Category: The Uncanny (10/3)

By Isaac Gallegos Rodriguez


The principles and teachings of psychiatry, although contested by some, produces an interesting means of literary analysis. When applying Sigmund Freud’s The Uncanny and the psychoanalytic lens onto Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, more specifically Victor’s ‘wildest dream’ (pg. 60), we can begin to go ‘beneath the surface’ of the character Victor Frankenstein and further understand his obsession with death.

Sigmund Freud’s The Uncanny theorizes that the ‘uncanny’ is the term for unfamiliar things that frighten us and help us remember what is known and familiar. Freud continues to expand on this idea of the uncanny and asserts that the uncanny is the revelation of ‘what is private and concealed, and meant to be hidden’; the uncanny, or what we deem frightening, is part of our deeper unconscious selves, and is highly connected with the psychoanalytical idea of the ‘return of the repressed’: the process whereby repressed elements, preserved in the unconscious, tend to reappear, in consciousness or in behavior. Our understanding of the uncanny and the return of the repressed can be applied to Victor Frankenstein’s “wildest dream”(pg. 60) and can further help us understand Frankenstein’s demented and troubled psyche:

“I was disturbed by the wildest dreams. I thought I saw Elizabeth, in the bloom of health, walking in the streets of Ingolstadt. Delighted and surprised, I 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; a shroud enveloped her form, and I saw the grave-worms crawling in the folds of the flannel.”(Shelley, 60)

The most alarming information from Victor’s dream, which Freud has claimed help us greatly understand our unconscious desires, is the sudden shift of lover: he begins the tale by embracing his cousin-love Elizabeth, to doing the same but with the rotting corpse of his mother. This image creates an uncanny effect on Victor, however, it may help us understand the thing that was ‘meant to be hidden’. The most blatant understand would, again, be connected to a psychoanalytic idea — the Oepidal complex. The Oepidal complex is a term to describe a male’s initial desire to be with his mother; the fact that in his dream Victor goes from holding his current lover to his former mother can enforce the idea that Frankenstein wanted to be with his mother, unfortunately, our psychological mechanics and social environments would have never this extreme form of incest. And knowing this, the “shroud [that] enveloped her [Mother] form”(Shelley, 60) this shroud can be a metaphor, that not only has the society made Victor’s idea unobtainable, now the ultimate barrier, death itself, has sealed its impossibility.

Except for that Frankenstein doesn’t see death as an impenetrable barrier, he sees death as “ideal bounds, which I should first break through”(Shelley, 57).  This is why Victor’s apparent Oepidus complex can establish a correlation between his disregard of life and death and his ultimate desire for reanimation. This can be seen as his return of the repressed; Victor’s actions are influenced by his unconscious desire for his dead mother. He is willing to create chaos and misery in his life, to know that now not even the strongest obstacle in the universe, death itself can separate his ‘love’ for his mother.

Sigmund Freud, through his vast contributions to psychoanalytic criticism, helps illuminate the major themes of life, death, and power found in Frankenstein. As complex individuals, nature has created mechanisms that keep us ‘sane’ and functional. We have filters that separate our present, socially influenced selves and our chaotic, primal unconscious; when, through flukes, the divides between our identities blur for an instant, we shudder at ourselves, we shudder at the uncanniness of ourselves.




By: Maya Carranza

Freud’s theory of the uncanny can be explained as something that is frightening yet familiar. Freud presents the idea that we as humans of two different genders have a sexual desire for our parents of the opposite sex and hatred toward our same-sex parent. This idea also known as the Oedipal desire can even been seen today as many males marry a women who resembles and acts like his mother and vice versa for daughters and their fathers.

The Oedipal desire is illustrated in Frankenstein’s “wildest dream”. In his dream, Victor is very “delighted and surprised” (60) to see Elizabeth and embraces her but suddenly “her features appeared to change, and I thought that I held the corpse of my dead mother in my arms” (60). His wife, Elizabeth, transforms into his mother, who he truly desires. Although Frankenstein doesn’t desire Elizabeth as much as his mother, he uses her as a way to replace his dead mother.

Samuel Freud’s theory of the uncanny discusses the strange occurrence of having familiar and unfamiliar experiences. This psychological concept is prevalent in Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein.  When Victor Frankenstein recounts his “wildest dream”, he explains that he “saw Elizabeth…but as he imprinted the first kiss on her lips, they became livid with the hue of death. [He] thought he held the corpse of [his] dead mother”, (60). Victor’s dream exemplifies his unconscious, sexual desire for his deceased mother. The “wildest dream” illustrates Victor embracing and kissing Elizabeth, who acts as the undisguised replacement for Frankenstein to fulfill his sexual needs and desires. Elizabeth is unconsciously seen by Victor as a perfect sexual object who will give him the love and support that his mother is unable to give him.

