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Essay About Id Ego Superego Chart

Student Objectives

Session One: Read Aloud and Identifying Plot and Theme

Session Two: Identifying the Id, Ego and Superego in a Literary Character

Session Three: Visual Interpretation

Session Four: Gather Support

Session Five: Refine the Analysis

Session Six to Eight: Analytical Essay Projects


Student Assessment/Reflections



Students will

  • identify the literary elements of plot, theme, and character in a work.

  • use indirect characterization and psychoanalytic criticism to analyze a character in a work and explain how the character contributes to plot and theme.

  • structure an analytical essay based on their analysis.

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Session One: Read Aloud and Identifying Plot and Theme

  1. Begin the session by telling students that they will be listening to a familiar children's book, The Cat in the Hat. Elicit their memories and responses to the story.

  2. Pass out copies of the book for students to refer to as you read.

  3. Distribute the handout Plot Graphic Organizer to the students and ask students to listen closely to the story because after the story is read they will identify the elements of the story's plot. Alternately, students can complete the Plot Diagram tool.

  4. Read The Cat in the Hat aloud. Be sure that students can see the illustrations as you share the story.

  5. After reading the story, divide the class into small groups (each with a copy of the book to refer to as they work).

  6. Ask groups to think about the elements of the story: setting, plot, character, and conflict.

  7. Gather students as a class and invite discussion of the groups' findings.

  8. After the students have discussed the story, ask them to complete the Plot Graphic Organizer or the Plot Diagram tool.

  9. While the students are working, you can use The Plot of The Cat in the Hat handout as a reference.

  10. When the students have completed their work, ask them to share their information in small groups. Monitor the conversations as an informal assessment to make sure that the students are on track.

  11. Using photocopies, an overhead or an LCD projector, review with students the definition for theme and the five steps using The Literary Element of Theme handout.

  12. After the students have worked with the concept of theme, ask them to identify the theme of The Cat in the Hat.

  13. Ask students to share their responses in pairs or small groups. Monitor the conversations as an informal assessment to make sure that the students have an understanding of theme.

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Session Two: Identifying the Id, Ego and Superego in a Literary Character

  1. Invite students to share their definitions of plot and theme and how the elements relate to The Cat in the Hat.

  2. When the discussions and sharing conclude, distribute the An Introduction to Psychoanalytic Criticism of Literature handout.

  3. Ask the students to read the document. Provide time for them to ask any necessary questions about the content of the handout. Invite the students to mark-up the handout.

  4. If desired, explain that the id and superego are like a devil and an angel, whispering into someone's ears telling the person what to do. The devil figure, representing the id, argues, "Think only about yourself!" and encourages the character to base decisions on the degree of self-satisfaction they will provide. On the opposite shoulder is an angel figure, representing the superego. This figure argues, "Think about society!" and encourages the character to base decisions on how well they satisfy society. In the center is the character, representing the ego, which must strike a balance between the id and superego.

  5. Identify the presence of the id, ego, and superego in literary characters previously studied by the class. Some texts that can be used as examples are Hamlet, Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe, The Scarlet Letter, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, The Lord of the Flies, Wuthering Heights, or A Doll's House by Henrik Ibsen.

  6. Using their new knowledge of psychoanalytic criticism, ask students to identify what each of the main characters in The Cat in the Hat represents in terms of the id, ego, and superego.

  7. Distribute the The Cat in the Hat psychoanalysis chart.

  8. Explain that this chart will provide preparation for an online activity for the following session.

  9. Orally lead students through a discussion that helps them use the id, ego, and superego to determine each character's psychological personality.

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Session Three: Visual Interpretation

  1. Using the The Cat in the Hat psychoanalysis chart as a springboard, open discussion about the characters and the id, ego, and superego.

  2. When discussion is complete, provide the students with the needed instructions for using the Venn Diagram student interactive or the Venn Diagram Graphic Organizer.

  3. Label one circle of the Venn Diagram for each of the areas of personality (id, ego, and superego).

  4. Remind students to use the The Cat in the Hat psychoanalysis chart for textual reference as they add notes to the student interactive. From there, the students will drag their notes to the appropriate place on the Venn diagram.

  5. When the diagram is complete, remind students to print out the diagram.

  6. Using the printed diagram, draw some conclusions about the characters from the story. Some probable conclusions include the following:

    • The cat: Dominated by his id at the beginning but moves more to a balance between the superego and id at the end.

