The old frog leaps
Into the silent pool
Everyone from childhood is familiar with the story line of the Ten Plagues. We are familiar with them from childhood because they are almost amusing. God smites the fierce Egyptian people not with Godzilla and King Kong, but with bugs, hail, and frogs. Frogs! At any rate, it is hard to envision just what kind of ‘plague’ throwing frogs around might be. Other than some minor damage to agriculture, they aren’t particularly pesky little fellas. So our goal is to discover what other meanings may be inherent in this plague of frogs.
Before thinking about the relationship between animals and plagues, perhaps it might be valuable to the relationship between animals and us, or the concept of animality, in general. The initial impulse would be to try find the Freudian frog, situate frog symbolism in some sort of psychoanalytic way. The frog would follow the the horse in the manner of Freud’s Little Hans case; the reaction of the child to the mistreatment and death of the horse would be understood as ‘really’ referring to underlying drives. Or the wolf, in the Wolfman case, which wasn’t about wolves at all but about castration. Thus we would have to find some neurotic process which could be adequately symbolized by a frog. In the classical psychoanalytic viewpoint, then, interpreting the frog would be interpreting some signified process or drive in man, but would have very little to do with the actual frog or ‘frogness’.
Deleuze and Guattari offer an alternative reading in these cases. They argue that there is a more immediate relation to animality that is more than just a signifier for an unconscious drive. Here is their dissension from Freud:
‘The horses blinders are the father’s eyeglasses, the black around its mouth is his moustache, its kicks are the parents’ ‘lovemaking’. Not one word about Hans’s relation to the street, on how the street was forbidden to him, on what it is for a child to see the spectacle ‘a horse is proud, a blinded horse pulls, a horse falls, a horse is whipped” Psychoanalysis has no feeling for unnatural participations’
Deleuze and Guattari postulate that the relationship to animals is that of an ‘assemblage’, that is, a structuralist construct whereby aspects of animal behaviour are abstracted and incorporated into the individuals being. Their language is wonderful and thus hard to summarize, a summary would sound something like: the individual’s abstract machine (abstract here being a verb, that is, the person unconstructs the actual thing observed and takes from it certain structures and relations) reconstructing for themselves a Body Without Organs, these new behaviours would become lines of flight, deterritorializations. This appropriation they call the ‘becoming-animal’. When an actor barks like a dog, he is not metamorphosizing into a dog, or trying to, rather, he is taking on to himself an abstracted characteristic of dogs. This process is identical to other becomings, such as the ‘becoming-woman’. Images and stereotypes of what woman means are what are assumed by the individual who ‘becomes-woman’. Becoming woman is not imitating this entity or even transforming oneself into it… The child does not become the adult any more than the girl becomes a woman; the girl is the becoming-woman of each sex, just at the child is the becoming-young of every age…
This analysis leads in several interesting directions, for example, they point out that these becomings tend to be of minorities, there is less becoming-man than there is becoming-woman, or becoming-Black or becoming-Jew. These becomings, since they are by nature acts of reterritorialization, tend to relate to ‘minoritarian’ processes. Thus: