A Psychological Approach to Therese Raquin
By Emile Zola
A play of four acts, Therese Raquin by Emile Zola, showed us how Therese and her lover, Laurent, murder her husband, Camille, but are subsequently haunted by visions of the dead man which prevented them from enjoying the fruits of their crime. This paper intends to study the psychology of these two lovers which led them to a tragic affair.
ID versus SUPEREGO = INSANITY
The play is an example of the struggle of the superego against the id. The pleasure principle of the two lovers, Therese and Laurent, dominated their morality, but nevertheless, their struggling superego led them to their tragedy.
Therese, in the play, is an orphaned daughter of Madame Raquin’s brother. Being an orphan, she had to stay with her overbearing aunt and her sickly and selfish cousin, Camille. Eventually, they were wed off as what Madame Raquin wanted. This made Therese unhappier. Therese described her life as follows:
Therese: Oh, I was unhappy. I used to crouch over the fire making concoctions.
If I moved, his mother used to scold me. You see, Camille must not be wakened.
I used to stutter and stammer and I moved about like a shaky old woman… They told me my Mother was a daughter of an African chief. It must have been true. I was always dreaming running away- escaping and running barefoot in the dust.
Therese: …Over and over again she had to fight and save his life and she brought me to be his servant. I never stood up for myself; they made a coward of me.
We see here that Therese had repressed her dreams and desires. With the coming of Laurent, she had finally come out of her shell but not until the death of Camille. It would be impossible for the two to be morally and legally married, but when the opportunity came, and blinded by their repressed desires, they conspire to drown Camille while on a boat trip- the id conquering over morality.