Freudianism In “Frankenstein”: An Analysis Of The Human Nature

Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein is a masterful blend of social commentary and horror. It explores the human condition as it unfolds. Robert Walton is introduced in the novel, as are Victor Frankenstein. Both men are driven to glory by science. These two men have been enslaved by the Id – the darkest part the human mind – and are driven by the curiosity of mankind. The Id is the list of primal needs and demands that a person has. Victor’s Id, or curiosity, leads him to create his monster. This theme is also reflected in the second part of the story, which states that there will be an ongoing conflict between creator and created. Freudian Psychology states that there is always a struggle between the Ego (ego) and Id (id).

Victor’s responsibility is to instill some conscience (Ego) into his creation. Freud describes, however, the conflict that exists between the Ego’s and Id’s. The monster, in the end, makes Victor feel so repulsed by his creation, he is unable to stand it. Human Nature, a third factor in destructive human behavior, is what drives all humans. The Id, the most fundamental aspect of human nature, is what causes both creation and creator to fail. Victor’s madness to create a different species is driven by his Id. The Id is the driving force behind Victor’s demise because of his mad quest to start a new species. The Monster was created by a man who had a maniacal desire for fame. It is impossible to have a moral conscience for the creature. Frankenstein struggles to overcome his birthright, the incarnation Id, yet he cannot. Id is the incarnation of Id in the Ego.

Freud’s Psychological theories and Frankenstein’s discussion of human psychology are well connected. The three arguments that Freud presents correspond to the beginnings, middles, and ends of the novel as well the developments in the plot at each point. Freud makes his first point at the beginning of Frankenstein. He says that the Id has a curiosity about human nature, and when this curiosity is indulged to excess, it can lead to misfortune. Freud also believes that the Ego will always have a conflict with the Id. The middle part of the book is based on this belief. The essences of humanity will ultimately lead to the extinction of our species, as is shown at the novel’s end.

Curiosity is part of what makes us human. It drives our desire to explore, learn, and discover. This curiosity is accompanied by the desire for fame. Victor’s hubris to “have [him] bless[ed] as its source and creator” (Shelly 48) demonstrates the desire for fame. The pride in that thought, almost Shakespearian-like, exposes the sordid self-importance of a tragic figure. Victor’s purpose is revealed in this declaration, and he predicts that he will fall. In this statement, Victor explains his purpose and predicts his downfall. Irony is the best way to describe this statement. He hopes the new race he creates will be most friendly. The Id is his creation, and he has succeeded in creating a horror that was meant to be vilified by humanity.

Freud believed that the desire born from the Id will give birth to Id’s being. Id can be described as the “dark inaccessible side of the human character that is striving for satisfaction”. Victor’s quest is firmly grounded in his own self. He is unaware that an imperfect person wielding God’s powers could cause harm. The Id-ridden monster is what comes out of these forbidden powers. The monster has a terrible fate because he was “born” or “zapped”, and is, as Freud described all newborns, totally Id-ridden. The monster can’t develop an Ego. In his place, he has the Ego side that is willing to side with Id in opposition to the Super Ego.

The monster is not able to establish a strong connection with the Super Ego. This is the real problem. The monster is no longer able to connect with the Super Ego or humanity as a whole. His psyche is shocked. He cannot bear the horror he sees on the faces of those he loves and who he regarded as “protectors”. The Ego is wiped out and his psyche snaps. Shelley, p. 124, says that he vows to “seek justice for the injustice he tried in vain to gain from other beings that wore human forms”. The Monster wants revenge on Victor. Victor is what keeps him alive. Freud developed this idea late in his career. The monster’s desire to get revenge on Victor leads to the creation of a death-instinct. The death instinct is expressed as an urge to destroy the external world, including other organisms.

The second Freudian thought that emerges in the middle novel is that creator and creation will always have a conflict. The Monster is Victor’s child. Victor’s revulsion towards the monster and ultimate abandonment is predictable. He hoped his “new species,” which he had created, would be superior than humanity. Instead, he received a horrid creature, whose limbs were hacked and whose body was electrically energized. Victor’s abandonment leads the monster to seek revenge on his creator. “Remember, I am thy creatures, I should by thy Adam. But rather, I am the fell angel,” (Shelley 90).

The Monster is telling Victor that he has turned him into the Devil, “whom thou (Victor) drivest from joy for no misdeed.” The Monster tells Victor he’s turned him into a devil, whom Victor drives away because he did nothing wrong. (Shelley 89) Victor is driven away by the Monster because he’s so hideous. Victor assumed that the monster’s appearance would make him a vicious beast. The Monster was bitter towards humanity as a whole. He says: “What hope can you give me from these creatures that owe no one anything?” They hate and reject me.” (Shelley, 89). He knows that humanity will not be sympathetic, so he chooses to kill the man who has done him wrong. He swears that, “Not just [Victor] or [his] family will be destroyed, but thousands others as well” (Shelley, 90).

Victor’s nature makes him hate the monster. Freud believed that a creature who has a fully functional Ego and is connected to its Super Ego would find an Id-only creature to be extremely repulsive. Freud says that most people don’t like to look at their negative sides, so they will avoid them when they appear in the form of something they once admired. Victor’s abandonment to the Monster was a way for him to protect himself from his own ego. He can only live as he intended to if he forgets that he made something so horrible. The Clockmaker is the Monster’s analogy. “Create it, and leave it”. But it’s hard for him to use the denial method when his Monster is following behind, killing loved ones as he goes. The Monster’s instinct for destruction is triggered by Victor abandoning him. This idea suggests that a human’s natural instinct is to be hostile toward organic materials and other living things. The monster’s retaliation for his creator’s cruelty is evident in the growing pile of bodies he leaves behind.

Frankenstein illustrates the third Freudian element of human behavior: the nature of humans will eventually bring about the downfall of a species. Victor’s hubris caused him to create a monster, which then ruined his own life. Victor’s mental injuries to his creation is the cause of everything. He abandons his creation in a foreign world with unknown people and a foreign language. This abandonment is so traumatic for the monster, that it decides that the man who caused him to exist and his pain will be tortured.

Victor’s Id, to use Freudian language, demanded satisfaction for his curiosity regarding the re-animating of dead tissue. Id is born when he indulges his curiosity. The Monster has a Super Ego that is connected to his Ego. He could not become a member of society because he did not have the Super Ego. The Monster blames Victor’s creation for the lack of human characteristics he has. Victor created him to look hideous and disfigured before abandoning him. These feelings are the catalyst for the Monster’s destructive instinct. This causes his Id, or his inner voice, to go on a killing spree across Europe. The Monster’s destruction instinct is the result of these feelings, which causes his Id to run rampant on his European killing spree.

Mary Shelley weaved a dark story in response to a challenge. Frankenstein is the story of death and life, as well as the human characteristics that threaten our fragile existence. In the beginning of the book, the author reveals that the Id is the root cause of man’s natural curiosity. According to Freud’s theory, the Id represents all of man’s instinctual and fundamental needs and wants. The novel’s middle shows the constant conflict between creator and creation. Freudian theory relates the conflict between the creator and his creation to the Ego. The novel’s ending represents Freud’s belief that the human condition will play a major role in the story of our species’ demise.


  • davidwong

    David Wong is a 29-year-old educator and blogger who focuses on helping students learn in creative and interesting ways. He has a background in teaching and has been blogging since 2006. David's work has been featured on a variety of websites, including Lifehack, Dumb Little Man, and The Huffington Post.