SONS AND MOTHERS: Why Men Behave As They Do by Paul Olsen

SONS AND MOTHERS: Why Men Behave As They Do

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KIRKUS REVIEW

An interesting theoretical twist on the Oedipal angle: mom and son are bound together not so much by sexual attraction as by the mother's need to mold her boy into the perfect man she wanted to marry but didn't, the aggressive personality she wished to become but couldn't. As in the traditional Freudian scheme of things, this leaves dad out in the cold: mom actually conspires to keep the two apart so that she can complete the Pygmalion process without interference. Olsen, who draws principally upon his psychotherapy practice and observations from the local playground, even goes so far as to postulate that the myth of the macho man is born not of the father's poisonous influence but of the mother's need for a knight errant, a fantasized Prince Charming to protect her. The problem with all this, of course, is that while it posits a plausible-enough scenario, it allows very little for differences in individual child-rearing styles or pyschological needs among mothers. In its way, it is every bit as chauvinist as Freud: women are still relegated to psychological dependence on their men, the only difference being the shift in familial relationship. Where Olsen is convincing, to a point, is in his portrayal of the mother as shaping her son's entire reality--even his interpretation of father--at an early age; and in his insistence that the ""good"" mother is really the one who is a little bit ""unsafe"": she encourages her son into flights from conformity, or ""normality,"" into the realms of imagination and ""true manhood."" Disturbing, perhaps a bit off balance, but nonetheless intriguing.

Pub Date: May 29th, 1981
Publisher: Evans