A Freudian reading of “The Lighthouse” is not too far-fetched, as perceiving Wake and Winslow as warring aspects of the same psyche puts several things into perspective. Wake is world-weary and self-assured to the point of arrogance, giving into his base instincts without regard for social norms or expectations, which molds him as the “id” in this equation. On the other hand, Winslow represents the “ego,” constantly attempting to mediate between his intrusive thoughts and expected civility, eager to fashion a new identity that will allow him to be perceived as morally sound. This is where guilt upsets the already-strained status quo between the id and the ego, causing the ego to violently repress the id in favor of a possible salvation: the “enchantment” in the light at the top of the lighthouse.
These repressed emotions often assume a sexual tint, especially during the scenes in which Winslow masturbates to the scrimshaw mermaid and experiences a tryst with the shrieking siren who haunts his waking visions. There are Oedipal undertones here too, as Wake and Winslow’s dynamic often teeters on the edge of homoeroticism, revealing a tenderness that feels sweet in the midst of raging internal storms. Pattinson spoke to HuffPost about this interpretation, talking about Winslow’s phallic envy and repressed desires, where he “sort of wants a daddy” when navigating his dynamic with Wake. As guilt looms large over both men, they give into madness, creating a space that is as sacred as it is volatile, where Winslow and Wake are on the verge of kissing one minute, and in the next, they are at each other’s throats, consumed by traditional expressions of toxic masculinity that they’re unable to escape even in a space that feels so liminal.