to care for and nurture.  As soon as they discover the murder, Asignak warns Cutherbert not to get involved, saying that if they report the murder, they'll be blamed and hanged for the deed. Asignak's responses to the situation is a clear example of the ego. He is basing his actions on his knowledge and fears of society, particularly his knowledge that society is prejudiced against his race, ready to accuse his race of any wrongdoings. However, Asignak further portrays the superego when he next writes an anonymous letter to the police informing them of the murder. Regardless, Asignak's first instincts prove to be correct when, after Mooshum unfortunately blabs about the murder while drunk, the rest Mooshum's Indian friends are indeed accused of the murder and hanged.

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