Psychoanalysis in James Joyce’s an Encounter
Andrew Beverly Psychoanalysis In Jockey’s “An Encounter” In James Jockey’s short story “An Encounter,” a young boy recounts an adventure he had when skipping school with a classmate. Throughout the story, many Freudian themes are present, Including Fraud’s stages of psychosocial development and subconscious narration that contains sexual Imagery. These are exhibited in passages that contain phallic symbols and provocative speech. When considering Freudian stages present in the short story, the most evident examples are the confusion of the boy’s current psychosocial stage and the phallic stage to which his allocates are still present.
The story starts with the boy explaining how his classmates and he were introduced to stories of the Wild West by his older classmate, Joe Dillon, and how the boys began to emulate the characters in the books by meeting up and staging fake battles in the Dildo’s backyard. While his classmates loved the battles, however, the boy expresses how he was never as intrigued as they were. The boy explains how, during the battles: “A spirit of unruliness diffused Itself among us and, under Its Influence, differences of culture and constitution were waived.
We banded ourselves together, some boldly, some In jest and some almost In fear: and of the number of these latter, the reluctant Indians who were afraid to seem studious or lacking in robustness, I was one. The adventures were remote from my nature but, at least, they opened doors of escape. I liked better some American detective stories which were traversed from time to time by unkempt fierce and beautiful girls” (8). This short passage begins to establish the differences between the boy and his classmates in regards to psychosocial development.
Stories of the Wild West are very masculine in nature and the heroes are typically valiant, arctic’s, prideful men who kill other men who try to Jeopardize their masculine, or phallic, supremacy. The boys classmates who emulate these Western heroes with pride are stuck In the phallic stage of their development. Boys in the phallic stage of development are usually characterized as reckless and vain and these qualities are emphasized In the statements “A spirit of unruliness diffused Itself among us” and the description of Joe Dildo’s prideful “war dance of victory” (8).
The boy, however, through the expression of his indifference toward the battles and his preference of detective stories, is suggested to be in a different stage of development from his peers. In detective stories, the hero is oftentimes a World-weary man who struggles to maintain his emotional and sexual equilibrium and, as a result, suppresses his desires. The stories almost always end with the detective restoring order with the “unkempt fierce and beautiful girls” being withstood (8).
The boys suppression of the masculine qualities possessed by his friends (his description of himself being a “reluctant Indian”) and his connection with detectives who suppress their desires suggests that the boy Is In the latent stage of his psychosocial development. Further evidence of the boys apparent latent stage and his classmates’ phallic stage Is suggested when the boy and his classmate, Mahoney, begin their adventure in Dublin while walking along the Wharf Road.
The narrator describes a brief Indian He chased a crowd of ragged girls, brandishing his unloaded catapult and, when two boys began, out of chivalry, to fling stones at us, he proposed that we should charge them. I objected that the boys were too small, and so we walked on… ” (10). While Mahoney is flirtatious with the girls, the boy shows no interest in infringing them and, when Mahoney suggests to heroically charge the boys who are challenging them for the attention of the girls, the boy makes up a nonsensical excuse to not get involved. This emphasizes Mahogany phallic stage and the boys apparent latent stage.
The boys psychosocial state, however, comes into question when he and Mahoney have the encounter with the old man. When the man asks them how many “sweethearts” they have, Mahoney replies that he has three, staying consistent with his phallic stage and the boy replies that he has none, staying consistent with his apparent latent stage. This slightly comes into question, however, when the boy says “l was afraid the man would think I was as stupid as Mahoney,” after claiming to have read all of Thomas Moor’s, Sir Walter Coot’s, and Lord Lotto’s books (12).
This worry about the potential questioning of his confidence suggests a slight remnant of the boys phallic stage. This remnant is expanded when the man starts talking about the beauty of young girls and, later, how boys should be beaten for having sweethearts. While the man is talking, the boy is disturbed but transfixed on what the man is eying. When the man says that “Every boy has a sweetheart,” the boy recalls that “In my heart I thought what he said about boys and sweethearts was reasonable. But I disliked the words in his mouth I noticed his accent was good” (12).
After the man finishes talking about the beauty of young girls, he leaves for a few minutes and publicly masturbates, to the disbelief of the two boys. When the man comes back, he moves to the subject of whipping boys who have sweethearts. The man completely changes his tone, perhaps out of guilt of his thoughts of young girls while masturbating. His condemnation of boys who have sweethearts suggests the Freudian defense mechanism of projection, placing his own desire for young girls on young boys and then condemning their behavior.
The boy says “l continued to gaze towards the foot of the slope, listening to him what he wanted was to [give the boys] a nice warm whipping. I was surprised at this sentiment and involuntarily glanced up at his face. I met the gaze of a pair of bottle-green eyes peering at me from under a twitching forehead. I turned my eyes” (13). While the boy is clearly unsettled by the man, he nonetheless continues to listen to him, hinting that he is intrigued by the nature of what the man is saying. The man appears to have not fully progressed past the phallic stage of development and, as a result, has turned into a pervert.
This subconsciously makes the boy realize that he himself lingers in the phallic stage and this worries the boy. A combination of disturbance and intrigue suggests a paradox of the boys psychosocial states. The boys intrigue by looking into the man’s eyes suggests a lingering element of his phallic stage, while the disturbance and refusal to accept what the man is saying suggests the boys battle tit his phallic and latent stages and the suggestion that the boy is in-between his phallic and latent stages.
When the boy calls out to Mahoney, who is playing with a cat across the field, that it is time to go home, out of fear of the man, he describes paltry stratagem [Mahoney] ran as if to bring me aid. And I was penitent; for in my heart I had always despised him a little” (14). This last passage suggests the boys newfound contempt of Mahogany singular phallic state out of Jealousy. The boys psychosocial stages are constantly in conflict. Another example of Freudian psychoanalysis is the way in which the boy narrates he story. His word choice commonly contains subconscious sexual imagery, which suggests a lingering phallic state.
The boy talks about how Mahoney “brought out the catapult which bulged from his inner pocket and explained some improvements which he had made in it” (10). While the boy is simply talking about a toy that Mahoney brings along on the trip, the way in which he says it contains phallic imagery. His word choice of saying that the catapult “bulged” suggests an allusion to the bulge of a man’s penis. He explains later, in the episode with the group of girls, hat Mahoney was “brandishing his unloaded catapult” as he ran after them, suggesting further allusion to a penis and Mahogany phallic stage of development.
Phallic imagery continues when the boy describes “… The big white sailing-vessel which was being discharged on the opposite quay’ (10-11). This image of the discharging of the vessel appears to suggest an allusion to ejaculation. The boy uses phallic imagery later when he explains how, toward the end of the afternoon, Mahoney “… Looked regretfully at his catapult… ” (11). The boys frequent phallic descriptions suggest his lingering state in the phallic stage. Some of the random details the boy includes actually suggest the progression of psychosocial stages outside of his own.
The rather unnecessary statement that Joe Dillon had a vocation for the priesthood, for example, is an expression of how Joe progressed successfully out of the phallic stage of his development. Psychoanalysis is found all throughout the boys narration and this narration, combined with the dialogue and the strange events and realizations that occur provide the reader with an introspective look at Freudian psychoanalysis as described through a realistic account of a young boy.