By: Mary Russell

Freud is most well known for his psychoanalytic concepts of the ego, superego, and the id. He is also known for his theory of the Oedipus complex, in short the idea that men lust after their mothers and are jealous of their fathers (and vice versa for women). This desire is hidden away deep in the unconscious mind along with the desire to murder wantonly. Freud believed the unconscious sexual and violent desires would manifest in the conscious world in subtle ways. For example, a Freudian Slip is when someone makes a mistake that could reveal their innermost wants and needs. More often though these unconscious feelings were manifested in dreams. In the novel, Victor Frankenstein experiences a strange dream hinting at his Freudian desire for his mother, and perhaps the unhinged nature of the “mad scientist.”

Frankenstein’s dream comes to him the night he creates the creature. In it, he sees Elizabeth, “In the bloom of health, walking in the streets of Ingolstadt,” and kisses her (60). Suddenly she transforms into the corpse of his mother in the burial shroud with maggots crawling on her. Elizabeth transforms into his mother when Frankenstein, “Imprinted the first kiss on her lips…” (60). The object of his desire transforms into his mother during an intimate act. Elizabeth was merely his replacement for his mother but when all is stripped away, his desire remains to torment him in his dreams. The healthy Elizabeth is less desirable to Frankenstein than his dead mother.

According to Freud this is normal. The standard journey for the Oedipus complex, is when a boy is born he forms a connection with his mother. He then becomes jealous of his father for having a relationship with the mother. Eventually the boy realizes the desire is wrong so he forms a bond with the father and finds a sufficient replacement for his feelings of lust. Something though, must have went wrong with Frankenstein’s development. Elizabeth should have been a sufficient replacement for his mother, and yet his unconscious still tells him to desire her. Somewhere when he was growing up, something went wrong. Due to the fact that his mother is dead in his dream, her death probably messed up development into a functioning adult. She dies shortly before he is to leave for college. He delays his trip as he is, “New to sorrow… [he] was unwilling to quit the sight of those who remained…” (49). He had never experienced loss before, and so was unequipped to handle it especially when moving on to so massive a change in the first place.

He becomes obsessed with death after this. He ventures to recreate life for death, due to his deep desire to see his mother again. He was not given time to develop healthy feelings for Elizabeth before his mother died. Her being violently ripped away stunted his growth and made him obsessed with getting her back. This is why he creates the creature: as proof that he can do it before attempting it on his mother. According to Freud, when someone does not take the proper steps through the Oedipus complex, they are psychotic. This is why Frankenstein is alright with going through such drastic steps to resurrect the dead. He no longer is a “normal” person. He is instead, a mad man trying to bring back his mother so he does not need to replace her with another woman.