The Collector: A Psychoanalytic Perspective

In analyzing the main character of The Collector, I would like to pose a question: What causes Clegg to be able to rationalize his unethical actions and completely detach himself from society?

Throughout the story, Clegg makes decisions based solely on selfish desire, instead of clear, rational logic and moral standards. It seems as though he severely lacks morality and logic that align with typical social standards of society. Despite his mad tendencies, Clegg is able to justify each one of his actions in order to seem like his behavior is reasonable to the audience of the story. From his capture of Miranda to letting her die at the finish of the story, Clegg refuses to recognize the absurdity of his actions.

From a psychological standpoint, there are various explanations for Clegg’s mad personality characteristics and behavior throughout the story. I would like to start out with the account of his childhood. As a young child, specifically at age 2, Clegg lost his father and as a result, lacked a strong father figure throughout his life. His mother then abandoned him with his Aunt Annie and cousin Mabel, with whom he had a negative, complicated relationship. The lack of a father figure often leads to fundamental problems in personality development of an adolescent. Specifically, if there are critical family problems or negative events in a child’s life, the child is more likely to develop behavioral problems related to low self-esteem, poor social skills, rebelliousness, aggression, delinquency, etc.

According to attachment theory, infants are biologically predisposed to form emotional bonds with the caregiver(s), which will shape social and personality development later on in life. Healthy attachment is formed between the child and the parent if the infant feels a strong sense of security. Attachment requires the process of synchrony, in which there is an established mutual, interdependent pattern of attachment behaviors shared by the parent and child in the first years of life. Ethologists claim that infants who fail to establish a close relationship with their caregiver(s) by the age of 2, they are at risk for future social and personality problems.

Specifically in Clegg’s case, his father died when he was 2 years old, which preceded the abandonment of his mother. It is highly likely that Clegg never formed a healthy attachment with his parents, seeing as his mother did not care for him enough to raise him. According to psychoanalysts today, insecure attachment significantly affects how one forms relationships later in life. Both avoidant and ambivalent attachment styles in which the caregiver does not display a sufficient amount of love and care towards the child, results in security and trust issues in intimate relationships formed later in life. This theory could explain the fact that Clegg has failed to have many close relationships throughout his life and also causes him to have a very unhealthy relationship with Miranda.

Clegg’s behavior towards Miranda is peculiar in regards to normal, healthy relationships. Throughout the story, he tends to cling onto Miranda without wanting to set her free, while feeling apprehensive to be intimate with her. This behavior suggests that he has significant security and trust issues, in that he is scared to let her go and lose her forever. It is as though he has developed an abandonment complex; because he experienced abandonment of his parents at an early age, he now bases his relationships on the preconceived notion that the people he loves and cares about are going to abandon him. Thus, he feels the need to capture what he loves, and believes that they will learn to love him in return (Miranda).

Compartmentalization refers to the subconscious psychological defense mechanism, which relieves anxiety when one’s values, emotions, cognitions, etc. do not align with their behavior. This process allows a person to rationalize their behavior, even when they know that it may not be socially acceptable based on their cognitions. By using this, Clegg relieves the cognitive dissonance that he feels when capturing Miranda and letting her die. “I also thought that I was acting as if I killed her, but she died after all. A doctor probably could have done little good, in my opinion. It was far too gone.” (303)

“Whenever the collective unconscious becomes a living experience and is brought to bear upon the conscious outlook of an age, this event is a creative act which is of importance for a whole epoch.” Carl Jung

In Jungian psychology, the shadow archetype is the part of the subconscious that consists of various repressed desires, weaknesses, and instincts of the ego. It is often the hidden evil or devilish side of one’s personality. According to Jung, the shadow acts as a ‘reservoir for human darkness’ and is a source for creativity. The shadow may emerge through certain dreams or fantasies that illustrates specific dark desires of the ego. The shadow itself may be composed of personal experiences that are also repressed into the subconscious.

It is as though Clegg undergoes the process of individuation, which is the fusion of the shadow and consciousness, in which aspects of the shadow start to emerge in one’s behavior. Clegg’s dark desires to capture Miranda for his own selfish keeping finally emerge after having fantasies he has about living with her and falling in love with her. His actions in kidnapping her and forcing her to stay in the cellar for his own entertainment and happiness, as well as allowing her to die because he fears getting caught are good examples of his shadow. Miranda: “What I fear in you, is something you don’t know is in you” (75). Miranda is worried that Clegg’s shadow is stronger than it initially appears and that it will ultimately take over his behavior and lead him to do something brutal; such as rape or murder.

