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Abstract

This paper provides an understanding on how Mary Shelley used gothic themes in her novel Frankenstein to create a strong psychological horror. It describes the meaning of the term gothic and traces its development. It, also, examines the abundant elements and themes of gothic literature. The paper addresses Shelley's plot in the light of gothic fiction and demonstrates how fear is achieved in the novel. Furthermore, the work focuses on the figure of the doppelgänger as a source of horror in the narrative.
Humanities and Social Sciences Review,
CD-ROM. ISSN: 2165-6258 :: 08(01):227–238 (2018)
GOTHIC HORRORS AND THE DOUBLE IN FRANKENSTEIN
Kohil Mouna
Ecole Supérieure de Technologies Industrielles-Annaba, Algeria
This paper provides an understanding on how Mary Shelley used gothic themes in her novel
Frankenstein to create a strong psychological horror. It describes the meaning of the term gothic and
traces its development. It, also, examines the abundant elements and themes of gothic literature. The
paper addresses Shelley’s plot in the light of gothic fiction and demonstrates how fear is achieved in the
novel. Furthermore, the work focuses on the figure of the doppelgänger as a source of horror in the
narrative.
Keywords: Gothic, Horror, Frankenstein, The Doppelgänger.
Introduction
Research on gothic fiction, its elements and agents has gained much attention over the last few decades,
and an increased interest has been given to its effect. Individuals, when confronted with uncomfortable
situations, experience a strong feeling of uneasiness and mainly fear. The emotion of horror and the
overwhelming dread, created through the use of gothic themes, have become a topic of investigation and
empirical research, in which the goal is to discover how the sentiment of horror is born and developed
depending on gothic agents.
The paper examines the employment of gothic motifs in Frankenstein. It highlights the issue of
societal fears regarding scientific progress and reopens the question related to the nature of ambition and
scientific responsibility. The dominant fear of forbidden knowledge and the mass concerns of
degeneration obsessed the Victorian community, which is commonly described as strict and conservative.
Hence my interest in the theme and the novel respectively sprung from the increased interest about gothic
fiction and its effect.
The purpose of this paper is to explore the construct of gothic horrors in Frankenstein. It provides an
insight on how Mary Shelley used the gothic to convey underlying messages and to what extent was she
successful in depicting the gothic atmosphere.
The Gothic: Etymology and Development
In the course of its development, gothic assumed different connotations. During the eighteenth century,
the word gothic differentiated from what it meant earlier, and continued to be different from what it
connoted in the nineteenth and twentieth century. L. K. Wheeler, traces the origins of the term and the
changes it endured in the following:
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The word Gothic originally only referred to the Goths, one of the Germanic tribes
that helped destroy Rome. Their now-extinct language, also called Gothic, died out
completely. The term later came to signify “Germanic,” then “medieval,”
especially in reference to the medieval architecture and art used in Western Europe
between 1100 and 1500 CE. (The earlier art and architecture of medieval Europe
between 700-1100 CE is known as “Romanesque.”) Characteristics of Gothic
architecture include the pointed arch and vault, the flying buttress, stained glass,
and the use of gargoyles and grotesques fitted into the nooks and crannies
unoccupied by images of saints and biblical figures. The term has come to be used
much more loosely to refer to gloomy or frightening literature (Wheeler, Gothic).
According to Wheeler, originally, the word Gothic referred to the “Goths”, one of the Germanic tribes,
who helped destroy Rome and ravaged the rest of Europe in 3rd, 4th, and 5th centuries. Thus, the term
became a synonym to barbaric; the gothic was a pejorative term “used to denigrate objects, people, and
attitudes deemed barbarous, grotesque, coarse, crude, formless, tasteless, primitive, savage, and ignorant”.
Then, it came to mean Germanic” or “Medieval” (Frank 7). Later, the gothic referred to a type of
architecture and a type of spooky fiction. In terms of architecture, the word gothic referred to a style of
architecture prevalent in Western Europe from the twelfth to the sixteenth century, of which the chief
characteristics are the pointed archs, rounded vaults, gargoyles and buttresses. It was applied also to
buildings, architectural details, and ornamentations.
Aesthetics of Gothic Fiction
In terms of literature, gothic referred to a type of fiction characterised by gloomy setting, supernatural
events, villains, mystery, suspense and other tropes. A definition of the gothic genre is strongly linked to
its first appearance with the publishing of Walpole’s novel. In 1764, Horace Walpole published The
Castle of Otranto that came to be recognised as the first gothic novel, wherein the gothic took a new turn
to denote all that is supernatural and terrifying. In The Castle of Otranto, Walpole created a gloomy
atmosphere that draws upon Medieval scenery, subterranean labyrinths, and shocking supernaturalism.
In A Glossary of Literary Terms, M. H. Abrams defines the gothic genre in relation to Horace’s
Walpole The Castle of Otranto: A Gothic Story:
The Gothic novel, or in alternative term, Gothic romance, is a type of prose fiction
which was inaugurated by Horace Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto: A Gothic
Story (1764) … and flourished through the early nineteenth century. Some writers
followed Walpole’s example by setting their stories in the medieval period; others
set them in a Catholic country, especially Italy or Spain. The locale was often a
gloomy castle furnished with dungeons, subterranean passages, and sliding panels;
the typical story focused on the sufferings imposed on an innocent heroine by a
cruel and lustful villain, and made bountiful use of ghosts, mysterious
disappearances, and other sensational and supernatural occurrences (which in a
number of novels turned out to have natural explanations) (117).
