When Freud Meets Boyden

S├ębastien Lacroix

Three Day Road is an amazing novel written by Joseph Boyden about World War I. From a native perspective, we follow Xavier and Elijah, two snipers, on a difficult journey. Although Boyden tends to add a lot of details to his descriptive sequences, sexual scenes might put the reader into uncomfortable situations. Indeed, Boyden could be criticized of going a little too far describing a very intimate moment on pages 134 and 135, where Xavier and Niska are having a sexual relationship for the first time. However, despite this scene is clearly going beyond what the reader needs and wants to know, many readers will be surprised to actually like it. Our old friend Sigmund Freud has an interesting answer to this.

Psychoanalysts would definitely argue that everyone is controlled by impulsions, but also something called a death drive. Both are guided by some kind of an unconscious sexual tension. Therefore, it means that we don't really know ourselves, since many aspects of our personality is hidden in the unconscious. These aspects are sexual desires and fantasies to bizarre to admit to ourselves and/or in society.

"I looked up at him then, and took his cock in my hands. It made him jolt. He moaned out, and so I rubbed him slightly up and down until he moaned louder. I knelt before him and licked him gently" (Boyden, p.134).

This is only a few lines in a long descriptive sequence going a lot further into this sexual relation. But why is it so intense and perverse? In fact, reading those kinds of excerpts in a book release the sexual tension inhabiting ourselves. Consumption is one way to release a small portion of this tension, and so is drinking and smoking. This is the reason why readers might feel good when reading these two pages in the novel. Being alone, reading this, or even spying on this scene I should say, is a way to relief the unconscious.

The penis and the way its hardness is emphasized clearly suggests that it is a symbol of authority and virility as well, taking control over of Niska for example. Although this example is very straightforward, a simple object can also represent the male genitalia. The rifle, for instance, may certainly be an allusion to the sexual organ, which again means dominance and power.

Furthermore, this scene makes me think of the windigo as well. Elijah became a windigo, obsessed with killing humans in order to release a constant tension, probably sexual if we want to support Freud's theory. Just like him, Xavier and Niska both totally lost control of their mind and went wild and crazy during that night. Just like the windigo, they turned into cannibals, consuming and devouring each other with passion as if it was a survival instinct.

For the reasons mentioned above, Joseph Boyden voluntarily added many details into the sexual scenes of the novel Three Day Road, which contributes to the success of this intriguing work of native literature.

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