Saturday, 1 August 2009

The Parable of the Prodigal Son: A Freudian Exegesis

The Younger Son

You’ve probably already heard a version of my story: it’s wrong. The general shape is right enough but it’s been seriously misunderstood. In fact the only thing I really like about it is that it’s about me: I like that in a story!

I’m Dillon: some people say I’m a bit of a Chav. Whatever. I live here in this God forsaken dump with my Dad and older Brother. We are what you might describe as a dysfunctional family. My Dad is an idealist – he doesn’t have a realistic notion in this head. His mantra is “The family”. And he’s such a soft touch - talk about naïve. I’m thinking of a phrase that includes the words “wind” and “little finger”.

My brother’s called Roger. Roger the Righteous. He looks down on me but that’s easy what with him occupying the moral high-ground all the time. He’s got religion, you see; sanctimonious pillock. It’s not so much that he’s anal only he gives “arsehole” a whole new dimension.

Anyway, I’d had enough of living in this shit-hole: not enough excitement and then Banquo’s ghost wailing and groaning every time I put a foot wrong – which admittedly is fairly often but…get a life Roger. OK, there was that unfortunate incident with the stockman’s daughter, but hey – I never said I was a saint.

So I hatch this plan to get out: simple really – I ask the old boy for some dosh. I couldn’t believe how easy it was: I started high – you know, ready to bargain down and he agreed to the first figure. I wish I’d asked for more now. Anyway I was out of here before he could change his mind. Or, maybe more to the point, before Roger could change it for him.

So now I’m really set up: nice flat; a bit of this (sniffs) you know? Wine, women and song they say. Well who needs to waste time singing? And it was good for a while and then the credit crunch hit and what with me not being very good at budgeting . . . anyway, all gone. Zilch, nada: the friends too. Not that I blame them. I’d do the same – drop losers like a shot. You can’t party with no-hopers hanging on.

Now I need a job. Me! A job! So, now I’m not having so much fun. No contributions, no benefits. Now I’m an illegal, black economy and all that. I don’t recommend it. And the irony is that I end up working with pigs. What a laugh: I can just hear Roger now. “Pigs? PIGS! What were you thinking?” Yeah, yeah, yeah yadiyadiya! Whatever. I could’ve got better work but I’m not a great fan of effort.

OK. Plan B. Head for home. If I play this right, it’ll work out to my advantage. Look I can do penitent. “I’m so sorry. I realise I’ve made mistakes. I’m so sorry. Please take me back. I’ve learnt from my mistakes. I’m a different person – a better person. Look, I’ll just work for you, OK?” I can be very persuasive you know. He’ll just hear what he wants to hear: give it a few weeks and things’ll be back to normal.

Worked like a dream, silly old sod. Oh but I was good, tears and all. I tell ya – it was worthy of a BAFTA and he bought it hook, line and sinker. The next thing I know there’s welcome home party. A Party! I know! Me and Party go so well together. Oh yes humble is very good in its place but things are picking up now. Mind you, I’ve not seen Roger yet. No doubt he’s walking around whining with a face like a smacked arse. “It’s not fair”.

A result all round I’d say.

The Elder Son

My name’s Roger. I live here with my Father and younger Brother. My Father’s a good man really but he’s far too trusting for his own good. He’s well respected around here but my brother – well, my Father can’t see it like I can. Sun shines out of his backside, walks on water. Oh, he’s charming enough when he wants to be but it’s all “me, me, me”. He’s always been the favourite. Now don’t misunderstand me: I’m not jealous or anything – it just gets on my nerves that he’s always been the favourite and he’s done nothing to deserve it. He’s a manipulative little shit, actually.

I don’t approve of his life style or attitude at all: he’s heading for a big fall and I, for one, would like to be around to see it. Charmed life so far but his luck’ll run out.

If I was in charge – and I will be one day - I wouldn’t let him get away with anything. He needs discipline and values. He needs to understand the importance of hard work and he needs to learn respect for his elders! He needs to be more like me actually. I’m reliable and hardworking and I’m always there for my Father. I don’t cause him any hassle or worry and I certainly don’t cause embarrassment to the family. I mean, Dillon thinks he’s God’s gift to women – and it’s me that usually has to smooth over the problems. No moral standards you see. He thinks I’m a geek because I’m religious but that’s exactly what he needs to put some shape and purpose in his life to say nothing of morality. But no, with the great arrogance of youth, he knows best.