This dream further explains the reasoning behind Victor’s efforts to artificially give life to the “creature”, in which he combines pieces of human flesh and body parts to create a human body. In Samuel Freud’s The Uncanny, the author states “a favourable condition for awakening uncanny feelings is created when there is intellectual uncertainty whether an object is alive or not, and when an inanimate object becomes too much like an animate one”, (Freud 424). Frankenstein’s action of creating his “creature” for his unconscious desires to re-create his mother are justified by Freud, in which he states that it is common for people to look to inanimate objects as replacements for unobtainable love. This concept is true for Victor Frankenstein, in which he utilizes his scientific abilities to create the tangible  “monster” of his imagination.

Written by Cathryn Flores

Bianca Lopez Munoz

The Oedipus Complex, a theory created by Frued, basically revolves around the idea that a biologically female child will grow up with a sort of envy towards their father because he has a penis and that a biologically male child will subconciously love his mother and want to have sex with her and try to relate to the father in an attempt to make the mother like them, but in later life, will instead seek a woman to replace his mother.

In the beginning of Frankenstein, we are introduced to Victor’s parents. They are both described as very kind people who gave him a nice childhood. He describes his mother Caroline as very beautiful and as, “a guardian angel to the afflicted”(41). After his mother dies, Victor tells us that he, “… need not describe the feelings of those whose dearest ties are rent by that most irreplacacle evil; the void that presents itself to the soul; and the despair that is exhibited on the countenance it is so long before the mind can persuade itself that she…can have departed forever––that the brightness of a beloved eye can be extinguished…” (49). The sudden death of his mother was obviously a huge deal to Victor. Right after her death, Victor moved away to start his studies at the university where he would eventually become obsessed with putting together a corpse and giving it life. It can be argued that Victor’s attatchment to his mother, her sudden death, and his desire to animate a corpse are all connected through Freud’s oedipus complex. In Freud’s The Uncanny, he talks about how children at some point wish for their dolls to become alive. This sort of infantile desire can be seen in Victor’s scientifuc endevour. Victor’s wild dream about his mother demonstrates his obsession with his dead mother, whom he loves and possibly wanted to be intimate with. His creation of the creature was his attempt to create someone to love as a replacement for his mother which could only be a corpse. Therefore, Victor has necrophlilic desires. When the creature first awoke, Victor describes its eye as “dull” and “yellow” and also states that the creatures body convulsed and that it breathed hard. The eyes of the creature did not have the ‘brightness’ of his mother’s eyes before she died. Nor was the creature as beautiful as he had hoped. This dissapointment felt is a result of the creature not living up to Victor’s expectations which were expectations of the creature being as lovely as his mother.jesse-pinkham-holding-skull

The definition of uncanny, according to Freud is “discussing things that appear to slip outside of  normal perceptions or normal assumptions” (418). In Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein, Victor has an “uncanny” dream kissing Elizabeth as Shelley wrote, “I embraced [Elizabeth]; 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). Initially, you would think that he was just writing about Elizabeth, but even if he was, that’s a tad bit suspicious too considering it is a form of incest since she is his sister/cousin. According to Freud, the oedipal complex is when a child has sexual attraction towards their parent of the opposite sex. In this case, Victor’s dream transitioned into him thinking his dead mother was in his arms. People say you are attracted to those that resemble your parent. In this case, Elizabeth had the closest resemblance to his mother. He unconsciously knew that Elizabeth was a substitute for his mother and she loved and cared for him just like his mother did. Everyone does this apparently and not because they choose to, but because it’s unconscious. People want the love and affection that they received from their parents and so for Victor to want and yearn for that affection, one cannot blame him. He has no control over it.

Rahma K

Victor’s dream highlights the blurred relationship labels that he has placed on the people in his life. His mother and his future wife, Elizabeth, seem to hold a similar place in his mind. This could partially be attributed to the fact that once Victor’s mother dies, it seems that Elizabeth takes the place of Caroline Frankenstein in the household. She in some ways becomes Victor’s mother and so when Victor dreams of Elizabeth he is of course dreaming of his mother in actuality. Elizabeth as his sister is symbolic of life as he sees her “in the bloom of health” and as he moves to “[embrace] her [and imprint] the first kiss on her lips” she morphs into his mother, Caroline, who is symbolic of death. This suggests that as Victor blurs the lines between his relationship with his sister and attempts to change her role to that of his wife, he essentially kills her and the relationship because it is unnatural. He ends up with the rotting corpse of his dead mother which was the first woman Victor surely felt affection for that he could not have because his mother belonged to his father and not him. So any attempt to change certain relationships in unnatural ways ends in something final like death because his sister should not be his wife. His mother who he may have latched onto as a child should also not be the object of his affections. Elizabeth and Caroline blending into one person for Victor as highlighted in his dream suggests that he has attempted to alter his relationships unnaturally and that is his problem. He cannot separate the women in his life and latch himself to the right women that will help him live a normal life.

