In this essay, I will be applying the psychoanalytic theory on the novel by Mary Shelley called Frankenstein. I will be focusing on the creation of the Frankenstein’s monster and the thoughts Frankenstein had during and after the creation. In my analysis, I will consider Freudian and Lacanian theory.
Frankenstein’s monster was viewed by others as monster, especially by his father, right from the beginning of his life. When he first opened his eyes, he was met with an immediate resentment from his creator – the father, which had a magnificent impact on his development. His creator resented him from the moment he opened his eyes and one can only wonder why? Frankenstein spent two years creating his creature, because he wanted somebody to worship him as their maker. ‘A new species would bless me as its creator and source; many happy and excellent natures would owe their being to me. No father could claim the gratitude of his child so completely as I should deserve theirs.’ (Shelley 2014: 85). This is a way for Frankenstein to mimic his desire for his mother by identifying with her and fixating his longing onto the making of the monster. (Franco 1998: 82) By doing this, he transfers his desire onto his creation, thus making his creation long for a mother as well.
Frankenstein fantasies that he’ll be worshipped and treated as a god and he is also playing god by trying to create his ‘new species’. This is an evidence that he has a god-complex, as is further proven in this sentence – ‘I will pioneer a new way, explore unknown powers, and unfold to the world the deepest mysteries of creation.‘ (Shelley 2014: 74) This implies that he wants to be the only person to achieve the creation of the new species and he wants the world to know about it. Throughout the book, before the monster’s birth, he rarely considers his experiment to be ethically or morally wrong and doesn’t truly consider the consequences of his project. He is repulsed by what he is trying to do, but never actually ends his experiment. Right before the creation, Frankenstein refers to the monsters features as beautiful. ‘His limbs were in proportion, and I had selected his features as beautiful.’ (Shelley 2014: 91) However right after the monster is born, Victor immediately turns his back on him and realises what he has done. Reality sets in for him, it almost feels like he woke up from a dream that he’s been in for the past two years. ‘I had desired it with an ardour that far exceeded moderation; but now that I had finished, the beauty of the dream vanished, and breathless horror and disgust filled my heart.’ (Shelley 2014: 92) The monster was never properly named by Frankenstein, the other word he used to describe his creation quite often in the novel was ‘wretch’. He used did not use this word when he was creating the monster, but right after his creation. The disgust and lack of care for his creation is very much shown by him doing this. He chooses to abandon the monster and he is not able to take responsibility for the failure of his experiment.
Now I will look deeper into my previous question – why did his creator resent him right from the beginning of his life? It might have been because after finishing his experiment the excitement for creating a new species had vanished. This chase for the unknown may be compared to a situation when a person is finally wealthy enough to buy a car they always dreamed of, but right after gaining it, the said person is not happy because it was the chase for the car that was exciting. But this still doesn’t explain the utter resentment. To understand this, we must consider the gaze. ‘The gaze is the object in which the subject can see himself. More than that, though, he can see himself seeing himself.’ (Franco 1998: 83) It is a gaze that causes to change all views that subject has in life as subject becomes self-aware that he or she is being watched. It’s further explained by Lacan (2004: 84) as ‘The gaze sees itself—to be precise, the gaze of which Sartre speaks, the gaze that surprises me and reduces me to shame, since this is the feeling he regards as the most dominant. The gaze I encounter—you can find this in Sartre’s own writing —is, not a seen gaze, but a gaze imagined by me in the field of the Other.’ When Frankenstein meets the monster’s eyes for the first time, he has a realization of his narcissism. He realizes that his experiment actually worked, he did not consider the consequences of it and his excitement for the unknown overshadowed that. He is put to shame by the gaze for his actions and panics – runs away and hides from the gaze. Frankenstein did not consider the consequences of his actions, because he was blinded by the desire for his mother and the delusion of him being worshipped by his creation. The vision of being a god and successful came crashing down because of the gaze and it is as if he woke up from a coma.
In conclusion, the creation of the monster in this novel shows how much Frankenstein was blinded by his own ego. Psychoanalysis is a very useful theory for analysing the Frankenstein’s mind and why he made the decisions he made. A lot of readers may be confused as to why Victor acted the way he acted after the creation but when we consider the gaze, it’s actually very reasonable.
Franco, D. (1998) Mirror images and otherness in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Literature and Psychology [online] 44(1–2), pp. 80–95. available from <http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&AuthType=ip,sso&db=psyh&AN=1998-01229-005&site=ehost-live> (Accessed: 29 April 2020).
Lacan, J. (2004) The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psycho-Analysis. [online] London: Routledge. available from <http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&AuthType=ip,sso&db=nlebk&AN=369273&site=ehost-live> (Accessed: 29 April 2020).
Shelley, M. (2014) Frankenstein [online] New York: Open Road Media. available from <https://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/coventry/detail.action?docID=1799658> [30 April 2020].