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Psychology, Duality and Heterotopy in The Adventures of Pinocchio

Sfetcu, Nicolae, “Psychology, Duality and Heterotopy in The Adventures of Pinocchio“, MultiMedia (April 24, 2023), DOI: 10.13140/RG.2.2.23837.79845, https://www.telework.ro/en/psychology-duality-and-heterotopy-in-the-adventures-of-pinocchio/



Panteli highlights the psychological aspects of Collodi’s book appealing to Freudian psychoanalysis in literary theory and the use of a model of Freud’s definition of the human psyche. The Adventures of Pinocchio can also be approached through the prism of the philosophy of mind, of the essential questions in this field. In the book, within the limits of the heterotopic experience, several theoretical and ontological questions are explored through an examination of the psychological, emotional and spiritual requirements on the individuals in this space.

Keywords: Carlo Collodi, The Adventures of Pinocchio, Pinocchio, psychology, duality, heterotopy


Psychology, Duality and Heterotopy in The Adventures of Pinocchio

Nicolae Sfetcu



The Psychology

Panteli highlights the psychological aspects of Collodi’s book, (Panteli 2016) appealing to Freudian psychoanalysis in literary theory and the use of a model of Freud’s definition of the human psyche, respectively the division of the psyche into id, ego and super-ego: (Freud 1961) the desire of Pinocchio for humanity reflects the ego, the id corresponds to the principle of pleasure and is what the Fairy tries to control by the fight between the principle of pleasure and the principle of reality, and the Talking-cricket represents the super-ego, Pinocchio’s consciousness.

The ego is represented by Pinocchio, who “owes service to three masters and [is] consequently menaced by three dangers: from the external world, from the libido of the id, and from the severity of the super-ego.” (Freud 1961, 56)

Pinocchio kills the Cricket at the beginning of the story, unable to control his primary instincts; the formation of the super-ego takes place when the individual has internalized the principle of reality, although Pinocchio, in this incipient stage of the story, acts according to the principle of pleasure. (West 1986)

Panteli also notes the sexual motivation involved in the confrontation scene, which confirms Pinocchio’s oedipal relationship with the Fairy through implicit references – the story of a teenage boy who first meets a woman. The woman and the mother merge into a single figure, a recurring theme in many authors, which suggests an oedipal desire in Pinocchio.

The Duality

The Adventures of Pinocchio focus on the psychological investigation of his central character Pinocchio, as he tries to discover a humanity lost in the vacuum of technology and science. The book can also be approached through the prism of the philosophy of mind, of the essential questions in this field. These questions refer to personality and suffering, which covers at least the period from Rene Descartes to modern philosophers such as Derek Parfit and Hilary Putnam. Pinocchio appears as a suitable character to explore philosophical challenges. Derek Parfit imagined such a scenario as the Teletransporter Thinking Experiment, the philosophical requirements for personality that involve replicating the individual. (Parfit 1984)

A key philosophical question is, can Pinocchio be considered human? Pinocchio can be analyzed in the context of Cartesian dualism. Descartes’ reductionist view of animal and machine-animal suffering is opposed by Pinocchio’s evolutionary experience. Can Pinocchio be considered a soulless piece of wood, or should his behavior be taken into account? His emotional development and suffering, his epistemological journey to self-knowledge, and especially his intense relationship with the Fairy make the book an autonomous and deeply philosophical work of art. The major approach that Collodi takes in his book is determined by the firm belief that human love and emotion have a primary meaning in the universe.

Reductionism is part of a movement in the philosophy of mind that contradicts Cartesian dualism. René Descartes argues that human beings possess a soul (or mind in modern terms) quite separate and qualitatively different from the body:

“From the very fact that we conceive vividly and clearly the nature of the body and the soul as different, we know that in reality they are different, and consequently the soul can think without the body.” (Descartes 1984)

Unlike Cartesian dualism, which states that human beings possess a soul (or mind) separate and qualitatively different from the body, reductionism is based on the assumption that the soul / mind can be reduced to the body, and the brain produces the mind, and therefore the soul cannot “think without a body “. Functionalists – including Hilary Putnam – try to save the elements of Cartesian dualism in the context of modern materialism, (Putnam 1975) trying to maintain the materialist basis of reductionism, without accepting the latter’s claim to have a correspondence between physical and mentally challenging through the problem of pain the idea that mental states can be reduced to brain states

