Tag Archive: uncanny

Incest on the Brain

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.

The Uncanny Desire

Freud is very known for his theory Oedipus Complex, the development that describes a child’s desire toward their mother or father and develops a sense of jealousy and anger toward the opposite sex. According to Freud it was normal for Victor to become sexually fond of his mother. In his “wildest dream”, the dream shifts from being about Elizabeth who not only is his sister but becomes his lover later in the story which is incest, shifts to being about his mother. “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). Victor is an example of the theory Oedipus Complex. In the novel Mary Shelley is making it seem as if Victor is falling for Elizabeth when in reality he’s falling for his mother. freud

Victor compels himself to fall in love with Elizabeth not only because she’s a representation of his mother, but because in his mind he actually wanted to love her. Knowing she was the only other woman who loved him as much as his mother, Elizabeth was merely a substitute for Victor’s mother. Obsessing over his mother’s corpse may explain why he created the creature as it being part of her, and ending up abandoning the creature the same way his mother did to him when she died.

-Alexuz Bejarano

Mahealani LaRosa

Everyone knows about Sigmund Freud, the founder of psychoanalysis, for his radical and controversial theories about sexuality, dreams, and unconsciousness. One of his most well-known and fought-over theories is the Oedipus Complex, which basically says that as a young child we desire our parent of the opposite sex because of envy or fear or disgust we have of or for the other parent. Freud proposes “the infant boy feels an attraction to his mother” and “look[s] at the father as a rival for the mother and thus as feeling an unconscious desire to kill the father, so as to have the mother to himself” (119). Now focus on that word ‘unconscious’. Freud believes that everyone has unconscious drives and desires, and that the repression of these urges is necessary to function properly and sanely in society. These ideas are expressed in his essay “The Uncanny”, where he says that the uncanny is something that “is not known and familiar” and uses the term uncanny when “discussing things that appear to slip outside of normal perceptions or normal assumptions” (418). If we psychoanalyze Victor Frankenstein, we can immediately see that he is has not fully repressed nor is unconscious of his illicit desires.

Incestuous thoughts are not uncanny to Freud, so Victor loving his cousin Elizabeth whom he affectionately calls ‘sister’ does not come as a surprise. However, Victor does have an uncanny dream where he “saw Elizabeth… imprinted a kiss on her lips, [but] they became livid with the hue of death; her features began to change and… [he] held the corpse of [his] dead mother in [his] arms” (60). Right away we can see signs of Oedipal desire, which once again, Freud does not find uncanny. What is wrong with this dream is that Frankenstein is conscious of it. His desire for his lover turned into a desire for his mother, and his dead mother at that. It makes sense that he would seek adoration from someone like Elizabeth, someone who is similar to his mother in not only her appearance but also in her habits and mannerisms, but it does not make sense that he knows he is doing this because of his desire for his dead mother. The final nail in the coffin is how Victor reacts to his dream, in which he says “a cold dew covered my forehead, my teeth chattered, and and ever limb became convulsed” (60). After a very close reading, one can come to the conclusion that all of these actions have very sexual connotations. Victor is explaining how he has become aroused by the idea of kissing his dead mother. It is obvious this is also causing him some anxiety as well, as he spirals downwards as the novel progresses. However this dream explains a lot about why Victor created the monster. His scientific drive is actually the repressed desire to bring his mom back to life. If he could bring something else perfect and beautiful back to life, then perhaps he could do the same with his mother. When his creature is not seamless and gorgeous as he had hoped, panic overtakes Frankenstein and his defeat and hopelessness are expressed through his dream. Victor knows he has failed, and he knows his maternal desire is wrong. It is like his unconscious is glitching. Parts of it are replaced by Elizabeth and science, but he is conscious that these are just replacements.

Image result for mom in a coffin


The Uncanny Desire

Freud’s theory of the uncanny indicates that most of our desires are buried in our unconscious due to the fact they cause extreme anxiety. According to Freud, these desires continue to impact us dramatically and in the novel Frankenstein Mary Shelley, describes how Victor Frankenstein, “wildest dreams” during that night revealed his true desires for his mother. Frankenstein goes through the phase of the Oedipus Complex where a young child feels the desire to posses the parent of the opposite sex and eliminate the parent of the same sex. Since, young boys can’t have sex with their mothers because it’s disgusting they find a significant other to fulfill the same characteristics as the mother and this is exactly what Victor Frankenstein does with Elizabeth. However, she doesn’t have the same characteristics as his mother so instead of dreaming of kissing Elizabeth deep down in his unconscious he is thinking of his mother.

Consequently, Victor Frankenstein’s wish is to have sex with his mother, but since she is dead he can’t, so he creates this hideous creature who thus symbolizes his mother. One night, he dreams of Elizabeth, his sister/cousin “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” (60). This goes back to the Oedipus Complex because in this dream Victor was happy to see Elizabeth his lover, but when he kissed her he is horrified to see its his own mother. Hence his creation which was supposed to represent his mother ended up as a failure because this creature couldn’t give Victor the desire he was seeking for.


