Tag Archive: unconscious

“Good Science”

Image result for anne mellor mary shelley

Anne Mellors in “A Feminist Critique of Science” is critique through the lens of a perspective of a feminine as she establishes that nature should never be manipulated nor controlled in the scientific field, but instead be mindful and aware when performing experiments. Yet this is not seen in Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein” as Victor Frankenstein oversteps the line between science and nature unconsciously as his ambition and arrogance leads him through this path which leads him to give birth to a life form.

Victor Frankenstein is unconsciously being unjust to “nature” by having a bias towards women. The time period and social context of the story is a great significance. The novel takes place in the 18th century when the idea of “traditional” gender roles was still prevailing, which is reflected as Victor mind never comes across this thought as it is a social norm. The main character, Victor is unconscious about his actions as his focus on his field of study has him occupied as he asserts, “The world was to me a secret which I desired to divine. Curiosity, earnest research to learn the hidden laws of nature, gladness akin to rapture, as they were unfolded to me, are among the earliest sensations I can remember” (Shelley 43). Victor begins with the word “secret”, stating that he was kept away from this information and now has the “desire” obtain and gain this knowledge. The word “divine” is mentioned and usually holds a definition of relating to God, but in the novel, Victor uses the word with the definition of discovery and understanding. Further leading to his mind being occupied with his desire to learn he aware pursues the “hidden law of nature” which Mellors says are that people should be mindful of and not look into the “hidden” as it will lead to a person exceeding to what she calls “good science” and “bad science”. His “earliest sensation” gave him a taste of the physical awareness who he finds with excited and addicted as he goes on to create life with the creature without a thought of the consequences. Here is what Mellor declares that“the scientist who analyses, manipulates, and attempts to control nature unconsciously engages in a form of oppressive sexual politics” (12). Victor then proceeds to create a male creature without being conscious of his action. The sexual politics here is a social norm that is engulfed with a society willing to accept the way women during this time are viewed as inferior when compared to men.

Victors ambitious to have glory is set which sets forward an attempt to be this “God-like” figure with an attempt to control nature. Victor reveals that “if I could banish disease from the human frame and render man invulnerable to any but a violent death!” (Shelley 47) Proclaiming that he will then alter nature itself which Mellor is firmly against. The creature holds a representation of how he was able to make “man invulnerable” as he brings pieces of human part back to life. Therefore, he does succeed in manipulating “nature” and becomes a form of a “God”. He uses a jubilant tone to assert that he will personally accomplish this and have an everlasting effect on humanity. Because of the success of his experiment, he will accelerate evolution which is supposed to happen over a time, he is able to have an organic life form and have a sexual selection. The penetration of nature leads him to give life in an unusual more way rather than the pure way which is a mother giving birth. Upon him giving life to a creature he eliminates the female role in sexual reproduction and now is controlled by a male. The female will, therefore, be cast aside and no longer have any control over what is supposed decision made by two people. Asserting man as the dominant gender.

Levit Martinez

– Mark Acuña

The story of Frankenstein, written by Mary Shelly demonstrates that not only depicts the very imagery and uncanny likeness of the enlightenment era during the 18th century does, but it also shows that a novel can be set around “male” characters and still be centered around a women roles and gendered imagery. Renown Professor of English Literature and Women’s Studies at UCLA – Anne K. Mellor states that viewing the novel Frankenstein through a Feminist’s perspective shows the ideal intention of what Victor Frankenstein was trying to accomplish in when he created the “monster”. Anne Mellor states that Mary Shelly clearly portrayed Victor “as the embodiment of hubris, of that Satanic or Faustian presumption which blasphemously attempts to tear asunder the sacred mysteries of nature.”

One of Victor Frankenstein’s first encounters of science and the spark in his interest was on page 47, where at the age of fifteen he encountered a shock of lightning that grew his curiosity of natural laws of electricity and galvanism. He believes that mastering the arts of recreating life without the process of birth could improve life with his creation of another species. In Victor Frankenstein’s desire to be just like his mother, he unconsciously chooses his role as a woman and decides to create a male “monster” that self reflects himself. Victor then goes on to neglect it, just the same as his father did when mentioning his desire for alchemy. Something that both Mellor and Alphonse Frankenstein have in common is that they both believe that the natural science should be left alone and untouched.

