Tag Archive: Sigmund Freud


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.

 

 

 

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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

 

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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

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According to Freud’s Oedipus Complex, infant boys feel attraction towards their mothers because they associate her with safety and comfort. But they feel a sense of rivalry towards their father because they associate him with threatening to taking away that comfort and safety that is the mother. So they feel the “unconscious desire to kill the father.” However, as they grow older the boy tries to find a way to win over the mother’s love (in a sexual way?) by “identifying” with his father. By doing so his desire to kill his father is repressed and he then grows up to live his adulthood as a heterosexual. As an adult he finds an “object” of replacement—in another woman—to displace the desire he has for his mother. However, if he doesn’t allow for this displacement he ends up becoming a homosexual.

When connecting this theory to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, one wonders how could these two possibly be connected? Well, on page 60 we see a hint of this since Victor describes the way he slaved over his experiment and the aftermath of doing so and what that reveals to himself. Just as others have said, in my own personal opinion I think Victor has a thing for the “forbidden.” To cement this statement, we go to the obvious example, Victor’s aspiring experiment is to bring to life a dead corpse of which he crafted to be the “perfect human being.” However, when his “perfect human” is brought to life he shuns it and disregards it acting as if it is the vilest thing he has ever seen. This shows that not only does Victor like to test the limits of life, but he enjoys playing around with dead bodies if and only if they are dead.  Which leads to my next point, when Victor has the dream about Elizabeth who turns into his deceased mother it goes to show that he in fact plays into Freud’s Oedipus Complex theory. Elizabeth who represents the “object” of replacement turns into his mother meaning that he must feel some kind of attraction towards her. And the fact that he wakes from the dream in horror with all kinds of ailments means that he knows there is something wrong with what he dreamed about. He knows that the fact that there is something wrong with the fact that the one living thing that he desires turns into desire for the dead thing he has unconsciously repressed. Therefore, by reanimating a corpse he is trying to justify that repressed desire for his dead mother. Basically, he is a necrophiliac due to repressed feelings for his mother that emerged when he was an infant and didn’t go away even after she died, uncanny isn’t it?

-Laura Mateo Gallegos

Tania De Lira-Miranda

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While attending to Elizabeth, who had been infected by scarlet fever, Victor’s mother catches the diseases and dies in her bed, though not without Victor and Elizabeth by her side. “I regret that I am taken from you; and, happy and beloved as I have been, is it not hard to quit you all… I will endeavour to resign myself cheerfully to death and will indulge a hope of meeting you in another world.” (49) Caroline tells the two before passing away peacefully. While Victor claims that the reason he wants to create a new human race because it would benefit humankind, the actual reasons seems to be pride; he wants to be the one who finds a way to cheat death. “A new species would bless me as its creator and source; many happy and excellent natures would owe their being to me… I thought that if I could bestow animation upon lifeless matter, I might in process of time (although I now found it impossible) renew life where death had apparently devoted the body to corruption.” (57) But looking at the dream Victor has in page 60, it seems that his mom, and possible his desires for her, is part of the reason why he actually wanted to reanimate a corpse.

In the beginning, Victor’s dream seems to start off with no weirdness in sight. Afterall all he sees is “Elizabeth, in the bloom of health, walking in the streets of Ingolstadt” (60) and it is after this that his dream begins to do a 180. He hugs dream Elizabeth and as he gives her a kiss on the lips, “[her lips] 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) It is when worms appear in his mother’s body that he suddenly awakens in a cold sweat. An obvious thing to point out about the dream is that while Victor is kissing Elizabeth, his mother suddenly appears in the latter’s place and seeing as Elizabeth is his love interest, it can be assumed that the reason for this switcheroo would be because subconsciously, Victor has romantic feelings for his mother and that this relates to Freud’s idea of return of the repressed, which Parker describes as “repressed drives [that] can pop back up in the form of neurotic symptoms, disguised representation of unconscious desire.” (120, second edition). His (repressed) desire for his mother came out while he was dreaming (unconscious). As it was partly due to his mother that Elizabeth became a part of the Frankenstein family, and later Victor’s fiancée,  there was no wonder why, in his dream, Elizabeth turned into his mother. Although, Victor continues to try to repress this desire as when he wakes up “with horror; a cold dew covered my forehead, my teeth chattered, and every limb became convulsed” (60). Instead of recognizing that he desires his mother, he tries to play it off as a bad dream instead of a sign that he has romantic feelings for her.

In the novel, it is in chapter 3 that Victor’s mother dies, chapter 4 is where he gets the idea to reanimate a corpse and it is in chapter 5 that he actually does so. It is said explicitly by Victor himself that the reason he wants to be able to bring the dead back to life is so that death can be cheated and it is implied that the reason he wants to cheat death is that he can bring his mother back to life and be with her once more.

