Dreams, Slips of the Tongue, and Jokes

Freud, in his psychoanalytical analysis, talks about three indirect routes to the unconscious. Through these routes, the ids or the polymorphous pervert desires try to come out from the realm of the unconscious. Freud argues that these desires always try to break the stony vault of the unconscious and create an imbalance in a person’s personality. These three indirect routes into the unconscious are dreams, slips of the tongue or parapraxes, and jokes.


According to Freud, a dream is an indirect route to the unconscious through which the primary desires or the repressed pleasure principles come out. He narrates the role of dreams in his The Interpretation of Dream. The unfulfilled desires come out through dreams following two mechanisms which are condensation and displacement. Condensation occurs when an abundance of images turns into a particular image or statement. It functions as a metaphor. On the other hand, displacement works as a metonymy in which one idea is replaced with its associated idea.

Slips of the tongue

The second indirect route through which the primary desires come out is called slips of the tongue or parapraxes. He highlights this idea in his The Psychopathology of Everyday Life. He opines that the so-called slip of the tongue is not a natural phenomenon; rather, it results from the coming out of the repressed ideas from the unconscious. Mary Klages, in her Literary Theory: A Guide for the Perplexed, analyses it saying that mistakes or errors committed to delivering a speech, writing, and reading are the results of the movement of repressed desires. She further argues that these incidents do not occur accidentally or coincidentally.


The third passage to the unconscious is the jokes. Freud says that they indicate to the represses desires possessed by a person. The unfulfilled desires follow this medium to come out. He analyses the link between the unconscious and the jokes in his Jokes and Their Relation to the Unconscious.

Abdur Rahim
Abdur Rahim

Assistant Professor, and Member of the Proctorial Body
Department of English Language and Literature (DELL), Premier University, Chattogram,
& Doctoral Fellow, English Department, Jahangirnagar University, Savar, Dhaka.

Phone: +8801715638298

Email: ar.dell.pu@gmail.com

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