In Clegg’s mind, Miranda fulfills the anima “dream girl” archetype; he refers to her as the “demonic parody of Eden”. However, often times it seems as though Clegg does not acknowledge Miranda as a woman- only a thing that he has set forth to add to his collection of beautiful items. Miranda claims: “I am one in a row of specimens. It’s when I try to flutter out of line that he hates me. I’m meant to be dead, pinned, always the same, always beautiful. He knows that part of my beauty is being alive, but it’s the dead me he wants” (p. 203). He recognizes her human qualities in that she needs to be fed and he buys her items that she wanted, but also keeps her hidden from the world for himself to look at, as though she is a butterfly. Once she displays human emotion/desire, ie when she tries to ‘go to bed’ with him, he loses that objective perception of her and causes him to not love her the same.

“I think we are just insects, we live a bit and then die and that’s the lot. There’s no mercy in things. There’s not even a Great Beyond. There’s nothing.” (284)

Existential theorists propose a philosophy that holds that a set of categories, ruled by the norm of authenticity, is vital to grasp human existence. Existentialism does not deny the validity of biology, chemistry, physics, and other sciences; it only claims that humans cannot fully understand life in terms of them. In the context of existentialism, authenticity refers to the degree to which one is true to their values, beliefs, and cognitions. Achieving authenticity often requires one to “find oneself” and then live according to that discovered self. This way, one takes responsibility to act while letting their actual values come in to play instead of making a decision without the consideration of their “true self”. When one does not achieve authenticity, they live in denial of living in accordance with their freedom. Often, they attribute the course of their life to a form of determinism, in which they believe that they have no control over their lives.

In Miranda’s opinion, Clegg is an “empty space disguised as a human”. In her narrative, Miranda recognizes that he has lacked vital human experiences, education, and does not feel strongly about anything. It may not be possible for Clegg to achieve authenticity because he lacks strong values and beliefs all together. The values and beliefs he does hold to- certain moral standards he recognizes as important- he is never able to incorporate into the actions he takes. He is in constant denial that he is doing wrong when he kidnaps Miranda as well as when he lets her die, due to his ability to rationalize everything he does. Towards the end of the story he comes very close to recognize the gravity of his wrongdoings, but ultimately displays a sense of pride in his actions with Miranda. As a result, Clegg does not achieve authenticity by the end of the story, nor does he seem capable of ever doing so.

In conclusion, there are many psychological factors that explain Clegg’s personality and his persistence in distancing himself from society. Because he experienced negative events with his parents as a young child, it is likely that he developed a complex relating to abandonment. As a result of insecure establishment of attachment as a baby, his social relationships as an adult are based on severe insecurity and distrust. Because he is also able to continually make excuses for his bad behavior, he allows himself to get away with capturing and ultimately killing Miranda. While he does recognize the absurdity of life, he refuses to achieve authenticity in his actions upon his established ideals. Instead, Clegg continues to act upon the shadow of his personality; a dark part of him illustrated in his desire to kidnap beautiful women, which continues at the end of the novel even after he tragically lets Miranda die. Illustrated by the finish of the novel, it is apparent that Clegg fails to become a socially acceptable citizen of society who is unable to discover or act upon, his “true self”.


Additional sources:

Aronson, Wilson & Ackert (2010). Social Psychology, (7th edition). New York, NY.

Fulero, S.M. & Wrightsman, L. S. (2009). Forensic Psychology ( 3rd edition). Belmont, Ca: Wadsworth.


The Collector

This novel initially interested me in the way it was written as well as the psychological character of Clegg. It seems as though his perspective of the story is written in a completely subjective perspective, unable to grasp reality in any way. At the start of the story, he seems almost normal but as the story goes on his madness becomes more and more apparent. His perception of Miranda and his plan to capture her intrigue me in that his logic, or lack thereof, is greatly skewed. This aspect of his character almost took me by surprise; the story took many twists and turns I failed to anticipate.

As a psychology major, it took the story of Clegg almost as a challenge to analyze. After his madness became apparent, I became motivated to figure out what made him that way. Looking back at his description of his childhood and what had happened to his parents, I was able to put together a theory. Because his dad died when he was young and his mother abandoned him, his desire to capture Miranda and refuse to let her go makes sense. He feels as though he has to tightly grasp onto the things he loves so that he will never lose them. However, I feel that he does not have a correct understanding of love; his love is more like a fascination or infatuation with something he finds mysteriously beautiful.

