In this article Dr. Dracoulides interprets a number of Baudelaire's poems, dramatic drafts, and other writings with the help of the poet's life history and his letters. In Baudelaire's childhood there stands out a cluster of events centered around the child's desertion by the mother. But it is the sequence of events leading to this desertion that is significant. It began with the loss of the father in the Oedipal stage. The boy was thereafter indulged for a full year, sleeping in his mother's bed. This happy period was cut short by the mother's remarriage. The child manifested hostility and hate against the stepfather from the beginning. He became increasingly unmanageable and was boarded out a year later. Charles remained in exile until the age of eighteen and was intensely unhappy and jealous of his stepfather. His behavior in the school was scandalous and led to his removal. When he finally came home at this time, the conflict between Baudelaire and his stepfather exploded and he had again to be removed from home and remained in exile anew until the age of twenty-one.
Dracoulides points out two consequences of this early history. One is the intense hate-love of Baudelaire for his mother—his wish to murder her was sublimated in the form of poetry as well as in a dramatic sketch in which the woman is actually murdered.
The second consequence is Baudelaire's complete sexual incapacity in regard to women with the exception of one mulatto prostitute, who is described by contemporaries as obese, loathsome, and hideous. With his mulatto mistress, Baudelaire appears not only to have been potent, but also able to act out both his masochistic desires and, in a symbolic manner, his matricidal wishes. The latter culminated in an attack on the mulatto with a piece of furniture. He broke her head and after that he attempted suicide. The matricidal wishes in regard to his real mother found their symbolic expression in his poetry and in the draft of a play. The whole picture is rounded off by a description of Baudelaire's narcissistic and homosexual behavior.
A parallel is drawn between the childhood of Baudelaire and that of two famous matricides, Orestes and Nero. But while Orestes and Nero actually did commit matricide, Baudelaire was capable of sublimating it in his poetry. In the lives of all three the father died early, the child stayed with the mother but was deserted after one or two years, and the mother remarried. In all three this cluster of events took place in and around the Oedipal period.
This reviewer believes that the decisive factor in this cluster of events is the overgratification of the Oedipal child's desire after the father has disappeared; this overgratification, which amounts to a seduction in the case of Baudelaire
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and which is understandable in terms of the frustration of the mother's libidinal desires through the loss of her husband, will lead to a re-enforcement of the final frustration of the child when the mother remarries.
Dracoulides expresses succinctly the psychoanalytic profile of Charles Baudelaire in his statement that the young boy discovered 'forbidden paradise' in the arms of his mother, only to proceed to 'paradise lost', and that it was this road that ultimately led him to the 'artificial paradises' which poisoned his life.