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Ingham, J. (1964). The Bullfighter. Am. Imago, 21(3-4):95-102.

(1964). American Imago, 21(3-4):95-102

The Bullfighter

John Ingham

A Study in Sexual Dialectic

Several papers containing psychoanalytic interpretations of bullfighting have appeared in the American Imago; the present paper continues this discussion.1

Two earlier papers, one by Desmond2 and another by Hunt,3 suggested that bullfighting is a ritual portrayal of parricide: a playing out of the father-son rivalry in the positive Oedipus complex. However, this interpretation has serious shortcomings. Hunt was aware of this and realized that his explanation can not assimilate a number of aspects of the bullfight. He wonders, for instance, why the bullfight occurs only in Spanish-speaking countries.

Pratt4 published a paper in this journal on the Don Juan myth in Spain that suggests a more convincing interpretation of bullfighting. He does this by adding the crucial dimension that is missing in the earlier papers on bullfighting: he considers the family background in the ontogenesis of the Spanish and Mexican personality. Pratt cites Ramirez and Parres5 who have argued that there are three important variables in the psychological development of the Mexican male: 1) an intense mother-child relationship during the first year of life, 2) the traumatic rupturing of the mother-child relationship due to the birth of the next sibling, and 3) a pattern of father absence. The Mexican father is “absent” in several senses: 1. He is very authoritarian and maintains social distance between himself and his children. 2. He frequently has several households (the casa chica pattern). 3. He is frequently physically absent. Conrad6 states that the same pattern of father absence and close mother-son relationship is typical for families in Spain.

Fenichel7 notes that when the father is absent or “weak” the boy is more apt to identify with the mother since the child will identify with the figure perceived as the source of frustration.

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