Category: Blog Summary #2 (due on 4/22 by 11am)

As I have read through the novel, I cannot help but agree with his statement, “not so much the sign of the proletariat as it is of its unrepresentability.” For the proletariats are the underrepresented population. From the beginning, it is described the origins of the creature whom Victor Frankenstein created. A creature that was to serve him and meet his expectations. The words, “a new species would bless me with as its creator, and source…” (57). Similar, we can see how mankind or society places such expectations to the world.  Once Frankenstein realized the fruits of his labor he fled. He left the creature without knowing the literal fruits of his labor. Thus, the creature is left to find his own way of figuring out his existence.


As the novel expresses, the creature like a child begins to look at his surroundings and learns through it. Which frankly is the process by how a human and animal learned. Visual input which then progressively turns into conceptualizing and forming a “self”. As readers, we are told by a lens of narrative how he formed a “self”. We can infer this by reading the passage from the DeLacey family, “I looked upon them as superior beings who would be the arbiters of my future destiny…. these thoughts exhilarated me and led me to apply fresh ardour the acquiring the art of language … (pg. 104-105). In other words, the creature began to apply himself to the world and adapt to its teaching and language. Only to realize that all his efforts will never be accepted whether by his conformity or his “monstrosity.” Because either way, he will never be that of a human despite his intelligence, his love, or capacity.


The proletariats or the laboring class conformed with society. The laws were laws, and nothing could be changed. In fact, most bourgeoisie’s thought that teaching the poor was the most uneducated thing to do. As the saying goes, “you give a man a hand, he will then grab your toes.” That is precisely what the all-justified Victor thought of by denying his own creature’s proposal.  As such, when the laboring class was denied basic rights just like those in the upper classes, revolted. Similarly, a right even given by God and thus mankind was denied to the creature and revolted against his creator.

Karla Garcia Barrera

Stuck in the Middle

As we approach the completion of the course, I look back in awe at the many frameworks through which we have analyzed Frankenstein. My most recent blog posts have discussed the psychoanalytic theories of Freud, and explored Gayatri Spivak’s ideas on colonial discourse. Though these theories are inherently unrelated, they force the critic to assign the novel and characters of Frankenstein to one of two major categories within each theory. By this I mean that Freud’s psychoanalysis forces an identity with the “self” or the “other,” and Spivak’s colonial discourse with the “colonizer” or “subaltern.”

These individual terms and categories are not as important in themselves as compared with what they imply about Frankenstein. I would argue to say that these specific theories, and theories as such, reinforce the idea of the reigning binary throughout the piece and the thought that a character cannot exist outside the constraints of the masculine or the feminine, in which the latter is subordinate. The self versus the other and the colonizer versus the subaltern take on the roles of the masculine versus the feminine respectively. In my post entitled “Failing to See Past His Internal Atrocity,” I examine a passage within the novel in which the creature looks into the pool, sees his reflection, and realizes the existence of his double. He experiences great discomfort at this realization, tension caused by the coexistence and disfunction of the self and the double, the masculine versus the feminine. The significance of this tension is that there is indeed an existing binary that leaves one  to identify with one side or the other, and implies that their coexistence is capable of generating inward conflict.

In my second post, I suggest the idea that the author of the novel is solely able to remove the text from the trappings of the masculine and the feminine. Throughout class and blog discussions we have failed to define an entity as masculine without reference of the feminine and vice versa. By failing to mention her great nation in her novel, I proved that Shelley successfully removed Britain from the binary of the colonizer and the subaltern, the masculine and the feminine, and avoids the subjection of Britain to one or the other.  Shelley seems to give her nation the power and ability to surmount the confines created by the characteristics of the masculine or feminine, as if previously one could not describe an entity outside of these two concepts. The discussion of the creature in my first blog post shows that he, as other characters in the novel, are subject to these concepts. Never have they been proven to exist outside of the masculine and the feminine, proving the malleability of their identity and an inability for them to stand apart from these abstracts. I would conclude that from the ideas examined in the blogs, Shelley acts as the sole individual able to remove an entity from the traps of the masculine and the feminine, proved by her omission of Britain from the novel.

A common theme of my previous blog posts is the creature’s position as the other. Being born in this role and being physically designed for it with his deformity inhibits his attempts to find his identity, since the society he is not a part of monopolizes identity.

When the monster is first born, he is an infant, with little memory of his original birth and a keen eye on the world. He watches the De Lacey family to find his own imago to project upon and identify with in my blog post “The False Imago”; with an imago, he can improve himself through presenting a more idealized self-image to look up to. Sadly, the De Lacey family differs too much from the creature’s natural appearance to effectively serve as an imago. He finds himself lacking in comparison to their forms when he sees himself in a puddle, and unlike the ideal Lacanian imago he cannot overcome this inferiority because his natural deformity sets him back.

