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Sharpe, E.F. (1943). Cautionary Tales. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 24:41-45.

(1943). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 24:41-45

Cautionary Tales

Ella Freeman Sharpe

My purpose in this communication is specific and limited. There are two themes. The first part consists of clinical evidence to support what I believe to be a psychological fact, namely that phantasy can be used as an aid to instinct control. The phantasies of which I shall speak are mainly relevant to the Oedipus complex in both sexes. That these phantasies hold within themselves the impress of pregenital stages of development I am well aware, but I am strictly confining myself to actual data supplied on specific occasions when the Oedipus situation was the main theme of analysis. Such phantasies, performing the function of controlling unconscious impulses could be aptly called 'Cautionary Tales'.

In the second part of the paper I submit an inference for discussion, an inference I drew while considering the material detailed in the first part. The inference is that the dangers of infantile sexuality are to be equated with early reality dangers. Such an inference helps to explain the feeling of mortal danger we find associated with infantile sexual interests, and so further illuminates the dynamics of repression instituted by the ego.

Hilaire Belloc, fifty years ago, published his joking revivals and parodies of early Victorian children's books. He used the title of one of them, 'Cautionary Tales', for his own verses. Adults have never ceased enjoying what have been called 'those classic imps of delinquency'.

There was Henry who died of chewing up pieces of string, Jim who was eaten by a lion when he ran away from his nurse.

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