In the light of this, the gothic narrative is mainly identified through the use of tropes, such us the ancient
setting, dreary landscapes, villains and helpless heroines, paranormal appearances, etc. Jerrold E. Hogle in
“Introduction: The Gothic in Western Culture” writes:
Though not always as obviously as in The Castle of Otranto or Dracula, a Gothic
tale usually takes place (at least some of the time) in an antiquated or seemingly
antiquated space — be it a castle, a foreign place, an abbey, a vast prison, a
subterranean crypt, a graveyard, a primeval frontier or island, a large old house or
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theatre, an aging city or urban underworld, a decaying storehouse, factory,
laboratory, public building, or some new recreation of an older venue, such as an
office with old filing cabinets, an overworked spaceship, or a computer memory.
Within this space, or combination of such spaces, are hidden secrets from the past
(sometimes the recent past) that haunt the characters, psychologically, physically,
or otherwise at the main time of the story (2).
The setting is an influential feature of the Gothic narrative. The latter revolves around locations like
abandoned castles, massive dungeons and abbeys, underground premises, old cities and venues. Jerrold
Hogle presents an overview of the settings that could be demonstrated in Gothic horror tales. Another
key factor of the gothic is haunting and secrets. He adds:
These hauntings can take many forms, but frequently assume the features of
ghosts, specters, or monsters (mixing features from different realms of being, often
life and death) that rise from within the antiquated space, or sometimes invade it
from alien realms, to manifest unresolved crimes or conflicts that can no longer be
successfully buried from view (2).
He, also, mentions the haunting which could emanate from monsters or supernatural elements; he, further,
pinpoints the vitality of secrets as a source of dread and terror.
The Gothic, as a genre, maybe described as “staggering, limping, lurching form, akin to the monsters
it so frequently describes”, but it is also true that “no other modern literary form as influential as the
Gothic novel has also been as pervasively conventional” (Punter 8). In The Coherence of Gothic
Conventions, Eve Sedgwick offers a clear statement about the gothic:
Once you know that a novel is of the Gothic kind … you can predict its contents
with unnerving certainty. You know the important features of its mise en scene: an
oppressive ruin, a wild landscape, a Catholic or feudal society. You know about
the trembling of the heroine and the impetuosity of her lover. You know about the
tyrannical older man with the piercing glance who is going to imprison and try to
rape or murder them (8).
Not surprisingly, all gothic narratives share mostly common themes; the important ones are location, the
helpless heroine and the tyrant villain. It may appear essential for gothic tales to follow the scheme of
Walpole’s novel and be set in some distant and foreign place and time.
In addition, George E. Haggerty, in Gothic Fiction/Gothic Form (1989), speaks about the importance
of space in the gothic mode and states that space is always: “threatening and never comfortable in the
Gothic novel; castles loom with supernatural capacity for entrapment; cloisters induce claustrophobia;
rooms become too small; vistas too grand” (20). Gothic literature uses “adjectives that are selected to
establish mood rather than to describe in any specific way – they depict the scene less than they create a
response to it”. This disjointed atmosphere of “the decaying, ruined scenery which implies that at one
time there was a thriving world”(The Gothic Novel) is a vehicle used to transmit the vision of
dissatisfaction with the deteriorated present. It communicates that the once treasured landscape had faded
and became ruins; it is used to create fear and dread.
It is worth noting that the gothic, as a genre, reacts against the rationalism of the Enlightenment. It
makes use of a shocking supernaturalism to subvert against the dry realism of the movement. It, also,
exhibits the negative consequences of acting upon repressed previously forbidden desires (Llyod-
Smith 5). Unnatural events in the gothic story may, sometimes, be given natural explanations while, in
other times, they are beyond understanding. The inability to grasp the supernatural situation leads the
characters to a state of paranoia characterised by crying and sentimental speeches.
A threatening atmosphere built around mystery and suspense is one of the Gothic conventions. The
Gothic plot is pervaded by fear that results from the obscurity of the unknown and is often compromising
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of mysterious and inexplicable elements. Gothic is, also, a literature of the alienated self whether this
alienation is from “[the character’s] creations, from nature and his humanity or simply living in isolation
and thus alienated from society and even from reality” (Punter 208). Most Gothic protagonists are
portrayed as struggling to reach self-knowledge. This reflects their journey of struggling against their
alienation prompted by the threat of the modern life. The gothic hero becomes a sort of archetype as we
find out that there is a pattern to their characterisation. There is always the protagonist, usually isolated
either voluntarily or involuntarily. Then, there is the villain, who is the epitome of evil, either by his own
fall from grace or by some implicit malevolence (Gothic Literature Gothicism: Meaning, Origin and
Scope).
Gothic Horrors in Frankenstein
Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is the outcome of a dream that the 19 years old novelist experienced. The
novel was started in 1816 and completed in 1818. Mary and her husband Percy Shelley visited Lord
Byron and his personal physician John Polidori in Geneva. The guests and their hosts gathered over a
collection of German short stories and the spark of Frankenstein was ignited in the novelist’s mind.
