which centers around a man’s creation of a “monster” cobbled together from corpses “for the sole purpose of infusing life into an inanimate body” (Shelley, 52). Freud, beyond this, specifically mentions as causes of the uncanny things somewhat like Frankenstein’s monster, such as “the impression made by wax-work figures, artificial dolls and automatons” (5). Freud takes this further by examining the idea of the double, or doppelganger. This double, he says, is a specific form of the uncanny that was “originally an insurance against destruction to the ego” which stems from what he labels “primary narcissism,” or “the soil of unbounded self-love” (Freud, 9). This primary narcissism, which is a part of Freud’s understanding of the stages the human brain passes through as it moves from infancy and childhood into adulthood, has an effect on the idea of the double once it has passed. Far from being the denial of mortality that its creator initially intended, whether unconsciously or consciously, the double for a mature mind because little more than a “ghastly harbinger of death,” (Freud, 9) and one of the strongest examples of “uncanniness” that can be found (Freud, 10). Frankenstein’s Doppelganger The relationship between Victor Frankenstein and his Monster in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein follows something very similar to what Freud describes in his analysis of the Doppelganger in “The Uncanny.” Frankenstein, when he first attempts to create life from dead flesh, fits very well into Freud’s category of the narcissist. He is obsessed with his study and his work, and when he finally discovers the secret to create life it is critical that he describes the bounds of life and death as bonds that “I should first break through, and...
Victor’s focus on his goal comes not from any selfless desire to help the world, in other words, but through a drive to be recognized as superior and special, as would be typical of a narcissistic child. The Monster, too, is well described by Freud’s analysis of the doppelganger: he is almost literally immortality, in the sense that he has been brought to life from death itself. Likewise, Victor imagines that once he has succeeded in his task, the nervous illness which has taken hold of him will be driven away and that he would return to his former “excellent health” (Shelley, 51-52).
As the novel progresses, and Victor loses some of his innocent, if misguided, enthusiasm, the Monster loses his status as a representation of immortality and becomes an object of terror, and of the uncanny as Freud describes it. This can be seen in the description of the Monster’s first movements. Despite Victor’s attempts at beauty, as “his limbs were in proportion, and … his features … beautiful,” the creature’s first movements are terrifying: “it breathed hard, and a convulsive motion agitated its limbs” (Shelley, 52). Victor’s first response to his creation further shows this. Far from being elated, as he had hoped he would be, he is taken with horror. “[T]he beauty of the dream vanished,” he says, and “breathless horror and disgust filled my heart” (Shelley, 53). In fact, the horror he feels is so strong that he cannot bear to be in the same room with his own creation, and flees outside for the rest of the night.