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Grotjahn, M. (1941). A Child Talks about Pictures—Observations about the Integration of Fantasy Into the Process of Thinking. Psychoanal Q., 10:385-394.

(1941). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 10:385-394

A Child Talks about Pictures—Observations about the Integration of Fantasy Into the Process of Thinking

Martin Grotjahn

Tommy, a child of five and a half, was three years old when he started to look at magazines. As with many other things at that time of his life, it was an imitation of his father who read magazines. Tommy looked at pictures with apparent pleasure and with a feeling of doing something important. At first he looked at pictures he could understand with no more nor less interest than at pictures which could not mean a thing to him; for instance pictures of cities, landscapes, machines, advertisements or printed text without illustration. He looked patiently and earnestly at them without communicating what he saw or felt—simply enjoying a happy union with his father who seemingly did the same. Occasionally, however, he uttered some words about what he saw, speaking more to himself than to anyone else. The remarks he made it is believed give some insight into how a child in a quasi-experimental situation experienced reality. The situation is relatively uncomplicated because with a given picture which a child sees directly, the objective background of his reality experience is known.

Tommy's interest in pictures cannot be explained on the basis of imitation only—at least not by imitation of the father's reading—but more by identification with the father and his methods of seeing, learning, experiencing and gathering knowledge which the boy tried to claim for himself. The driving motive behind this interest was the wish to take the father's place. The purpose in presenting these observations is not to analyze this boy's Oedipus complex, but the description of the way in which he worked out some problems he was facing.

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