In “The Theme of The Three Casket”, Freud searches for elucidating the existence of an unusual theme and pattern that he thinks is present there. Freud’s purpose is to apply his psycho-analytical theory on criticism of literary pieces on this scene to derive at certain psychological assumption about the characters and put forward a psychological theme. He starts by applying his theory like a critic and tries to solve the enigma by referring to astral myths as identified by Stucken.
Initially, he takes into account the nature of the chooser (Bassanio in this case) and the not the characteristics of the things being chosen or under consideration. He concludes but he is not satisfied by this too simplified explanation of the phenomenon. As a next process, he employs the technique of psychoanalysis and says that caskets and boxes are recurrently figurative depiction of women. He arrives at this conclusion by citing from other literary texts. He applies psychoanalysis process in three steps to unfold the myth associated with the theme.
Firstly, he applies his theory of ‘dream interpretation’ as myth also operates according to the patterns of dreams and substitutes things for persons. So he justifies his own substitution in Merchant of Venice i. e. caskets as women. He provides example from King Lear, Cinderella, Myth of Paris etc to prove his point. As a second step of psychoanalytical process, Freud considers some peculiar qualities of the characters and says that their particular qualities relate to dumbness and consequently this muteness symbolizes silent love that these characters possess.
He further relates his past clinical experiences to postulate that dumbness is also a symbol of Death. Here Freud suspends his psychoanalysis process so that he can contemplate over the issue that in reality these scenes are a representation of choice of death rather than woman. He finishes off with the assumption that cited literary examples balance the actuality of death by providing a stand-in for death i. e. the option of love. His inference from the whole exercise is that psychoanalytic method is appropriate to understand and analyse the literary works.
In his essay, Eliot presents his own conception of tradition and the role of individual talent in it. He provides his own description of poet and poetry and defines their roles. He criticizes the prevalent approach about tradition and says that ““in English writing we seldom speak of tradition, though we occasionally apply its name in deploring its absence. ”(p. 405) He negates the general idea that art develops through the process of change and by casting away the traditional effect.
He is of the view that literary advancements are a manifestation of conformity to the tradition. For him, traditions is a “simultaneous order”(p. 406) i. e. a historical timelessness. An individual poet is an epitome of this simultaneous order as he is completing the literary “whole”. It does not mean that he must resemble to the tradition but he must possess an understanding of his relation to and place in history. He calls it an organic historical process.
He also puts forward his own theory of poetry and says that poetry is a “continual surrender of himself” (p. 407) and a creative art of depersonalization. He (poet) and her poetry is a medium through which universal theme are expressed lucidly. Grand poetry and poetic theme do not take into consideration the subjective views of poet and individual emotions. Eliot’s main conception is the living tradition in which a new artistic piece change the meaning and perception of the past but remains a continual of the past tradition in doing so.
He says in this regard that “the existing order [literary tradition] is complete before the new work arrives” (p. 406) and “…values of each work of art toward the whole are readjusted; and this is conformity between the old and the new. ”(p. 406) He concludes that the poet who is aware of this process of continuity of tradition, have great difficulties and obligation to conform to the traditional “whole”.