Sigmund Freud’s Theory: the Superego

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Updated: Mar 28, 2022
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According to Sigmund Freud, human personality is complex and has more than a single component. In his famous theory, personality elements work together in order to create human behaviors and those elements are identified as the id, ego, and the superego. The id, which is “the most primitive of the three structures, is concerned with instant gratification of basic physical needs and urges”.

The superego is the part of the brain that internalizes a father figure and cultural regulations. The ego stands for reason and caution.

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The main concern for those who have this personality has to do with the individual’s safety. The book, Lord of the Flies by William Golding, is about a plane that has been carrying British schoolboys being shot down during a time of war. Many of the boys survive, but the pilot does not and that is why they are alone without any adult supervision.

They then, become deserted on an uninhabited island and the two main protagonists of the story are Ralph and Piggy who are also the two boys that are first introduced to us. The boys experience many challenges while trying to survive on the island. Ralph is charismatic, independent, and shows leadership throughout the course of the story as Golding portrays the metaphorically speaking, rot and decay of civilization. This is represented by the breakdown of the boy’s “civilization” in the Lord of the Flies.

Ralph is charismatic, which means that he compels a charm that inspires devotion in others. In the book, the boys elect Ralph to be the leader, although they know nothing about him. His charisma was one of the reasons for why that happened. Because of his attractive look, the other boys find him intimidating and suggest he be the leader even though he knows nothing about leadership.

Without his charisma, the people around him cannot help him in achieving very much during the time they are spending on the island. Although it may seem like Piggy thinks for Ralph a lot of the times, he asserts himself which makes up for thinking on his own. For example, in the book, Ralph says, “If we have a signal going, they’ll come and take us off. And another thing. We ought to have more rules. Where the conch is, that’s a meeting. The same up here as down here”.

The others will listen to Ralph and their commitment to listening shows the amount of devotion that is being sparked in them from Ralph’s charismatic personality. The others respect Ralph and listen to his orders for the most part, although there is not much he can do about the boys easing farther away from civilization as the book goes on. This trait allows Ralph to have an easier time being leader because when the other boys are respecting the leader, things begin to work out, rather than how chaotic the time would be if Ralph was disliked. Jack would have been leader and he seems to lose his sense of civilization long before the others. With Ralph being elected, the boys seem to cling onto their old lives for a little longer.

This character does not lose all sense of his civilization like Jack and the hunters. Although he shows some signs of it, he still holds onto his old life and cares about how he acts at points. At the beginning of the novel, he wants to become rescued and in order to be rescued, a fire would need to be lit so in case someone were to see smoke on the island, it would be a sign of settlement. The need for a fire begins to die down and eventually, they do not light one.

Fire is a symbol of rescue and without it, the chances of becoming rescued, are quite slim. Ralph represents the superego personality that is presented by Freud. He internalizes a father figure for the other boys as he wants what’s best for them and strives to make sure that they are all looked over. Since he has charisma, he became leader, and without that trait, he would not have gotten to be that father figure for the others, and hope for civilization would be lost.

Ralph is also quite independent, which means that he has the ability to take care of himself and his own needs, while also being able to consider both the people around him and the environment. Ralph’s character is very realistic in this book. He always seems to be the one who brings reality to the island when the boys need it. He was the only boy who believed that his father would find him and they would eventually be rescued.

This is quite realistic and believable because he knew that people would find out the plane crashed and come looking for them. He even talks about how the Queen had a map of all of the islands.  He does not believe in the beast. Ralph knew there is no such thing as a beast and that it didn’t exist. There had to be a sensible reason for the boys to believe that there was a beast living in the forest, he realized. Ralph also knew certain things must be done for them to survive on the island without adults.

This included the building of shelter, the need for a government, etc. The other boys did not think logically about what needed to get completed every day in order for everyone to live a somewhat “reasonable” life. Ralph once stated that, “There aren’t any grownups. We shall have to look after ourselves”. A leader needs to make sure that they are maintaining themselves without having to depend on others all the time, while making sure the others can be independent along the way. By doing this, it is good to be aware of your surroundings at all times. Ralph knows what has to be done and so he sets forth some rules in order to make sure that things did. This trait helps him lead as he hopes for rescue. Since his personality is represented by the superego, looking after the boys may makes him represent a father-like figure. He also maintains his own sense of morality.

Ralph also shows a strong sense of leadership and knows what it takes to be a leader. Ralph creates an inspiring vision of the future. He motivates and inspires other people to engage with the visions he has. Ralph as the leader on the island, takes a great deal of control and is usually the first to step up in a situation to benefit the safety of everyone. He once said, “’You hunters! You can laugh! But I tell you smoke is more important than the pig, however often you kill one. Do all of you see?”. This displays how Ralph is attempting to maintain order and civilized behavior.

By being the first to tell them what to do, by showing initiative, and by setting goals for the boys to follow, he prepares the plans that will help the boys chances of being rescued. Ralph shows an immense amount of initiative when most of the other boys are concerned with playing, having fun, and avoiding work that they were assigned. Ralph decides to build huts as a method of survival. He always seems to be on the lookout for opportunities and ideas to help the group thrive. Without Ralph’s contribute to the group, Jack would be leader and that would drag all of the boys right into chaos since he was tyrannical and vicious.

Since Ralph had what it took to be a leader, he was able to be successful for the most part and the others respected him greatly for it. Although everything seems to have fallen apart when Jack creates his own tribe, Ralph makes out the best he can. He tries to make the best out of chaotic situations. With Ralph being in charge and maintaining authority the best he can, his superego personality makes him look like a father figure. Fathers tend to be in charge and show sense of superiority over their children. Throughout the novel, it is clear to identify that type of personality in Ralph.

Ralph maintains a great amount of charisma, independency, and leadership throughout the course of the novel as the boys’ remembrance of past life eases away as the book goes on. Ralph makes out the best he can in chaotic situations where civilization grows farther away from them. Being charismatic, the chances of Ralph being elected as leader are rather high and without him being chosen, Jack will lead the group into tragic events and his viciousness might wear off onto the others.

His independence allows him to continue being that great leader that the boys need because he was aware of not only himself, but the people and environment located around him. He knows what has to be done and he tries his best to make it happen. When chaotic events occur, he tries to maintain his authority and deals with it, rather than joining in on it. Freud’s Theory on personality is portrayed in the book as each character can be seen as having either the id, superego, or ego personality. For example, Jack has an id  personality because he doesn’t take no for an answer and will continue to be oppressive until he gets his way. Piggy has a superego personality because he cares strongly for his safety, while Ralph has a ego personality for his father-like traits and events that are presented in the book.

The book mirrors what’s going on in the real world. In conclusion, Golding is trying to portray to us that we need rules and it is a necessity to impose them in order to make sure that society functions properly.

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Sigmund Freud's Theory: The Superego. (2020, Apr 06). Retrieved from