Momma’s Boy Forever

Sigmund Freud’s theory of “the uncanny” is presented in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein through Victor Frankenstein’s Oedipal desires in his “wildest dream” (Shelley 60). Victor Frankenstein has a vivid dream in which his beloved Elizabeth turns into the corpse of his deceased mother as he kisses her. The description of Victor’s feelings within the dream, while also illustrating his shock at seeing the transformation, hints at his lust for his mother. The passage is loaded with sexual imagery, like “the grave worms crawling in the folds of the flannel” alluding to vaginal intercourse and the “cold dew [that] covered [Victor’s] forehead” like the ejaculate released from the head of a penis (60), demonstrating the level if intimacy Victor unconsciously wants to have with his mother. More importantly, this reveals the reason for his fixation on creating life and the monster. He wants to give life to the monster the same way his mother gave life to him. In doing so, Frankenstein also gives life to his mother through memory by dedicating creation of the monster to her and literally giving her life in his dream through his ejaculation into her. This is the result of what Freud calls the “Oedipus Complex.” The Oedipus Complex claims every man is attracted to their mother since infancy and strive to develop a relationship with a woman reminiscent of their mother, since the mother is already taken by their father.

While the idea of a person, especially an infant, being attracted to their parent may be a strange concept for people to, it is not uncanny to Freud. Freud views it as normal and crucial to the social development of the child innate in all “normal” heterosexual humans. Therefore, it is canny, at least in a Freudian context, because of its rationality and existence in the unconscious. Freud writes in his essay “The Uncanny” that something is uncanny “because it is not known and familiar” (Freud 418), meaning it diverges from the common perception held of it while also abiding by it. The uncanniness in the scene that causes Victor to awake in fear is the uncanny appearances of his dead mother and his continued attraction to the corpse. In his dream, Victor’s mother is not fully human. She is no longer human because she no longer has a pulse and is decomposing, but her features indicative of a human gives the feeling that she could potentially have life and is simply not engaging at the moment. The case is the same for Frankenstein’s monster because he has human traits and body part but his deformities give the impression that he is an undead monster at the same time. Because of the uncanny appearance of his mother their relationship becomes uncanny as well. Victor is still attracted to his mother, which is seen as acceptable under the following of the Oedipus Complex. However, now that she is a corpse, she is no longer the same mother Victor fell for. Nevertheless, she also is because she is literally Victor’s first and continued love and is the same body and being. He finds comfort in his love for his mother while also dreading that he loves a corpse.

-Wendy Gutierrez

Sigmund Freud’s theory of the uncanny can be seen through Victor Frankenstein’s “wildest dream,” in which he saw his cousin Elizabeth and “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” (60).

In Freud’s theory of the uncanny, he explains the Oedipal desire, as infant boys feel an attraction to their mother, seeking his mother’s love and thus displacing this desire for their mother with another woman who is similar to his mother, after sensing that an attraction to the mother is uncanny. Furthermore, Freud’s idea of the return of the repressed explains that repressed feelings, (in Victor’s case, those of his mother) can appear in the form of dreams, because sleep relaxes the repressions and allows the impulses of the unconscious to pop up in dreams. However, these dreams may not always present the unconscious ideas directly, because there still remains a compromise between impulse and repression. Freud’s idea of repetition compulsion explains that people deal with their repressed feelings through the replacement or creation of similar, yet less uncomfortable things or processes.

Victor’s wildest dream exposes his Oedipal desire and the return of the repressed. Although Victor was “delighted” to embrace and kiss Elizabeth, she quickly turns into the corpse of his dead mother, evidently revealing that his desire is truly for his mother’s corpse, and Elizabeth is the mere compromise between his impulse and repression. His desire for his dead mother is clearly repressed because he reacts from this dream “with horror; a cold dew covered my forehead, my teeth chattered, and every limb became convulsed” (60). Because Elizabeth however, is alive, she cannot accurately fulfill these uncanny, repressed desires. Therefore, repetition compulsion comes in and reveals the relation between Victor’s desire to animate a corpse, in order to replace his repressed and rooted desire for his dead mother. Thus, the theme of desire in the novel is highlighted through Freud’s psychoanalyst theory of the uncanny.

-Serena Ya

Loss is a prominent and central figure within Victor’s life, a thought worth mentioning as it could very well be the reason that he finds himself immersed in the work of animating a lifeless corpse. That being said, Sigmund Freud’s ideas and philosophy become present within the passage on page 60 as Victor experiences a disturbing dream about his mother and Elizabeth, much like that of Freud’s Oedipal desire. In the Oedipal desire, Freud recognizes the importance of a mother relationship, however in this case, a relationship that isn’t maternal.

