45 pages 1 hour read

Sigmund Freud

The Uncanny

Nonfiction | Essay / Speech | Adult | Published in 1919

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“Family Romances”Chapter Summaries & Analyses

Essay Summary: “Family Romances”

In this brief essay, Freud outlines the role of fantasy within the family, that crucible of early childhood development. Freud argues that the principal work of the child is to succeed its parents by replacing them with more exhaled figures. Neurotics fail in this task. To the small child, parents appear all powerful and are loved unconditionally. Through experience, the child realizes that their parents are not all-powerful and all-good as the child had originally believed. The child then begins to critique his or her parents. In neurosis, such dissatisfaction is accompanied with feelings of sexual rivalry, which arise during the early sexual development of the child. Boys typically feel contention with their father, for instance.

The subsequent estrangement of the child from their parents involves the fantasy of replacing them with superior figures. Freud writes that “an essential feature in neurosis, and also of any considerable talent, is a special imaginative activity” (38). Encounters with social superiors arouse envy in the child, whom responds by deposing his or her parents and instating replacements. A second, sexualized phase follows, during which the child’s fantasy life integrates a new awareness of sex. The sum of these fantasies is what Freud calls the “family romance” (39).