Victor Frankenstein is an ambitious scientist, who lusts for knowledge and power. As the story
unfolds, he realises the consequences of his scientific inquiry and he experiences great horror due to his
hubris. In her novel, the author resorts to abundant agents from the gothic genre. Horror and dread are
primary notions in the novel.
A primary gothic element in the novel is Walpole’s concept of the conflict between ancient and
modern and is embodied in various incarnations especially in the creation of a non-human body.
Obviously, the novel possesses an apparent juxtaposition regarding the interplay between old and new. In
Frankenstein, the setting is antiquated and the story unfolds through a series of letters by Robert Walton
written to his sister. The main protagonist uncovers his account of the great scientific experiment while
being in a ship surrounded by huge ice sheets in the Arctic. The surrounding setting is isolated and old
while it still preserves its ancient nature. The obsolete environment remains untouched by humans, rather
it forces them to adapt. In the story, the actions take place in laboratories surrounded by the walled city of
Geneva. One of the important moments in the story is when Victor Frankenstein encounters his creature
on a glacier, thus, embodying the isolation and ancient setting in which the story ends. These antiquated
locations conflict with the modernity present in the novel. In his dark laboratories, the scientist
endeavours to perform something, which is very modern and advanced than any accomplishment
achieved by contemporary science. His achievement contrasts with the antiquity of the setting.
The setting is an important element in gothic fiction, as it helps evoking fear. Victor Frankenstein
describes his creature’s coming into life and the surrounding atmosphere of his creation process. He
states: “It was already one in the morning; the rain pattered dismally against the panes, and my candle
was nearly burnt out, when, by the glimmer of the half-extinguished light, I saw the dull yellow eye of the
creature open; it breathed hard, and a convulsive motion agitated its limbs” (Shelley 17). It is central to
note that the description of the night and the fading candle refers to the gloomy and antiquated setting.
Moreover, the awakening of the monster seems to be linked to the setting around him, thus, combining
the modernity by which he was produced with the antiquity of the setting wherein he was created. This
description further provokes a sense of gloom and mystery worked out by darkness. Following this scene
of creation and gloomy weather, the reader senses fear. In the laboratory, Victor undergoes a process that
is loaded with gothic motifs that arouse a feeling of horror in the readers.
Furthermore, the supernatural creation is a crucial element that Mary Shelley relies on to implement
horror within the layers of her narrative. Victor is determined on manufacturing a being that bears a
resemblance to the human body but with a large stature: “I resolved to make the being of a gigantic
stature, that is to say, about eight feet in height, and proportionally large” (42). He engages in his labour
and gathers materials necessary. He says: “I collected bones from charnel-houses and disturbed, with
profane fingers, the tremendous secrets of the human frame. The dissecting room and the slaughter-house
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furnished many of my materials” (43). The creature is brought to life in the fifth chapter of the novel in a
raining weather that is described as gloomy and dark. The setting is strongly linked to the creation
process. Also, it functions as a means to aggravate the fear and mystery. Victor describes the awakening
of his creature:
It was on a dreary night of November that I beheld the accomplishment of my
toils. With an anxiety that almost amounted to agony, I collected the instruments
of life around me that I might infuse a spark of being into the lifeless thing that lay
at my feet. It was already one in the morning; the rain pattered dismally against the
panes, and my candle was nearly burnt out, when, by the glimmer of the half-
extinguished light, I saw the dull yellow eye of the creature open; it breathed hard,
and a convulsive motion agitated its limbs (44-45).
This description illustrates the ugliness of the creature. In addition, the dark setting and the paranormal
being are gothic elements that are used by the author to launch fear. The gothic theme of ugliness is
dominant in the novel. In Frankenstein, the creature is described as ugly and hideous in appearance: “his
eyes, if eyes they may be called, were fixed on me. His jaws opened, and he muttered some inarticulate
sounds, while a grin wrinkled his cheeks” (45). Also, “its gigantic stature, and the deformity of its aspect
more hideous than belongs to humanity” (60).
The ugliness of the creature horrifies the other characters. Even Victor, the creator, realises the
unbearable hideousness of his creation and states: “Oh! No mortal could support the horror of that
countenance. A mummy again endued with animation could not be so hideous as that wretch” (46).
Further, the ugliness of the creature is displayed in the reaction of the cottagers when they beheld him:
At that instant the cottage door was opened, and Felix, Safie, and Agatha entered.
Who can describe their horror and consternation on beholding me? Agatha fainted,
and Safie, unable to attend to her friend, rushed out of the cottage. Felix darted
forward, and with supernatural force tore me from his father (107).
The cottagers are frightened by the looks of the creature. His ugliness triggers their fear and they feel
threatened. The final description of the monster is provided in chapter 24, when Victor Frankenstein is
lying dead in the cabin of Walton, and the latter is dazzled by the appearance of the creature and explains:
“Over him hung a form which I cannot find words to describe; gigantic in stature, yet uncouth and
distorted in its proportions. As he hung over the coffin, his face was concealed by long locks of ragged
hair; but one vast hand was extended, in color and apparent texture like that of a mummy” (173). He adds:
“I approached this tremendous being: I dared not again raise my looks to his face, there was something so
scaring and unearthly in his ugliness” (173). The horrific appearance of the monster is a key element in
raising fear in the novel. His ugliness horrifies Walton and readers.
