Roots of the Frankenstein Complex

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  • Topic: Frankenstein, Science fiction, Alchemy
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  • Published : December 10, 2012
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Fırat Ender Koçyiğit
Professor: Duygu Serdaroğlu
TDE 396
December 10, 2012
Frankenstein Complex: Origins
“I ought to be thy Adam, but I am rather the fallen angel...” Mary Shelley, Frankenstein Mankind differs from other species by being intelligent. Intelligence and creativity allows humans to survive despite their relatively inferior physical attributes. Besides these benefits, being intelligent has also inspired fear. Humanity has always been afraid of being the creator of its own end. This phobia can be seen in ancient texts as well as modern science fiction works. Mary Shelley’s masterpiece, Frankenstein, is one of most known examples uses this theme. Isaac Asimov, who is known by his contribution to science fiction genre with his novels and new ideas about synthetic humans, even named the fear of artificial man after Frankenstein novel; Frankenstein complex. Despite the fact that it is named after Frankenstein, the fear of artificial human has existed before 1818; it was even present before the stormy days of Industrial Revolution and Enlightenment Age. In this piece of work, it is aimed to track the roots of Frankenstein complex to its origin by examining various myths and tales, determine the main cause of this fear and find Mary Shelley’s source of inspiration.

Oedipus and Ancient Mythology
Oedipus complex can be considered as the earliest form of fear of being destroyed by one’s own creation. Oedipus complex takes its name from the protagonist of Sophocles well known tragedy Oedipus Rex. In this tragedy, King Laius’ is murdered by his own son and this event raises the anger of gods, thus causes the destruction of Kingdom of Thebes. Freud explains Oedipus complex in "The Material and Sources of Dreams": “His destiny moves us only because it might have been ours — because the Oracle laid the same curse upon us before our birth as upon him. It is the fate of all of us, perhaps, to direct our first sexual impulse towards our mother and our first hatred and our first murderous wish against our father. Our dreams convince us that this is so.” (Freud, p. 296)

To Freud, every son has a rebellious instinct against his father. It can be said that just like this lethal father – son relationship, every created being has an inevitable destiny to confront his/her creator. Mythologies from the every corner of the world have a tale of creation going rogue. According to Mesopotamian myths, Tiamat, primordial goddess of chaos and oceans, is killed by an alliance of her daughter and sons under the leadership of the storm god Marduk. In the far North of the world, Vikings believed that Midgård (means “Middle World” in ancient Norse tongue, it is assumed that Midgård was where the mankind live and the middle one of the nine worlds) was created from the corpse of the giant Ymir, who is murdered by three gods he unintentionally created. Killing or maiming the father is a recurrent motif in Ancient Mythology. Kronos gilds his father Oranos in a conspiracy with his mother, Gaia. Later, he falls victim to Zeus’ (his own son) plot. These tales are not exclusive to ancient beliefs. Modern Abrahamic faiths also have the creation-gone-wrong motif. According to the classical genesis story in Judaism, Christianity and Islam, the God is challenged by his own creation, Satan. Satan tries to overthrow the God after the God’s decision on creating the mankind displeases him. Considering all these myths, tales and beliefs one can’t himself or herself to ask a question: Why? Why nearly all these attempts to create another living and rational being end with a catastrophe? The answer varies. In the perspective of literature studies, the explanation is pretty much clear. All the stories need to include a struggle for keeping up the tension. Since the God, whether he is an omnipotent and omniscient being or just a deity with humane emotions and...
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