Mary Shelley’s most popular novel, Frankenstein (1818) expresses her “secret unconscious desires and anxieties” (Delahoyde, n.d. para. 1) through the development of characters, setting and generic conventions. “A literary work is [in fact] a manifestation of the author’s own neuroses” (Delahoyde,
n.d. para. 1). Through analysing Freud’s theories, one can psychoanalyse Frankenstein on an exceptionally comprehensive level, making connections between Shelley’s unconscious and her novel. Dislocation is another component within Frankenstein that when considered, presents the sublimity of the setting to be a representation of its extensive impact on her subconscious. Death had a large impact also, influencing the plot and characters considerably. Shelley expressed her repressed sufferings through her writing, embodying her subconscious within Frankenstein.
Renowned neurologist, psychoanalyst and psychotherapist, Sigmund Freud, theorised the idea of a tripartite mind which is seen most clearly in Shelley’s Frankenstein through the characterisation of the fiend. One of the three parts is The Id, as present from birth. It includes the ‘instinctive and primitive behaviours’ (Cherry, n.d, para. 2) of man, being the . Another component is The Ego, responsible for controlling The Id’s impulses and transferring them into socially acceptable responses. It is developed as one grows and is influenced by one’s surroundings. Lastly, The SuperEgo which gives a sense of right and wrong and ‘provides guidelines for making judgements’ (Cherry, n.d, para. 8). The fiend that Shelley ornately constructs is at first innocent; feeling raw emotions. Within the first days of his consciousness The Id is the only present factor as he “could distinguish, nothing; but feeling pain invade [him] on all sides, [he] sat down and wept” (2003, p. 122). With The Ego and Super-Ego absent, raw emotion is vivid and the fiend is unable to control his impulses. Shelley continued to develop the daemon’s unrefined character as he
“felt light, and hunger, and thirst, and darkness; innumerable sounds rang in [his] ears and on all
sides various scents saluted [him]” (2003, p. 122). This too presents the rawness of The Id as he experiences ‘instinctive and primitive’ sensations. The fiend than continues revealing elements of
The Ego. He is viciously attacked by a kindly man towards the middle of his story where he realises, “I could have torn him limb from limb, as the lion rends the antelope. But my heart sank within me as with bitter sickness, and I refrained” (2003, p. 164). This shows The Id as he desires revenge but is subdued by The Ego that adheres his refrain. The Super-Ego can also be seen to develop in the fiend as he said, “I learned, from the views of social life which it developed, to admire their virtues and to deprecate the vices of mankind” (2003, p. 154). This shows a deepening of intellect, a knowledge of good and evil that would govern his decisions henceforth. It also explores the control the subconscious Id can have over a man. The fiend experiences “For the first time the feelings of revenge and hatred [that filled his] bosom, and [he] did not strive to control them, but [allowed himself] to be borne away by the stream” (2003, p. 168). Shelley’s life was filled with emotions of supposed anger and loss over her mothers death, love and desire in her relationship with Percy Shelley and despair over her child’s death. These intense human emotions stem from The Id and can haunt a person as reflected in the intensity of the fiend’s desire for revenge that plagued him. Freud’s proposed tripartite mind is vividly explored through the characterisation of Frankenstein’s daemon, exploring the development of the human mind and presenting a link between Shelley’s unconscious and her story.
Shelley’s psychological dislocation and wanderings through the sublime that was the European countryside are reflected through the elevated