Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein is an 18th century, Gothic text that encompasses monstrosity, abnormality, murder, and madness. Victor Frankenstein, the creator of the monstrous creature, is subconsciously tied to his creation. Throughout the novel, Victor is constantly pursuing his creature in an attempt to stop his murderous rampage. The definition of monstrous is having the frightening or ugly appearance of a monster or a person or action that is inhumanely or outrageously wrong. The first definition of monstrous could be used to describe the creature and the second definition could be used to describe Victor Frankenstein himself. In the nineteenth century monstrosity was a word used interchangeably with mentally insane. Abnormality in the nineteenth century was centered on same-sex desires and homosexuality. Mary Shelley explores the definition of monstrosity in her novel Frankenstein through the descriptions, actions, and underlying, psychological motives of her characters.
Victor Frankenstein’s creature is an imaginary projection of Victor’s own mind. His subconscious is filled with his repressed urges, fears, and desires. These collectively make up his beloved creature that he is disgusted by once he is brought to life. In Freudian psychology one’s subconscious, which contains the mind’s repressed urges, fears, and desires, is called the Ego. The creature is a representation of Victor’s Ego. According to Mary Poovey in her article ““My Hideous Progeny”: The Lady and the Monster”, she clearly states, “Shelley makes the ego’s destructiveness literal by setting in motion the figurative, symbolic character of the monster” (348). Victor becomes obsessed with the idea of bringing life from death. During his time at Ingolstadt, he is isolated and constantly working on his creature. This constant obsessive nature that he becomes stuck in drives his unconscious mind mad. Through his isolation and fascination with the creation of his monster, Victor cuts all ties to his family and friends, which begins his selfish and egotistical behavior. The creature, however, takes these newly found states of mind and puts them into action. Poovey states that Victor Frankenstein’s “benevolent scheme actually acts out the imagination’s essential and deadly self-devotion” (347). This means that the creature takes Victor’s unconscious state of mind and projects them as his own actions. Unbeknownst to Victor, the creature is an extension of his own mind, which has been tainted by isolation and a broken childhood. These two factors are major reasons why Victor’s subconscious urges and desires contain violence to his loved ones. In the beginning of the novel, Victor leaves and breaks relationships with his family and his closest friends, which can be seen as figuratively destroying them, and by the end of the novel Victor’s own creation has been put into actin and has literally murdered them (Poovey 349). Combined with Victor’s subconscious urges, desires, egotism, and selfishness, Shelley creates an evil, yet misunderstood monster of the mind. Mary Poovey suggests, “The imagination, as it is depicted in Frankenstein’s original transgression, is incapable of projecting an irradiating virtue, for, in aiding and abetting the ego, the imagination expands the individual’s self-absorption to fill the entire universe, and, as it does so, it murders everyone in its path” (349). Ultimately, Victor breaks his relationships with his family and friends in order to focus on defying mortality. His success leaves him desolate and alone, which is exactly how the creature has lived his own “life”.
Lars Lunsford agrees with Mary Poovey’s accusation that Victor’s egotism and selfishness begin to take over his mind as he realizes the greatness of his discoveries. Lunsford claims, “Although Victor says he will have to “form [his] own friends” in Ingolstadt, he never does, at least not in the...
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