Bloodborne: Gehrman's Oedipal Complex
Before we start, I'd like to say that my use of Freudian analysis is exclusively literary, and I have no intention of making any claims about its psychological veracity.
My goal in this piece is to show how we might use an intertextual analysis to analyze Gehrman and the Orphan. The Oedipal framework is something that has cropped up quite often in literature, and there is no need to assume anything about the actual parentage or actual mental state of the characters, since we are more accurately trying to fit their actions into an intertextual framework-- a framework existing between all works of literature-- and using that intertextual framework to guide us towards conclusions in this work.
I would first like to propose that we frame Gehrman as a child within the Oedipal complex, with the Moon Presence serving the role of father and Maria serving the role of mother. Gehrman the hunter was metaphorically born in response to the Scourge, and Maria's suicide, which made her "unattainable", was directly precipitated by the guilt she felt over the steps she took in response to the appearance of a Great One in the Hamlet. We'll also justify it further.
The first step of the childhood Oedipal complex is sexual desire for the mother (Maria), which arises from the id, the unconscious fountain of human desire. However, the existence of the father (Moon Presence/Great Ones) prevents the realization of this desire, and the ego, the mechanism of perception, acknowledges that it is impossible to defeat the father in contest for the mother. The ego now has two ways to resolve the conflict between id and reality:
- Identify with the father, and thus assume the moral code of the father. This is the normal pathway with regards to the Oedipal complex specifically, as it leads to the development of the superego, an interalized system of moral rules.
- Identify with the mother, and create in the ego a substitute for the unattainable mother. This pathway is more common for non-Oedipal desires, but may also occur in the Oedipal complex, even in tandem with the first option.
Freud described the simultaneous development of both these pathways as the "complete" form of the Oedipal complex, which corresponds very strongly with Gehrman's actual actions. In order to cope with Maria's suicide, he on one hand created a substitute in the ego by crafting the doll, and possibly seeking animacy. (Refer to Redgrave's work for discussion of her suicide and Gehrman's coping.) On the other hand, he contracted with the Moon Presence, and yielded himself to its dictates.
Gehrman and the Orphan
Obviously, this is a fairly liberal application of the Oedipal complex. But here's the kicker: we might expect exactly this kind of response in an actual Great One. For example, a Great One who has lost its mother figure may cope by yielding to a fatherlike Great One, or it may seek a substitute and set up an idol. We even know that Great Ones seek substitutes through humans-- most notably women like Yharnam and Arianna, both of whom are linked to Cainhurst as is Maria-- so creating a doll and giving it life is an apt way to execute this pattern. If the Orphan had survived, would it have done something similar?
In fact, we may observe that the denouement of Gehrman's Oedipal situation is roughly half human and half Great One. He yields to the father that created him as a hunter, but that father is the Moon Presence; he creates a doll to substitute for his lost mother, and it is given life through a superhuman process. It is almost as if we've superposed a normal human's response with the unrealized response of the Orphan. This is especially interesting given the two (to my knowledge) major explicit links between Gehrman and the Orphan: the usage of the same sound files and Gehrman's tranquility upon the death of the Orphan, and I believe it fully justifies the Oedipal framework for Gehrman.
You may occasionally find Gehrman suffering severely while asleep, but upon killing the Orphan in the Hunter's Nightmare, he attains some degree of tranquility. Where does this suffering come from? It is certainly not internal, since Gehrman cannot know of your actions in the Nightmare. It is very likely not an external curse, since there is negative evidence that Great Ones can influence dreams controlled by different Great Ones, and the dream is controlled by the MP. (For example, the MP does not interfere with the Nightmare of Mensis, even though it supposedly desires something within that nightmare.) However, one of the functions of the superego is to force feelings of guilt and pain upon the ego for knowingly or unknowingly breaking moral rules-- and at the same time, it would seem difficult for any Great One besides MP to be behind Gehrman's grief. On the basis of this Freudian analysis, it seems reasonable to suppose that MP, in the position of father and acting superego, is the one crippling Gehrman for his sins.
The question of why the MP would take issue with the Hamlet massacre is difficult, but recalling that the Orphan is involved in Gehrman's Oedipal response, we arrive at an incredibly interesting theory: The Moon Presence is the Orphan's father*. This explains much. First, it provides an explanation for both Gehrman's Orphan-like cries and his peaceful rest upon the death of the Orphan, through his "brotherly" relationship to the Orphan. It then also provides an explanation for the reason Gehrman's Oedipal complex seems to be superposed with that of a Great One, as we know the Orphan never had the chance to develop. Furthermore, it explains the origin of the hunter's dream. If we hold that Gehrman signed the contract to establish the dream after Maria's death-- that is, after they attacked the Hamlet where the Orphan either lay dead or was killed (again, see Redgrave's work for more background on this), then this act of yielding to the father matches up perfectly with the MP's search for a surrogate for the child he just lost.
*To be fully clear here: the non-Iosefka cords states "Every Great One loses its child, and then yearns for a surrogate". I am asserting that the Orphan is accordingly the child of the Moon Presence, whatever the cosmic equivalent of parentage be. However, in an Oedipal analysis, we must treat MP as a father.
(Workshop) THIRD UMBILICAL CORD
Every Great One loses its child, and then yearns for a surrogate. The Third Umbilical Cord precipitated the encounter with the pale moon, which beckoned the hunters and conceived the hunter's dream.
We do have a little problem here: it's commonly held that the Iosefka Cord, not the Workshop Cord, is the one linked to the Orphan. However, this problem mainly arises because there are four cords but only three known sources (Mergo, Arianna's child, and Orphan). I think it worth supposing that the Workshop Cord corresponds to the Orphan, and the Iosefka Cord to the yet-unknown source, which I speculate may be Rom or environs. I'll be writing about this at greater length later. However, if we hold that the Workshop cord originates from the Orphan, the Gehrman-Orphan and Gehrman-MP links can be condensed into a single triangle.
This is not yet a complete theory. We'll expound on it further in later pieces, but this is some of the power that a literary analysis framework can provide to lorehunting.
I will clarify some of the ways I used familial terms above. MP is the father of Gehrman in that Gehrman the hunter was created in direct response to the MP, and Gehrman also serves as the MP's surrogate child. Maria is his mother because of the Oedipal framework of necessary but unattainable desire-- the hunter system-- that was likewise created due to the MP. MP is the father of the Orphan in the sense that the non-Iosefka cords declare "Every Great One loses its child, and then yearns for a surrogate", and Kos is his mother in the same sense.
I've conceived of a few more routes of analysis that utilize the Freudian framework. We may use the formation of the superego to argue about how necessary the eldritch liason is to humanity, or we may use the three-layer structure of the mind to argue about the origin of certain attitudes in the minds of key characters. For example, what does the doll's approval of your ascension say about Gehrman's mind before his contract, and about the world that created him?
I'll next be working on providing evidence for the "owners" of the Iosefka and Workshop cords. Once that is done, you can expect an at-length justification of the MP-Orphan theory, which finds its strongest foot in this Freudian analysis.