Domenica Vilhotti

ENG 550

Dr. Joffe

December 13, 2006


Bad conscience: the monster as alter ego in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein


“’He may be innocent of the murder, but he has certainly a bad conscience.’ These words struck me.  A bad conscience! yes, surely I had one.  William, Justine, and Clerval, had died though my infernal machinations” (206) 


As evidenced in popular culture and the media, the name “Frankenstein” refers not to Victor, the scientist of Mary Shelley’s 1818 novel, but rather to his monster.  This common error in the popular consciousness is not arbitrary but rather stems from a “crucial intuition about the relationship between them” (Mellor “Monster” 9).  The two beings are not separate entities; instead, Victor’s “infernal machinations” are actually the product of his hellish imagination.  In other words, the monster is the psychological personification of Victor’s “bad conscience.  As Victor’s invented doppelganger, or double, the monster is a projection of the aspects of himself he cannot integrate or accept, particularly his guilt.  Based on the theories of both Joseph Gerhardt and William Veeder, this guilt can be viewed as either Oedipal or reverse-Oedipal, respectively.  Parallel to the Freudian perception of the operation of nightmares, because Victor refuses his creature, the projection of his nonintegrated guilt, his potentially benevolent creature becomes monstrous.  As Victor spurns this symbolic aspect of himself, his repression turns nightmarish and the monster becomes violent. 

In positing that the monster is not real but rather imaginary, this reading takes a more radical stance than the majority of critical precedent that establishes a doppelganger relationship, but does not overtly assert that the monster is not real.  In directly interpreting the monster as an imaginary double or alter ego, this paper seeks to explore textual evidence and motive implicating Victor himself as responsible for the murders he projects his monster as having committed.  Specifically key to this reading is the interpretation of water imagery so often associated with Victor’s encounters with the monster.  According to Jungian archetype, water signifies the subconscious.  Water imagery, particularly in the novel’s concluding chapters, contribute to the suggestion of a dreamscape in which Victor succeeds personal culpability for his actions and attributes them to his monster and alter ego.

Over at least thirty years ago, critics have firmly established the monster-as-doppelganger theory in Frankenstein.  In his 1976 book Mary Shelley’s Monster, Martin Tropp begins by situating the archetypal doppelganger narrative within Gothic literature:  

Such tales [of the Doppelganger] were popular at the time… They all follow the same formula.  The hero (often a monk or student) makes some sort of infernal pact which releases his double.  This other self is always male and resembles the main character down to the smallest detail; it usually first appears as the reflection in a pool or mirror.  The double tries to take the place of the hero… committing crimes in his name but most often trying to steal his lover.  Finally in order to rid himself of the double, the hero pursues and murders him.  Unfortunately, since the double is an inextricable part of the self, this ‘self-murder’ is suicidal (37). 


As Tropp notes, although the novel is not strictly a double tale, the doppelganger tradition lives in Frankenstein.  The connections that immediately stand out are the “general pattern of creation, pursuit, and self-destruction, the visionary nature of the Monster’s nocturnal appearances, and Frankenstein’s periodic bouts of unconsciousness, which coincide with the monster’s attacks” (41).  Less obviously, Tropp explores the competition for love also operating in the novel; specifically, “when Frankenstein destroys the Monster’s bride, his own bride is doomed” (41).

Similar to Tropp’s landmark arguments, Anne Mellor more recently discusses the double, but less overtly.  Mellor locates the synthesis of the doubles in the novel’s last act, noting, “Victor and his creature are virtually fused into one being, almost one consciousness, during their final race across the ice wastes of the North Pole” (23 “Monster”).  She more subtly focuses the double relationship on the creature and creator’s mirrored emotion, observing for instance that when each boards Walton’s ship, each “articulates the same feelings of intermingled revenge, remorse, and despair…” and thus, “Victor has become his creature, his creature has become his maker; they are each other’s double.  Hence naming the creature ‘Frankenstein’ as popular folklore would have it—uncovers a profound truth within the novel’s narrative” (23 “Monster”).