I feel as though Miranda’s death was a quite significant part of the story. It interested me that Clegg barely felt remorse toward her dying and barely did anything to stop it. I felt as though if he wanted to keep her for his own selfish desires, he would at least try to keep her alive for himself. The fact that he didn’t do anything shows that he failed to connect with her in any real human way. At the finish, Clegg begins to wonder about another girl he sees on the street while moving Miranda’s body. It’s almost as if he does not see the girls as people but as beautiful objects that he believes will fill his empty heart if he captures them for himself.

I have questions regarding Clegg’s sexual desires toward Miranda. In the part of the story in which Miranda attempts to get in bed with Clegg, it almost seems as though Clegg is not sexually interested in her, which I find strange. When she kisses him and undresses herself, he feels too uncomfortable and does not enjoy it. It seems as though he enjoys her sexually when he takes nude pictures of her, but will not actually act upon it. I want to further explore and figure out the core of his desires with Miranda, because they are not very clear in the story.

I plan to research the various references within the text that Clegg and Miranda allude to such as The Tempest and Shakespeare. I feel that these aspects of the story will give me greater insight to the story and will allow me to further analyze the psychological aspects of each character. I also want to look at different psychological theorists such as Freud and Jung again. Then, I can form a network of different ideas as I did in the last project Cinematic Inquiry and develop deeper analysis of the book.

A New Way of Thinking

In forming my Cinematic Inquiry Prezi presentation, I found myself making connections and forming a network of ideas different than how I usually do for a research project. As a psychology major, most of my papers consist of researching certain articles to support or reject a specific hypothesis (usually to support it). This is a difficult way of researching in that instead of being able to form an argument based on what I find, I have to find data based on my argument. This technique of research was definitely a more satisfying way of creating my argument for Being John Malkovich. I chose to explore several theorists that we have examined in class, and based on what I found, I chose which theories to use to analyze the main themes of the film. I explored the Internet as well as different pieces of material that we’ve read in class. Upon gathering information about theories of Freud and Jung, as well as Sartre, I was able to decide how I could connect these to the film and be able to analyze the film with the information that I had found.

Prezi was also an interesting tool to use in forming my research-based argument. It allowed me to display my ideas in an abstract, visual way, which I am not used to. Throughout my education, I have only been taught to display my ideas or arguments in a linear structure- paragraph/essay form. Because I have been stuck writing essays and papers my whole life, using Prezi was quite an adventure for me. It was almost difficult for me to network my ideas based on the flow of my thoughts and ideas, since I have been trained to display them so linearly in the past. As you can see in my Prezi, the flow of ideas is still very linear, rather than an abstract flow of thought; 3 distinct lines of connecting of ideas of Freud, Jung, and Sartre. This way of thinking and presenting information is very new to me.  After doing this project, I am excited and motivated to try to think and display my thoughts in a less-linear fashion, specifically for the final project.

Cinematic Inquiry

By using Prezi, I created a visual network of ideas related to the movie Being John Malkovich. I related themes in the movie to psychologist Sigmund Freud’s concept of the id, ego, and superego and explain the characters desires in terms of these. I also explore Carl Jung’s idea of the unconscious and the process of individuation that occurs in each character. Finally, I present Sartre’s existentialism to different aspects of the movie in his idea of existence and essence. Enjoy the Portal into the Mind.

Life as a Mirror

“A tarnished mirror will shine like a jewel when polished. A mind now clouded by the illusions of the innate darkness of life is like a tarnished mirror, but when polished, it is sure to become like a clear mirror, reflecting the essential nature of phenomena and the true aspect of reality.” (Writings of Nichiren Daishonin Part I, p 4)

Daisaku Ikeda, the president of the Soka Gakkai International Buddhist organization, has written many letters, essays, and given many speeches around the world. He often makes references to the many writings of Nichiren Daishonin, who practiced Buddhism in the 13th century Japan. An essay Daisaku Ikeda wrote on February 27th, 1990 connects life to the concept of a mirror. Your environment is a direct reflection of you. By incorporating Buddhism into your life, he says, you can polish the mirror of your life to reflect the depths of your being; the past, present, and future. By looking at this reflection of your life, you are able to fundamentally change and grow, leading you to live a happier, beautiful existence.

Mirrors in ancient times were usually made of polished metal alloys such as nickel, steel, and bronze. These ancient mirrors could only produce blurred reflections, unlike today’s mirrors that are made of glass. The oldest glass mirror dates back to 1551, found in China and Egypt. “Suffice it to say that the history of mirrors is as old as that of the human race. It is perhaps an inborn human instinct to want to look at one’s face.” Even though people tend to focus on the outside appearance of their face, they tend to neglect what is on the inside. While people may put make up on to make themselves look better or wash a stain off their face, they choose to ignore the stains in their lives.

