In my most recent post, I vehemently defended my argument (at least in the comments) that the creature’s apparent behavior did not make it a subaltern character. The question is: Why? Why is it that exposure to identical conditions (discrimination, apathy, ignorance etc.) yielded a meek Safie and a rebellious Monster? Even a cursory examination of these two subjects reveals the only significant variable that changed: the characters themselves. But what was it that was so different between Safie and the Creature? To answer that would take us to the defining moment of a character’s development: the Mirror Stage.

According to Lacan, the mirror stage first manifests itself during infancy. A child who is aware of its uncoordinated motor skills looks into a mirror and sees something more than a reflection. It sees itself as a whole. In a manner of speaking it looks “up” at its ideal, imaginary self. And with the reality of its own fragmentation close on its heels, the child quickly dismisses the differences between itself and its perceived double, and instead adopts the reflection as something to strive towards. Now, the infantile mirror stage only incorporates obvious, physical parities. However as a person matures, society starts to play a part. The person sees in the mirror an ideal image that has been augmented by social judgments on aesthetics. And out of fear of rejection and fragmentation from society, and in hope of total acceptance, the person keeps striving towards his/her imaginary double.

Similarly, the meekness and involuntary conformity of the subaltern comes from its latent optimism for eventual elevation. The subaltern does not, however, sympathize with the lack  that its image invokes. This is because the image is not a product of society, but of the colonizers/patriarchy. But the subaltern toils under colonizers’ expectations nonetheless. There is something to be said for the optimism that the mirror stage inculcates in every human. Like Spivak’s widow and Safie, the subaltern continues to choose paths that are the lesser of two evils in hope that one day the image it sees in the mirror will become real and lead it to freedom and acceptance.

But in case of the creature, the mirror stage is different. Unlike the infant, the creature is the epitome of physical prowess. However the image it sees in the water is that of a sum of parts. Where the infant looked up to its imaginary self as an escape from fragmentation, the creature (literally) looks down and sees itself as disarray personified. There is no ideal to strive towards. Optimism has become redundant. The awareness of its true self has set the creature free from any expectations. This freedom is sadist and damning, but it is freedom still. Where the subaltern perpetually strives to crawl towards the light at the end of the tunnel under mountains of expectations, the creature’s realization of reality blasts away the entire range altogether. So when it chooses to flirt with the idea of peace with the DeLaceys, or to condemn Justine, or to kill Victor, it is merely exercising its freedom like no subaltern can.

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