Unlike Tropp, Mellor never overtly stakes the claim that the monster is literally an aspect of Victor’s self, although she alludes to it.  Through an analysis of Mary Shelley’s journals and letters, Mellor argues that Shelley critiques the notion of the Romantic imagination in her belief that the “unfettered imagination is more likely to create forms based on fear than on love” (“Monster” 23).  If Victor is to symbolize the Romantic who creates by accessing his unbridled and “divine” imagination, Mellor’s analysis could be further interpreted as Victor’s unfettered imagination as having created the monster based on fear, all notions which prefigure the concept of the monster as nightmarish projection of something unwanted in the self.  Indeed, as Mellor concludes her discussion of the double, “When we write the unfamiliar as monstrous, we literally create the evil…” (“Monster” 23).  What is still undetermined, however, is the nature or significance of this unwanted aspect of Victor’s self.

One suggestion of what causes the split in Victor comes from critic Gerhard Joseph’s Freudian analysis.  The heart of Joseph’s article lies in an analysis of the famous “necrophobial Oedipal” dream Victor Frankenstein has just after creating the monster (i).  Joseph views Victor’s mother Caroline and his betrothed Elizabeth as “doubles of one another in sexual counterpoint” to Frankenstein and the monster (ii).  Thus, the fear of incest causes Victor’s fragmentation and the “splitting off of his monstrous emanation” (ii). 

Similar to Mellor and Veeder, Joseph avoids explicitly discussing the monster as an imaginary character who is strictly Victor’s projection.  Rather, by using concepts such as the double and “emanation,” similar to Veeder’s term “surrogate,” he seems to casually suggest this possibility and then to move on to other claims.  Within his argument Joseph is one of the first critics to connect the notion of the double to the subconscious, particularly to a dream-state.  He characterizes much of the latter setting of the novel as a dreamscape, accounting for its “absurd coincidences,” and “Chinese box” narrative of Walter-Victor-Frankenstein-Victor-Walter (97, 99). 

In a more recent publication, Alexandria Reuber’s doctoral dissertation furthers a Freudian approach to understanding Frankenstein and Gothic literature in general.  Her analysis is based on a psychoanalytical approach using Freud’s understanding of the uncanny, his dream analysis, his view of the conscious and unconscious.  She also applies Jung’s perception of dreams and of the unconscious to the novel.  Specifically, as “man descends into his psyche, …he confronts something unfamiliar, something unheimlich” (Jung qtd. by Reuber).  Although Reuber does not apply the encounter with the unheimlich, or the uncanny, extensively to specific scenes in Frankenstein, the text readily lends itself to such interpretations.  Two immediately apparent examples include Victor’s “necrophobial Oedipal” dream and his later recoil in the courtroom scene upon hearing of the monster’s mark and being viscerally reminded of the monster’s (or his own) murder of William.

In his article “The Negative Oedipus: Father, Frankenstein, and the Shelleys,” William Veeder is the most explicit of the above critics in his suggestion of a murderous impulse in Victor, claiming that “Victor has created the monster to enact his murderous will against his family” (384).  Specifically, Veeder hypothesizes a reverse reading of what drives this murderous will.  Unlike critics like Gerhard Joseph, who have focused on Victor’s infamous dream as a source of Oedipal guilt, Veeder theorizes the opposite: because the dream features the death of the mother, he reads it as expressly not Oedipal.  He instead interprets the series of murders throughout the novel as Victor’s quest to dethrone his father, the belittling patriarch.  In using the evasive term “surrogate,” Veeder displays a casual avoidance of the burden of proof showing the monster to be an aspect of Victor.  His article, however, valuably introduces the concept of “convenient pretexts.”  Convenient pretexts are the subconscious stretching of the truth one uses to interpret his situation in order to support a wish or evade responsibility.  In his discussion of convenient pretexts, Veeder furthers the discussion of Victor’s creation of the monster as an evasion of responsibility for the self. 

In the 1999 book, Frankenstein, the Man and the Monster, Arthur Belefant contends that the monster never existed and Victor commits the murders of William, Clerval, and Elizabeth.  Further, he presumes that Mary Shelley’s authorial intention was to have the reader understand the monster to be imaginary.  Consequently, the resulting narrative is actually a study of Victor’s moral degradation.

While the doppelganger concept has been thoroughly explored by Tropp, Mellor, Joseph, Reuber, Veeder, and Belefant, who all make powerful and convincing assertions, they tend not to support them with a close analysis of textual evidence.  Finally, few arguments, save some references by Tropp, connect the monster’s association with water imagery as a representation of Victor’s subconscious.    

To begin with the evidence established by the above critics, the monster serves as Victor’s double.  As such, he is a projection of repressed guilt.  As soon as he is “created,” the monster is associated with Frankenstein’s guilt.  Perhaps this is an Oedipal guilt manifested in a later repugnance of “normal” sexuality (Joseph I).  Notably, the infamous “necrophobial Oedipal nightmare” takes place directly after Victor creates his monster.  In this nightmare, he dreams of kissing Elizabeth, who quickly takes on “the hue of death” (85).  Her features then change so that Frankenstein holds his mother’s corpse in his arms, horrified at the “grave-worms” that crawl in the folds of her shroud.  Frankenstein awakes to see his creation standing over him, grinning, and reaching out for him.  To state the more overt Oedipal imagery, because Victor confuses his lover for his mother and this confusion is connected to his attempt to reanimate life, many critics have read the monster as an attempt to bring back his mother. 

Two other elements here suggest here that Victor is repulsed by the “normal” sexuality he would eventually experience with Elizabeth as her future husband.  His kiss with her immediately sours with abject horror as her lips themselves become “livid with the hue of death” (85).  Further, the grave-worms parasitically feasting on his mother also signify a threat to Victor’s virility or performance: multiple and often small phallic symbols, such as fingers or here worms, symbolize castration anxiety.  Indeed, Victor notes that the dream affects him by “every limb bec[oming] convulsed,” furthering the expression of castration anxiety (85). 

These feelings of inadequacy, revulsion, and guilt are closely linked with the monster, whose eyes fix upon, and whose arms reach out for him at the end of the same paragraph (85).  As will become the pattern throughout, Victor encounters his “daemon” predominantly surrounding bouts of unconsciousness, such as fever or, here, sleep.  The thin line between sleep and wakefulness begs the question of the physical and material nature of the monster; was he but a machination of the imagination that night?       

The monster repeatedly appears following scenes depicting Victor’s guilt.  A scene with the monster three years later in the novel mirrors the “necrophobial Oedipal nightmare.”  Similarly, the encounter follows Victor’s engagement with the abject female and associated feelings of guilt.  On a conscious level, Victor expresses guilt for creating a female monster as a companion for his original: “for the first time the wickedness of my promise burst upon me; I shuddered to think that future ages might curse me as their pest…’” (190).  The monster all too conveniently appears, expressing the “utmost extent of malice and treachery” (191).  Victor expresses his rage on the female form, tearing it to pieces.  The next morning, Victor views this act with fresh eyes and feels not only general guilt, but perhaps even a subconscious acknowledgment of his own capacity for murder: “The remains of the half-finished creature, whom I had destroyed, lay scattered on the floor, and I almost felt as if I had mangled the living flesh of a human being” (194).

Critics have noted that Victor’s creation of the monster is his method of evading personal responsibility.  The notion that Victor conveniently feels powerless in preventing events he knows will happen such as Justine’s hanging and Elizabeth’s murder is echoed in his use of the passive voice in reference to himself as well as the monster’s use of master/slave imagery.  Before hearing the threat that the monster will be with him on his wedding night, the monster establishes dominance: “Slave, …Remember that I have power… You are my creator, but I am your master; obey!” (192).  In doing so, Victor’s view of the monster (remember, he is always narrating to Walton) frees Victor from culpability later.  Of course, Victor is quite culpable.  As Victor spurns the monster, this symbolic aspect of himself, the repression turns nightmarish; the monster becomes violent.  It is because Victor cannot actively integrate his guilt, he instead projects and then rejects it, that the monster assumes this active stance.

For the majority of the narrative, particularly near the end, Victor is the only character who can see his monster, and this further suggests he is a symbolic and imagined fragment of him.  Victor as a narrator who asserts that it is the monster, and not himself, who commits all the murders, is arguably not reliable and possibly insane.  He narrates to Walton at a point of absolute mental and physical privation, after months of an obsessive search for the elusive monster. 

Martin Tropp uses the double concept to view Victor as literally schizophrenic: “The onset of schizophrenia has been depicted as heralded by the conscious ‘enfirming’ of the shadow self by the ego” (48).  In other words, the ego, or Victor, is essentially the food and fuel for the doppelganger to grow stronger within his psyche.  Tropp continues to note that Victor’s “pattern of isolation, degeneration, and self-murder” is modeled after schizophrenic behavior.  More specifically, Tropp sees that Victor could almost be labeled a “narcissistic schizophrenic, or what Freud called a paraphrenic: ‘They suffer from megalomania and have withdrawn their interest from the external world…’” (Freud qtd. in Tropp 48).  Victor certainly suffers from both attributes; he consistently secludes himself in self-exile and justifies his isolation through his devotion to the reanimation project.  His megalomania becomes evident in his belief that, should he abandon the project, he would effectually “sacrifice the whole human race” (209).

In addition to Victor’s feverish states, Shelley includes two significant passages that clearly indicate a mental imbalance.  After Clerval’s death, Victor rants rather incoherently for months in prison about his “murderous” “machinations” (208).  After his father’s death, he “los[es] sensation” and is committed to an asylum, Victor realizes, because “they had found me mad” (221).  Victor prefigures an Edgar Allan Poe narrator who protests too much in maintaining his sanity: “I am not mad,’ I cried energetically; ‘the sun and the heavens, who have viewed my operations, can bear witness of my truth’” (209).  In pleading with a magistrate to continue the search for the monster, Victor again throttles his grasp of reality, rationalizing, “The story is too connected to be mistaken for a dream, and I have no motive for falsehood” (221).  Of course, statements like these are easily deconstructed.  The story is “too connected” because Victor himself is most likely implicated.  Because he is in denial about this, he has “no motive for falsehood” that he consciously recognizes.    

The multiple narrations and frame stories themselves point to possibilities of inaccuracy and bias, particularly on Victor’s part.  Remember, Victor is narrating his life story to a peer here; the narration does not come from a more stable source such as a journal.  As such, Victor is an unreliable narrator.  In order to justify himself to Walton, Victor may well be using “convenient pretexts,” the subconscious stretching of the truth one uses to interpret his situation in order to support a wish or evade responsibility.  Although Walton, the spiritual loner and over-reacher, does see the monster at the end of the novel, is himself of questionable sanity.  The two could have shared a mutual hallucination.  Walton, Victor’s foil, certainly feels a kinship with him and Walton most probably wanted to induce evidence of his friend’s sanity.  Further, Victor excites the chivalric knight in Walton: “If I do [die], swear to me, Walton, that he shall not escape; that you will seek him, and satisfy my vengeance in his death” (230).  They even share a homoerotic brotherhood over the idea of killing the monster: “thrust your sword into his heart.  I will hover near, and direct the steel aright” (231).

The second third of the novel features the murders of Elizabeth, Henry Clerval, and the death of Victor’s father, Alphonse Frankenstein.  Here Victor is so close to the scenes of each crime as to be a likely suspect for these murders.  Does he kill Elizabeth to avoid sexuality?  Clerval because he cannot bear to witness his own former innocence?  His father in attempt to dethrone the belittling patriarch, as Prometheus sought to do with Zeus?  Keep in mind the novel’s alternative title.  There is textual evidence to suggest all three of the above theses.

Critic Gerhard Joseph was among the first to discuss the novel’s condition of a dreamscape.  Specifically, the narrative “generates an overriding sense of diffusion, of ‘centerlessness’—a fragmentation of point of view, of setting, and most importantly, of character” (99).  Joseph likens the “Chinese-box” complexity of the narrative to the “concentrically layered, refracting abandon of a dream towards whose fading center the reader gropes” (99).  While Joseph and Reuber have read sections of the novel as uncanny nightmare, few have also located these hallucinations, fevers, dreams, and other subconscious states as spaces where Victor would actually have committed murder and displaced responsibility onto his monster.

Following Victor’s two years of self-exile, Clerval comes for a visit.  As Victor immediately notices, “how great was the contrast between us!” (179).  Clerval, “joyful when he saw the beauties of the setting sun, and more happy when he beheld it rise,” embodies an innocence now lost to Victor: “…in Clerval I saw the image of my former self” (179, 183).  Again, more subtly prefiguring Poe’s Montressor or the narrator of “The Black Cat,” Victor may kill Clerval because he finds this recognition of innocence and vulnerability so distasteful.  Victor asserts his role as protector, noting, “I would not quit Henry for a moment, but followed him as his shadow, to protect him from the fancied rage of his destroyer,” (187) [my emphasis].  But could this peculiar phrasing also signify its opposite if reordered: “the rage of his fancied destroyer?”  In other words, Victor may actually be the destroyer he fancies as the monster.  Furthermore, Victor’s welling guilt is telling: “I felt as if I had committed some great crime, the consciousness of which haunted me” (187) [my emphasis].  Of course, Victor again denies culpability: “I was guiltless,” but diction suggestive of his role as murderer pervades his narration as he notes the “horrible curse” drawn upon him, “as mortal as that of crime” (187).

In the next chapter, following another confrontation with his monster, Victor is a suspect of Clerval’s murder (197).  It appears here that even Shelley intends her readers to view Victor as the murderer.  During the ensuing trial, Victor experiences the uncanny when “…the mark of the fingers was mentioned, I remembered the murder of my brother, and felt myself extremely agitated…” (199).  Throughout the text, Victor makes much of the “mark of [the monster’s] fingers,” but could the true horror be the recognition of his own fingerprints, a fragmented memory of his deed?  A townsman takes the stand, and swears “positively that, just before the fall of his companion, he saw a boat, with a single man in it, at a short distance from the shore; and, as far as he could judge by the light of a few stars, it was the same boat in which I had just landed” (199).  Victor himself “could not help being struck by the strange coincidences that had taken place during this eventful night” (200).  He asks the same question the readers must be asking at this point: “Have my murderous machinations deprived you also, my dearest Henry, of life?” (200).

Threats to Elizabeth are tightly bound in sexual imagery.  In the now famous scene in which the monster asserts, “Slave… You are my creator, but I am your master; --obey!” the monster also forewarns, “…remember, I shall be with you on your wedding-night” (192, 193).  The monster’s diction is laden in phallic imagery as well: “I will watch with the wiliness of a snake, that I may sting with its venom” (193).  Sex is depicted here as repulsive, abject, and to be responded with in violence.  Interestingly, note the pattern (Victor imagines) the monster to establish: “I am your master,” the wily “snake” who “will be with you on your wedding night” (193).  Read: “I am sexuality, your master, and I am abject.”  The monster/Victor here plants the idea that the monster will be responsible for Elizabeth’s future death, while Victor evades responsibility; in other words, this is a schizophrenic self-post-hypnotic suggestion.  “Hidden” just before his last words in the scene, however, the monster threatens Victor in a way that is only explicable as an alter ego speaking to its ego: “Man, you shall repent of the injuries you inflict” (193) [my emphasis].  The monster then shoots off into water, leaving Victor with excuses, or convenient pretexts: “I would have seized him; but he eluded me, and quitted the house with precipitation” (193).  The next day, Shelley engages in some potent foreshadowing, as Victor must deal with the decimated bride-to-be for his monster, which “lay scattered on the floor” (194).  Victor uncannily realizes, “I almost felt as if I had mangled the living flesh of a human being” (194).

Victor’s wedding night, the night of Elizabeth’s murder, is indeed “dreadful, very dreadful” (217).  Victor narrates what amounts to a failed attempt at sexual consummation using references to the subconscious, opportune slips from consciousness, and more convenient pretexts.  Victor begins the evening with a clear avoidance of sexuality: “I earnestly entreated her to retire, resolving not to join her until I had obtained some knowledge as to the situation of my enemy” (217).  He leaves her to stalk “up and down the passages of the house, …inspecting every corner that might afford a retreat to my adversary” (217).  The house is here another metaphor for the crannies of the subconscious.  Within the same sentence of this metaphor, Victor hears “a shrill and dreadful scream”; Elizabeth is murdered (218).  Victor immediately evades responsibility, establishing the possibility for murder under an unconscious state: “For a moment only did I lose recollection; I fainted” (218).  When Victor envisions the monster grinning and pointing to the corpse of his wife, he further engages in convenient pretext, weakly claiming to take responsibility: “… I shot; but he eluded me, leaped from his station, and, running with the swiftness of lightning, plunged into the lake” (219).  Rather than accompany the search party, Victor again evades culpability.  Note especially his use of passive voice here: “a film covered my eyes, and my skin was parched with the heat of fever.  In this state I lay on a bed, hardly conscious of what had happened” (219).

Interestingly, albeit somewhat speciously, William Veeder uses a variant of word-association to illustrate his claim that Victor also wished the murder of his father.  For instance, he deconstructs a quote such as Victor’s agonizing, “’Whose death,’ cried I, ‘is to finish the tragedy?  Ah! My father, do not remain in this wretched country,” and attempts to illustrate his concept of the negative Oedipal conflict by reducing it to “’to finish…my father’” (384).  Veeder’s overarching argument is that Victor Frankenstein enacts a regressive, or “negative,” Oedipal conflict by wishing the death of his mother in order to dethrone the father.  He attributes some of the inspiration for his thesis in the novel’s subtitle: The Modern Prometheus, viewing the tortured god as an allusion the story of multi-generational quest to dethrone the patriarch.  In his reverse or “negative” take on the Oedipal conflict, Veeder departs from feminist psychoanalytic readings of Frankenstein that posit a traditional Oedipal conflict, giving prominence to the mother.  Specifically, Veeder views Victor’s famous nightmare, traditionally the source of traditional Oedipal readings, as expressly not Oedipal: Victor seeks to kill the mother in order to be “free to move beyond woman to father” (379).  In another instance, as Victor’s “surrogate,” the monster murders Victor’s little brother William Frankenstein only when he is identified as a son to Alphonse.  In doing so, the surrogate is striking out at Victor/the monster’s father in attempt to castrate and ultimately dethrone him. 

If Veeder’s thesis holds true, the pattern of passive voice and convenient slips into unconscious states certainly surrounds the event.  Victor distances himself from a hand in his father’s death by using passive diction: “an apoplectic fit was brought on, and in a few days he died in my arms” (220) [my emphasis].  Using convenient pretext, Victor evades responsibility through loss of consciousness and passive voice: “What then became of me?  I know not; I lost sensation, and chains and darkness were the only objects that pressed upon me” (220).     

In the final act of the novel, a false sense of personal vengeance ensues: in denial, Victor futilely searches for the murderer of his family.  Because he is in actuality only searching for a reckoning with himself, it is fitting that these concluding chapters take place in various states of water.  Victor is adrift at sea and the monster is constantly seen emerging from and retreating into water.  Because water symbolizes the subconscious, this watery dreamscape setting further contributes to a notion of a final conflict within the mind.  Martin Tropp was one of the earliest theorists to note the relationship of water, as “an archetypal symbol for the depths of the mind,” and its consistent association with “Frankenstein’s mental state and the image of a boat ‘pursuing its own course’ suggest[ing] surrender to the unconscious self” (41). 

 The function of water as a symbol for Victor’s mental state is established before the final act of the novel.  When Victor takes respite with Elizabeth at Mont Blanc, there is great irony in the pleasure she attempts to derive from nature to cheer Victor, despite what she notices as a “sinister voice” (216).  Her cataloguing of the stunning beauty of the scene include their riding pace, the often cloudless sky, but climaxes with an appreciation for the waters: “Look also at the innumerable fish that are swimming in the clear waters, where we can distinguish every pebble that lies at the bottom” (216).  Clarity of thought is the very opposite of Victor’s psyche.  The scene and chapter instead end with Victor’s description of the lake waters encircled by the Alps.  Chillingly, Victor records, “…as I touched the shore, I felt those cares and fears revive, which soon were to clasp me, and cling to me for ever” (216).  Note his use of the words “clasp” and “cling,” both of which further the notion that Victor is slave to his subconscious.

That Victor is passive to the machinations of his imagination is underscored by the monster’s consistent escape into water.  When the monster requests a female companion be made for him, he threatens to watch Victor’s progress “with unutterable anxiety,” and informs him that “when you are ready I shall appear,” which is, of course, quite convenient for an imaginary projection of the mind.  The body of water Victor “loses” him to connects the monster to the subconscious: “I saw him descend the mountain with greater speed than the flight of an eagle, and quickly lost him among the undulations of the sea of ice” (172).  Later, following Elizabeth’s murder, the monster, “pointed towards the corpse of my wife… I shot; but he eluded me, leaped from his station, and, running with the swiftness of lightning, plunged into the lake” (219).  During the final chase, Victor “saw the fiend enter by night, and hid himself in a vessel bound for the Black Sea.  I took my passage in the same ship; but he escaped, I know not how” (225).  In the above examples, among many others, the monster always has agency, and is always seen freely moving about in this universal symbol of the unconscious.  Victor is thus slave to a mind and alter ego that ultimately subsumes him. 

As Victor surrenders to unconscious, water is often cast as his grave.  Waves early inspire unmitigated horror: “I confess that I felt a few sensations of terror.  I had no compass with me…” (196).  He continues to muse on the threat of becoming subsumed: “I might be driven into the wide Atlantic… or be swallowed up in the immeasurable waters that roared and buffeted around me” (196).  He concludes, “I looked upon the sea,” or his mind; “it was to be my grave” (196).  At the actual end of the novel Victor is left “drifting on a scattered piece of ice, that was continually lessening, and thus preparing me a hideous death” (230).  He is saved only momentarily to die upon Walton’s ship. 

As an imaginary double, the monster is a scapegoat for what Victor refuses to recognize within himself.  As he searches for the monster at the end, he subconsciously is only searching to punish himself.  If Walton is not deceiving himself at the novel’s conclusion, the monster’s visibility to the outside world correlates with the extension to which Victor represses him.  Once Victor unburdens the story of his creation to Walton, the monster is visible.  Notably, Frankenstein’s use of the “talking cure” correlates with the monster’s peaceful exit.  The monster seeks redemption: “what does it avail that I now ask thee to pardon me?” (240).  He, of course, retreats into the symbolic recesses of the mind, vowing to die and become lost into a body of water: “He sprung from the cabin-window, as he said this, upon the ice-raft which lay close to the vessel.  He was soon borne away by the waves, and lost in darkness and distance” (244).


Works Cited

Belefant, Arthur. Frankenstein, the Man and the Monster. 1st ed. New York: Benjamin, Ross & Lane, 1999. 1-116. 

Clift, Jean D., and Wallace B. Clift. Symbols of Transformation in Dreams. 1st ed. New York: Crossroad Pub Co., 1986. 1-155. 

Joseph, Gerhard. "Frankenstein's Dream: The Child as Father of the Monster." Hartford Studies in Literature 7.2 (1975): 97-115.

Mellor, Anne K. "Making a "Monster": An Introduction to Frankenstein." The Cambridge Companion to Mary Shelley. Ed. Esther Schor. 1st ed. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2003. 9-24.

---. Mary Shelley: Her Life, Her Fiction, Her Monsters. 1st ed. New York: Mathuen, 1988.

Reuber, Alexandra Maria. Haunted by the Uncanny - Development of a Genre from the Late Eighteenth to the Late Nineteenth Century. Ph.D. Louisiana State University, 2004 Baton Rouge, LA: Unrestricted.

Tropp, Martin. Mary Shelley's Monster. 1st ed. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1976.

Veeder, William. "The Negative Oedipus: Father, "Frankenstein", and the Shelleys." Critical Inquiry 12.2 (1986): 365-90. JSTOR. NC State University Library, Raleigh NC. 11/4/2006 <>.


Works Consulted

Audrey A. Fisch, Anne K. Mellor, and Esther H. Schor, ed. The Other Mary Shelley: Beyond Frankenstein. Vol. 1st. New York: Oxford University Press, 1993.

Bennett, Betty T. and Stuart Curran, ed. Mary Shelley in Her Times. 1st ed. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2000.

Bolte, Caralyn Marie. "Her Cradle, and His Sepulchre": The Shelleys' Anxiety of Creation and Identity. Master's North Carolina State University, 2004 Raleigh, North Carolina: Unrestricted.

Botting, Fred, ed. Frankenstein: Mary Shelley. 1st ed. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1995.

Brooks, Peter. "What is a Monster? (According to Frankenstein)." Frankenstein: Mary Shelley. Ed. Fred Botting. 1st ed. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1995. 81-106.

Hall, Jean. "Frankenstein: The Horrifying Otherness of Family." Essays in Literature 17.2 (1990): 179-89.

Hill-Miller, Katherine C. "My Hideous Progeny": Mary Shelley, William Godwin, and the Father-Daughter Relationship. 1st ed. Newark: University of Delaware Press, 1995.

Hirsch, Gordon D. "The Monster was a Lady: On the Psychology of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein." Hartford Studies in Literature 7.2 (1975): 116-53.

Hogle, Jerrold E. "Otherness in Frankenstein: The Confinement/Autonomy of Fabrication." Frankenstein: Mary Shelley. Ed. Fred Botting. 1st ed. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1995. 206-234.

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