Mount Alvernia High School, Newton, Massachusetts

Sarah  Dessen

Theresa  Chiozzi 

Exploring the Mind of Sigmund Freud: Childhood Roots of Freud’s Theory of Psychoanalysis

Sarah Dessen’s Depiction of the Factors that Shape Teenage Development

Sigmund Freud’s childhood experiences fueled the creation of his well-known theory of psychoanalysis, which helped people achieve greater self-understanding and fueled his ambition for fame. Freud grew up in the fin de siècle during a time of segregation of Jews and limited opportunity for education. Due to his unrelenting motivation to learn and to grow in understanding of human psychology, Freud dedicated a majority of his time to analyzing his family and studying in his secluded bedroom. Freud used haunting events and repressed feelings from his own childhood to create a theory that offered answers to many people’s questions. Freud explored the human mind, questioning human motives and investigating unconscious motivations for human actions. He gained insight into the workings of the psyche and developed a psychoanalytical process that continued to exercise great influence into the twenty-first century.

Just as Freud interpreted human behavior by examining childhood experiences, author Sarah Dessen’s novels explore how outside forces – in particular, parental influences and traumatic events from the past – can shape the individual’s search for identity. Novels that revolve around adolescent female development inherently are tasked with exploring all of the obstacles of being a teenage girl trying to find her place in society. The troubled teenagers in Sarah Dessen’s works struggle not only to establish their own identities, but also to connect with others in meaningful, healthy relationships. In her novels Just Listen and Someone Like You, the protagonists are faced with overbearing psychiatrist mothers who struggle to let their daughters go, whereas the protagonist of her novel Lock and Key is forced to play the role of caretaker for both herself and her own mother. Between the unfamiliar secrets and the barriers these girls attempt to erect, Dessen articulates the characters’ development through the use and help of other characters present in each novel.

Major Works Consulted:

Dessen, Sarah. Just Listen. New York: Penguin Group, 2006.
---. Lock and Key. New York: Penguin Group, 2008
Reef, Catherine. Sigmund Freud: Pioneer of the Mind. New York: Clarion Books, 2000.
Thorton, Stephen P. “Sigmund Freud.” Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. . Accessed 27 Jan. 2014.
Photo Credit: Dessen, Sarah. Lock and Key. New York: Penguin Group, 2008.