Victor’s Uncanny Desires

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


Till Death Do Us Part

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


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.

Rilee Hoch

The connection between Victor’s “wildest dream” and his uncanny, unconscious are both strong and highly disturbing. Victor, like most human beings, starts out in a state of polymorphous perversity. He feels deep attraction to his mother and is jealous and hateful towards his father, yet whilst he is still developing his mother dies. Because of her death Frankenstein develops his own unique Oedipus complex but in a way Freud could have ever predicted, he becomes a necrophiliac. He still has the desire to be nurtured and to have sexual intercourse with his mother, but because she has died it transforms into a lust for her dead corpse. Like most Oedipus males he tries to find a replacement for his mother with a woman who looks just like her, that replacement is Elizabeth. Yet, as we seen his dream (60) as he goes to embrace her she turns from alive into the corpse of his mother so he wakes up with a start, and for good reason. His superego is attempting to save him from the revelation of his deep desire from his unconscious, because that desire must remain repressed in order for him to avoid loosing his mind. These wishes are only allowed out, as Freud has theorized, in dreams. The creature here then represents his true desire the uncanny, and his attempt to fulfill his sexual need with Elizabeth proves to be a failure and does not satisfy. She fails mainly because she is a living person and he is conscious of her, for example when he willingly goes to kiss her.

Image result for morgue

Frankenstein set out to make a beautiful corpse which might have given him the sexual satisfaction he so needed, but when it comes to life it turns into a monster in his eyes. This reversion is because the final living and conscious creature is not what he wants in his unconscious. It cannot be beautiful if it is alive because his idea of beauty comes from his dead mother. Frankenstein cannot face his desire which is why when he wakes up and see his creation there he runs away, he cant handle his own ego, if it is reveled to him like it is through the monster he will loose his sanity. We see his mental degeneration throughout the novel, every time he sees the creature and his repressed thoughts are resurfaced, he slips further into insanity. He gets upset because it is a reminder of his most deep and twisted lust and his conscious self is unable to handle that truth. Latter in the novel Frankenstein is still holding onto to the useless hope that Elizabeth can make him feel complete so he marries her, but the creature reminds him that on his wedding day he will be there (146). He cannot comprehend what that means in his conscious mind. When the creature comes and murders her however, he looses his mind. The Creature’s murder of Elizabeth symbolizes his desire for a dead woman and his attraction is revealed when he expresses deep love for her only after she’s dead. This same thing occurs when his best friend Henry Clerval dies. These deaths send Frankenstein into fits of insanity because he cannot express his emotion and his strange unconscious tries between love and death that have been a part of him since his childhood.

Freud’s theory of the uncanny is that things are strangely familiar to us and pop up unexpectedly from deep within our unconscious. In Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, Victor has “the wildest dream” (pg.60). His dream consists of many things happening at the same time. This scene is foreshadowing Elizabeth’s death, which comes later in the story when she is killed by the creature. Victor created the creature the same night he has this dream. Elizabeth is Victor’s sister/cousin and lover, “I saw Elizabeth, in the bloom of health,… Delighted and surprised, I embraced her; but as I imprinted the first kiss on her lips, they became livid with the hue of death” (pg.60). He is happy to see Elizabeth because she is the love of his life but is horrified when death overcomes her and she turns into the corpse of his dead mother (pg. 60). This connects to the Oedipal complex that is when young boys are attracted to their mothers and desire them. But since the young boys cannot have their mothers they find other people who have the same characteristics as their mothers and marry them. Elizabeth could not fulfill this for Victor that is why he dreams about kissing his dead mother. Elizabeth does not have the same characteristics as Caroline Frankenstein, but since it was Caroline’s dying wish that both of them should get married Victor convinced himself that he had to love Elizabeth, but deep down in his unconscious he did not.

After his mother’s death, Victor becomes obsessed wth corpse and is a reason why he creates the creature; to bring back a part of his mother with the new creation. The theme of ultimate loss is illuminated in this book and how each person takes loss differently. Victor creates a new person when losing his mom. When losing Justine, Elizabeth and her family are sad but quickly get over it because Justine was not that significant in their life, even though they claimed she was.

