Sunday, April 19, 2015

Frankenstein's Monster

Alternately titled Modern Prometheus, we are led to think that Dr. Frankenstein wished to rival the gods (or women) by creating life. For a woman in 1817 to write a masterpiece was not simply unusual, it was considered, like Prometheus' stealing of fire, an act of hubris. But more than hubris, Frankenstein is a story about attachment and the longing for restoration of lost relationship.

Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, the author of Frankenstein (1818, 1831), lost her own mother at only eleven days old from complications (infection) of childbirth. Her parents had hoped for a boy. Childbirth was perilous in Shelly's day. Shelley herself, as a teen, lost her first child within days of her daughter's premature birth. Her second, named after her father, and third child, also died very young. Shelley experienced multiple miscarriages and only one son lived to adulthood. Shelley was a widow by age 25.

Did Mary grow up believing she had killed her mother? That her mother had abandoned her because Mary was an unlovable monster just as Dr. Frankenstein abandoned his creation at its birth? It is immensely plausible to speculate that a small child would wish for restoration of the lost mother. Not only had Shelley lost her mother, so does Victor Frankenstein, and his bride, as did Shelley's husband Percy, upon whom Victor was partially modeled. Shelley, who dedicated the book to her father, might have wished as well for reparation with him for he had cut off all ties with her when she ran way with the already married Percy. 

Victor, unseen or misrecognized by his parents, misrecognizes his creation. Dr. Frankenstein's monster becomes the Brombergian 'not-me': the loss, the envy, the rage of the abandoned child, and it vengefully and relentlessly pursues its creator-mother just as Mary, as a child, spent countless hours at her mother's grave (and it was there that she and Percy fell in love). 

A child learns to see itself first in its mothers face, her gaze, her mind, and learns to regulate its emotions from its mother's lending of soothing and containment of distressing emotions and sensations. 

Frankenstein's creation had none of these advantages, a monstrous child, indeed, left to long ragefully for connection. 

Film with Boris Karloff shown today at 200pm.

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