In the dream, he begins with the company of Elizabeth, a woman he refers to as his cousin, yet later marries. He is nothing but affectionate toward her and within what seems to be just a second, the image of Elizabeth is then replaced with his mother. Such a transformation, in the eyes of the Freud philosophy, can easily be seen as an implication of Victor’s inappropriate desire for his mother. In this case, Victor’s mother and Elizabeth are a lot alike as his mother was one of Elizabeth’s most prominent influencers. In other words, they share personality traits that are similar if not exactly alike and many would say that their resembling characteristics could be the reason that Elizabeth is replaced by his mother in the dream. However, those of the Freud philosophy would argue the opposite. They would argue that instead of his mother being an accidental replacement for Elizabeth, Elizabeth was an unconsciously intentional replacement for his mother.

Complexity and the relevance of Freud’s philosophy continues to make itself more obvious through the novel’s text as many would go on to say that his desire for his mother is also represented through his obsession for bringing the creature to life. Subtle symbols such as this sprinkle themselves across the novel, and the elements of Freud’s philosophy perceives them to be rather unsuitable and improper representations of Victor’s unconscious attachment to his mother.

-Kaylin Insyarath

 

By: Katherine Hernandez

Sigmund Freud imposed the idea that as humans of two genders we are biologically inclined to desire our parents of the opposite sex this is otherwise known as the Oedipal desire. That is to say that as a male you would desire your mother and then perhaps settle for a wife that imitates your mother’s mannerisms and possibly even looks like her; the same goes for females. Thus, in Frankenstein when we stumble across Victor’s vivid dream which was composed of his lover, Elizabeth decomposing into the corpse of his mother once he kisses her, Sigmund Freud’s ideology of dreams begs to question Victor’s truest desires and his manifestations of these desires. Victor’s startling dream sheds light to the fact that perhaps Victor truly wanted to live his life loving of his mother. Freud suggests Victor’s primal desire was to be romantically involved with his mother, as his unconscious self-suggests. As we know, however, he was never able to fulfill this desire thus fueling his need for filling this gap in his life. This is how his creation was born. Victor sought the deep longing of his heart unconsciously when he brought his ideal form of beauty back to life. Perhaps Victor viewed his creation as a prototype if he was able to fully bring this creation to life with no repercussions, then he would also be able to bring back his beloved mother and fulfill his of the Oedipal desires. This explains Victor’s interest with scholarly subjects and even the themes of life and death the book suggests. Victor was fueled his whole life to somehow end up with his mother; whether it be by marrying a woman who assembled her as close as possible or by bringing her back from the dead. When unable to reach either faced his ultimate demise.

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For next week’s blog post (Monday 3/18), answer the following questions from a psychoanalytic perspective, using Freud’s idea of the uncanny double or Lacan’s theory of the mirror stage:

What does the creature see when he looks into a reflecting pool of water (p. 104, 118)?  Why is he so disgusted of his self-image if, ultimately, he wants others to overlook his physical deformity?

 

 

For inspiration, students can recall my graphic in-class drawing of Victor Frankenstein’s “wildest dream,” what Freud would call an uncanny return to his unconscious childhood desire before the Oedipal stage: to have sex with his phallic mother, an incestuous desire displaced from Elizabeth (his “cousin-sister”), to his dead mother, and finally to the hideous monster (the double).  Wow, this novel has some serious psychological trauma (or maybe this image reflects my disturbed transference!!!).

Students can learn from this image about the importance of taking the time to do a close reading, how to base your interpretation on key words, phrases, images, motifs, and symbols.  Remember, don’t over-intellectualize the novel (that’s a form of repression); instead, think psychoanalytically at the emotional level; in other words, think perversely and pornographically–in the most twisted way–and you will discover the secret of the uncanny.

 

Here’s my explanation for the image below:

Victor’s dead mother folded in the flannel = the binding of the mother in an idealized “safe” form (repression) kills her, displacing the unconscious desire to kill the father onto the mother instead (an “abnormal” Oedipal cycle)

the graveworm = the penis linked with maternal death, thus the phallic mother.  I see a connection between this image and Victor’s recollection of his childhood: a boy bound to his family by a “silken cord”: the biological umbilical cord.

sweaty forehead = the penis forehead in the act of ejaculation, sexual pleasure prior to castration (the uncircumcised penis)

Victor’s sweaty body and convulsing limbs = the son having sex with the mother or, conversely, the phallic mother having sex with her son; incest is not a taboo before the Oedipal stage, thus Elizabeth, Victor’s lover and sister, reverts to maternal love

the moon shining in from the window = the dark, horrible secret of the uncanny has been revealed in the light; the return of the repressed.

the horrible, nameless monster = the uncanny double that reveals the horror of Victor’s secret unfulfilled wish: to have sex with his mother; but he could also symbolize the missing father figure, the super-ego (external observer) that denies incestuous love.  Thus, the creature is a condensation of the mother-father figure, the embodiment of the phallic mother Victor encounters unconsciously in his dream.

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Here’s an inspiring YouTube video on Oedipus veggies, the story of Oedipus told through vegetable actors.  Be warned: this video contains graphic scenes not suitable for vegetable viewers.