    • Fish: Dominated by his superego throughout the story.

    • Sally and the narrator: Fluctuate between the id and superego until the end when they allow the superego to take over.

    • Mother: Represents the superego through the moral and ethical restraints placed on us by caregivers.
  7. Ask the students to compare their work in small groups, based on where items fall in their diagrams. For example, the Fish and the Mother are both found only in the superego area of the Venn Diagram. Are there similarities between these two characters? Differences?

  8. Use the end of this session to answer any questions.

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Session Four: Gather Support

  1. Distribute the Defining Characterization handout.

  2. Review definitions and Examples of Indirect Characterization, and answer any questions.

  3. Encourage students to return to the book for a second look and consider both the text and the accompanying illustrations for evidence as they work.

  4. Distribute the indirect characterization worksheets with the subtitle "The Cat."

  5. As a class, identify and record the information needed to complete the handout. Sample responses to this part are included.

  6. Ask students to repeat this activity for The Fish and the Narrator, using the remaining worksheets.

  7. Conclude this session by answering any questions or concerns from the students. Or, ask them to examine characterization in some of the other texts read in class.

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Session Five: Refine the Analysis

  1. Share and discuss the Refining Your Analysis handout. The first part of the handout requires the student to complete the three questions below for the Cat, Fish, and Narrator. These questions help the student understand the character in relation to the overall meaning of the story.

    • How do specific examples of characterization establish the psychological personality of the character?

    • How does the character's personality contribute to the main conflict and climax of the story's plot?

    • How does the character's personality contribute to the theme?
  2. Explain how a character from The Cat in the Hat contributes to the plot and theme of the story.

  3. Allow students time to work on the first part of the Refining Your Analysis handout. If desired, the students could work in pairs.

  4. Once students have worked through the first part of the handout, introduce the The Cat in the Hat Projects (essay topics) to the students.

  5. Explain the "ASE" method for structuring an essay:

    • Argument: A statement of the main point or argument.

    • Support: Evidence that supports the main argument.

    • Explanation: An explanation of the support and how it supports the argument.
  6. Once students understand the "ASE" method, ask them to use their notes on the book to structure an argument about the role that one of the characters plays in the story.

  7. Allow time at the end of the session for students to share any of their thoughts or insight into the process or the story.

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Session Six to Eight: Analytical Essay Projects

  1. Allow ample work time for the students, during and outside of class.

  2. If desired, ask students to use the Revision Questions for Analytical Essays to review and strengthen their work before submitting their final drafts.

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  • As a class, view the movie The Cat in the Hat. Analyze the movie and look for any similarities and differences between the representation of the id, ego, and superego in the characters of the movie and book. Refer to the Get The ReelScoop lesson plan for ideas on comparing the two.

  • Invite the students to research the lives of Sigmund Freud and Dr. Seuss. They can document their findings using the Timeline Tool or the Graphic Map.

  • The students may also want to learn more about other Freudian terms and see if they can find examples in other pieces of literature.

  • Have students explore Freud's work using the Conflict, Freud & Culture online exhibit from the Library of Congress.

  • Students may be interested in seeing a more "grown-up" side of Dr. Seuss by perusing his political cartoons.

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  • Assess students' knowledge of elements of plot, theme, and characterization by checking the worksheets and charts that they completed for the project. Look in particular for details from the text and illustrations that support students’ understanding.

  • Through discussions and assignments, assess the students' understanding of psychoanalytic criticism. Observe the way in which students analyze characters in a work, and then explain how the character contributes to the plot and theme.

  • Use the Venn Diagram student interactive or Venn Diagram reproducible as an assessment of the students' knowledge of the Id, Ego, and Superego.

  • Use the Revision Questions for Analytical Essays to guide feedback on students’ final essay.

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Id, Ego and Superego

Saul McLeod published 2007, updated 2016

Perhaps Freud's single most enduring and important idea was that the human psyche (personality) has more than one aspect. Freud (1923) saw the psyche structured into three parts (i.e., tripartite), the id, ego and superego, all developing at different stages in our lives. These are systems, not parts of the brain, or in any way physical.

