If only Freud were still alive to watch his theories manifest themselves in Hook. Though Hook’s tagline remains “What if Peter Pan grew up?”, it should read, “What if Neverland represents a Freudian dreamland?” In Hook, Peter Pan (Roger Williams) married Wendy’s granddaughter and returned to the real world to become a corporate lawyer. Hook kidnaps Jack and Maggie, Peter Pan’s two young children. To get back to reality, Jack must overcome his Oedipus complex to reunite with his father and Peter Pan must go through intense psychoanalysis. It is a difficult journey for both, but a necessary one for complete psychosexual development.
Jack’s dilemma in Hook is the very epitome of the Oedipus complex. The first indication of Jack’s stunted sexual development is his foreshadowing plane crash drawing. Peter Pan and his family see this drawing on their flight to visit Wendy in London. In this adolescent drawing of the Pan family falling from a burning plane, Peter Pan, Jack’s father, is the only one drawn without a parachute (Hook).
In accordance with Freud’s Oedipus complex, Jack’s drawing represents his subconscious desire to kill off his father because he is in love with his mother. In this way, Jack has “unconscious genial desires to accomplish the deeds that Oedipus Rex did live out in classic Greek tradegy” (Keitlen 25). For the sexually developing Jack, his mother “becomes a separate object, removed from his ideal self. Thus she can be the subject of object love” (“Oedipus Complex”). A drawing representing Peter’s death shows the unconscious drives of the Oedipus complex driven Jack.
However, Jack isn’t the only character in Hook with unfulfilled psychosexual development. Peter, the grown-up overworked lawyer, shows many of the warning signs for unresolved sexual problems in his past. One of the defense mechanisms Peter Pan clearly shows as soon as the Pan family enters Wendy’s house is displacement. When Peter has to answer an urgent work call from home, he snaps at Jack, yelling at him to “shut up” (Hook).
This displaced anger, according to Freudian theory, is a result from Peter’s anger at his repressed past (“Displacement”). Indeed, this is intriguing as Peter’s repressed past manifest in displacement, Peter’s other Freudian defense mechanism. As reinforced by Harvey Mullane’s “Defense, Dreams, and Rationality”, defense mechanisms or “symptom-formations” have “a sense; more particularly, all the senses represent, the argument goes, a strategic accommodation between conflicting ideas or desires” (Mullane 187-188). Peter does nothing to resolve his repressed past. That is, until an alternate reality meshes with Peter’s reality.
When Peter and his wife are off at a charity ball for Wendy, Captain Hook comes and kidnaps Jack and Maggie. Though it is difficult to explain how an imaginary world gained contact with reality in a Freudian lens, Peter’s slip into Neverland has a simple explanation. After multiple drinks of gin shots, Peter falls into an alcoholic slumber (Hook).
The importance of Peter Pan’s reliance on drinking alcohol lies in his Freudian fixation. As will be discussed later, Peter Pan’s childhood at the crucial oral stage of his life becomes chaotic and he is not able to successfully segway out of the oral stage. Thus, Peter experiences an oral fixation (a need to have touch on his lips) in adulthood. This unconscious fixation contributes to Peter’s drinking as it alleviates this desire momentarily.
Upon becoming unconscious, Tinker Bell appears and takes him to Neverland. It is important to note here, Freud, in his The Interpretation of Dreams states, “Dreams are not comparable to the spontaneous sounds made by a musical instrument struck rather by some external force than by the hand of a performer; they are not meaningless, not absurd” (1). By this definition, Neverland is a shared dream between Peter, Jack, and Maggie. As a dream, Peter and Jack create Neverland as the opportune place to discover and overcome their sexual barriers.
Immediately in Neverland, the image of the hook is presented. In dreams, different images can represent hidden sexual desires (Freud). Captain Hook’s hook is a symbol of ideal sexuality to Peter Pan. The idea of Hook’s hook being an ideal penis helps to understand Hook’s control over the other pirates. Indeed, before Captian Hook comes out of his cabin to address the pirates, they chant, “Hook, hook, where is the hook?” The perfection of Hook’s phallic body part originally captivates Peter Pan too upon entering Neverland. Only through Tinkle Bell’s negotiations does Peter escape the hook’s intoxicating pull.
In this dreamland, Hook symbolizes the perfect male, father figure Peter must aspire too. This is clear as Jack begins to associate with Hook as a father figure. Slowly, Hook convinces Jack that he, Hook, will be a better father than Peter. In addition to Hook’s enviable hook, Jack finds comfort in not having to compete with Hook for a mother figure, as there are no female pirates in Neverland. Jack can easily become close to Hook because of this lack of competition.
As Freudian theory states, competition with the father for the sexual desire of the mother is a crucial part of the Oedipus complex (“Oedipus Complex”). As previously stated, Jack’s relationship with Hook develops so quickly because of the missing mother role in Neverland. Furthermore, Hook engages both Jack and Maggie in a type of propaganda to further highlight the lack of femininity in Neverland. On a whiteboard, Hook writes, “Why parents hate their children” (Hook). Through this lecture, Hook further complicates Jack’s Oedipus complex as he, Hook, attempts to desexualize Jack’s mother. Hook knows that if he can successfully destroy all of Jack’s sexual desire for his mother, than any competition, grudge, or anger toward Hook as the new father will be eliminated.
As part of Peter Pan’s training to be ready to fight Hook, he goes through a quasi-psychoanalysis to reveal and sort out Peter’s troubling past. As psychoanalysis is simply “A method of mind investigation. And especially of the unconscious mind,” Peter can examine himself without a secondary psychologist or full-length couch (“A Definition”). This psychoanalytic section of Hook strengthens a Freudian interpretation because it shows the self-reflection and analysis need to overcome suppressed sexual desires which lead to defense mechanisms in the present.
