The Death-Ego and the Vital Self: Romances of Desire in Literature and Psychoanalysis

By Gavriel Reisner | Go to book overview

7

Space, the Imaginary, and the Death-of-the- Mother: Sons and Lovers

SPACE AND THE IMAGINARY

ASPATIAL FRAME SURROUNDS BOTH THE YOUNG BOY, THE CENTRAL FIGure in the games of Freud's Beyond the Pleasure Principle, and Paul Morel, the protagonist of Lawrence's Sons and Lovers. In each text the foregrounding of space places the meaning of narrative action within its encircling context—narrative action spatializes character as it characterizes space.

The boy's isolated gestures in Beyond the Pleasure Principle find neither a receiver nor an interlocutor. He throws objects and projects sounds into surrounding space, playing into an emptiness that thereby acquires figurative meaning. The significance of the spatial frame applies to all four of the games that he plays. 1 In the toy- game, that initial activity where he loses his playthings haphazardly, and in the famous fort/da!, the reel-game where he loses his single spinning toy in his crib, the thrown objects intersect with the surrounding environment. In such games space becomes its own metaphor, for its perceptible surface leads to its hidden depths. (Invisible space can be perceived indirectly by that which encloses it and that which it contains.) The objects the boy throws trace encircling space to the place where it disappears: surface space becomes hidden space.

____________________
Theoretical Forenote: There are uncanny connections between Ernst, the boy in Beyond the Pleasure Principle, and Paul Morel, the protagonist of Sons and Lovers. Each character loses himself in the limitless spatiality of a maternal surround. The energy of both their narratives concerns itself with Symbolic change, the transformation of the space-of-the-Mother to a place-for-the-self. Ernst achieves this through word and gesture, Paul Morel through art and sexuality and, at the end of the novel, an act of will and a power of thought that lead to being. Sons and Lovers provides a full literary elaboration of the-game-of-disappearance.

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