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Holm-Hadulla, R.M. (2016). Comment on ‘The Death Drive: Phenomenological Perspectives in Contemporary Kleinian Theory’ by David L. Bell. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 97(1):181-182.

(2016). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 97(1):181-182

Comment on ‘The Death Drive: Phenomenological Perspectives in Contemporary Kleinian Theory’ by David L. Bell Related Papers

Rainer M. Holm-Hadulla

Dear Editor,

To provide us with some new perspectives on the death drive, David Bell starts his illuminating article with Goethe's tragedy Faust. He is right that for Freud and the modern age as a whole Faust was highly influential. But there is one shortcoming, the clarification of which will help us differentiate our view of the Freudian and Kleinian concepts of the death drive. Most importantly, Mephistopheles is not the incarnation of evil and Faust is not the incarnation of good. It is true that Mephisto introduces himself as the “spirit that denies for ever”. But some verses before he also insists that he is “a portion of that power which always works for Evil and always effects the Good” (Faust, vv. 1335-6). In the ‘Prologue in Heaven’ God says: “Man's diligence is easily exhausted,/ He grows too fond of unremitting peace./ I'm therefore pleased to give him a companion/ Who must goad and prod and be a devil” (Faust, vv. 340-4). Also Faust was intended by Goethe as a mixture of light and dark, of good and evil. Just as Mephisto does not personify only the negative principle, Faust does not incarnate only the positively creative side of humankind. He doesn't only crave for infinite knowledge. While trying to realize his wishes, he destroys his beloved Gretchen and their unborn child. He also kills Gretchen's brother and offers her mother a nightcap that will poison her. In the second part of the tragedy, Faust is responsible for the death of Philemon and Baucis, symbols of traditional humanity.

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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