Sigmund Freud’s theory of “the uncanny” is presented in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein through Victor Frankenstein’s Oedipal desires in his “wildest dream” (Shelley 60). Victor Frankenstein has a vivid dream in which his beloved Elizabeth turns into the corpse of his deceased mother as he kisses her. The description of Victor’s feelings within the dream, while also illustrating his shock at seeing the transformation, hints at his lust for his mother. The passage is loaded with sexual imagery, like “the grave worms crawling in the folds of the flannel” alluding to vaginal intercourse and the “cold dew [that] covered [Victor’s] forehead” like the ejaculate released from the head of a penis (60), demonstrating the level if intimacy Victor unconsciously wants to have with his mother. More importantly, this reveals the reason for his fixation on creating life and the monster. He wants to give life to the monster the same way his mother gave life to him. In doing so, Frankenstein also gives life to his mother through memory by dedicating creation of the monster to her and literally giving her life in his dream through his ejaculation into her. This is the result of what Freud calls the “Oedipus Complex.” The Oedipus Complex claims every man is attracted to their mother since infancy and strive to develop a relationship with a woman reminiscent of their mother, since the mother is already taken by their father.

While the idea of a person, especially an infant, being attracted to their parent may be a strange concept for people to, it is not uncanny to Freud. Freud views it as normal and crucial to the social development of the child innate in all “normal” heterosexual humans. Therefore, it is canny, at least in a Freudian context, because of its rationality and existence in the unconscious. Freud writes in his essay “The Uncanny” that something is uncanny “because it is not known and familiar” (Freud 418), meaning it diverges from the common perception held of it while also abiding by it. The uncanniness in the scene that causes Victor to awake in fear is the uncanny appearances of his dead mother and his continued attraction to the corpse. In his dream, Victor’s mother is not fully human. She is no longer human because she no longer has a pulse and is decomposing, but her features indicative of a human gives the feeling that she could potentially have life and is simply not engaging at the moment. The case is the same for Frankenstein’s monster because he has human traits and body part but his deformities give the impression that he is an undead monster at the same time. Because of the uncanny appearance of his mother their relationship becomes uncanny as well. Victor is still attracted to his mother, which is seen as acceptable under the following of the Oedipus Complex. However, now that she is a corpse, she is no longer the same mother Victor fell for. Nevertheless, she also is because she is literally Victor’s first and continued love and is the same body and being. He finds comfort in his love for his mother while also dreading that he loves a corpse.

-Wendy Gutierrez