In Buddhism, a person never fails to receive the effects of their actions, whether good or bad. The law of cause and effect, which functions deeply in our lives, stresses that “the unseen virtue brings about visible reward”. Although one can conceal blemishes upon their face, they cannot conceal their soul, and the causes they’ve made in their lives that reveal their true nature. If one is ignorant of this fact, they cannot perceive themselves as they truly are, and therefore cannot change and grow in their lives.

My Horizon of Influence: A Lotus Flower

Life is a constant series of ups and downs. A cliché, I know. The importance of grasping this cliché is to accept it and learn how to manifest a constant, stable attitude despite the constant blunders of life. Shit happens. Your car breaks down on the freeway, your boyfriend breaks up with you, you get fired from your job. Suffering is a constant, inevitable part of life. How we deal with it is what is important. Buddhism emphasizes the importance of struggles in that life problems are essential for human growth. “It is not ones allies that make one stronger, but ones powerful enemies that assist in the growth of oneself” Nichiren Daishonin, 1270 AD. This concept of Buddhism explains that hardships are valuable and that the larger the hardship, the stronger we become as people and the more wisdom we will accrue by overcoming it.

If we view our hardships as an opportunity for growth and winning, we will be victorious in our lives no matter what. However, if we view our obstacles as something we constantly want to avoid and just complain, we will never win or become strong, wise people. If we live with the confidence that we can overcome anything, no matter what happens in our lives, we can turn unfortunate experiences into a valued experiences; a concept referred to as changing poison into medicine. The most beautiful lotus flower blooms from the murkiest, muddiest waters. This principle can apply to human lives as well.

Through my Buddhist practice as well as the Eastern Concepts of Health and Healing course I took last semester, I have also learned that it is important to recognize that the self and the environment are interrelated. Thoughts and attitudes can significantly impact your environment as well as your own perception of your life. This can have either a positive or negative affect your environment. Scenario: you wake up and tell yourself that it will be an amazing day. Most likely, because your attitude is confident that today will be a good day, not only will events most likely unfold as so, but no matter what happens, your perception of your day will be positive. On the flipside, if you wake up and declare that is it going to be a horrible day, it will appear as so, even if nothing tragic happens.

Since I’ve found great confidence in this way of the universe, I have made a powerful effort to think and act positively. I have seen proof that your perception of your reality can in fact, change your reality. After viewing the film ‘What the Bleep Do We Know?’ I better understood the concept that your world is exactly what you make it. It explains this concept of distorted perception versus accurate perception of reality in terms of psychology and relates it to laws of physics as well. It seems as though Eastern countries grasp this concept well, but Western cultures fail to do so. I have confidence that if these kind of principles were understood by the American culture, we would live happier, more fulfilling lives.

Dream On: Teeth and Toads

Dream: I was looking in the bathroom mirror and noticed that one of my teeth felt loose. I opened my mouth and saw that one of my back molars was hanging have way off my gum. I started freaking out because it was about to fall out, so I quickly decided to call the dentist. In my dream it was a Saturday, so I was hoping I could get through to the ‘emergency dentist line’ that was available on weekends. I stepped into my backyard to make the call to find that my backyard was covered in huge exotic toads from all around the world. I guess a plant that my family had planted in the backyard recently attracted very large toads, about the size of dogs. I started screaming because one of the toads that was so big and human-like started leaping in my direction. I immediately turned around to go inside but there was a toad on the doorknob of the door and didn’t want to touch it so I was stuck outside. In the meantime, I had left a voice-mail of myself screaming about the toads on the ‘emergency dentist line’. And then I woke up.

This is not a consistent dream.

I believe that the beginning of the dream in which my tooth is falling out may symbolize growing up and getting older. My birthday is this weekend and perhaps I have an underlying fear of getting older and not being a child/teen anymore. Teeth are also said to symbolize friends, relatives; loved ones. I have recently lost two very close loved ones in my life and have a fear of losing another loved one soon. The loss of this permanent tooth may illustrate my repressed and denied sense of fear that I am going to lose this person sometime in the near future. According to Freud and Jung, teeth are a phallic symbol and dreams about teeth are ‘masturbation dreams’. I think Freud and Jung were a bit crazy, however, so I do not agree with that analysis. (I respect them for their contribution to the foundation of psychology but I think they were nuts).