He’s back now you know, after all he did. Nearly broke my Father’s heart and he’ll do it again given the chance. I wasn’t there when he came back. Bold as brass I’m sure with some outrageous sob story. I can imagine how it went: “I’m really sorry, honestly. I’ve changed. I’ve grown up. I won’t make the same mistake again. Please forgive me.” Puleeze! Change? As if! He’s not capable of change. It makes me want to puke. I’d have sent him packing with his tail between his legs.

My father was devastated when he left. I was outraged: he just threw money at him. I don’t know how he had the nerve to ask for it in the first place. I work here all this time, rarely a word of thanks no obvious appreciation; in fact I’m pretty much taken for granted, but do you hear me complain? No. I don’t do resentment – it’s not a nice quality. But I’d be within my rights. You know, I don’t ask for much. I don’t need constant attention and affirmation: I’m not a spoilt child but that little waster comes along and sweet talks the old man and bang! He’s got a wad in his back pocket and you don’t see him for dust. But I’m not bitter. Good riddance I say. I’ll miss him but not a lot!

So, I’m starting to get used to it being just my Father and me, getting some attention and long overdue appreciation. You know I really wasn’t putting the knife in for Dillon but I did think it was only right and proper to set the old man straight on one or two things about Golden Boy . . . and he breezes back - broke of course.

They’re having a party now. A party for goodness sake! My Father will be all teary-eyed and Dillon’ll be chasing some little slut round the storerooms.

Me? Go in there? Hell’ll freeze over first.

The Father

They say that parenthood is hard and they’ve got it right. I’ve two boys you see and they couldn’t be more different. My oldest is called Roger: Reliable Roger I call him. He’s a good lad and he had to grow up quickly when his mother died. He’s a plodder. Give him a job and you know it’s in safe hands: he’ll do it well and he’ll do it conscientiously. It seems to be important to him that he is seen to be capable and independent. He gives the impression of being emotionally self contained but he’s not: He’s built a wall around himself and he can’t break out. He’s desperate for affection but he doesn’t know how to express it or receive it. He likes to think he’s the adult, but you know in today’s parlance he’s what they call “critical parent”. His default position is judgemental and he’s taken that into his religious expression too. And he’s very jealous of Dillon, my younger son. He has no reason to be but there it is.

Now Dillon’s no angel: quite the opposite. Sometimes he’s quite a hard lad to like, let alone love. In his own way he’s just as screwed-up emotionally as Roger. He just expresses it differently. He’s a hedonist and he’s deeply self-centred. Chalk and cheese. Critical Parent and Free Child.

Roger thinks I indulge Dillon too much. Dillon thinks Roger’s a . . . now what was the term? A nob! He also thinks I’m a senile old git who can’t see through his little schemes. He thinks he’s so clever and he thinks I’m stupid.

Maybe I need to be firmer with them both, but they’re fully formed. I might be able to modify them a bit round the edges but I can’t change them substantially. They can only do that themselves … or God, maybe. The thing is they are my boys and I love them unconditionally: they’re all I have and when I’m gone they will have to be there for each other. Family is the most important thing there is and I need to get these argumentative boys to recognise that and value it. It’s a constant struggle and a balancing act between two competing egos.

Dillon’s just come back from his little adventure all crocodile tears and false promises and Roger’s in a big sulk. Kids eh? Who’d have them?

Dillon thinks he pulled a fast one. He thinks he made off with a small fortune. He has no idea. I was surprised how little he settled for and that he didn’t ask for more. I got away very lightly and I gave him just enough to last for a few months. I knew he’d fritter it away and then would come the learning: I could have told him how it would end but he needed to learn it for himself. The school of hard knocks they call it. Of course he came back just like I knew he would but I don’t think he fully realises yet just what he has learnt: he’s been taken down a peg or two and that’s not a bad thing. He’s a lot less full of himself right now.

And of course I was pleased to see him. Why not have a party? The problem is that Reliable Roger is now Resentful Roger. He didn’t want Dillon back basically and now he has to deal with that. He needs taking down a peg or two in his own way too, so he can sit outside and sulk. He’ll come in of course, when he feels he’s made a point. He has no idea how much I value him, how much I love him: he can’t hear it. It doesn’t fit with his persona of strong and capable.

Being an adult isn’t just about age is it? Sometimes it’s a struggle being the only grown up in the family.

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