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The Great Gatsby, Freud and Psychology in the 1920s

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Essay title: The Great Gatsby, Freud and Psychology in the 1920s

Starting in the 1920s, a rebellion against religion, the church and old sexual mores begun. This movement was called Modernism and this paper will address and explain one of the main factors of the movement: Psychology. The psychological ideas were new and embraced by especially the youth, and adults too, all sick of the strict norms and rules. Sigmund Freud was the symbol of psychology, and so he has been for decades now. Sigmund Freud and psychology in the 1920’s, like money and materialism, replaced religion and common beliefs. God was no longer important to people, and they found support in psychological ideas and money.

Sigmund Freud is called “The Father of Psychology”, not because he first discovered or invented it but because he was one of the first important psychologists. (Kasschau 109) He came up with different ideas and theories, which all are important and essential in psychology today. Freud concentrated basically on human drives, the unconscious mind and the personality. Even though Freud is believed to think humans were useless beings, Kim Griffin rejected this idea: “. . . he believed that all humans had a natural “bad” side. Every human has aggressive, animalistic and destructive impulses.” According to Enduring Issues in Psychology, Freud found three different aspects of our personality and psyche. He named them id, ego and super-ego. The id is our biological part, like instincts, which is given to us at birth. We cannot control the id, and it seeks for release based on unconscious motives. The super ego is simply our conscience, the part of out personality which is formed by norms and rules in society. The ego exists as a balance between the id and the super ego. The ego “strives after pleasure and seeks to avoid unpleasure”(Blake 65), which is the egos main task. In other words, the ego tries to please the id while not going as far as causing unpleasure, by doing something the super ego and our morals are against.

Furthermore, libido could be the term Freud is most known for. Even though libido is often associated with sexuality and a persons sexual drives, it has a larger meaning. “Libido is your inner energy, your aggressive energy, your sexual energy. In other words, it is your biological energy.” (Griffin) Libido was probably one of the most popular ideas in the Roaring Twenties. Nevertheless, Freud eagerly studied the sexual development and unconscious drives in humans. What he found was that a person’s sexuality starts developing not long after birth, and shows behavior which is linked to the adult erotic life – such as jealousy and fixation to particular objects. (Blake 107-109)

Moreover, Sigmund Freud and his theories fascinated and gave people a new lifestyle. Kim Griffon explains that Freud’s theories and ideas were entertaining and interesting for numerous, and even though it was something new, it was not rejected by the society. Only a few theories existed at that point of time and as Modernism expanded, people turned away from religion and towards money, materialism and psychological beliefs. “The modernist sensibility rebelled against rigid Victorian sexual mores and the unquestioning belief in the virtues of progress.” (Faue and Nash). In Henry Idema’s book, Freud, Religion and The Roaring Twenties this issue is addressed. Idema tells how religion no longer influenced people, and they did not feel like God could help them in difficult situations anymore. When people faced personal problems or moral conflicts, they would turn to psychology for explanation, because they felt psychology would give them a more accurate and meaningful guide to understand themselves. The reason for this was because psychology addressed topics and issues which religion did not, like aggression and sexuality. Furthermore, Idema labels the “psychological man” as a response to the absent God in the 1920s. Psychology made sense for most people, they figured out that their drives, sexuality and aggression were common and that it was okay to feel that way (195, 200).

Even though having sexual drives is normal, quite a few people used this as an excuse to “go wild”, to the point where it could be called

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