The Quest for Nothing in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein

Best Essays
A Quest for Nothing in Shelly's Frankenstein

The last chapter of Mary Shelly's Frankenstein concludes Victor Frankenstein's search for the monster. His obsession with finding the wretch leads him into the most desolate territories in the world, led on with clues left by the monster itself. The motive for his quest goes beyond the desire for revenge, but is shaped over the primal need for Victor to become the ideal self. The monster, in which Victor placed his most intense hours of isolated contemplation, represents, if not the unconscious then at least an outlet and a means for the fulfillment of Victor's dark repressed wishes. Victor therefore is bent on achieving "the wholeness that was ravaged instantly and for always in the formative stages of his mental growth, specifically the mirror stage."(Reed 64)

In the mirror stage, the spark of knowledge, which will ultimately mark the splitting of the self, infuses the child at the moment when the child, still in state of dependency, identifies its reflection in the mirror. The child is then left to the mercy of the gigantic and fiendish realization that it may never again become unified with the ideal-I, or as Jacques Lacan names it, the Gestalt. The Gestalt represents the "rigid structure of the subject's entire mental development," an ideal goal that cannot be obtained, and the subject "will only rejoin the coming-into-being of the subject asymptotically. This is to say that at the moment when the child views its reflection in the mirror, it is doomed by eternal distance from the exemplary self, the fully functioning and accessible mind, and can only hope to arrive infinitely closer to becoming it. Lacan emphasizes that the subject must realize the impossibility of b...

... middle of paper ...

...ts in nothing.

Works Cited and Consulted

Bloom, Harold. Mary Shelly's Frankenstein. New York: Chelsea, 1987.

Botting, Fred. Making monstrous. Frankenstein, criticism, theory. Manchester University Press, 1991.

Boyd, Stephen. York Notes on Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. Longman York Press, 1992.

Garber, Frederick. The Autonomy of the Self from Richardson to Huysmans. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1982.

Mellor, Anne K. Mary Shelley. Her Life, her Fiction, her Monsters. Methuen. New York, London, 1988.

Marcel, Anthony J. "Conscious and Unconscious Perception." Cognitive Psychology 15 (1983): 197-237

Reed, Kenneth T. "A Freudian Note on Shelley's 'Frankenstein'". Literature and Psychology 19 (1969): 61-72.

Shelley, Mary. Frankenstein or the Modern Prometheus. Edited with an Introduction and notes by Maurice Hindle. Penguin books, 1992
Get Access