Tag Archive: Freudian Literary Criticism


By Isaac Gallegos Rodriguez

A-drawing-by-Karen-Greenlee-representing-her-mindset-towards-necrophilia

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 Steven Gonzalez

Sigmund Freud’s iceberg model of the human psyche attempts to categorize an individual’s thoughts, actions, and desires as being a product of one of three states in the mind: the ego, the superego, and the id. The id, residing deep within one’s unconscious mind, is a person’s instinctual/biological desires and feelings, the superego, residing both in the deep unconscious as well as the subconscious mind, is a person’s moral barometer, and the ego, lying right beyond the conscious in the subconscious mind, acts as a person’s mediator between one’s desires and one’s moral objectives. Freud uses this model of the psyche as well as what he refers to as the “Oedipal Complex” in order to describe the development of a child’s personality throughout childhood and adolescence. The oedipal complex refers to a group of a person’s feelings which result from their underlying desire to form a romantic relationship with their parent of the opposite sex and a desire to eliminate their parent of the same sex. Freud believed that we all had these primal oedipal desires within us and that most of us merely repressed these desires deep into our unconscious, the id.  In Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Victor Frankenstein exhibits the Oedipal Complex in a dream-which Freud says is where the disguised id manifests itself- where Elizabeth appears and as he leans in to kiss her, his dead mother appears.

This wild dream that represents Victor’s oedipal complex occurs following Frankenstein’s creation of the monster, Victor is repulsed at the sight of his new creation and states “The different accidents of life are not so changeable as the feelings of human nature.”(Shelley 60). This, while not directly referring to Victor’s Oedipal desires, hint at Freud’s description of the id being the biological and instinctive desires which lie deep underneath of a person’s psyche. Next, Victor describes going to sleep in an attempt to forget that which he has just created only to be “disturbed” by Elizabeth within his dream. Victor describes the following events saying, “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.” (Shelley 60). This quote serves as an exemplar for Freud’s solution to the Oedipal complex where the boy- in this case, Victor- still holds affection for his mother but no longer holds a libidinal attraction for her and instead bestows his libidinal affection upon another woman who would act as a substitute to his mother. Victor then describes how he felt great despair and agitation following the animation of his monster, saying, “I remained during the rest of the night walking up and down in the greatest agitation, listening attentively catching and fearing each sound as if it were to announce  the approach of the demoniacal corpse to which I had so miserably given life.”(Shelley 61). This great agitation perhaps symbolizing the internal struggle of the ego within Victor’s psyche attempting to create order between his primal desires-the id-  and his moral objectives-the superego.

This analysis of Victor’s character through the Freud’s psychoanalytic lens and as an exemplar of the Oedipal Complex that resides within all of us, while being unorthodox and outlandish, does allow us to better understand Victor’s internal conflicts more clearly and in a more concrete manner. Moreover, using Freud’s model of the psyche to analyze allows the reader -through seeing Victor’s internal struggles- to empathize with Victor and in turn see the novel from a different perspective rather than see it from the typical point of view: “The creature is more human than Victor, Victor is the real monster of the story.” Ultimately, the novel is much more nuanced than that and reading the novel using different lenses allows us to capture more of that nuance which we so often simplify.

 

oedipus (Frankenstein).jpg

– Mark Acuña

The word uncanny, such a particular and out of the common vocabulary of many Americans. How would one help explain the meaning behind when something is particularly uncanny? Sigmund Freud, a neurologist and founder of psychoanalysis, states in his renown novel The Uncanny, that “uncanny, in discussing things that appear to slip outside of normal assumptions…effects of the unconscious that surprise us and create an effect of uncanniness, because we are unaware of the operation of the unconscious.” (418). Why is this material so relevant to the passage in the novel Frankenstein by Mary Shelly? As critical thinkers, we can make a connection between the passage on Chapter 5, pg. 60 and analyze the thoughts going on through Victor Frankenstein. In the novel Frankenstein, it demonstrates that Victors dream was described as, “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 change, and I thought that I held the corpse of my dead mother in my arms…”. This envision of Victor’s mother seems very repulsive and very confusing for many readers that aren’t too familiar with the psychoanalytical breakdown. The best way to put it is from Sigmund Freud in The Uncanny, he states that “The source of uncanny feelings would not, therefore, be an infantile tear in this case, but rather an infantile wish or even merely an infantile belief. There seems to be a contradiction here; but perhaps it is only a complication.” (425) He also states that “the discovery that whatever reminds us of this inner repetition-compulsion is perceived as uncanny” (427) We can see that Victor Frankenstein see’s his sister as a replacement or for comfort for the absence of his dead mother, wanting to have sexual relation with her and create life. Which also leaves us wondering whether the creation of the “monster” was an attempt of bypassing the thought of falling in love with his mother, and instead create his own – which he ultimately regrets with disgust and horror.

