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A Freudian Analysis of Frankenstein Essay


The desire to succeed interferes with being happy. A person can get lost in the process of solving a problem so intently that they forget those around them, to eat and even where they are. In Mary Shelley's horrific Frankenstein an example is the character of Victor, whose unnatural pursuit of knowledge, of discovering how to create the perfect being, is so extreme that he loses himself in his creation. Frankenstein follows the story of the brilliant Victor and his many achievements, which go astray after he brings to life a creature in order to sate his own curiosity about the "mysteries" of life. It becomes difficult to picture Victor as a human being because he attains in-human qualities like the ability to go countless hours without eating and his loss of affection for others. In "Civilization and Its Discontents" by Sigmund Freud, the theory of beauty prevailing over society keeps the message of valuing something for more than its worth within the context of the monster's suffering. Victor the man had a surrounding happiness but Victor the monster searched for a greater destiny by first bringing the dead back to life and second rejecting his creation. Freud argues that happiness comes from basic instinctual impulses more easily than with an artist's creation or science; Victor is a character struggling to obtain happiness and, therefore, is a monster because he went beyond humanity in making the perfect being, ignoring his family, and because he abandoned a living thing after he created it.

Freud argues that happiness can be attained from the achievement of physical labors, if it is put in the right perspective while Victor's ability to create leads to him unavoidably becoming a monster. This idea of the monster stems from his lack of human emotion when it comes to how he treats someone, not some "thing" that he created. Victor's desire to create the monster is in-human because in coming to terms with an extreme happiness that he can attain from solving a large problem he lost his sense of what is real. He forgot about his already-happy life because as Freud explains, "One gains the most if one can sufficiently heighten the yield of pleasure from the sources of physical and intellectual work" (Freud 28). Victor was fooling himself in thinking that he could achieve a great happiness by putting all his time and energy into his work when he already had a "heightened yield of pleasure" from his friends. Victor was replacing being happy with his family with the notion of work, gesturing at separation anxiety, which reflects the monsters' feelings when the monster is displaced by society. The monster promotes victor as the villain when it says, "...soon the bolt will fall which must ravish from you your happiness forever" (Shelley 158). This shows Victor as the cunning man, who makes false promises. He had pursued the creation of the monster and found a ghost happiness in it but when it came to acting responsible for his creation, he became a monster, worried more by the appearance of the monster than how the monster felt about being abandoned. Victor tries to reflect on the monsters loneliness but comes back to his hideousness, which is an ironic twist because Victor's intention was to create "the perfect being."

Freud places an emphasis on order in society and how it reflects an idea of how people act. What makes Victor the ever bigger monster is that his own philosophy for order and beauty were not taken into account in the creation of the monster. In his studies Victor is proficient, straight to the rules and astute. However, in choosing "parts" for his creation, he is suspect to crimes like stealing limbs from the dead and ignoring the laws of nature. Freud argues, "That civilization is not exclusively taken up with what is useful is already shown by the example of beauty, which we decline to omit from among the interests of civilization" (Freud 47). Victor was following the interests of the people in order to create what would be most appealing, but failed to realize that what is most appealing about others is that, although they are unique, they are also not perfect. Victor is a monster for setting out to extract beauty from nature without realizing that beauty was all around him and because he lied to his family about the monster's existence when he could have warned them about him ahead of time. Instead, he tells the story to a stranger on a boat after he has lost everything. An example of his own take on being orderly comes from his advice to his traveling friend, "If your wish is to become really a man of science and not merely a petty experimentalist, I should advise you to apply to every branch of natural philosophy, including mathematics" (Shelley 34). Victor felt that his life was "too" perfect and decided to be less orderly in creating the monster and in doing so becoming a monster himself by creating a barrier between him and his "work." He applied himself to "every branch" of the monster but not every feature of the monster. He wasn't, for example, an attractive eight-foot man. He solved the puzzle of life only to be tormented by the tribulations of his monster living in it.

Mimicking this monstrous behavior, Freud argues that society imposes certain norms of the orderly that people have to follow. Victor's addiction to the scientific world is what supports the idea of him being a monster. It was society that led him to become this monster because society encouraged that outward notion of solving these unknown mysteries. It was also Victor's own rebellious nature in that he followed the ideas of scholars which his professor's had advised against. Freud says about civilization: "No feature, however, seems better to characterize civilization than its esteem and encouragement of man's higher mental activitieshis intellectual, scientific and artistic achievementsand the leading role that it assigns to ideas in human life" (Freud 47). Victor believed he was a great scientific mind that would receive countless awards for his work in the solving of the mysteries of life but life should remain a mystery. It is ignorance to think that by creating life, against the rules of nature, its importance can be augmented and that this new life can be directed as he saw fit. It's this idea of society to push people into the edge of brilliance that makes them monsters, who don't eat and fall into disrepair in the dark corners of a room, as they scan graves and funerals for "extra" parts. Victor said, "...I will pioneer a new way, explore unknown powers, and unfold to the world the deepest mysteries of creation" (Shelley 33). This shows his passion for the unknown and a part of his rebellious nature in that he wants to be a "pioneer" of innovation. He wants to stand out as the greatest mind of his era, thereby showing his beastly side, which is taking over his reasoning. He wanted to create someone so badly that he didn't take into account the results of his creation. Immediately, after the monster came to life, Victor became a different kind of monster in that he ignored his creation and fell into a double-life where he was living in reality but thinking mostly about his "mistake." He "unfolded" to the world the mystery of a creation which only pursued the happiness that was denied to Victor. Also, part of Freud's idea of civilization augmenting new developments, soars at the climax of the creation in that immediately after it was created, Victor lost all interest in it like a one night stand. It was Victor the monster, who thought only of creating and not of what he was creating, that points him out as a man of ideas who considered others only after his own work was finished.

Victor follows a pattern of monstrous behavior. Freud argues on behalf of the monster because he interprets Victor's refusal to let the monster have a companion as a part of being mildly content. Victor convinces the real monster that he's going to build this new "companion" for him yet decides not to after considering reasoned ramifications at the costs of the lives of others he loves. Freud argues, "When any situation that is desired by the pleasure principle is prolonged, it only produces a feeling of mild contentment" (Freud 25). Victor is a monster in that he let's his own family die at the hands of the monster in order to make himself not look foolish after refusing to build the monster a woman-monster and to content himself with what is just in his eyes. Victor even travels for some time with his friend Clerval, ignoring his promised task to the monster in order to avoid further suffering. He seeks happiness with Elizabeth but doesn't realize his own creation's cunning. He's correct in blaming himself because he could have warned his family about the monster but it was his desire for the orderly or Freud's principle of delaying suffering that kept him from informing them.

Victor was the monster. He had a delusional desire for success in what he did. He was a great scientist but nave because he didn't consider the ramifications of provoking nature. His motives for creating life were ordained by society because he was rebellious and a perfectionist of science and the way he created Frankenstein Junior was to the point of perfection. Victor didn't consider that those things were not part of the human psyche and that perhaps in creating he was deconstructing part of what made him human. People are not meant to bring people back to life especially, in a sense, where that life is nothing but borrowed parts which fit the puzzle but remain a puzzle. Freud pointed out Victor's dependence on society and his flaws in making the monster against society's view and Freud pointed out the individual's needs in respect to happiness. Victor was at a high point of happiness during the creative process but fell off that ladder when he realized what he had done.

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