Unable to pass the veil of human society, the creature asks for a companion in a defeatist manner: “Man will not associate with me; but one as deformed and horrible as myself would not deny herself to me,” (128). The monster accepts that he will always remain the outsider thanks to his hideous inhumanity, effectively denying himself the experiences he witnessed while watching the De Lacey household. He tries to compromise and still find an identity through requesting a female companion in a parody of the human family, but even then he sees himself as naturally wretched and unfit for a more beautiful companion. Effectively, he is trying to go with an approach that is “good enough”. This is also expressed in his desire to live somewhere else, far away; now that the creature knows he cannot find an identity through human society, he hopes to create one in a separate manner that does not tread on the toes of those who consider him other.

Frankenstein’s greatest fear that prevents him from finishing the female counterpart is that the pair of creatures will parent a race of monsters to doom the world. Having children normally requires the company of another human being; to deny it to the creature is to deny one of those basic rights human society takes for granted. It is an expression of identity through the creation of a new one. Frankenstein restricts the monster’s freedoms because he fears its hypothetical progeny, yet the only reason such a race of monsters would raise such concern is that they were inhuman. Because the creature is an outsider, Frankenstein bars the door to him from having children and leaving the prescribed role of the outsider, stifling the monster’s development of his identity.

The creature never had a choice in what it could become. Any attempt to escape his role as the outsider was flawed; he could not use humans as his ideal image, and when he attempted a different approach that merely copied the human approach, Frankenstein became fearful and betrayed his creation because he could not separate the creature from the role of the outsider.

The fact that there have only been two posts since the most recent blog summary makes me review the semester in general and think of how much analysis we have dedicated towards the novel Frankenstein. We have explored different facets of literary criticism that have opened unique perspectives toward understanding the novel. For instance, earlier in the semester we learned of Edmund Burke and his theory on the concepts of beauty and sublimity and how the creature evokes the sublime out of the people it meets. This sublime, which represents “terror,” rugged,” “roughness,” and/or “massive” (C.P)– all terms that the creature embodies to or evokes from others– relates back to how society sees the creature and what that societal perception reveal about the era this novel was written in. Of course, early nineteenth century Europe was still reeling from the authoritarian Napoleon’s conquests, which stemmed from the failure of the early-1790s French Revolution, an event that shocked the higher classes of European society and renewed fears of lower-class uprisings everywhere. The author, Mary Shelley, herself was raised in the middle-class, and despite her parents being strong liberals Mary Wollstonecraft and William Godwin she was fairly conservative in her views toward the lower-class, but still generally conflicted. She conveyed these contrasting views partially through a rough, rugged, horrific, gruesome representation of the lower-class, embodied by the creature, and also partially through the creature’s humanity and emotions. It possesses this identity due to the era’s identification of the lower-class with strongly negative, almost subhuman, characteristics and terminologies, and this identification is reflected on the creature, but the creature’s identity also contains a sense of humanity that makes it relatable in a human level.

The dehumanization of the lower-class is mirrored through the dehumanization of the creature itself. Its interactions with fellow humans were never cordial because of what the creature’s horrifying appearance made people do: run off or attack it. The sublime is in effect here as sublime emotions are rooted in pain and not pleasure (C.P). People saw the creature and they saw something subhuman in looks and mannerisms, which made them act in such a strongly negative way towards the creature: their efforts to always either run off or attack it indicate their viewpoint that the creature is a problem and should be treated as such. Not only subhuman, but a problem too. The era during which the book was written was fairly agreeable to such lower-class subjugation as seen through the creature, because of what the lower-class had done to the hearts and minds of much of the European upper-classes. The French Revolution’s impact on their collective psyche was significant, what with the long-established monarchy getting overthrown and arrested, King Louis XVI getting beheaded, and the complete failure of  initial populist aspirations as indicated by the Reign of Terror and subsequent authoritarian dictatorship in the reign of Napoleon. Mary Shelley, the author of the novel, shares a lot of the upper-class apprehensions towards the lower-class, being fairly mixed in her support towards lower-class rights, which was surprising given how liberal her parents were regarding the French Revolution. Knowing this family legacy, the novel could not only be a reflection of the era but a reflection of her conflicted views concerning the lower-class. Even though the creature is a horrifying sight and an anathema to society at large (much like the lower-class’ perceived position in society), she still gives it a strong sense of humanity through its very self-aware reflections and confessions towards its creator Victor (Shelley 95); such reflections evoked a true sense of sympathy towards the creature and its struggles. Shelley, to me, incorporates into the creature the era’s perception of the lower-class as well as a sense of humanity that gives the reader a potential emotional connection (so one can feel its pain) to it.

