The mind is by far one of the most intriguing and unknown parts of the human body, but it has been broken down into three distinguishable parts by Sigmund Freud. He has broken the mind into the id, ego, and superego. These are all parts of the human mind that control each and every action or thought that a person has. The id is the pleasure part, and it controls actions that occur without thought of punishment. The ego controls all actions that occur consciously and with knowledge of the consequences.
The superego is the part of the brain that holds a person back from committing an action. Both the action and consequences are thought about before the act is done. These three mental states occur in all people, but especially within Hester Prynne from The Scarlet Letter. Throughout the story her mindset changes many times. It starts out in the id phase and works its way to the superego and finally retreats back to the ego. Hester shows that it is possible for all three parts of the brain to work in close proximity to one another.
The id phase of Hester’s actions is one of the most important to the progression of the book. Her actions in this id phase are committed before the book even begins. She is a married woman and she ends up sleeping with the young minister of her town after many years of waiting for her husband to come over to America from England. Hester wanted to wait for him, but she did not really ever love him and she felt she needed to find someone else. This is when she committed her act of adultery. She did not think about the consequences that would come with her actions. The act was done in a spur-of-the-moment situation. This was all because of Hester’s id part of the brain.
Hester went through the superego stage after the id. This was when she decided she was not going to tell anyone the identity of either Pearl’s father or of Chillingworth. She was conscious of what could result if this information was given out to the public, and she did not want to go through anymore shame or punishment. This demonstrates the aspect of the superego working in her brain. She could have gone out and put all the blame that she was receiving on Dimmesdale and revealed the truth about Chillingworth and his past. She did not do this however, because she did not want to blame anyone else and she did not want to hurt the one person she really did love. All of these actions and thoughts that she had show how her superego played a large role in how she handled her everyday life after receiving the “A.”
The last phase that Hester goes through in the story is the ego phase. This is when she decides that it is no longer worth it for her to hold back Chillingworth’s real identity from Dimmesdale and also when she encourages Dimmesdale to tell the truth about himself. She new perfectly well what the consequences to her actions would be, but she was willing to go through with them. This is a great example of someone working in the ego phase. The only problem with her thought process was that both Dimmesdale and Chillingworth ended up dieing. Dimmesdale had nothing left to live for and Chillingworth was alive, because he wanted to torment Dimmesdale. All of Hester’s actions show how the three mental phases in everyone’s minds are very closely related to one another.
Every person is under the control of the three parts of the human brain, but in the case of Hester Prynne, all three work in a very close relation to one another. She started out in the id and eventually worked her way through to the superego and finally ended in the ego state. It was her lust for a man that put her in the id state, her denial of the truth that allowed her to be in the superego state and her openness and love that placed her under the ego. All three cases show how closely the mind’s separate functions work.
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