Richard, Case of

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Melanie Klein's case of Richard is published in two forms: (a) "The Oedipus complex in the light of early anxieties" (Klein, 1945) and (b) Narrative of a Child Analysis (published posthumously, Klein, 1961).

In 1939, Klein moved out of London because of the war, and settled eventually in the small Scottish town of Pitlochry between June 1940 and September 1941. She used this time, away from colleagues, to reflect on her work; to plan further writing, especially on technique, and to conduct an exemplary analysis of a 10-year-old boy, Richard, six sessions each week from April to August 1941. She kept process records of the play and conversationsfor example, Richard's associations, and Klein's interpretations of themduring each of the sessions.

The theoretical conclusions from this case, especially about the early form of the Oedipus complex in a boy, were presented as a paper in 1945.

The book, Narrative of a Child Analysis, is a detailed presentation of the case. The ten-year-old boy Richard was treated in 1941. Each of 93 sessions is described in a brief process record, and each is followed by a commentary written much later, just before Klein's death in 1960. It was intended as a supplement to her early book The Psycho-Analysis of Children, and to present her technique in detail. The fact that it was not published for nearly 20 years is due to a number of reasons, including the fact that her interests had moved on to the urgent need to present her developing theoretical conclusions. But Klein believed this record represented her technique at the time and that it had not changed very much by the time the record was published.

She wrote this case history for presentation as a paper, "The Oedipus complex in the light of early anxieties," to the British Psycho-Analytical Society in 1945. It is a very detailed account of the early stages of the Oedipus complex as it had emerged in her early work with children, and then subsequently revised in the light of her theory of the depressive position which she had described five years before. She believed this significantly added to Freud's descriptions of the Oedipus complex, though she was clear that it did not replace Freud's work.

As far as the boy's complex is concerned, development through the Oedipal conflicts is propelled not only by the boy's fear of castration from his vengeful father, but the boy's love for his father and wish to protect him from his own damaging hatred. As to the little girl, she concluded that Freud was only partly right in his notion of penis envy, which he over-rated. More prominently, the little girl is occupied by the phantasy of father's penis residing inside mother with the future babies there. The little girl is as preoccupied with the desire for father's penis inside her, and her internal babies, as she is with the hopeless wish for a penis of her own. The anxiety that little girls suffer most is therefore the fear of a retaliatory mother arising out of the girl's wish to steal the penis from inside her mother. Her conclusions were not new and are found in her earlier book (Klein, 1932).

Klein's wish to write a thorough account of her technique was only partly realized in a paper in 1955 on "The Psycho-Analytic Play Technique: Its History and Significance." Towards the end of her life she returned to the full set of process notes she had made of Richard's analysis, and began the task of annotating every session. She completed this just before her death, and the work was published a few months later as Narrative of a Child Analysis. This was her very last word on child analysis and is a major statement on her technique.

What the book does is to explore in careful detail the ways in which these configurations of objects are worked out for the 10-year-old boy in an analytic setting. In particular she concentrates carefully on the location of the objects; felt by the boy to be inside him, often accompanied by physical sensations, or in the external world and represented by actual things and people which interact in ways that make them suitable to incorporate into his play, his phantasies, and his dialogue.

The book is of fascinating and major interest for its portrayal of a child analysis in detail. It is written with considerable poignancy and charm, and with an obvious affection for Richard, a frightened but quite courageous little boy. At the time it attracted great interest because it revealed Klein at work, and it has remained an important complement to her often complex theoretical writings.

By the time she published her first account of Richard, in 1945, the technique employed by Klein and her colleagues was about to change in significant ways as she and her colleagues explored the fragmented and part-object world of schizoid and schizophrenic patients. Technical aspects of Anna Freud's method of child analysis had also changed by this time (Geleerd, 1963).

Robert D. Hinshelwood

See also: Phobic neurosis.


Geleerd, Elisabeth R. (1963). Evaluation of Melanie Klein's narrative of a child analysis. International Journal of Psychoanalysis, 44, 493-506.

Klein, Melanie (1932). The psycho-analysis of children. London: Hogarth.

. (1961). Narrative of a child analysis. London: Hogarth.

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Richard, Case of

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