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Arlow, J.A. (1978). Pyromania and the Primal Scene: A Psychoanalytic Comment on the Work of Yukio Mishima. Psychoanal Q., 47:24-51.

(1978). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 47:24-51

Pyromania and the Primal Scene: A Psychoanalytic Comment on the Work of Yukio Mishima

Jacob A. Arlow, M.D.


In the writings of the Japanese novelist, Yukio Mishima, primal scene experiences and derivative expressions of them recur persistently. The element of fire figures prominently in connection with the wish to wreak vengeance on the persons originally observed in the act of intercourse. As a destructive, attention-compelling spectacle, fire is a particularly suitable vehicle for this purpose. In Mishima's works, revenge takes the form of retaliation in kind: parental figures, or their surrogates, are put into the position of having to observe the child, or substitutes for him, in the act of sexual infidelity. These observations as well as clinical reports in the literature suggest some insights into fantasies of pyromania. They also make possible certain speculations concerning Mishima's turbulent life and dramatic suicide.

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