Academic journal article Reading Improvement

"The et Tu Brute Complex" Compulsive Self Betrayal

Academic journal article Reading Improvement

"The et Tu Brute Complex" Compulsive Self Betrayal

Article excerpt

On "The Ides of March," as my Morton East High School sophomore English students and I study the play, Julius Caesar, by William Shakespeare, we investigate a certain harmful condition of the human mind that I have entitled "The Et Tu Brute Complex." On March 15, the date of the "Ides of March," Caesar's friend, Brutus, stabs him, which prompts Caesar to exclaim with his last breath, "Et Tu Brute?"("And you, too, Brutus?") Caesar is surprised that Brutus is among the senators in the Roman Forum who are stabbing him. Brutus, a best friend, has become a worst enemy, and Brutus' cut is the cruelest blow of them all. These details of Caesar's assassination give rise to an explanation of "The Et Tu Brute Complex".

Much like Brutus, who should have been Caesar's best friend but instead stabs him, there is a certain type of human being who, instead of being his own best friend, puts the knife figuratively into himself and becomes his own worst enemy. Rather than reinforcing and fortifying himself, he actually adds to his own destruction and is capable of joining with his enemies in creating his own demise. His own thrust is the one that is the most painful and harmful and ultimately puts him away.

More specifically, "The Et Tu Brute Complex" occurs when a person, instead of supporting and befriending himself, orally condemns himself in front of other people and becomes his own worst enemy. This complex is a form of compulsive self-hatred. Most often, the victim of this complex is unaware of the fact that he is unconsciously doing this to himself. It is my contention that, in order for this complex to be resolved, the victim must first realize that he is doing this to himself. Upon this realization he can do something about it and find a possible solution. If the victim does not become aware of it, then nothing can be done. I, myself, have suffered and am suffering from this problem, and it is my hope that, through my lesson, my students who might be experiencing this condition will at least become aware of it and seek help through appropriate channels.

After this initial explanation of "The Et Tu Brute Complex," I take the lesson to a second stage. I cite examples from the literature of oral self effacement or self-condemnation on a verbal level in front of other people. In A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens, Sydney Carton, during his proposal of marriage to Lucie Manette, constantly condemns himself as an aimless alcoholic. He figuratively puts the dagger into himself, and Lucie naturally rejects his offer. Instead of being his own best friend and projecting a positive image of himself, as a man with a brilliant legal mind, Carton orally castigates himself and takes a secondary role to both Charles Darnay, the man who eventually wins Lucie's hand, and Stryver, his employer and fellow-lawyer, who pleads the cases which are expertly analyzed and solved by Carton. Carton, a victim of his own verbal self-abuse, physically resembles Darnay but cannot possibly be like him. The only way Carton can be Charles Darnay is to die by the guillotine in his place at the end of the novel.

In F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby, Jay Gatsby, as he pursues Daisy, exudes a subtle quality of self contempt, and he projects this image of himself to the woman he loves. Even though Gatsby is a rich man, he is painfully self conscious of his own low origin and corrupt background. He verbally projects this negative image of himself to Daisy and is ultimately unable to win her back. Despite Daisy's unhappy marriage, there is the distinct impression that she will never return to Gatsby. Gatsby, rather than being his own best friend, has put the dagger into himself by exuding and voicing feelings of inferiority which, unfortunately, are sensed and heard by Daisy.

Gatsby cannot be who he really is and clearly renounces his own identity by keeping it a secret, not proclaiming it to the world and ultimately betraying himself. …

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