As for the corpse he reanimated into his Creature we can see Victor trying to create another unnatural relationship. He is trying to establish a new race of humans and trying to establish him as their father figure. However, when his “child” asks for its own female figure to latch onto Victor like the typical father does not allow it and removes the female figure from his “child’s” life. His “child”, the Creature, reacts as Freud expected, and drastically makes the decision that if he can’t have the mother then no one can because he kills Elizabeth. While the Creature was not especially fixated on Elizabeth, she is Victor’s wife at this point in the narrative and essentially the “mother” for all intents and purposes because of her relationship to Victor. The cycle that Victor and all other men supposedly go through is also experienced by the Creature. Perhaps Victor strove to reanimate a corpse in some unconscious effort to break the cycle but failed to do so when he did not provide his corpse with the wife it desired.

This psychological state reveals themes of the natural versus the unnatural which is consistent with the entire novel because the constant reinforcement of nature makes the reader aware of the lack of production within the novel, which would have been prevalent during that time. It also reveals that Victor’s relationships are part of what makes certain things unnatural throughout the story because he is trying to make things work together that should not work together. Which ties together with the theme of horror throughout the novel that consistently reminds the reader ugly wrong things are terrifying while beauty is not. None of Victor’s relationships are beautiful and therefore are ugly and terrifying.

By Diana Lara

In Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein, we can see Freud’s theory of the uncanny being a key factor throughout Victor’s dream sequence. The theory of the uncanny deals with our “unconscious desires” including but not confined to wanting to have sex with your parents and desiring to murder anyone. In this scene, the reader can get insight on why Victor creates the creature and the reason is that of the unconscious sadness he is going through succeeding the loss of his mother. In a way, Victor creates the creature simply to get rid of the loss he has experienced in his mother’s passing. In Victor’s dream, he describes “[seeing] Elizabeth, in the bloom of health, walking in the streets of Ingolstadt.” Because Victor decides to describe his mother as being “in bloom of health” it suggests that he simply only cares about how his mother is, not why she is there or what she is seeking. Despite Victor’s mother looking fairly health when Victor attempts to kiss her she “[becomes] livid with the hue of death…” this leaves Victor feeling as if he is carrying his mother’s dead body. Through this dream sequence, we can begin to see Freud’s theory manifest itself. Freud theorized that dreams were a window or path into the unconscious desires of man. In the novel, we can see these unconscious desires of a man through this dream sequence in which Victors unconsciously desires to want his mother resulting in actions to be done further in response to his desires. Furthermore, it can be suggested that Victor misses and requires a mother figure regardless of their relationship before her passing. However, despite being torn down by his unconscious need for a mother figure, it is suggested through the novel that Elizebeth begins to take the role of a mother figure that Victor so desperately requires. Unfortunately, Victor’s motivations eventually became his downfall, because his creation makes his life miserable once more. Through all of this we can, once more, see Freud’s theories of the uncanny being displayed through Victor’s actions and desires, which eventually are his demise.

By: Daniel Olmos



Image result for sig freud’s theory

Sigmund Freud’s theory of Oedipus which primarily focuses on the human “unconscious desires” which include the idea of wanting to have sex with your parents and wanting to murder the people on sight; is paralleled with Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein”, with the character of Victor Frankenstein’s “wildest dream” and his desire to bring a corpse back to life.

Looking through the lens of Sigmund Freud to interpret the novel of “Frankenstein”, we are first brought to a crucial part in the novel, the death his relationship to his mother. Her death has a big impact on his life as he then embarks on the journey which leads him to his demise. While laying on her death he gives a description of her appearance, “the brightness of a beloved eye can have been extinguished, and the sound of a voice so familiar, and dear to the ear, can be hushed, never more to be heard.” (pg 49) A common relationship in our society is the love that a son has to his mother which is destroyed here by the death of his mother. Victor is in shock as he states that he can not believe that he will never see his mother’s eyes nor hear her voice. His attachment to his mother seems to appear as any other mother and son, however, Freud provides an alternative perspective through his theory of Oedipus. Freud asserted that the child desires to have a sexual relationship with their mother. After Caroline’s death, Victor goes on to describe his mother’s features with words such as, “brightness”, “beloved” and “dear”. He describes his mother in a majestic way, he is in shock that such beauty can be brought to an end so quickly. Victor describes her as if he were to be in love with her. The description of Caroline’s beauty can connect to Freud’s theory as we can see attraction he has for his mother. Freud states assert, “typically, the boy seeks to win his mother’s love by identifying with his father.” Nevertheless, Victor is not able to demonstrate this to his mother because his mothers die, which is why almost after the death, he begins to think about how to create the creature. Kickstarting the journey to his creation. He is creating his creature whom he hopes to have the ultimate beauty like his mother with the idea to revive his mother and assert his dominance. He makes the creature all the while, keeping in mind, the idea for a “perfect” human being, which connects to the description of his mother as he outlines that his mother having this impressive near-perfect beauty.