Another feature of gothic fiction present in the novel is darkness. The atmosphere of obscurity and
doom is dominant in Frankenstein. In chapter five, Victor is surrounded by darkness and rain. He is
forced to escape due to heavy rain and ambiguity. He says: “I felt impelled to hurry on, although wetted
by the rain which poured from a black and comfortless sky (46). The dark and dreary atmosphere is
connected with Victor: “grief and fear again overcame me. Night also closed around; and when I could
hardly see the mountain, I felt still more gloomily (59). Obscurity raises fear and anxiety in Victor.
Furthermore, the wet setting, pervaded by the utmost darkness, heralds the doom of the protagonist: “I
foresaw obscurely that I was destined to become the most wretched of human beings” (59). The
dominance of darkness and rain is embodied in the selected language by the author: “it was completely
dark”, “the storm appeared”, “the dark mountains”, “the darkness and storm increased every minute”, or
“pitchy darkness” (59). These statements, sometimes, precede the emergence of the creature. The author
uses wet and stormy weather, darkness and obscurity, which are elements from the gothic fiction, to
increase the suspense for readers and to arrange the appearance of the creature. The novel reads:
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While I watched the storm … I perceived a figure which stole from behind a
clump of trees near me: I stood fixed, gazing intently: I could not be mistaken. A
flash of lightning illuminated the object, and discovered its shape plainly to me; its
gigantic stature, and the deformity of its aspect more hideous than belongs to
humanity (60).
Following this, Victor seems to be surrounded by dark wet atmosphere. He, frequently, asserts: “darkness
then came over me” (80), “darkness pressed around me” (141). Darkness, as a motif, borrowed from the
gothic, arouses ambiguity, and, thus, triggers fear. Even the creature at the end of the novel is swallowed
by darkness and “was soon borne away by the waves and lost in darkness and distance” (177).
Haunting is a crucial element in the plot. Jerrold E. Hogle states that “the hauntings associated with
the gothic often arise from the antiquated settings” (1). Victor is chased by his modern achievement in
antiquated and sublime landscapes like the Arctic and the isolated island. This haunting represents his
secret that escaped from the city laboratory and used the ancient setting to grant his escapes. The haunting
secret is a gothic feature and as Hogle notes: “Within this space, or combination of such spaces, are
hidden secrets from the past (sometimes the recent past) that haunt the characters, psychologically,
physically, or otherwise at the main time of the story” (2).
Mary Shelley, in her novel, portrays the horrors that result from repressing one’s desires due to
social restrictions. In the light if this, the doppelgänger or the double symbolises the repressed self.
Therefore, an analysis of the doubled and the double is paramount to construe the process of doubling. In
addition, the analysis of the manifold operations of the gothic double, as employed in the novel, is crucial
for the understanding of the horrors it begets.
Character of the Creator
At the surface, Victor Frankenstein assumes good qualities. He is eloquent, calm, well educated and
sensitive. It is crucial to highlight that his first intentions regarding the creation of his monster seem
noble: “I thought that if I could bestow animation upon lifeless matter, I might in process of time
(although I now find it impossible) renew life where death had apparently devoted the body to corruption”
(Shelley 42). However, underneath such a chivalrous intention, there lies a more hideous plan and an
unattractive figure that will put into question his true motives behind creating a super-human creature.
Throughout the course of the novel, Victor’s actions seem to be self-beneficial and occur as a result of his
own motivation. His serious quest and relentless endeavours appear to be the result of his lust for fame
and power:
A light so brilliant and wondrous, yet so simple, that while I became dizzy with
the immensity of the prospect which it illustrated, I was surprised that among so
many men of genius who had directed their inquiries towards the same science,
that I alone should be reserved to discover so astonishing a secret (41).
He seems uninterested in the consequences of his experiment and does not reflect about any possible
negative outcome. He is self-centred and thinks only about the fame he will attain and the success that
this advanced and powerful experimentation will bestow upon him. This facet of Victor remains
consistent through the novel and appears frequently.
Victor was brought in a loving household; his parent’s primary concern was to ensure the well being
of their progeny. Thus, this sense of importance regarding the family and its bonds grew in Victor and is
apparent in his thoughts about familial bonds. However, his subsequent actions reflect a different attitude,
and this passion and love seem to reflect an image that only Victor creates for himself. When Victor
engages in his task, his egoistic nature emerges. He distances himself from his relatives and friends and
isolates himself in his laboratory. When he, first, leaves his house to study in Ingolstadt in Germany, he
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corresponds with his family but when his attention turns toward science and discovery, he starts losing
contact with them.
Before Victor’s departure, and just few weeks after the death of his mother, Victor’s father made it
clear to his son that any interval in his correspondence would leave him anxious and unhappy: “I know
that while you are pleased with yourself you will think of us with affection, and we shall hear regularly
from you. You must pardon me if I regard any interruption in you correspondence as a proof that you
other duties are equally neglected” (43). Despite this, Victor undergoes his quest and neglects his father
and family, thus, allowing his egoistic nature to emerge again. Mary Poovey comments on Victor’s
behaviour and states: “Mary Shelley characterizes innate desire not as neutral or benevolent but as
quintessentially egoistical … for what he Victor really wants is not to serve others but to assert himself”
(253).
