As I was reading We3 and looking at the character archetypes of the three main characters, I began to wonder what I was really looking at.

Grant Morrison is pretty big into psychology.  I had a friend tell me about his use of Jungian psychology or something along those lines in his comics.  I have to level with you.  I am not “comics” guy.  I don’t get comics, and I don’t find them overly enjoyable.  I think they’re interesting from an anthropological standpoint (I am so pretentious it is literally stunning), but I’ve never gotten into them on a basic level.  That being said, I don’t have any way to verify the comment I just made.

I am going to implicitly trust the possibly stoned ramblings of my friend and how Morrison loves psychology.

The reasoning is:

The three main characters can somewhat be ascribed to the Freudian ideas of the id, ego, and superego.  Basically, id is the destructive “I want to do this now regardless of consequence” drive in people.  The ego tries to placate the id by offering suggestions or literally shutting down the mind through things like repression or regression.  The superego is the conscience that sort of balances everything out.

That is very basic and probably not all that accurate!  I am an English major with the vague memories of a few psychology classes so please bear with me if I have offended you greatly.

Let’s look at these Freudian ideas and how specifically they relate to each of the characters.

I think we can see the cat, 2, as being the Id.  He’s the killer.  Interestingly, the people seem to be most afraid of him.  And with some reason, an id-driven person could be regarded with some amount of terror!  I think the part that really encapsulates 2 as the id occurs on page 59.  He disagrees with the others, viciously fighting because he disagrees with the idea of a home existing for them.  Freud specifically argues that the id is often in conflict with the superego.  They both desire different things.  He’s aggressive and acts impulsively.  Another example that really spoke to me was on 40 when he kills the bird for food regardless of the situation.  Again, on 82, 2 acts impulsively eating the food offered by the homeless man regardless of whether or not it’s good for him.  These, together, imply 2 as an impulsive creature that seeks pleasure in life, generally through food.  The cat is often seen as an aloof, almost hedonistic animal.  They act on desire and don’t seem to care much about the rules set forth by an owner.

3, the rabbit, is the ego.  And this is really obvious in some of the same panels mentioned above.  He tries to placate 2, the id, as frequently as possible.  He eats grass as if saying, “Hey, id, it’s all right, we can eat but why don’t we eat something good for us?”  In the fight between 2 and 1, he’s trying to placate them, trying to mollify the situation as best he can.  Interestingly, one of the ways Freud describes the ego as chaining the id is by regression.  3 is the character that is shot in the brain, permanently ruining his speech to an almost child-like level.  When I read the pages after he’s shot, I feel like you can really get a sense of a regressing consciousness that’s likewise repressing the events of the world around him.  Indeed, the ego is an entity of anxiety.  The rabbit, or any rodent creature for that matter, comes across as an anxious creature.

1 is very obviously the conscience, the superego.  He is completely consumed by morality: “gud” and “bad”.  Things are black and white to him, and he’s quick to ascribe morality.  He’s also the driving factor that pushes the other two along, much like the superego.  And, indeed, ethics are an important part of the superego.  I think this is echoed by Morrison’s choice of a dog here.  The dog, man’s best friend, is always seen as a trustworthy companion.  Again, referencing the conflict between the 3 on page 59 to reinforce the idea of 1 being the superego.  It’s the superego and the id that fight, both wanting different things: staying and eating, looking for a life of pleasure against the desire to find a home.

One final sort of point I want to bring to the forefront that I found really interesting is how the novel concludes.  While doing a little bit of research on the id, ego, and superego, I came across the concept of a death drive.  In On Metapsychology, Freud says, “the hypothesis of a death instinct, the task of which is to lead organic life back into the inanimate state” (380).  This is a really fascinating quote directly because of what 1 and 2 do at the end!  They’re shedding the robotic parts of them, the inanimate state of their organic life.  They’re actively rebelling against the death instinct inherent in themselves and choosing to live.  I think that is really the lynchpin of my argument in that I think that’s a perfect analogy and maybe what Morrison is telling the audience.  We have to overcome the desire of death, find a home, and find happiness in being alive.

I think the death drive itself is reflected in 4.  He never speaks.  He exists solely to kill, to destroy.  Indeed, in the one instance of him having a speech bubble, it’s a jagged black bit of art with no words (101).  It’s primal and something that can’t be ascribed with words.  Only when the id and the superego work together can the desire to die be overcome.  And I think that’s a really fascinating interpretation Morrison has encoded within the work.
As I said, I don’t know much about psychology.  Does anyone else see evidence of other forms of psychology in the work?

    • Young
    • October 20th, 2011

    Interesting. I never thought to look at it that way.

    Anyway, I think your friend may be right about Jungian psychology in Morrison’s work. I couldn’t fit it here so I posted it on my blog.

  1. October 20th, 2011

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