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Huss, R. (1973). Adler, Oedipus, and the Tyranny of Weakness. Psychoanal. Rev., 60(2):277-295.

(1973). Psychoanalytic Review, 60(2):277-295

Adler, Oedipus, and the Tyranny of Weakness

Roy Huss, Ph.D.

Ever since Freud hit upon the plight of Oedipus as a metaphor for one of the most decisive psychosexual dramas in human nature, both psychologists and literary critics have been mesmerized by this mythic hero. If, as Freud suggested, Oedipus continues to fascinate because the fate that the gods marked out for him really symbolizes a universal wish for mother-incest and patricide, then it is no wonder that he has become one of the most scrutinized figures of the literary classics. In popularity he vies only with Hamlet, who became his spiritual brother when he repressed these same impulses.

Observers of Oedipus' psyche have generally become polarized into either ontogenetic or phylogenetic interpreters. They either focus, somewhat clinically, on the signs and symptoms of his sexual feelings or view all his actions as a mythic composite of almost forgotten ancient rituals or systems of social adaptation. Typical of the former is Mark Kanzer, who views the entire Sophoclean trilogy as successive stages of the Oedipal complex. For him the whole of Oedipus Tyrannus is a kind of dream fulfillment of the incest-patricide wish, while Creon's overbearing acts in Antigone symbolize the castration threats that cause the repression of such a wish.5a Finally Kanzer judges Oedipus' harmonious dealings with Theseus in Oedipus at Colonus to be a sign of the resolution of the complex: the blinded hero's successful petition to abide in the sacred grove of Theseus' city suggests mature identification with, rather than infantile hostility toward, a father-surrogate.

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