Sigmund Freud’s theory of the uncanny can be seen through Victor Frankenstein’s “wildest dream,” in which he saw his cousin Elizabeth and “embraced her; but as I imprinted the first kiss on her lips, they became livid with the hue of death; her features appeared to change, and I thought that I held the corpse of my dead mother in my arms” (60).

In Freud’s theory of the uncanny, he explains the Oedipal desire, as infant boys feel an attraction to their mother, seeking his mother’s love and thus displacing this desire for their mother with another woman who is similar to his mother, after sensing that an attraction to the mother is uncanny. Furthermore, Freud’s idea of the return of the repressed explains that repressed feelings, (in Victor’s case, those of his mother) can appear in the form of dreams, because sleep relaxes the repressions and allows the impulses of the unconscious to pop up in dreams. However, these dreams may not always present the unconscious ideas directly, because there still remains a compromise between impulse and repression. Freud’s idea of repetition compulsion explains that people deal with their repressed feelings through the replacement or creation of similar, yet less uncomfortable things or processes.

Victor’s wildest dream exposes his Oedipal desire and the return of the repressed. Although Victor was “delighted” to embrace and kiss Elizabeth, she quickly turns into the corpse of his dead mother, evidently revealing that his desire is truly for his mother’s corpse, and Elizabeth is the mere compromise between his impulse and repression. His desire for his dead mother is clearly repressed because he reacts from this dream “with horror; a cold dew covered my forehead, my teeth chattered, and every limb became convulsed” (60). Because Elizabeth however, is alive, she cannot accurately fulfill these uncanny, repressed desires. Therefore, repetition compulsion comes in and reveals the relation between Victor’s desire to animate a corpse, in order to replace his repressed and rooted desire for his dead mother. Thus, the theme of desire in the novel is highlighted through Freud’s psychoanalyst theory of the uncanny.

-Serena Ya