Furthermore, Victor’s egotism manifests itself after the death of his younger brother William, the
first victim of his handiwork. In the story, Justine is found guilty for the murder of William. Although
Victor is aware of the true murderer, he remains silent in order to secure himself. He opts to tell the truth
but then he refuses; because if he tells the truth about his mistake he will damage his ego. He appears to
be protective toward himself more than to Justine.
Victor’s self-centredness shows itself clearly when he neglects the threat of his monster: “I shall be
with you on your wedding-night” (Shelley 133). Instead of interpreting such a threat properly, his egotism
coincides and he assumes that the monster will attempt to kill him instead of his wife. Christopher Small
comments on Victor’s attitude and says: “Frankenstein remembers the Monster’s threat, but with infatuate
egocentricity continues to think of it only as directed against his own life; he even looks forward with
something like complacency to sacrificing himself for his bride” (168-169).
Victor is not aware of his vice. In fact, it is his ignorance toward such a trait that allows him to create
a life out of inanimate materials that will later act out the traits he denied himself. Victor and his creation
complete each other in angles wherein they are unable to fulfill themselves. Together, they represent a
single being that is whole and possesses human traits of good and evil.
Victor’s motives behind creating the human-like being are not noble as Thomas Vargish states:
“[Victor’s] plans to employ his new technology to create a race of dependents who will worship and
praise him, usurping what was almost universally regarded as a divine prerogative” (329). Victor defies
nature and wants to attain power through the use of science.
The Character of the Creature
The monster of Frankenstein is a controversial creature: he is furious, full of hatred and commits hideous
crimes and inflicts horror and grief upon Victor and his family. However, it is worth noting that he is not
born with such qualities. Since his first moments in life, the creature witnesses fear in the eyes of his
creator, who flees directly after beholding his loathsome appearance in the dark laboratory. After
wandering off the woods, alone and with no knowledge, the creature is faced with scorn and violence
from the villagers. Because he cannot understand their behaviour, the monster draws himself back to the
woods and lurks there.
So far the monster’s experience with humans is not pleasurable; therefore he keeps his presence
secret in the cottage near the village. By watching the cottagers closely, the creature acquires knowledge
of how to read and speak. Furthermore, by examining the physical appearance of the cottagers and
noticing his, he is able to recognise his hideousness, and, is therefore, able to understand the human
violent attitude toward him. Soon, he starts to feel affection toward the family for their love
and appreciation toward each other: “the gentle manners and beauty of the cottagers greatly endeared
them to me; when they were unhappy, I felt depressed; when they rejoiced, I sympathized in their joy
(Shelley 88).
After spending a deal of time with this family, the creature attempts for acceptance but he is faced
with the same attitude of refusal. Also, when he saves a girl from drowning, his hideous appearance
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shape calls the uncanny to emerge. Sigmund Freud suggests that the theme of reanimation of inanimate
objects is the peak of the uncanny imagery. It depicts the familiar in an unfamiliar manner: “apparent
death and re-animation of the dead have been represented as the most uncanny themes” (Shelley 528).
The revival of dead matters is uncanny because it depicts the human body, which is already familiar, in an
unfamiliar way. The depiction of a living-dead body is unfamiliar and is, therefore, monstrous.
Frankenstein’s creature possesses uncanny features and destabilises the narrative and creates horror in the
story.
In the novel, Victor constructs his double in the shape of the creature. Despite the difference in the
outer form, the two characters resemble each other in the sense that they share considerable psychological
treats. In this sense, the creator and the creature bear a feeling of resentment that initiated from Victor’s
childhood and is projected onto the creature. As narrated by Victor, his relationship with his father is
sometimes marked by a sentiment of resentment from his part. Due to the intense psychological and
emotional feelings that Victor experience through the process of creation, the repressed emotions of
resentment and abhorrence become linked with the creature. As Robert Rogers notes that: “dynamically
considered, the appearance of an alternating personality can be understood in terms of the drives which
have been repressed and impulses which are defended against” (92). Such a projection explains the
immediate hatred that Victor feels toward his creation.
Victor describes his life as a child as a happy one “no youth could have passed more happily than
mine” (Shelley 30). However, he refers sometimes to unintended emotional neglect mainly from his
father. In the novel, Victor speaks about his father’s aspirations regarding him: “He passed his younger
days perpetually occupied by the affairs of his country; and it was not until the decline of life that he
thought of marrying, and bestowing on the state sons who might carry his virtues and his name down to
posterity” (27). He adds that his father Alphonse “devoted himself to the education of his children” (28),
and was interested in Victor and looked at him as the destined successor to all his labours and utility
(Shelley, 1869). Regarding Alphonse’s plans for his son, the latter developed a need to satisfy his father.
Despite his happy life, Victor confesses that his childhood led to the horrible events in the story.
As a child, Victor developed an interest in the works of Agrippa that his father considered his works
as a “sad trash” (31). This judgment pushed Victor to question why his father did not provide an
explanation for his judgment. As a result, he resented his father’s manner and blamed him for the lack of
guidance and negligence toward his ambition. He went deeper to consider his father’s attitude as the
reason, which led to the creation of the monster:
If, instead of this remark, my father had taken the pains to explain to me that the
principles of Agrippa had been entirely exploded … I should certainly have
thrown Agrippa aside, and, with my imagination warmed as it was, should
probably have applied myself to the more rational theory of chemistry which has
resulted from modern discoveries. It is even possible, that the train of my ideas
would never have received the fatal impulse that led to my ruin. But the cursory
glance my father had taken of my volume by no means assured me that he was
acquainted with its contents; and I continued to read with the greatest avidity (31).
