According to French psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan, an infant develops its self-identity through a stage that he calls the “mirror stage”. In this stage, the child, upon seeing its reflection, learns to identify its reflection and the child’s vision becomes the “I”. For Frankenstein’s monster the mirror stage (much like all of the monster’s life) is atypical, which results in his refusal to accept his deformities.

For Lacan, the child develops its sense of “I” as a model of its selfhood during the time of imagination, a period of fullness in psychic development. As the child matures, its physical and mental handicaps prevent the child from reaching the perfect “I” that it has identified with. Therefore the “I” becomes the “Ideal-I”, an unattainable goal of itself, and serves as the basis of the child’s future interactions, as a quest to become its ideal-I. In the creature’s development however, the steps have been reversed. The monster has learned language, which to Lacan was a component of later development, while it was essentially in a state of infancy or imagination. With language and observation of the De Laceys occurring in the imagination phase of development, the creature designates the De Lacey family as the “I” rather than himself. When the monster finally gazes into a pool of water, the stark contrast between himself and the De Laceys becomes apparent, “At first I started back, unable to believe that it was indeed I who was reflected in the mirror” (104). When the monster realizes that he does not look at all like the family he had been observing, the monster effectively becomes his own other, in conflict with the ideal-I that he deemed as the De Lacey family. The creature cannot overcome his deformities because he sees himself as the force preventing himself from attaining the lives of the De Laceys. In Lacanian perspective, he has had the roles of development reversed, which results in the creature’s troubled state.

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