Mahealani LaRosa

Everyone knows about Sigmund Freud, the founder of psychoanalysis, for his radical and controversial theories about sexuality, dreams, and unconsciousness. One of his most well-known and fought-over theories is the Oedipus Complex, which basically says that as a young child we desire our parent of the opposite sex because of envy or fear or disgust we have of or for the other parent. Freud proposes “the infant boy feels an attraction to his mother” and “look[s] at the father as a rival for the mother and thus as feeling an unconscious desire to kill the father, so as to have the mother to himself” (119). Now focus on that word ‘unconscious’. Freud believes that everyone has unconscious drives and desires, and that the repression of these urges is necessary to function properly and sanely in society. These ideas are expressed in his essay “The Uncanny”, where he says that the uncanny is something that “is not known and familiar” and uses the term uncanny when “discussing things that appear to slip outside of normal perceptions or normal assumptions” (418). If we psychoanalyze Victor Frankenstein, we can immediately see that he is has not fully repressed nor is unconscious of his illicit desires.

Incestuous thoughts are not uncanny to Freud, so Victor loving his cousin Elizabeth whom he affectionately calls ‘sister’ does not come as a surprise. However, Victor does have an uncanny dream where he “saw Elizabeth… imprinted a kiss on her lips, [but] they became livid with the hue of death; her features began to change and… [he] held the corpse of [his] dead mother in [his] arms” (60). Right away we can see signs of Oedipal desire, which once again, Freud does not find uncanny. What is wrong with this dream is that Frankenstein is conscious of it. His desire for his lover turned into a desire for his mother, and his dead mother at that. It makes sense that he would seek adoration from someone like Elizabeth, someone who is similar to his mother in not only her appearance but also in her habits and mannerisms, but it does not make sense that he knows he is doing this because of his desire for his dead mother. The final nail in the coffin is how Victor reacts to his dream, in which he says “a cold dew covered my forehead, my teeth chattered, and and ever limb became convulsed” (60). After a very close reading, one can come to the conclusion that all of these actions have very sexual connotations. Victor is explaining how he has become aroused by the idea of kissing his dead mother. It is obvious this is also causing him some anxiety as well, as he spirals downwards as the novel progresses. However this dream explains a lot about why Victor created the monster. His scientific drive is actually the repressed desire to bring his mom back to life. If he could bring something else perfect and beautiful back to life, then perhaps he could do the same with his mother. When his creature is not seamless and gorgeous as he had hoped, panic overtakes Frankenstein and his defeat and hopelessness are expressed through his dream. Victor knows he has failed, and he knows his maternal desire is wrong. It is like his unconscious is glitching. Parts of it are replaced by Elizabeth and science, but he is conscious that these are just replacements.

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