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In admiring Agamemnon, Orestes identifies himself with his idealized father. His internalization of his father is based on love and respect for him. This proves to be of great significance for his future actions. The dead father is a very important part of his "super ego." "Super ego" develops largely in accordance with parental dictates during childhood. Freud agrees that hate and aggressiveness projected on the parents plays an important role in the development of the "superego" which is the basis of all moral law. The "super ego" is what a layman refers to as conscience.
When Apollo gave his command, he represented Orestes’ own cruelty. The furies are not willing to pardon him, though the murder was ordered by Apollo. The furies represent that aspect of the "super ego" which will never forgive destructiveness. They are seen only by Orestes and Electra. They are their internal part, which persecute them. Apollo’s command too is an echo of Orestes’ own internal voice representing his own cruelty and destructive urges. Orestes’ suffering and guilt, which follow the murder of Clymenestra, represent "persecutory anxiety."
A child desires to destroy his nearest and dearest. This desire is often sub-conscious or unconscious. In an adult, this unconscious attitude can be revived and can diminish compassion. After killing Agamemnon, Clymenestra is not guilty or remorseful. She lives in great luxury quite content with her new husband, Aegisthus. In contrast to her, Orestes is overpowered by guilt. He loves his dead father and identifies himself with him. Yet it should be noted that Clymenestra was not always a bad mother. Her circumstances changed for the worst. Such changed circumstances reawaken destructive impulses, which thereby predominate loving impulses.
Electra inherits the idea of revenge from her mother. Clymenestra has been very revengeful. She avenges the injustice done to her, by her husband by killing him.
Symbolism in Electra
A symbol is that which has the qualities of another person or thing, which it represents, or symbolizes. Symbol formation is a part and parcel of infantile mental life, as well as adult life. Like many good creative artists, Euripides has made use of symbols.
Electra’s ragged clothes symbolize her own shattered condition. Her filling of water symbolizes her own quest for life. The water symbolizes the water for survival. Electra does manual work. This symbolizes the hard life, which she is leading. Her condition is reduced to that of a slave girl.
Furies symbolize the internal self of Orestes and Electra. They symbolize the "persecutory super ego." Their (Electra and Orestes’) intense persecution and excessive feeling of guilt is represented by the furies. Apollo’s oracle too symbolizes an aspect of Orestes’ inner self. Apollo here symbolizes and represents Orestes’ own cruel self, and the desire to kill (destroy).
Clymenestra represents or symbolizes the good and bad aspects in a mother. She is cruel and inconsiderate. But she has not been always bad. She fed and looked after her children when they were very young. She loved her daughter-Iphigenia.
Libation symbolizes the milk from the mother to the infant, during the earliest period of his/her existence. Thus giving libation to the dead symbolizes giving new life to the dead by quenching the thirst of the dead. The purpose of libation being to "open parched lips" of the dead.
Clymenestra shows her breast to her children when she pleads for mercy. The breast symbolizes survival as well as security for the infant. This symbol remains in the mind even in childhood. The peasant to whom Electra is married and the old servant who secures the life of Orestes are symbols of affection and goodness. Orestes covers his eyes with a cloth before he stabs his mother. This is symbolic of turning blind to "reality", that the crime is heinous and unforgivable.