Publication Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in English (MA)

Committee Member

Murphy, Jonathan W.

Committee Member

Scaggs, Deborah

Committee Member

Moran, Marcela


While examining Anderson as an auteur, many aspects of his unique style allow me to relate characters and plot development to Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalytic concepts. Throughout Wes Anderson’s film The Royal Tenenbaums (2002), I recognize specific Freudian theories of the life instinct and death drive, the pleasure and reality principles, and the Oedipus and narcissist complexes. Specifically, the children of the Tenenbaum family are prime examples of characters who attain multiple emotional flaws due to their parents’ divorce early in their adolescence. Anderson is able to use his acquired film techniques to enhance two points that I will discuss: Freudian symbolism and Freudian familial and romantic relationships. Freudian symbolism in The Royal Tenenbaums is noticeable with Anderson’s use of clothing, dialogue, mise-en-scène, and music. The costumes of characters Chas, Margot, Richie and Eli represent the distinctive Freudian concepts of development: the death drive and the pleasure principle. The Tenenbaum children all display a strong regard for the obsession with death. Furthermore, the siblings all desire to stay within their developmental phase of Freud’s pleasure principle. Anderson’s use of deadpan humor within his characters’ dialogue motivates me to define Royal’s narcissistic qualities and Richie’s development of an Oedipus complex. The popular Freudian concepts are easily identified within the characters throughout their dialogue. Moreover, another film technique Anderson establishes as an auteur is mise-en-scène, a visual combination of the actor, the setting, the props, and the camera composition. The director found a way to complement Royal’s narcissism and Margot and Richie’s incestual love with visually stunning elements. The symbolic elements of Freudian theories allow for a more direct approach to familial and romantic relationships where a bolder use of Freud’s psychoanalysis is identified. A deeper connection to the family dynamics Anderson presents of a father and his children comes from a development of the death drive and the pleasure principle. Once they all progress from their flawed state of being, the Tenenbaum children finally develop an “inner satisfaction,” something Freud considers the key to adult happiness.