Through critical psychoanalytic and post-colonial critical techniques, the highly violent nature of the creature in Frankenstein may be explicated. This movement may be accomplished first through an analysis of the characters in Lacanian terms. Like any other human individual, the creature undergoes interaction with an evolutionary set of psychological realms, initiated by the infantile mirror stage. This developmental state is characterized by an idealized recognition of bodily coherence and fullness, described singularly as the “imaginary.”

However, there is something subtly abnormal and perverted about this process within the narrative, resulting in highly unusual implications. In his intellectual infancy, the creature attaches his sense of self-definition not to his own body, but to the collective whole of the De Lacey family. His ego or “I,” finds a strange substitute in the contextual relations of the group, rather than his personal sense of bodily coherence. This state is able to maintain itself as long as the creature can inhabit a position of outside observation, free of linguistic structure or interaction with the De Laceys.

The necessary and inevitable rise of the symbolic state eventually comes to overturn the peace of the imaginary. The creature realizes his own faculty for linguistic representation and abstract symbolism, introducing the concept of intellectual lack through the inability of language to completely invoke a form, and subsequently forcing the full sense of ego to retreat into the form of “ideal-I.” Only after this process has been completed, does the creature perceive his true form in a pool of water. By seeing himself after he has moved into the symbolic state, his ideal-I has been completely broken or fractured. He comes to a realization that his ego is deeply fissured, and that it is totally inconsistent with his true nature. The fundamental human drive towards the coherence of the ideal-I is stolen from him, and he is left only with inner contention and conflict.

However, there is some hope for the creature. It may be possible for him to repair his imaginary self-definition by gaining acceptance with the De Laceys, as his idealized sense of self was based upon their family as a collective whole. Accordingly, he adopts a role parallel to the feminine subaltern place of Safie within the household. In this debased role, he receives the second half of his lesson in linguistics. The creature is fed and accepts the nuanced language of colonial discourse, adopting the sense of ideological subjugation. However, there is a flaw here as well. Instead of maintaining the superficial wholeness expressed by Safie, the creature is a maelstrom of discord. His loss of ideal-I has rendered him unable to mask the conflicting elements of the colonial discourse. Accordingly, his attempt at integration fails, and his ideal-I completely vanishes.

Here, the literary critic may perceive that the two linguistic educations, and the two failures, expose the true nature of the colonial symptom. The De Lacey family served as a microcosm for western European dominance and colonization. Through his first failure at drawing an ideal-I from the cumulative whole, the creature destroys the concept that colonial society is full, whole, natural, and free of conflict. Through his second failure in his inability to adopt the subaltern role, the creature shows that each socially striated placement is wrought with ideological tumult, and that this societal system is not legitimate. The creature is the physical manifestation of the latent violence hidden behind the colonial façade, the corporeal avatar of a fissured reality. He is now marked with discord, and will not stop in his quest to subvert the stability of colonial discourse, revealing a form of violence present everywhere.

At the surface, many facets of colonialist and psychoanalytical criticism can be compared as ways to justify similar themes of alienation, identity, confusion, and so on.  However, looking through my previous blog posts I would argue that the two are intertwined to the point of being dependent on one another to provide a richer and fuller perspective of the same argument, which is that the text promotes the futility of any binary logic in relation to society and identity.

This is an interesting way of looking at the creature’s vision of himself. The scene on page 104 where the creature sees his reflection in a transparent pool is loaded with latent tensions: “…how was I terrified, when I viewed myself in a transparent pool! At first I started back, unable to believe that it was indeed I who was reflected in the mirror; and when I became fully convinced that I was in reality the monster that I am, I was filled with the bitterest sensations of despondence and mortification.” (104) Perhaps what is so shocking about the creature’s reflection in the water is his confusion with the binary that has been presented to him through the DeLaceys. As I explored in my post “The Power of Ambiguity”, he is presented with a very strong binary in the lessons that Felix delivers to Safie, and has trouble digesting it. I would argue that this is the same type of confusion that characterizes his identification with the image in the pool, because it does not align with the “perfect forms”(104) of humanity that he sees in the DeLaceys. The colonialist perspective provides a deeper understanding of this misalignment, because when we look at how the creature reacts to the history lessons that Felix delivers to Safie, it is clear that he is, at best, confused. The way he digests the information defies the black-and-white worldview he had possessed until that point. He knows that he does not fit squarely into the definition of the colonizer nor the colonized, the powerful nor the powerless, and this causes him to question, subconsciously or consciously, the binary that he has internalized. Indeed, after he receives the lessons, he observes, “The words induced me to turn towards myself.” (109). Looking back at the scene where he observes himself in the pool, the same can be said about his reaction. He had modeled his Ideal-I after the DeLaceys, which to him represented a pure idea of humanity, and this was the foundation of his very ego. Looking at his reflection in the pool and seeing something completely outside of his ego was  necessarily devastating. Because the binary was what preserved the creature’s ego, he initially refused to let go of it. Thus when he abandons his human identity in the face of rejection by the DeLaceys, he becomes the complete opposite: a savage and a brute. It is only as the novel nears the end that the creature tries to pick up the pieces and find a compromise, by appealing to his creator and requesting a spouse. Victor, however, still holding on to his belief in the unbending power of a God over its creation, surrenders control under the illusion of control, because the binary logic simply cannot exist. The novel necessarily ends in the deaths of both creator and creation.