Victor’s dream reveals Sigmund Freud’s theory of Oedipus, after being horrified and sickened by his own creation he leaves goes to sleep. While asleep he begins to dream about his “beloved” Elizabeth whom he describes with a “bloom of health”, when thinking of the word bloom many thinks of flowers, when a flower blooms it is period of change where it is grown and fully developed and demonstrates its remarkable qualities of freshness and beauty. Victor is describing Elizabeth’s beauty and this idea of a healthy human being. He does not just focus on anything, but her physical appearance which makes him “delighted” because that is all he cares about. Further, into the dream, he goes in for a kiss but she becomes “livid with the hue of death” and he asserts that her physical appearance changed, to the point that he, “thought that I held the corpse of my dead mother in my arms”. He for so long has said that he desires Elizabeth but is thinking of kissing his mother instead of Elizabeth. Sigmund Freud’s theory of Oedipus which is are human “unconscious desires” which include the idea of wanting to have sex with your mother is clearly presented here in the novel. Upon Caroline’s death, she instructs Elizabeth to “supply my place”(pg 49) and proceeded to do so which can infer why Victor is in love with Elizabeth because he can no longer have his mother. Even though Elizabeth was supposed to take his mother’s place, his desire for his mother is unconsciously present and dominant enough to impede Elizabeth from replacing Victor’s mother, which is why the end result is Victor’s lack of interest in his dream for her. This leads him to change from kissing Elizabeth to kissing his own mother. The dream is able to give a direct access to the subconscious or to what the mind truly wants and is conflicted about. Caroline is a recurring thought in his mind as the dream is primarily focused on her. The theme of life and death in the novel is illuminated through Victor’s desire to bring a corpse back to life as he is in search of regaining his mother because of his attachment to her.

-Levit Martinez

By: Carmen Ibarra

Victor Frankenstein’s dark desire for his deceased mother correlates back to Freud’s theory of uncanny stating that ” all humans have homosexual and heterosexual desires as part of their polymorphous perversity, but some of those drives remain unconscious, while other, more conscious…” 117 When Frankenstein first describes his dream he starts it with visualizing himself kissing Elizabeth (which he considers her to be his sister) later on Elizabeth disappears and he goes into detail about how he’s feeling when he is dreaming about his deceased mother is in his arms. “…a cold dew covered my forehead, my teeth chattered, and every limb became convulsed…” 60 basically Victor was having a dark desired dream of his mother and Elizabeth.

In my personal opinion, I don’t believe we sexually desire our parents and compete with our parent growing up, however, when we do grow up we look for someone like our parents (if that parent was a strong figure in our lives). We search for someone with similar characteristics, such as someone who can be as respectful, caring, and loving as our parent is to us. It’s disturbing to have that kind of mentality that we sexually desire our parents enough to search for a partner like them, but in Frankenstein, we obviously do see that there is this kind of mentality and he does sexually desire his mother and loves Elizabeth because she is much like his mother.

Freud’s work in its essence is trying to understand the deep and dark human psyche, and through Freud’s work one thing can be made certain. That even though the unconscious is kept away from our conscious mind as a way to shelter certain emotions or thoughts, in some way does our unconscious manifest itself into the real world. By actions, emotions, interactions, and even dreams. In the context of Frankenstein, Victor’s wildest dream is his very own unconscious self manifested as he sleeps. In this dream he dreams of his wife Elizabeth “in the bloom of health, walking in the streets of Ingolstadt”(60) and he embraced her but as he kissed her on the lips ” they became livid with the hue of death; her features appeared to change”(60) and even more strange Freud thought “that i held the corpse of my dead mother in my arms”(60). According the the Oedipus complex Victor has incestuous desires toward his dead mothers body. Victor’s wife is the emotional embodiment of his mother. The father on the other hand, the emotional embodiment of the father that threatens every boy through the Oedipus complex is the creature. As Victor sleeps the creature finds him and tries to communicate with Victor, but Victor instead runs in fear.

Not only is our unconscious manifested through dreams but also our unconscious is manifested through our actions and goals. Victor for example, because of his unconscious sexual desire towards his dead mother, Victor in exchange decided to create life, give life to something inanimate. Which may seem a good idea at first for Victor, and in psychoanalysis probably a good feeling for the unconscious to explore those deep dark thoughts. However once expressed, rejected and looked down upon because of its taboo. Just as Victor had an uncanny, resentful feeling over his wild dream, so did he regret playing god and creating the creature. To beg the question, why would the author give Victor incestuous desires towards his mother?

-David Obeso