Victor believes that this incident enriched his ambitions toward following Agrippa and the old alchemists
that led to the process of creation.
The early duality of Victor can be seen when he submits to his father’s wish to attend Ingolstadt to
study modern science. However, this is not what Victor wants, but he is obliged to fulfill his father’s wish
which leads him to repress parts of himself. Victor does not follow his father’s dream when he continues
studying the works of Agrippa. Besides, in Ingolstadt, he looks for a father-like model that will guide him
and share with him his interests. It is worth considering that Alphonse’s rejection of Victor’s interests
leads him to conceal his true ambitions for he: “often wished to communicate these secret stores of
knowledge to my father, yet his indefinite censure of my favourite Agrippa always withheld me” (31).
During his studies in Ingolstadt, Victor opts for consent from his professors but, like his father, Professor
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Krempe rejects his ideas: “I mentioned, it is true, with fear and trembling, the only authors I had ever read
upon those subjects. The professor stared: ‘Have you,’ he said, ‘really spent your time in studying such
nonsense?’” (36) This negative attitude toward Victor’s studies in alchemy does not get him to drop his
interest in the field because, for him, Krempe teachings are limited and unfit to cover his ambitions.
In Ingolstadt, Victor meets Professor Waldman and shares his passion with him. At that time he
realises the importance of modern science but does not relinquish his ambition toward old alchemy.
Furthermore, Lee Zimmerman explains how Victor’s childhood experience influenced his true
personality:
Childhood impressions, such as Alphonse’s dismissal of Victor’s scientific
interests, can lead to the repression of parts of the self: “much depends upon the
child’s earliest relations with others who may respond either in a ‘good-enough’
way that allows his or her ‘true self’ to emerge or by imposing rigid structures
that leave the child in a ‘false’ position, caught between an endangered inner world
that can’t be made known and an unresponsive external world that refuses to know
it” (137).
The consequence of this false position leads to the creation of a double to articulate the repressed self.
The creation process, for Victor, represents a chance to overpower his father and somewhat stems out of
his relation with him. When the scientist dreams of creating a being that will look at him as his creator, he
is portraying his relationship with his father. He says: “A new species would bless me as its creator and
source; many happy and excellent natures would owe their being to me. No father could claim the
gratitude of his child so completely as I should deserve theirs” (Shelley 42). Victor dreams of an immense
power that will inflect glory upon him. Such a state allows him to prove himself to his father.
Overtly, Victor respects his father and loves him, but, covertly, he resents him. When he starts
gathering the material needed for his experiment, Victor projects his resentment towards his father.
Zimmerman comments:
Victor experiences the self he presents to others as largely fraudulent; his real need
for the world to meet him half way, and his rage at its duty-bound refusal to do so,
remains hidden and rinexpressible, and is ultimately disowned by being projected
into the monster (146).
In light of this, Victor projects his anger and resentment onto his creation and, thus, the creature bears
aspects of his feelings, thoughts and attitudes. As a result, the creature doubles Victor and their
relationship resembles that of Victor and his father.
From their first encounter, Victor rejects his ‘son’; thus, he embodies Alphonse. As the latter looks
up for his son’s success, Victor assembles his creature carefully. He selects beautiful body parts, but when
he beholds his creation, Victor feels disgust and rejects the creature leading him to turn evil. As Rosemary
Jackson posits: “initially, this body is not evil - it is outside moral issues, beyond good and evil - but it has
evil thrust upon it and gradually comes to assume a more conventional role as an evil monster” (49).
Victor’s rejection of his creation embodies Alphonse’s attitude toward his son and when projected on the
creature, his evil side emerges, thus, causing all the horrors in the novel.
However, by rejecting his creation and denying his responsibility as a creator Victor rejects himself.
D. J. Moores asserts that “By not showing a sense of duty towards his creature, Victor also denies a part
of himself” (73). As a result, the horrific murders and attitudes, produced by the creature, can be
explained as the result of Victor’s repressed self. In the novel, Victor is also found capable of doing evil.
This is mainly apparent, when he leaves Justine die even though he knows who really killed William and
when he, further, launches a hunt to kill his creation. As his creature says: “you accuse me of murder; and
yet you would, with a satisfied conscience, destroy your own creature” (Shelley 79). Following this, when
the creator transfers his own savage and repressed instincts, he divides himself.
Kohil Mouna
237
The creature, as an extension of the creator, overpowers him. This state allows him to control the
creator and urges him to discover his evil part. D. J. Moores states: “Such energies cannot be ignored,
however, for if they are subjugated and thus denied a place in consciousness, they will indeed become
monstrous, turning on the individual who unleashes them” (73). Like when Victor wanted to defy his
father, the creature defies his creator and, further, threatens him with a different kind of creation: “I, too,
can create desolation; my enemy is not impregnable; this death will carry despair to him, and a thousand
other miseries shall torment and destroy him” (Shelley 113). By this, Victor realises his responsibility for
the horror he produced and starts to recognise that the creature is an extension of himself. The sense of
remorse alleviates, as he states: “I felt as if I had committed some great crime, the consciousness of which
haunted me. I was guiltless, but I had indeed drawn down a horrible curse upon my head, as mortal as that
of crime” (128). With the feeling of guilt comes the feeling of hatred toward the monster, and, in turn, he
starts hating himself. As Moores argues, “this sense of culpability for crimes not committed suggests very
clearly that Victor and his creature are inextricably tied... His [Victor’s] doppelgänger is a constant
reminder that he is the ultimate source of his and his family’s tragic demise” (74-76).