The Monster

Evil eyes

“NOOO! I WILL KILL HIM! WHERE’S MY GUN! GIVE ME MY GUN!” Frankenstein walked to the massive windows of the penthouse. Eyes watering he continually whispered, “He has to die today, he really has to die today.” The pungent smell of lifeless flesh and blood permeated the air. The cold bride of the biochemical scientist lay sprawled across the heart shaped bed. Just a few hours ago he was strolling down the soft sands of Waikiki with his stunning bride. ‘Till death do us apart was not supposed to happen as early as it did. The $100,000 wedding was very posh but Victor didn’t seem very happy. He just seemed on edge to the point that when his best-man tapped his shoulder he almost soiled his pants. Up until now he had been looking over his shoulder but that stopped for a moment. He buried his head into the carcass of his slaughtered wife. That moment quickly faded however and instead of waiting for his pursuer, he became the predator. The fourteen member bridal party stared in disbelief. With bloodshot eyes Victor proclaimed, “I will travel the world until I slit his throat.” Two groomsmen walked over to restrain and calm Victor while the maid-of-honor violently vomited at the sight of her close friend’s frigid body.

The crime scene was swarming with investigators. Outside the resort, helicopter blades were dicing the air and came to halt on the top of the resort. A disheveled Victor paced the crime scene trying to speed up the investigation. He knew who had done it. “It was the monster, I saw him,” he continually repeated. A psychologist and an investigator started to question everyone. The sobs of the bridesmaids made them incoherent so groomsmen were paired up with each maid to help calm them down during the questionings. The investigation kept going for months. In that time, Victor had left and was scouring the island searching for the “monster”. He was convinced that the investigators were looking in the wrong place for the diabolical creature. Everyone had become exhausted but the maid of honor raised her concerns for the helpers at the crime scene. That did not change very much for them however because they were necessary to the advancing of the investigation.

On an uncharacteristically cold day a light bulb went off in the mind of Detective Carolina Walton. She was exploring the Hawaiian Islands when she came across Victor who was still frantically searching for his monster. “Victor!” she said excitedly, “I think I have cracked the case my friend! First though, can you tell me a little bit more about your monster?” Walton led a paranoid Frankenstein to the beach and started listening to the Biochemist’s story. Victor started off talking about his family and his beloved mother who died early in his life. He did not fail to mention all the different people the monster had managed to kill off. Including the poor girl who was blamed for his first murder the evil creature had ended the lives of four people close to Victor. The detective listened pensively and finally, after Frankenstein’s tale, she revealed her findings. “Victor, you killed those people,” she said quietly. And with those words, Victor stood up slowly, stepped into the ocean and unloaded his gun’s bullets into his head.
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                                    The Monster: A Critical Reading by Jon LaName

To be honest, it is difficult to know where to start. Jason Antwi takes the last few pages of Frankenstein, rips them up, and discards it, and then connects it all together. It is best to jump right in to the meaning of this remaking of this portion of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. In his writing, Antwi focuses on the scene where the monster kills Elizabeth and carries the story out to the moment where Frankenstein dies on Walton’s ship. Let us start with the $100,000 wedding. The price has been placed in this story for a reason. While at first it does not make sense, one piece of obvious and extractable information is that Victor would be considered rich. From the Marxist perspective, Frankenstein is a member of the bourgeoisie. The bourgeoisie and proletariat show up again in a portion of the story that makes does not seem to fit the flow. Antwi mentions the hard workers who are suffering working the crime scene but they do not have a voice of their own. This shows a strong Marxist view of the suppression of the proletariat by the bourgeoisie. At the end of this odd portion, Antwi mentions how necessary these workers are to the system or in this case, the investigation. This is where the author shows his personal support for the working class.

Rich

Speaking of the proletariat, it is interesting that the person who speaks on their behalf is the bride’s maid who is arguably the second most important female in a wedding. She brings up the concern of the overworked employees and is almost instantaneously shut down. There is also a scene where the women are unable to keep their emotions in check enough to answer questions so the investigative team relies on a group of men to help move things along. This is an interesting play by Antwi to show the male dominated society. It is also good to note however that the person who ends up solving the case is a female version of Walton. In the end, a female is the one who makes the most important contribution to the case. With this move, Antwi is saying that females are just as capable as the males in a male dominated world.

CSI

Finally, it comes as a surprise when Victor is named as the monster. This is the portion of the story where Sigmund Freud would shine. Before we go back to the big reveal, it is good to remember that Frankenstein says his mother dies when he is young. This means that he never was able to properly attach to his mother so the Freudian relationships could never form. The “monster” Frankenstein keeps bringing back up is his repressed self. That is what Carolina Walton realizes. Victor killing himself parallels the original version in the sense that Victor drives himself to death in an attempt to kill the creature. Much like in the original story, Victor in Antwi’s rendition goes to the end of the Earth mentally and kills himself. He tries to take out his repressed nature and targets his brain, ending both his and his “monster’s” life.