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Munk, M. (1943). The Myth of the Corpse in the Car: Marie Bonaparte. Amer. Imago, II, 1941, pp. 105–126.. Psychoanal Q., 12:600-601.
Psychoanalytic Electronic Publishing: The Myth of the Corpse in the Car: Marie Bonaparte. Amer. Imago, II, 1941, pp. 105–126.

(1943). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 12:600-601

The Myth of the Corpse in the Car: Marie Bonaparte. Amer. Imago, II, 1941, pp. 105–126.

Margrit Munk

Since Munich numerous stories have been circulating in France and other countries, the gist of which is that a motorist, usually an individual under mobilization, is told that 'the war would be over—Hitler dead—as true as the corpse of a man would be found in his car before arrival at the destination'. In this way the story of 'the corpse in the car' became a collective myth. It expresses an intensely wished for event, the realization of which is guaranteed by a death which has been foretold together with the event: 'Hitler, the enemy will perish, like the passenger in the car'.

War and its sufferings and dangers restimulate an old belief that in order to receive benefits, a sacrifice must be made. The return in the myth of a human victim to be offered as a propitiation of destiny, Bonaparte attributes

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to the result of a powerful regression. Due to the repression of our primeval aggression, the sacrificer remains obscure; the victim, either a soldier who goes to war or an injured person (both are of sacred character) is killed by destiny. The soldier around whom the story evolves and who is about to go to war (sacrifice) offers something in his place: the corpse who is his double.

One element is constant in all the versions of this modern myth: the automobile is as well the place and the instrument of the sacrifice. Since the car represents a sexual symbol and the victim invariably is a man, the author advances the belief that the Oedipus complex has an indirect influence on this modern myth. The sacrifice could be understood as a propitiatory act (end of war) as well as an expiation of a crime (Oedipus parricide). The victim thus pays the price for redemption of the motorist, the nation. The national enemy who unconsciously represents the father of Oedipus is projected outside of the frontier. 'Hitler has been killed and the sons who have taken up arms against him now can enjoy their native land, the exalted mother.'

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Article Citation

Munk, M. (1943). The Myth of the Corpse in the Car. Psychoanal. Q., 12:600-601

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