According to Freud's model of the psyche, the id is the primitive and instinctual part of the mind that contains sexual and aggressive drives and hidden memories, the super-ego operates as a moral conscience, and the ego is the realistic part that mediates between the desires of the id and the super-ego.

Although each part of the personality comprises unique features, they interact to form a whole, and each part makes a relative contribution to an individual's behavior.

The id (or it)

The id is the primitive and instinctive component of personality. It consists of all the inherited (i.e., biological) components of personality present at birth, including the sex (life) instinct – Eros (which contains the libido), and the aggressive (death) instinct - Thanatos.

The id is the impulsive (and unconscious) part of our psyche which responds directly and immediately to the instincts. The personality of the newborn child is all id and only later does it develop an ego and super-ego.

The id remains infantile in its function throughout a persons life and does not change with time or experience, as it is not in touch with the external world. The id is not affected by reality, logic or the everyday world, as it operates within the unconscious part of the mind.

The id operates on the pleasure principle (Freud, 1920) which is the idea that every wishful impulse should be satisfied immediately, regardless of the consequences. When the id achieves its demands, we experience pleasure when it is denied we experience ‘unpleasure’ or tension.

The id engages in primary process thinking, which is primitive, illogical, irrational, and fantasy oriented. This form of process thinking has no comprehension of objective reality, and is selfish and wishful in nature.

The Ego (or I)

The ego is 'that part of the id which has been modified by the direct influence of the external world.'

(Freud [1923], 1961, p. 25)

The ego develops to mediate between the unrealistic id and the external real world. It is the decision-making component of personality. Ideally, the ego works by reason, whereas the id is chaotic and unreasonable.

The ego operates according to the reality principle, working out realistic ways of satisfying the id’s demands, often compromising or postponing satisfaction to avoid negative consequences of society. The ego considers social realities and norms, etiquette and rules in deciding how to behave.

Like the id, the ego seeks pleasure (i.e., tension reduction) and avoids pain, but unlike the id, the ego is concerned with devising a realistic strategy to obtain pleasure. The ego has no concept of right or wrong; something is good simply if it achieves its end of satisfying without causing harm to itself or the id.

Often the ego is weak relative to the headstrong id, and the best the ego can do is stay on, pointing the id in the right direction and claiming some credit at the end as if the action were its own.

Freud made the analogy of the id being a horse while the ego is the rider. The ego is 'like a man on horseback, who has to hold in check the superior strength of the horse.'

(Freud, 1923, p.15)

If the ego fails in its attempt to use the reality principle, and anxiety is experienced, unconscious defense mechanisms are employed, to help ward off unpleasant feelings (i.e., anxiety) or make good things feel better for the individual.

The ego engages in secondary process thinking, which is rational, realistic, and orientated towards problem-solving. If a plan of action does not work, then it is thought through again until a solution is found. This is known as reality testing and enables the person to control their impulses and demonstrate self-control, via mastery of the ego.

An important feature of clinical and social work is to enhance ego functioning and help the client test reality through assisting the client to think through their options.

The Superego (or above I)

The superego incorporates the values and morals of society which are learned from one's parents and others. It develops around the age of 3 – 5 during the phallic stage of psychosexual development.

The superego's function is to control the id's impulses, especially those which society forbids, such as sex and aggression. It also has the function of persuading the ego to turn to moralistic goals rather than simply realistic ones and to strive for perfection.

The superego consists of two systems: The conscience and the ideal self. The conscience can punish the ego through causing feelings of guilt. For example, if the ego gives in to the id's demands, the superego may make the person feel bad through guilt. The ideal self (or ego-ideal) is an imaginary picture of how you ought to be, and represents career aspirations, how to treat other people, and how to behave as a member of society.

Behavior which falls short of the ideal self may be punished by the superego through guilt. The super-ego can also reward us through the ideal self when we behave ‘properly’ by making us feel proud.

If a person’s ideal self is too high a standard, then whatever the person does will represent failure. The ideal self and conscience are largely determined in childhood from parental values and how you were brought up.

 View the complete article as a PDF document


Freud, S. (1920). Beyond the pleasure principle. SE, 18: 1-64.

Freud, S. (1923). The ego and the id. SE, 19: 1-66.

How to reference this article:

McLeod, S. A. (2016). Id, ego and superego. Retrieved from www.simplypsychology.org/psyche.html

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