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d'Heurle, A. Feimer, J.N. (1976). Lost Children: The Role of the Child in the Psychological Plays of Henrik Ibsen. Psychoanal. Rev., 63(1):27-47.

(1976). Psychoanalytic Review, 63(1):27-47

Lost Children: The Role of the Child in the Psychological Plays of Henrik Ibsen

Adma d'Heurle and Joel N. Feimer

Modern psychology has put great emphasis on childhood. Recent extensions of ego psychology have reinforced this emphasis and placed the child in an important position at the beginning of a unified life cycle. Of the many modern developmental theories that look upon ego development as it spans the whole life cycle, Erikson's is an outstanding example. In his developmental approach Erikson stresses the fact that the achievement of the tasks of each stage influences the individual's ability to cope with the next stage and ultimately determines the final level of ego organization.

We have often been struck by the correspondence between this view of personality development and the psychological insights to be found in literature. Here we wish to illustrate this correspondence through a review of Ibsen's concepts of the role of the child. It is our hope that such a review will shed some light on a crucial stage in the psychological development of the adult and will make a small contribution to the growing body of literature that seeks to relate literary analysis to psychological research.

A close study of Ibsen's psychological plays presents a view of marriage as a developmental stage similar to that described by Erikson. According to Erikson, the capacity to relate meaningfully to youth depends on the successful completion of the stage of “intimacy,” where the young adult “emerging from the search for identity is capable of intimacy and is ready to commit himself to concrete affiliations and partnerships and to develop the ethical strength to abide by such commitments.”3

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