The guilt that Victor feels urges him to recognise that creature as his double. He starts to feel
monstrous. He links his dark side as displayed in the creature:
I considered the being whom I had cast among mankind, and endowed with the
will and power to effect purposes of horror, such as the deed which he had now
done, nearly in the light of my own vampire, my own spirit let loose from the
grave, and forced to destroy all that was dear to me (Shelley 60).
After the murders, Victor considers himself an evil being. He declares: “I wandered like an evil spirit, for
I had committed deeds of mischief beyond description horrible” (71). Following this, Victor attempts to
end the life of the monster and, thus, in a way ending his own.
After the death of Clerval, Victor suffers from dreams. He even starts to think himself mad. Aija
Ozolins asserts that: “dreams are associated with illusoriness or with ideals that turn into nightmares of
horror and guilt” (103). Interestingly, Victor is haunted by his secret from the past.
Despite Victor’s awareness of the fact that he is bound with the creature, he refuses to unify the two
persons. Instead, Victor agrees to create a mate for the creature, but he destroys it later. The destruction of
the mate causes the creature to destroy Victor’s mate as well, which drives the latter into a haunting
journey. This deed of vengeance puts the two in the same state of loss. Following this, both Victor and the
creature are doubles: both of them have been rejected by their fathers; both of them lose their mates, and,
due to this, both of them are vengeful.
Interestingly, Victor and his creature double each other. While the earlier part of the novel focuses on
the creature as Victor’s double, the last part displays Victor as the creature’s double. The inability to
assimilate both selves indicates that a successful self formation will never be achieved. When Victor dies,
the monster succumbs to death as well, thus, indicating that Victor is unable to unify with his double.
Victor’s inability to assimilate with his double leaves him unable to find the kind of self he opts for and
which urged him to engage in the experiment in the first place.
It is worth noting that Mary Shelley’s novel touches an important topic considered as disturbing by
the Romantic readers. The motif of the double aims at arousing fear and horror in readers.
Conclusion
To conclude, this work has shown how the emotion of horror is created in Frankenstein. Mary Shelley
borrowed from the gothic and used its themes in her work in order to create a more effective horror. By
this, she expressed the societal anxieties of her times and warned from the negative outcomes of the
uncontrolled use of science. Thus, in Frankenstein Mary Shelley made use of the gothic as a means to
highlight the public concerns regarding science and to achieve a more intense response on part of readers.
Accordingly, the gothic is employed to create a fearsome mood and to help understand the fears of the
238
Gothic Horrors and the Double in Frankenstein
Victorian society. The novel portrayed the horrible outcomes of leading a double life due to conservatism
and portrayed the double figure as an outlet for repressed desires.
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Historical Guide to Literature, Illustration, Film, Tv, Radio and the Internet, Ed. Neil Barron. Lanham:
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Literature and Film, Ed. William Coyle. Westport, CT and London: Greenwood Press, 1986. [44].
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University Press, 1970Sedgwick, Eve K. The Coherence of Gothic Conventions. NY: Arno Press, 1980.
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... 33. As explicated in the likes of Cottom (1980), Dugget (2010), Matus (2017), and Mouna (2018). 34. ...
... 37. As described in Bloom (2007), Davison (2009), Dugget (2010, Matus (2017), and Mouna (2018). 38. ...
Article
Full-text available
The Tambora - Frankenstein Myth: A Monster Inspired (First Published in: "Humanities Bulletin" Vol. 2, No.2) The link between the volcanic eruption of Mount Tambora in 1815 and Mary Shelley's composition of Frankenstein has attained mythic status. The myth uses a scientific frame to promote the idea that the Tambora event led to Mary Shelley's invention of the Frankenstein story because the eruption so altered the climate of Europe (lowering the temperatures, creating rainy electrical storms, producing frosts and floods, and generally darkening the landscape) that Shelley dreamt up the idea for her monstrous horror tale as a result. She was then imprisoned indoors by the volcanically-induced bad summer weather of 1816 and thus encouraged to craft the story into a full length gothic novel. This paper outlines the structure of this Tambora-Frankenstein myth and then attempts to investigate its roles, goals, and meanings as ascribed by various scholars and journalists. An attempt is then made to elucidate the problems, failings, and miscalculations of the myth.
... 33. As explicated in the likes of Cottom (1980), Dugget (2010), Matus (2017), and Mouna (2018). 34. ...
... 37. As described in Bloom (2007), Davison (2009), Dugget (2010, Matus (2017), and Mouna (2018). 38. ...
