32 Pages

Fathers and Sons: The Nineteenth Century and the Oedipus Complex

There is abundant evidence that, in the course of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the Western imagination became almost compulsively concerned with the conflict of fathers and sons. In comparison with, say, Turgenev's Fathers and Sons, or Edmund Gosse's Father and Son, John Stuart Mill's attention to the subject in his chapter, "Mental Crisis," must be seen as merely a side glance, although a herald of what was to come. This chapter concerns primarily with the historical circumstances surrounding father-son relations, especially as they can be illuminated by the concept of the Oedipus complex, in the nineteenth-century Western world; thus one could wish to move from the particular father-son relation of the Mills to broader considerations. Of all the forms of conflict in the nineteenth century, the conflict between fathers and sons has received the least historical analysis, though it has been given a great deal of literary attention and, through the genius of Sigmund Freud, exquisite psychological analysis.