Chinua Achebe and the Ego Ideal: A Psychoanalytic Reading

Amneh K. Abussamen, Shadi S. Neimneh


Against postcolonial and cultural readings of Chinua Achebe’s works, this article approaches Achebe’s fiction and non-fiction using Freud’s theory on narcissism and creative writers as well as Otto Rank’s views on art and the artist. It highlights the narcissistic formation of the ego ideal of Achebe and explains its growth according to Freud’s views on the psychology of repression and wish-fulfillment. This assumption is built upon a reading of Achebe’s novels and some of his non-fiction to argue that Achebe followed in his works the ideals he internalized during his childhood and narcissistically repressed. An analysis of some of Achebe’s works is used to support our argument that Achebe’s attempts to prescribe the direction of African art and letters as well as his didactic concern with the value and effect of African literature all testify to the writer’s narcissistic repression and the family ideals founded on such repression within a colonial, missionary setting. Achebe's use of English language in his fiction and criticism and his following of Christianity support the same notion of ego ideal we postulate. Equally significant is the notion of “ambivalence” we find in Achebe’s treatment of themes like language, tolerance, and religion and which we can justify using the same theory we posit and in terms of conflicting ideals. The article interrogates whether we can come up with the term “the intellectual ego” and connect it with the authors and scholars and their works as the literary and artistic theories they embrace are a manifestation of the ideals they practice or simply aspire to.


Psychoanalysis; Ego Ideal/Ideal Ego; African Literature; Chinua Achebe; Autobiography; Intellectual Ego

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