As per Sigmund Freud, ‘dreams are the royal road to the unconscious’. In this essay I’m going to give an overview of Sigmund Freud’s personality theory in regards to the unconscious mind and how we express it in different ways. With that, I’ll be giving an interpretation of the book, ‘In the Night Kitchen’ by Maurice Sendak using Freud’s views, as well as my own opinions, while relating the child’s dream to his unconscious. To start, Sigmund Freud, who was the founder of the psychoanalytical theory, believed that within the structure of our mind, the unconscious was the largest portion.
All of our deepest wishes, desires and pleasures were stored at the back of our mind. With that, he believed since most of our unconscious thoughts were rather disturbing or bad natured, the unconscious had to project itself in different matters. One of the ways it would do so would be through our dreams. Next, ‘In the Night Kitchen’ is a children’s story that was published in the seventies. This book is incredibly controversial, and for a good reason, because it shows a naked little boy in a small section of the story. I, however, think this is a great book.
It starts with Mickey, the child in the story, falling into his dream. He falls and falls until he lands in his magical dreamland where all of the buildings and surroundings are bold, colorful and intriguing. He then ends up in the night kitchen. In the night kitchen there are three big and jolly bakers making a cake. They mistake Mickey for an ingredient and add him to the batter. Without realizing they throw him into the oven until he breaks free. He then builds an airplane to find them some milk to finish their cake, and he becomes the hero to his very own story.
Furthermore, I believe this story has a greater meaning to it than just the words and pictures. Through Freud’s eyes this book is not just about a child having a dream but it gives us insight to his deepest wishes, desires and fantasies. With Freud’s theories I’m going to explain how he would have seen this story. Mickey, the child in the story, starts his dream by falling and falling, which is the first relatable sequence the author has presented us. We’ve all had that feeling of falling at the beginning of our dreams.
Mickey then falls into his dreamland, with giant buildings, all bold and beautiful in color. A more exciting and vibrant land we’d choose to see in contrary to what we are forced to see in our everyday lives. He lands in a kitchen where three jolly, somewhat creepy bakers are in the middle of making a cake. Mickey is then seen wearing no clothes at all, which is where the controversy of the story takes place. This, however, does not disturb me at all. Children like to spend a lot of their time without their clothes on. Freud would have just viewed this from a fixation theory perspective.
I believe he would have thought that Mickey was in his phallic stage, which is the third stage in Freud’s theory. In this stage, the child’s erogenous zone and primary focus are his genitals. This is also the stage in which children are learning and understanding the physical differences between males and females. Continuing through the story, everything we see in the kitchen is customized to Mickey’s taste. For example, the flour is called ‘Best Flour’, and the oven is called, ‘Mickey Oven’. He’s created his own little world in his mind, emphasizing his wish for power.
Next, the bakers in the kitchen mistake Mickey for an ingredient and add him to the batter, stirring and stirring they do not realize what they’ve done until they stick him in the oven. Mickey then pops out screaming, ‘I’m not the milk, and the milk’s not me! ’ Realizing they need milk to finish their cake, Mickey starts constructing an airplane out of dough. For this part of the dream I believe Freud would have seen it as Mickey fulfilling a wish or desire, as most little boys do dream of becoming pilots, however it’s not possible in their everyday lives, therefore he is dreaming it at night.
Next, he flies up and over the kitchen, and into the milk bottle; he retrieves milk for the recipe and brings it back to the bakers so they can finish their cake. Without the milk they would not have been able to finish by morning, therefore Mickey saved the night. Another example of a little boy’s desire for power and wish for heroism, not having it in his daily life, therefore it’s in his dream. Finally, the book finishes after Mickey rescues the evening, he is then returned to his cozy bed. I feel as though the author put a lot of psychological thought into the story before he wrote the book and for that reason I’d recommend it.
In conclusion, this book represents a decent portion of Freud’s perspective on the unconscious mind and how it’s expressed through our dreams. The details in the story emphasize the creativity of the little boy’s mind. The actions of the little boy in the dream relate to examples in Freud’s theories, such as the little boy flying the plane or bringing the milk to the bakers, Freud would have seen that as part of his unconscious wishes and desires. I would definitely read this book to my children, as it has a wonderful aspect of imagination and psychological creativity.