Haroun and the Sea of Stories

by Salman Rushdie

Start Free Trial

How are the elements of id, ego, and superego portrayed in Haroun and the Sea of Stories?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Rushdie uses his characters in Haroun and the Sea of Storiesto represent many elements.  This same representation can be applied to how characters are viewed in terms of the Freudian understanding of the human psyche.  Different characters can represents different elements of the id, ego, and superego.  For Rushdie, the construction of characters to serve as symbolic representation of reality helps to establish meaning and relevance.  For example, the forces of the Superego can be seen in characters like Mr. Sengupta or Khattam- Shud.  Both forces represent a form of social repression on both personal and political levels. Both forces prevent any emotional embrace, flight into fancy, or social expression.  Soraya chooses Mr. Sengupta precisely because she tires of the fantasy and fancy of Rashid.  Sengupta represents "a mousy clerk of facts and despiser of imagination."  Khattam- Shud embodies a silence and a force of singularity that precludes any complexity, a force of social repression who is crushed by his own statue.  In this, repression is killed by repression.  Both characters embody the superego's repressive power on both individual and social levels.

In his analysis, Freud argues that the "id is a great reservoir of insincts."  On some level, this is how Rashid can be seen. Soraya sees him as this, as it becomes her rationale in leaving.  She has tired of the "Shah of Blah" and his engagement in stories.  Rashid's embrace of instinctual behavior is demonstrated in imaginations and stories.  Interestingly enough, Soraya is willing to forgo her own instinctual notions such as singing when she leaves Rashid.  This indicates her complete repudiation of the id.  When Soraya leaves him, Rashid becomes the sum total of the id.  He is only instinctual, incapable of forming sentences or coherent thoughts as his instinctual principle to tell stories has abandoned.  Consider that Rushdie has made Rashid so instinctual that his stories have become a sort of id- ordering principle.  Stories have become such a part of his being, his id being so strong, that when Soraya leaves him, the only order he knows in terms of the organization of his instincts abandons him, as well.  If we accept this understanding of Rashid as embodying tenets of the id, then Haroun would have to be the ego.  Freud argues that the "ego attempts to mediate between id and reality."  Haroun is this force for his father.  He seeks to navigate through the reality that envelops both of them in order to reclaim his father's ability to tell stories.  Haroun is the force that translates his father's instincts of id with the world around him.  Thus, Haroun serves as the superego, a sort of cable box, that unscrambles the signal of the id and the external world.  Haroun understands that his father's id capacities in telling stories is his being.  To reclaim it becomes not only the central message of the narrative, but also represents his attepts to serve as a potential representation of the superego.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial