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The Monster within Us: Freud and Frankenstein Essay example

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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...


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...nster and Freud's super-ego is that neither is a natural occurrence. Freud goes to great pain to explain that humans are not born with a sense of guilt, but that it must be learned instead. Frankenstein's creation was not a natural one either. He pushed the limits of science and morality and in short, tried too hard to advance in society. As Freud points out, "the price we pay for our advance in civilization is a loss of happiness through a heightening of the sense of guilt"(Freud 97).

Works Cited

Freud, Sigmund. Civilization and Its Discontents. New York:

Putnam, 2005.

Griffith, V. George, An Overview of Frankenstein, in Exploring Novels.

Gale. 1998.

Shelley, Mary. Frankenstein Or, The Modern Prometheus. 1999. Forward James

Miller. Afterword Harold Bloom: New York: Signet Classic and by New

American Library, 1999.


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