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Hamilton, J.W. (1995). The legend of Sweeney Todd and its relevance to theories of narcissistic development. Free Associations, 5(3):352-356.

(1995). Free Associations, 5(3):352-356

The legend of Sweeney Todd and its relevance to theories of narcissistic development

James W. Hamilton

Kohut's position that narcissism develops along a line separate from the object-instinctual drives was challenged previously by tracing in detail the oral sadistic genetic roots of particular illustrations of vengeful behavior, carefully selected by Kohut to support his contention that affects such as vengeance, bitterness and sarcasm are direct derivatives of narcissistic rage (Hamilton, 1978, 1981; Kohut, 1971, 1972). In this paper, the example of Sweeney Todd will be introduced as additional evidence that unresolved oral issues are critical determinants of narcissistic rage, which, according to Kohut (1972), is characterized by:

The need for revenge, for righting a wrong, for undoing a hurt by whatever means, and a deeply anchored, unrelenting compulsion in the pursuit of all these aims which gives no rest to those who have suffered a narcissistic injury … which set it apart from other kinds of aggression.

Sweeney Todd is the central figure of a nineteenth century British legend that has since achieved universal appeal and the principal character in a major musical of the same name by Stephen Sondheim that opened in New York in 1979.

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