The Monster Within Us: Freud And Frankenstein

2221 words - 9 pages

The relationship between Frankenstein and his monster can be used as a metaphorical map to understanding Sigmund Freud's conception of the "super-ego," or in other words, the human sense of guilt and conscience. Frankenstein's sense of guilt develops around the violent, aggressive way he creates his monster. The monster causes the ripples of guilt to grow by causing him to fear losing his love ones, losing his source of protection, and punishment for his sins. After it is fully developed, Frankenstein's guilt and the monster's overshadowing presence serves as guides for understanding how the super-ego works to punish a soul through a constantly aggressive, nagging feeling of anxiety. Viewing Frankenstein through Freudian lenses as well is George V. Griffith a professor of English and Philosophy at Chadron College in Nebraska, he points out in his critical evaluation of the novel that "Victor and the monster are the same person" (3).

The central idea surrounding Freud's notion of the super-ego is that guilt begins to become developed as a result of a violent, outward aggression that eventually turns inwards to punish a person from the inside. Frankenstein's problem with the monster, or in other words, the basis of his sense of guilt, begins with the aggressive, horrifying way in which he creates him. He works day and night, battling "incredible labor and fatigue"(38), to try and realize the "desire of the wisest men since the creation of the world"(37). Frankenstein thought he was doing a service by creating a new human. He says, "A new species would bless me as its creator and source; many happy and excellent natures would owe their being to me. I might in process of time renew life where death had apparently devoted the body to corruption"(38). This quote shows insight into Frankenstein's state of mind, how he had built up his own ego thinking that he would be revered by the creatures he creates. It makes Frankenstein like a human god. He spends his nights digging through the graveyard for the parts for his creation, working in a dark laboratory that is covered in rank odor and filth. Frankenstein's surroundings reflect an abnormal, unhealthy desire that becomes an obsession to create this monster. His intensely aggressive drive results in a disproportionate being, displaced from society, created from the resistless and almost frantic impulse that controls him. Frankenstein's memory of how horrid this situation had made him act serves as the cornerstone of his sense of guilt from the moment the monster begins to live, and he begins to slide into despair as the aggression that had been directed toward the creation of the monster turns inward to punish him.

After his creation, the monster serves as a metaphorical guide to the development of the super-ego by first revealing all of Frankenstein's fear that lead up to the creation of his overwhelming sense of guilt. The first of these is a fear of the loss of love. According to Freud,...

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