Peter’s psychoanalysis begins when he spots his childhood teddy bear lying on the floor (Hook). While holding this teddy bear, the symbol for Peter’s childhood in Neverland, memories come flooding back to him; it is as if he is lying on the psychologist’s couch remembering his past. Through Peter’s remembrances, he reveals the trauma of his childhood: Peter was an orphan, an orphan taken in by a single lady, Wendy (Hook). This is significant for a psychosexual ready for two reasons.
First, because Peter decided to “run away” from his family, his oral stage of development was severely destroyed. Because the baby Peter had no mother to nurse from, he developed the “oral character” which shows in adult Peter’s “pessimism, envy, and sarcasm” (“The Oral Stage”). Freudian theory argues if Peter had received the right care from his mother, in the form of a nipple to suckle from during the oral stage, he would have completed the oral stage with no setbacks and would have eliminated any suppressed discomfort from this important stage.
Next, the lack of a father figure in Peter’s early upbringing contributed to his desire to “always be a kid” (Hook). Adolescent Peter attempts to stay in Neverland as a child because he has no male figure to look up to or resemble. Though contemporary critics point this out to be a major flaw in Freudian theory, Freud would argue any child brought up without a father will suffer from unresolved sexual conflicts. Peter himself manifests these Freudian psychosexual conflicts in the repression and displacement he clearly displays at the beginning of Hook.
The beauty of psychoanalysis lies in its results. Indeed, once Peter is able to remember and diagnose the problems of his youth, he becomes a new man, freed of all fixations and defense mechanisms. Indeed, upon remembering his “happy thought”, the birth of Jack, Peter begins to fly. In this dream world Neverland, flying is the symbol for ultimate personal freedom, freedom that only comes, in the Freudian world, from resolution of all psychosexual developmental stages.
As Peter flies over the Lost Boys in Neverland, juxtaposition is set up. Peter can fly because he has resolved his psychosexual developmental stages and can therefore fly; on the other hand, the Lost Boys, including Rufeo, their leader, cannot fly. Therefore, logically, none of the Lost Boys have successfully transitioned through any or all of the Freudian stages of development. Again, this explains why the pirates in Neverland, including Hook cannot fly either.
As Hook reaches its climatic ending, Peter and Jack are reunited. Because Hook so completely engulfed Peter’s ideas on the perfect father, what with Hook’s phallic hook and propaganda lessons against mothers, Jack now views Hook as his rightful father. When Peter stretches out his hand to Jack and states, “Let’s go home,” Jack’s allegiance to Hook is apparent as he walks over to Hooks and states coldly, “I am home” (Hook). In this twisted alternate reality, the very boundaries of Freudian theory are tested. Though Freud did not have an exact theory or belief on this topic, it can be safely assumed through his other writings that Freud would see Hook as a second, better father-figure for Jack. Not only does Hook have a bigger, better penis (hook), he also does create the tension in Jack sexually that Peter and his wife create in him.
Before Peter and his family leave Neverland, Peter must face Hook for one last final duel. This is necessary from a Freudian perspective because Hook represents all of Peter’s fears and childhood repressions. As Peter Pan and Hook fight, Peter gains strength and vitality, while Hook begins to lose strength and falter (Hook). This is symbolic of the success of Peter’s psychoanalysis in Neverland. It is clear to all in Neverland, pirates and children alike, that the new, brave Peter fighting Hook is not the cowardly man who first came to Neverland. Though Freudian dream interpretation is no longer used in mainstream psychology, it has its place and role in modern literature and cinematography. Hook, including this final battle scene, all fit under the scope of Freudian psychoanalytical and psychosexual reasoning.
After Peter kills Hook, he must elect a leader, a father-like figure in a world of only children (Hook). Through the eyes of Freud, this is a necessary action to help establish healthy psychosexual development in the children. While the boys in Neverland say they “never want to grow up”, they still will have to go through the psychosexual stages Freud laid out for them; if the boys of Neverland do not go through these stages in the right time, they will suffer from the same defense mechanisms and fixations Hook himself was plagued with. Fortunately for the boys in Neverland however, there seems to be a dream-like time bubble. Because of this, the boys would not experience any of the repercussions of stunted psychosexual development unless they left Neverland for reality. Never the less, Peter sets up a father figure for the boys to ready them psychosexually for reality if they so chose to leave Neverland one day.
The finishing touch for a Freudian reading of Hook comes in Peter’s return to reality. Before Tinker Bell leaves Peter for the return trip back to Neverland, she says, “I’ll always be in that place between awake and asleep” (Hook). This simple phrase is a clear definition of dreams in general. Even Tinkle Bell, the minutest character in Hook can see the role dreams like Neverland play in the healthy psychosexual development of individuals, both adult (Peter) and child (Jack). Peter also gives a significant command to Jack which further reinforces a Freudian perspective. Peter instructs Jack to “always keep open” the large bay window in the London house they are staying at (Hook). The open widow symbolizes the willingness to use dreams as an interpretative device into psychological development of the individual because it is through this very window the dream of Neverland came to Jack, Maggie, and Peter.
In conclusion, Hook is the ideal cinematographic representation of the essence of Freudian psychosexual theory. Through psychoanalysis and dream interpretation, Peter is able to successfully resolve his defense mechanisms and oral fixations. Jack, through the dream of Neverland and the lure of Captain Hook overcomes his Oedipus complex and reunites in a healthy relationship with his father. If proof is needed to continue to use Freudian readings in literature and film, Hook is that proof.
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Hook. Dir. Steven Spielberg. Perf. Dustin Hoffman, Robin Williams, and Julia Roberts. TriStar Pictures, 1991. DVD.
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