Tag Archive: narcissism


Samantha Shapiro

Within Frankenstein, a large focus within the novel revolves around Victor, which cannot be avoided due to the nature of Victor being a primary speaker and self-centered perspective.

We see this through the approach of Justine’s seemingly unfair trial and later execution, in which she doesn’t receive any justice from a justice system. As the focus with Justine’s death is how it relates to Victor, the reader sees how Victor’s inner processes centralize his guilt, creating a situation that he can’t get out of. Victor victimizes himself through Justine’s situation, and we see this through the overall focus of the text. Due to this nature of the excerpt, as well as the nature and connection to William Godwin’s Enquiry Concerning Political Justice, much of the passage appears to respond to core ideals found within Godwin’s work, especially in relation to suffering and the pursuit of humanity.

A primary focus to Godwin is that we have two major duties in order to perpetuate justice for humanity’s happiness: to focus attention to reason and communicate, or bring to light a way to “do justice to our principles,” and to do so peacefully (ECPJ 789-790). Justine, in giving a false confession to murder, did to to “obtain absolution,” but instead entered the courtroom knowing to have lied, but also now in the presence of a system, where “all looked on [her] as a wretch doomed to ignominy and perdition” (F 83). Her suffering in falsely communicating her reason correlates with Godwin’s view of a “tendency towards the equalization of conditions” through the eyes of Victor (ECPJ 791). Victor takes it upon himself and identifies with Justine’s feelings of “ignominy and perdition,” or even feelings of being dishonored due to his pursuits of science. Godwin notes that the followers in the pursuit of knowledge submitted to “servile dedications” and could only escape from this slavery with the “gradual revolution of opinion,” knowing that independence and ease are in reach, but he fails to look onward to other emotions, such as guilt and negative views of being brought to light (ECPJ 792, 793). Frankenstein is a “obsequious” and “servile” follower in character, to both science and his loved ones, and would “spend each vital drop of blood for [their sakes],…spend his life in serv[itude]” (ECPJ 792, F 85). However, the guilt of his pursuit of science and a fear of rejection leads to his guilt in creating, what he sees, as a violent monster. He loses a part of himself, and gains hopelessness when he feels like he isn’t even belonging to other humans, but a creator of a demon-like murderer. Victor sees himself as lost due to having a “never-dying worm alive in [his] bosom, which allowed of no hope or consolation,” or guilt—while Justine can have resignation from suffering in death, his suffering of guilt, a metaphorical “never-dying worm” ate at him constantly due to his regrets in his pursuits (84).

Victor’s fear of castration

In Frankenstein, the monster’s feelings when he sees himself reflected in the water are deeply indicative of displacement and social construction. Psychoanalytic criticism emphasizes the role of the unconscious and the hidden repression inherent in the monster seeing himself in the water. The uncanny conjures up a weird, foreign feeling yet strikingly familiar. Freud’s theory of dream distortion explicates this incident because the monster is actually a projection of Victor Frankenstein himself. The monster is how Victor actually sees himself, beneath all the layers of filtering and the repression. Victor “became fully convinced that I was in reality the monster that I am” and it is only with displacement that Victor can transfer all of his genuine thoughts and desires onto the monster, which is in actuality an artificial conjuration (pg. 104). Seeing his repugnant and grotesque form unmasks the primary narcissism present according to psychoanalytic criticism because the monster, or Victor is the center of his entire world. This incident gives us a glimpse into how Victor feels about himself. Because Victor’s recurring thoughts are omnipotent in his dreams, he sees himself in his truest form when he stares into the water because he observes a primordial beast. This primitive form of identification is emblematic of the uncanny. Victor’s observance induces horror because it’s only within his dreams that his fear of being castrated is exposed. He sees himself bare and the “miserable deformity” that he refers to is actually his castrated body exposed by the water (pg. 104).

While the monster certainly wants others to overlook this deformity, he is so disgusted at his image because that’s how he identifies in his unconscious. Victor has repressed these thoughts and fears about himself to the level that they only show up in his dreams, where Victor becomes the monster. This displaces all of his self-hate onto a creature, which is ostensibly detached but actually very real. Victor wants others to overlook his deprivations and in his dreams, the lack of a penis due to infantile fears. His identification as the monster signifies the identification of the child initially with his father in psychoanalytic terminology, but turns completely when he realizes that his father wants to castrate him. Victor, realizing his repulsive nature in his dreams, has already been castrated but longs to be accepted by his mother so he can ultimately have sex with her. The manifest content of this dream reveals itself because Victor has repressed this fear for so long in his unconscious.