-Guadalupe Andrade

Young Sigmund Freud.jpg

Victor Frankenstein is an individual with uncanny desires. From the determination of creating “the perfect specimen”, to the extent of his sexual desires, undefinable to say the least. Sigmund Freud’s, The Uncanny, posits that the memories since childhood influences the adults’ artistic expression. It intertwines with the themes of the connection between early childhood development and ones’ artistic expression, the psychological mechanisms that are deployed to preserve one knowing too much, and the ramification of the psychic repressions. To connect this with Victor Frankenstein, we analyze promptly with Victor’s “wildest dreams” [60], within the novel.

Victor Frankenstein.JPG

As Victor’s love for Elizabeth is undeniable throughout the novel, we must come the realization that their love is one of an ‘Un-genetic Sexual Attraction’ (uGSA). A term that describes the phenomenon of sexual attraction between close relatives, such as siblings, first and second cousins or a parent and offspring, who first meet as adults. Although the relationship between Victor and Elizabeth in un-genetical, one must know that their interaction amongst one another is of between a brother and a sister. To further expand the incest between the Frankenstein family, his desire for sexual inter-relationship is masked with the marriage between Elizabeth and Victor. Although the wedding was cut short due to the expected actions of the monster; one must realize that the companionship between Elizabeth was solely to hide away similarity of desires Oedipus and Victor share; to have a sexual relationship with their mother.

– Stephen Muñoz

Melanney Giron

According to Sigmund Freud, the uncanny theory reveals much about the understandings of human beings as being essentially determined by their fears and unconscious desires. Freud introduces the reader to the idea of “the double” which was originally an insurance against destruction to the human ego. A reoccurring theme in Freud’s chapter is the fact that he believes people are aware of the operation of the unconscious yet they have a fear of the unknown. He wrote, “something has to be added to what is novel and unfamiliar to make it uncanny,” (218).

In Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein, the main character Victor has a dream resembling a strange Oedipal desire for his dead mother’s corpse. 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). Although to a typical reader, this may just sound like a sad dream about a man who misses his dead mother, but to someone looking at this through the eyes of the uncanny, it is a dream resembling incest and necrophilia.

Victor’s dream about having sexual relations with his dead mother’s corpse had a great influence on his desire to animate a corpse. In Freud’s essay, he refers to Otto Rank’s theme of the “double”, he mentions, “This invention of doubling as a preservation against extinction…is fond of representing castration by a doubling or multiplication of the genital symbol; the same desire spurred on the ancient Egyptians to the art of making images of the dead in some lasting material,” (425). Victor is haunted by his own attempt of recreating and bringing back to life a dead corpse. Shelley wrote, “His jaws opened, and he muttered some inarticulate sounds, while a grin wrinkled his cheeks. He might have spoken, but I did not hear…” (60). Victor’s dream of his mother’s corpse goes hand in hand with Freud’s theme of the uncanny, which is later dispersed throughout Shelley’s novel.

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.


Unfulfilled Wishes

Uncanny according to Sigmund Freud is “discussing things that appear to slip outside of  normal perceptions or normal assumptions.” (418).  An example of Freud’s definition of uncanny can be see through the dream of Victor. In Victor’s dream his unconscious mind is completely exposed as it reveals what is described by Freud as the oedipal complex. According to Freud the oedipal complex is when a child develops sexual attraction to the parent of the opposite sex. In Victor’s dream his repressed thoughts are released, he dreams that Elizabeth’s (sister/cousin) body is his mothers who he grows to have an attraction for. Elizabeth is the closest person to resemble his mother, which is why he believes that to be her. ”  I thought I saw Elizabeth, in the bloom of health… but as I imprinted the first kiss on her lip… her features appeared to change, and I thought that I held the corpse of my dead mother in my arms;” (60). This is representation of the oedipal complex because the son in this case become attracted to the mother. He however cannot change the fact that she is dead, and cannot fulfill his desire. He proceeds to create the monster as a way to fulfill that wish. To fill the void of losing his mother, Victor ultimately creates the monster as a substitute. That plan of his completely backfires as his creation did not meet to his expectations becoming Victor’s biggest regret, the same way that Elizabeth didn’t satisfy being his mother or fulfilling that attraction.

-Dariana Lara

Freud's Couch 2
By Amber Loper
Putting Doctor Frankenstein on the couch is complex, to say the least. It’s difficult to psychoanalyze a fictional character who is entirely the product of another persons imaginings.  It would be more appropriate to use the novel to psychoanalyze Mary Shelley, however fragments of Freud’s methods can be used to pick apart Victor Frankenstein’s dream in the beginning of the novel. His dream is the epitome of what Freud finds “uncanny”. By taking the woman he loves, Elizabeth, and changing her into his dead mothers corpse, there is a frightening reveal from his unconscious. His unconscious is sending him a message at a time in his life when his psyche is really taking a beating. Elizabeth represent the familiar, and comfortable life that he is used to, but when he kisses her and she transforms into his dead mother the comfort turns to fear because it has just been revealed to him what should be kept in his unconscious, secret.

It all leads back to men unconsciously having the desire to sleep with their mothers. Elizabeth reminds Frankenstein of his mother, hence his desire to be with her because it is socially unacceptable to sleep with one’s mother. The dream reveals to him this desire, and he’s frightened by it, because having the unconscious revealed drives men crazy, and once it is revealed, it is impossible to cure the psyche because they have gone mad. Such is the case for Frankenstein who spirals into madness as the novel continues.

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