Article
Full-text available
The link between the volcanic eruption of Mount Tambora in 1815 and Mary Shelley's composition of Frankenstein has attained mythic status. The myth uses a scientific frame to promote the idea that the Tambora event led to Mary Shelley's invention of the Frankenstein story because the eruption so altered the climate of Europe (lowering the temperatures, creating rainy electrical storms, producing frosts and floods, and generally darkening the landscape) that Shelley dreamt up the idea for her monstrous horror tale as a result. She was then imprisoned indoors by the volcanically-induced bad summer weather of 1816 and thus encouraged to craft the story into a full length gothic novel. This paper outlines the structure of this Tambora-Frankenstein myth and then attempts to investigate its roles, goals, and meanings as ascribed by various scholars and journalists. An attempt is then made to elucidate the problems, failings, and miscalculations of the myth.
Article
Full-text available
American Imago 60.2 (2003) 135-158 Early in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (1831), Victor Frankenstein tells Captain Walton: "No human being could have passed a happier childhood than myself. My parents were possessed by the very spirit of kindness and indulgence" (43). But is what he says true? Is Victor's claim borne out by the details of his narrative? I would like to propose that it is not, that it is idealized and defensive, and that just as the monster suffers from parentlessness, so too does Victor, who is his double. The monster's story of emotional abandonment is Victor's story. One might suppose this would hardly be worth taking the trouble to argue, given the common view that, as George Levine puts it, "the hero and his antagonist are one" (1973, 209) and "the monster can be taken as an expression of an aspect of Frankenstein's self . . . re-enacting in mildly disguised ways, his creator's feelings and experiences" (209-10). But this insight has not informed most readings of Victor's early life. Indeed, a chorus of responses—all notable enough to be collected in the Norton Critical Edition (Hunter 1996) of the novel—despite their differences, unites in taking Victor's glowing report at face value. Strikingly, Levine himself writes that "Frankenstein's father. . . in caring for him, behaves to his son as the monster would have Frankenstein behave" (211). Christopher Small sees in Victor's upbringing an "atmosphere of perfect love, harmony, and parental indulgence" (1972, 102), and he calls Victor's father "benevolent . . . wise . . . altogether un-authoritarian" (103). For Sandra M. Gilbert and Susan Gubar, Victor's "Edenic childhood is an interlude of prelapsarian innocence in which, like Adam, he is sheltered by his benevolent father" (1979, 231); while for Mary Poovey he is "the son of loving, protective parents" who provide the "harmony of his childhood" (1984, 122); and for Ellen Moers he experiences "doting parents" (1976, 98). Typifying the way that Victor is often contrasted with his double in this respect, Barbara Johnson sees the novel as "the story of two antithetical modes of parenting that give rise to two increasingly parallel lives—the life of Victor Frankenstein, who is the beloved child of two doting parents, and the life of the monster . . . who is immediately spurned and abandoned by his creator" (1982, 242). In counterpoint to this apparent consensus, Anne K. Mellor draws attention to "the many ways in which Frankenstein portrays the consequences of the failure of family, the damage wrought when the mother—or a nurturant parental love—is absent" (1988, 39). Like the above chorus, however, Mellor focuses on the consequences of Victor's absenting himself from the monster. Indeed, she echoes Johnson's opposition between Victor and the monster's experiences of their parents: "Throughout the novel, Frankenstein's callous disregard of his responsibility as the sole parent of his only child is contrasted to the examples of two loving fathers" (43-44), one of whom is Alphonse Frankenstein (the other being the father of the De Lacey family). Everyone agrees, at least, that the monster suffers a horrible abandonment, and Mellor reads his murderousness as a measure of it, seeing in Victor "a classic case of a battering parent who produces a battered child who in turn becomes a battering parent: the creature's first murder victim . . . is a small child whom he wishes to adopt" (43). But why start the chain with Victor? Doesn't this "battering parent" have parents of his own? Does he not himself suffer the absence of "nurturant parental love"? My approach to the monster's story of deprivation as a double of Victor's own is inflected by a particular psychoanalytic way of thinking. Going against the grain of Freudian and Lacanian readings, I invoke an object relations perspective that explores the centrality of an infant's early experiences with primary caretakers and of the intense feelings of love and hate that, even on the surface, are the main concern of Frankenstein. Although Melanie Klein pioneered the notion that the self is constituted by intense early relationships, it was D. W. Winnicott, following the lead of W...
Fantasy and Horror: A Critical and Historical Guide to Literature, Illustration, Film, Tv, Radio and the Internet
  • Frederick S Frank
Frank, Frederick S. "The Early and Later Gothic Traditions, 1762-1896", Fantasy and Horror: A Critical and Historical Guide to Literature, Illustration, Film, Tv, Radio and the Internet, Ed. Neil Barron. Lanham: Scarecrow P, 1999. [7].
The Critical Tradition: Classic Texts and Contemporary Trends
  • Sigmund Freud
Freud, Sigmund. "The Uncanny", The Critical Tradition: Classic Texts and Contemporary Trends, Eds. David Ritcher. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2007. [522].
Narcissism and Beyond: A Psychoanalytic Reading of Frankenstein and Fantasies of the Double
  • Rosemary Jackson
Jackson, Rosemary. "Narcissism and Beyond: A Psychoanalytic Reading of Frankenstein and Fantasies of the Double", Aspects of Fantasy: Selected Essays from the Second International Conference on the Fantastic in Literature and Film, Ed. William Coyle. Westport, CT and London: Greenwood Press, 1986. [44].
American Gothic Fiction: An Introduction. London: Continuum
  • Alan Lloyd-Smith
Lloyd-Smith, Alan. American Gothic Fiction: An Introduction. London: Continuum, 2004.