The colonialist discourse is one of the many ways that Shelley reveals the failure of the psychological binary, and vice versa. If the masculine colonial discourse were to be portrayed as unbending and unquestionable in the text, it would contradict all the ambiguity that the creature represents. There would be little reason to suspect the failure of any other binary, and the text would be purposeless.Thus the psychoanalytical and the colonial veins of criticism are more than parts of a critical whole: Together, they paint a greater picture that colours Shelley’s Frankenstein in a larger and more complex light.

Throughout the second half of the semester the juxtaposition of the powerful against the powerless has provided many interesting blog posts, debates and hours of  class discussion. The conflict between the sides has been expressed through a multitude of different lenses including feminine vs. masculine, colonized vs. colonizer and the bourgeoisie vs. the proletariat. We have analyzed, reanalyzed, drawn pictures of our analysis and then debated on who was better at analyzing all of these complex binaries.

What have I drawn from the many hours trying to come up with interesting and original blog posts? I have come to  realize that within the context of Frankenstein these binaries do not exist. With close reading and analysis, the dichotomies that categorize characters in the novel collapsed in on themselves and illustrated their nature as not inherent truths but rather social constructs. Simply put, in the novel an Us vs. Them complex can not thrive because there is no us. All of the characters in the novel are at one point rendered powerless and therefore made to exist as an other, and when every character exists as an other the power structure is not rigid and everlasting, but fluid and ever-changing.

At every turn in the novel we see an upending of what we thought to be true, an inversion of the power structure that dominates our world view. Looking only to the second half of the semester and and questions of femininity and colonialism  it is obvious to see the novel’s ability to invert these so called categories of dominance. The character that so represents the most obvious positions of power, both the masculine and the colonizer is Victor. However by the end of the novel he has become a slave to his own creation and dies trying to gain the control he has lost.  More than disenfranchising the powerful, the novel also demonstrates the lifting up of the weak into temporary positions of power. Take the creature, once the very picture of an outcast ends up with the power to not only destroy those around his creator but destroy his creator himself. Another aspect of the novel’s ability to inverse and therefore destroy the supposed power structure comes not from the actual words on the page but the words that have been left out. The idea of omission sparked great discussion with a total of six student comments, which is six more than all of my other posts combined. As I argue in that post, the tool of omission is powerful because it does not just show the weak side of a character but rather gives them no representation at all. There are countless examples of the powerful falling and the weak rising up in the novel. The culture of Us vs. Them  is eliminated because everyone is at some point powerless, everyone is a them.

Looking at traditional power especially represented by the masculine and the colonizer, the novel Frankenstein works to remove even the most seemingly powerful characters from their pedestal and show them as just as powerless as those they used to have control over. In the world of Frankenstein there is no lasting control, there is no permanent power, there is only The Other.



Since there were only 2 posts, each about wildly different things, this summary won’t be as comprehensive as the last one. However, I noticed a contradiction about the status of the creature in these blog posts as opposed to in my previous blog posts, my initial reading, and my term paper. These last two posts have shown the creature in a much more negative light than before.

The last two posts have seemed to point out the creature’s inhumanity or negative traits much more than I had emphasized them earlier. Upon completing Frankenstein, I was very sympathetic to the creature and its struggles with its own humanity. But the last two blog posts focus on both the creature as an unavoidably uncanny being and as a model of neocolonialism. Due to class discussions about feminist interpretations of the creature, I’ve also made an effort to try and refer to the creature with the neutral pronoun “it” rather than “he.” This is because the monster does not have a distinct gender (we do not even know the creature’s genitals). But have my own interpretations sucked the humanity away from the monster? With some refinement, not quite.