Moving on to the toads in my backyard. Backyards are said to represent a location of secrets and underlying feelings, which is where the second half of the dream takes place. Frogs/toads are said to represent a kind of emotional challenge with a partner as seen through the tale of ‘Princess and the Frog’. It is possible I have underlying stress with a partner, which resides in the place where I keep my secrets and things that I do not tell many people. Being locked into my backyard and being scared may signify my fear to face that challenge and being forced to deal with it. The voice-mail I left for the dentist office by accident may represent telling someone about this challenge or fear by mistake, without wanting to disclose it to someone else.

“Letter from Birmingham Jail”: A Personal Response

King appealed to his audience, which includes me, through various forms of emotion, logic, and ethical reason. His voice remains strong throughout the letter, and I was very affected by his words. The point of his argument that I found most striking was his explaining of the exigency of his letter to the clergymen of Birmingham. He responds to the opinion that he is an “outsider agitator” to Birmingham, and argues that it is urgent that he comes to make peace. I agree with him strongly in his statement that “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere… Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly”. I agree personally in that one negative piece of the puzzle will influence the whole, in this case, segregation in the community. It is more than urgent that King waits no longer and takes action to make sure that there is peace and justice everywhere, which will consequently indirectly change the peace and justice everywhere else.

Within this letter, I was most affected by the portion in which he uses the Aristotelian artistic proof pathos in which he describes his personal experience with segregation. “When you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six year old daughter why she can’t go to the public amusement park that has just been advertised on television, and see tears welling up in her eyes when she is told that ‘Funtown’ is closed to colored children…” I find King’s writing technique in this paragraph very interesting- most of the paragraph is a long run on sentence that goes on and on without stopping, providing a long list of personal examples of hardship and stress; “when you….; when you…; when you…;”. It seems as though he uses this writing technique to portray his constant, endless frustration he faces every day in a segregated society structure of his words (as well as the context). Reading this paragraph numerous times makes me almost physically feel his persistent, never-ending feeling because the list goes on and on and on and seems to never end. I think that his technique is brilliant and successful in evoking that emotion in the reader, as it evoked that emotion in me.

I also find the letter striking in his use of historical references, for example Hitler. Through the Aristotelian artistic proof ethos, he discusses just and unjust laws in society and uses Hitler as a prime example; the things Adolf Hitler did in Germany were legal action within the boundaries of the law, but were they morally right? Did his actions serve justice for society? No. Meaning, just because segregation is ‘legal’ and there are laws that make it ‘acceptable’ for the society in which they live, does not mean that they are ethical and morally just for the people. As he quotes St. Augustine- “an unjust law is no law at all.” What King argues in this point is completely correct to me, and effective in his use of historical examples of unjust laws, showing that segregation laws do not serve peace or justice, as laws should.

I also admire his use of quotes from different figures throughout history, including biblical references that people in the community can relate their religious values to; “Jesus an extremist for love: ‘Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.’” With his use of religion, he connects to the audience through their values- ie religion. While I am not personally a religious Christian and do not connect with his religious statements, I agree with the point and argument he is trying to get across with these examples. I practice Buddhism, and though the Christian references to not connect with my values, many aspects of his thought and reason throughout the letter do connect to my Buddhist values of peace and justice.

Why I Write

I write because I am told to. Mostly by teachers, maybe the occasional shrink. I do not write for enjoyment, nor do I like to when I have to for a class due to my permanent writers block. I am not a good writer; I have great difficulty making my thoughts flow in the form of words, sentences, paragraphs on paper. I am somewhat of a perfectionist, I am mathematical, and think scientifically. My mind works to perfect each sentence, rather than letting my thoughts flow onto the page freely like a true artist or writer. Thus, writing classes are not my forte.

I have attempted to keep journals or diaries in the past, but putting my thoughts down on paper is more stressful than stress relieving. This might be caused by the strict teachers I’ve had growing up that have taught me specific writing structures to follow. I was never taught to write creatively or for fun or to get my thoughts down on a page. I am completely lost outside of the typical MLA, APA, or 5-paragraph essay style, because I have never been taught otherwise. I believe this class will help expand my writing style and allow me to write more freely and creatively than I do now.

I write the facts. As a psychology major, I write mostly research papers and nothing else. I summarize the facts of previous research studies in the psychology field, rarely incorporating my thoughts and opinions. My papers consist of only 3rd person perspective, only a transmission of facts from one paper to another. My papers are always in the form of; introduction, several paragraphs, and a conclusion. Because that is what I am so accustomed to, writing creatively is not easy for me. I am excited to learn more about writing from my mind and how to write more naturally and less because I am forced to.