From this point of view, a reductionist will consider only the wooden structure of Pinocchio. Descartes considered animals devoid of souls and therefore of the ability to truly experience pain or suffering. He saw them as automatons:

“I do not explain the feeling of pain without reference to the soul. From my point of view, pain exists only in understanding. What I explain to you are all the external movements that accompany this feeling in us; in animals, these movements occur, not pain in the strict sense.” (Descartes 1984, 148)

However, Putnam’s position, known as multiple realizability, is that regardless of how the pain is performed, regardless of the physical structures or processes in which the person suffers, the experience of pain shows the existence of a mental constitution. (Putnam 1975, 436)

The Heterotopy

Foucault describes as a “heterotopic space” a unique gap in the discursive plane in which the individual is given the opportunity to observe the elements that are active in the discourses that shape his life as an individual subject. (Foucault 1971) The Adventures of Pinocchio is an excellent example of how heterotopic spaces can exist in literary terms. The book explores how the experiences gained in heterotopic space give the individual the ability to reverse the panoramic vision and how these experiences can ultimately show us how we can recover or restore our existence as individual subjects. Through the experiences of the characters we are invited to observe many of the forces and discourses that contributed to the creation of this space, from an external point of view. The possibility of existing in heterotopic space gives us the ability to look back from a distance, the true reversal of panoptic vision.

In the book, within the limits of the heterotopic experience, several theoretical and ontological questions are explored through an examination of the psychological, emotional and spiritual requirements on the individuals in this space. The Land of Boobies serves as a heterotopic space from which Collodi can project the incisive exploration of life, death, and humanity into this distant setting. It forms an ontological ground of no one in which the elements, within the narrative and beyond, enter into the work as a whole and give the audience the opportunity to see a variety of very different discourses.

The novel suggests that fiction is as strong as “reality”, and that imagination is the only foundation on which “reality” is based. The heterotopy is a space where such categories, classifications and restrictions do not apply. In such spaces we can identify the fact that existence is best understood as an insubstantial field of imagination, where the possibilities are endless and the restrictive limits are reduced, inefficient. Through his explorations in the heterotopic space, Pinocchio had the chance to revisit some of the past mistakes of his life and thus rediscover his own humanity and confirm his place as a free individual subject to make his own choices. Certainly this experience should be viewed at least with optimism.

The temptation to give up all spontaneity in the light of the conceptual power of philosophy and the overwhelming evidence of science weigh heavily on human sociality. Although functionalism and reductionism, strictly speaking, are theories in the philosophy of mind, functionalism seems to be intuitive – a constructed or implicit feature of the human mind. We have evolved the mental mechanisms for social life – compassion, reciprocity, the ability to feel guilt, to connect emotions, etc. We cannot ignore our emotional behavior. However, these adaptations may be rejected or suppressed by certain forms of reasoning. The demagogic denial of human reality can lead us back to Putnam’s octopus. Here, too, counter-theories can help. The implications of functionalist reasoning.


  • Descartes, René. 1984. The Philosophical Writings of Descartes: Volume 3, The Correspondence. Cambridge University Press.
  • Foucault, Michel. 1971. “The Order of Things: An Archaeology of the Human Sciences.” 1971. https://www.amazon.com/Order-Things-Archaeology-Human-Sciences/dp/0679753354.
  • Freud, Sigmund. 1961. “The Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud: ” The Ego and the Id ” and Other Works v. 19: Freud, Sigmund: 9780099426745: Amazon.Com: Books.” 1961. https://www.amazon.com/Complete-Psychological-Works-Sigmund-Freud/dp/0099426749.
  • Panteli, G. 2016. “From Puppet to Cyborg: Posthuman and Postmodern Retellings of the Pinocchio Myth.” Doctoral Thesis, UCL (University College London). Doctoral, UCL (University College London). https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1528658/.
  • Parfit, Derek. 1984. Reasons and Persons. OUP Oxford.
  • Putnam, Hilary. 1975. Mind, Language, and Reality. Cambridge University Press.
  • West, Mark I. 1986. “From the Pleasure Principle to the Reality Principle: Pinocchio’s Psychological Journey.” Children’s Literature Association Quarterly 1986 (1): 112–15. https://doi.org/10.1353/chq.1986.0001.


This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License CC BY 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited



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