Namely, if I refine the argument from the last blog post (“The First Step to Neocolonialism”) to respond to some of the feedback. This was by far my most popular post from a feedback perspective, and the comments have forced me to revise some aspects of my argument. The creature may not ever be pure subaltern or pure colonizer: that would be an essentialist viewpoint that Spivak would despise. Rather, the creature’s composition mirrors the composition of postcolonial society. The collection of different parts that make up culture (colonizers and colonized) is similar to the collection of different body parts which make up the creature. But it is this hybridity in the creature that leads to something similar to neocolonialism. It still contains parts of the subaltern, but because of the colonial discourse it has absorbed, its future role as a subjugating force is more apparent. I should have been more clear about the creature as a mimic, leading to the titular “first step to neocolonialism.”

However, this may still seem like a negative interpretation of the creature, for how can one sympathize with a neocolonial subjucator? Well, it’s important to note that this is only part of the creature. The creature’s hybridity allows for both subaltern and colonial power to exist in the same being. His struggle to pull out of a subaltern role is complicated by the colonial discourse. This ends up perverting his assertion of empowerment, much like how he struggles to find his humanity as an uncanny being. We sympathize with the creature’s struggle, not the creature’s actions or symbolic status. He is not rigidly something to be feared as a neocolonialist presence or uncanny creature or revolutionary commodity, but something to be sympathized with as it tries to break out of these traps.  Because of this, different theoretical interpretations of the text can reveal one basic truth in the construction and effect of the novel. How wonderful to see the universality of a sympathetic creature.

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.

Throughout the semster we have viewed Frankenstein through many different lenses of literary criticism in an attempt to discover what could be signified by this historical and influential text. The novel as a whole is significant, and we tend to use the different forms of criticism to evenly analyze the many different parts of this work, but when I look back at my blog posts, I find that I often chose to focus on the monster’s interactions with the de Lacey family as a central point to my analyses.

In regards to the de Lacey family, a very interesting parallel is occuring. On one side of this are the monster’s violent mood swings that he experiences upon his interactions with the family: just as Safie’s music “at once drew tears of sorrow and delight from my eyes” (107), the observances of the de Laceys “were a mixture of pain and pleasure, such as I had never before experienced” (100). The monster is simultaneously delighted and thrown into a pit of despair by these humans. He worships their values of goodness and kindness, but become wretched when he realizes that he will never be able to become one of them.

On the other side of this parallel (which may perhaps be the manifestation of the conflicting emotions described above), is the transformation of the monster due to his interactions with the de Laceys. The monster says: “I shall relate events, that impressed me with feelings which, from what I had been, have made me what I am” (106), when describing his relations with the family. Initially a benevolent and innocent creature, the monster learns of the ways of humans, and in particular what he perceives to be the extreme kindness of the de Laceys. When he is unable to gain their acceptance, his hopes are crushed and he becomes violent. Just as happiness and despair coincide in the monster, so do the potential for both kindness and violence, emotions manifested in actions.

The conflicts that rage throughout the monster in regards to the de Lacey family eventually cause the monster to snap, and the turning point of the novel to be reached. Prior to his interactions with the family, the monster is naive and benign, a mere nomad, simply satiating his instinctual desires. But following his studies and observances of the family, the monster learns of more than just instinct: he knows what it means to be spurned and rejected, and gives vent to his feelings of anguish, hatred, and vengeance. Without observing the de Laceys, there is the chance that the monster would have remained in the former state, leaving Frankenstein alone, and thus the novel would not be the novel that we have been studying all semester.

The turning point caused by the de Laceys could find its basis in many of the fields of literary criticism, but it has strong connections to ideas of the psychological. The monster’s passionate and varied surges of emotion – euphoria, happiness, sadness, anger, fear, hatred – respresent an unstable base that eventually cause him to snap and hence, the turning point. The de Lacey’s importance is that they create this unstable base, and then allow it to fall. Without them, the monster may not even have formed breakable emotions in the first place. The psychological automatically leads to Freud and his ideas of psychoanalysis: “from a psychoanalytic perspective, boys learn oedipally through identifying with the father and his threat of castration, the threat that originates concepts like honor and law” (Parker 135). This quote demonstrates the origination of higher concepts through the psychological processes of the psychoanalytic, and mirrors the monster’s learning of the higher concepts of emotion and human society through his observances and psychological processes in relation to the de Laceys. The de Laceys teach the monster everything that he knows about humanity and thus model the oedipal stage that the monster must go through in order to learn about these “higher concepts”. Once the monster has learned, the turning point is reached, demonstrating the de Lacey’s intense importance in the novel.