-Marycarmen Nieto

by Alex Luna

Freud’s theory of the uncanny preaches of our “unconscious desires” including but not limited to wanting to have sex with your parents and wanting to murder people on sight. In relation to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, we can see major components of Freud’s theories through Victors short but memorable dream sequence. This scene reveals how Victor’s motivations in creating the creature lie in his unconscious sadness of the loss of his mother, motivating him to create the ultimate breakthrough in science to make up for his ultimate loss in life.

Victor, disgusted after creating the creature, decides to go to sleep. In his dream, he “saw Elizabeth, in the bloom of health, walking in the streets of Ingolstadt.” The phrase “in the bloom of health” is interesting here, because it reveals what Victor notices about her. Not her clothes, not the fact that she is there, but the fact that she is healthy, is what matters to him. This represents the ideal of beauty to Victor, and to probably most people, a healthy individual.  This immediately comes crashing down for him however, in the following lines. As Victor goes in to kiss her she “became livid with the hue of death…and I thought I held the corpse of my mother.” Here is where we begin to see Freud’s theories of the unconscious be reflected through Victor. Freud believed that dreams were a window into the unconscious desires of man, and through this moment we can see Victors unconscious desires take form. Victor’s mom had practically no impact on his life, so for what seemed like Elizabeth to transform into his mom’s corpse is interesting, because it reflects Freud’s theories of how men unconsciously desire their own mothers from a young age. While Victor didn’t really have a relationship with his mother, he still unconsciously desires a mother figure, as it was his ultimate loss in life. Since he has experienced the loss of a loved one through death, he now sees “blooming health” as an object of beauty, or immortality. Now, he wants to make up for his ultimate loss, by attaining the ultimate breakthrough in science to create life. Victor then depicts a “shroud enveloped her form, and I saw the grave worms crawling in the folds of the flannel.” This description is a complete contrast from the description with Elizabeth, so it shows how Elizabeth in a way has fulfilled the mother role that Victor always unconsciously desired. Unfortunately for Victor, his motivations become his undoing, because his “ultimate creation” becomes another form of torment for him. Freud’s theories of the uncanny end up being echoed through Victor’s dream and actions, unconsciously due to his desire to have a mother figure which results in Victor having his strong ambition.


Reality and Illusion

The creature in Frankenstein represents the primitive, backwards, and ostensibly “Oriental” figure, which remains alien to the Eurocentric, Christian “West”. The creature, however, is merely a displacement of Victor’s desires and thoughts about himself.

Through the layers of filtering in the novel, the creature can be representative of Victor’s identification as the savage Asiatic woman. By projecting these Eurocentric, westernized thoughts onto a subaltern creature, which is in fact only a figment of his imagination, Victor can escape internalizing his inferiority and avoid becoming conscious of his status as an “other” amidst enlightened, rational society. Victor feels not merely oppressed, but also voiceless in his own life and this forces him to identify as a foreign colonized woman. His adoption of Edward Said’s binary opposition allows him to place himself into the “Western” structuralist category and escape his inner, oriental nature. This displacement blurs the distinction between reality and illusion, as Victor’s illusory creature is in reality his skewed thoughts and inferiority complex manifesting in latent content. By defining himself in opposition to everything he has been taught is lesser and backwards, Victor can avoid the cultural multiplicity that characterizes relations between the colonizer and the colonized. The education that the creature receives from Felix is Victor recounting the Eurocentric cultural and historical narrative he received, which he believes is fallacious. However, he can’t outwardly deny this and identify with the oriental, paradigmatic “other” so this creature allows him to avoid being an outsider and gives him the ability to break free of these shackles.

When Victor sees himself, beneath all of the layers of filtering and repression, he even says that he “became fully convinced” that he “was in reality the monster”. It is only by artificially conjuring a monster and displacing all of his genuine thoughts and desires onto it that he can avoid how he really feels about himself. This uncanny feeling is so foreign yet strikingly familiar, precisely the relationship that the monster has to Victor. The “miserable deformity” that the monster witnesses is in fact Victor’s castrated body exposed by the water, and this fear of castration that Victor represses sheds light on his identification as a foreign, colonized, subaltern woman who obviously does not have a penis (104).

Through this avoidance, Victor can displace these thoughts onto a monster that typifies the subaltern, foreign woman in his unconscious and ultimately, he can avoid self-hatred and can continue to perpetuate the Eurocentric, colonialist discourse that he internally abhors. 

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.