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The bleak identity of the monster in frankenstein a novel by mary shelley

Theory and Politics of Romanticism, ed. But what goes from one lover to the other is a movement that puts an end to isolation or at least makes it waver. Isolate being is risked, opens to what's beyond itself, to what's beyond the couple even -- monstrous excess.

  • Mellor , Mary Shelley London;
  • Frankenstein, mary shelley when mary shelley literally dreamed up frankenstein and his monster she generated concepts that captivated the imagination of other;
  • These figures, like the heroes of romance, provide a temporary sense of imaginary, metaphorical unity;
  • Describing the sequence of events, that for him, culminated in his creation, Victor presents an environment that corresponds to the union of love Hegel associates with the family;
  • Academic Press, ] have criticized Stone's models on the grounds that the Malthusian marriage-system and the affectional nuclear family existed well before the sixteenth century, but their arguments do not sufficiently take into account the documented changes that occurred within the British family during the modern period.

For them, love leaps beyond limits but also encounters absolute difference: Opening up questions of the self, its being, life, objects and language, love is inextricably entangled in the formation and dissolution of the western subject as it was shaped in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. In the spark of love that flickers between Frankenstein and The Sorrows of Young Werther the Romantic subject is taken to the limits of fullness and loss, transgressing all other bounds: The split that love tries to cover discloses, not the ideal image glimpsed by flights of amorous fantasy, but the monstrosity of subjectivity itself.

Love, then, is a textual affair, bound up with structures of signification. In and between Frankenstein and Werther it is the effects of romance that both shape and displace the subject of love who is associated with the imagination, creativity and unity of Romanticism. Many readings of Mary Shelley 's novel have interpreted it as a critique of male Romanticism that displays the egoism underlying Romantic ideals.

While this essay shares assumptions about Frankenstein's critical examination of Romantic subjectivity, it analyses the way the novel not only critiques the effects of masculine desire but examines the structural, cultural and textual issues at stake in both their production and their disclosure of monstrous excess. Love and the One Narcissism, however, cannot provide the grounds for an essay critique of masculinity, though it remains crucial to the formation of subjectivity.

In Tales of Love, Julia Kristeva discusses the homological power of Eros, the ideal of Self which unifies universal and particular p. For Kristeva, the unity of the One found in Plotinus' comments on love and God establishes the condition for interiority: In a secular world, the human subject falls in love with its Self, the external form constituting the ideal and perfect being, internalised as One's Self.

While, for Kristeva, the subject can be captivated by metaphors as much as its own ideal image, thus leaving the binary specular frame of narcissism open to movement, the account of narcissism displays a theological structure in its ideals of unity and oneness.

Such an idealised version of love implicates the Romantic philosophical tradition in the literary one. Hegel's phenomenological system places love in a central position.

Making a Monster

In 'The Spirit of Christianity', Hegel states: In this feeling of harmony there is no universality, since in harmony the particular is not in discord but in concord, or otherwise there would be no harmony.

The distinction, moreover, is framed in familial terms: In the Philosophy of Right, the family again provides the image of the relationship between consciousness and love: The family, as the immediate substantiality of mind, is specifically characterised by love, which is mind's feeling of its own unity. Hence in a family, one's frame of mind is to have self-consciousness of one's individuality within this unity as the absolute essence of oneself, with the result that one is not in it as an independent person but as a member.

  • Respectively, Julia Kristeva, Tales of Love, tr;
  • With these demands the monster constitutes itself as more than the passively resistant and distant alter-ego, or narcissistic antitype;
  • John William Polidori, ed;
  • The experience of pregnancy is one that male writers have by necessity avoided; and before Mary Shelley, female writers had considered the experiences of pregnancy and childbirth as improper, even taboo, subjects to be discussed before a male or mixed audience;
  • Blackwell, 1989 , p.

Love, as 'mind's feeling of its own unity', extends, transcendentally, to encompass the totality of being; it is at once the condition and the beyond of human unity. The image of unity proposed by Hegel's concept of love, however, depends on an experience of separation, as does the subject in the attainment of self-consciousness. Aware of this separation, the subject 'posits this [presently unachievable] unification in a future state'. Love's unity is deferred; the subject, separated from the object, encounters the distance from the ideal object of unity: The beloved is not opposed to us, he is one with our essential being; we see only ourselves in him -- and yet also he is still not we -- miracle that we cannot grasp.

The separation from ideal unity, however, becomes a condition for the bleak identity of the monster in frankenstein a novel by mary shelley development. Hegel uses the family to illustrate the relationship between the intuition of love, one's separation from it and the recovery of unity. Lovers, united in the manifold of life and love, lose consciousness of their difference from each other in the abolition of their separate selves.

A child is born, testament to the union of selves and bodies, 'a seed of immortality, of the eternally self-developing and self-generating [race], has come into existence. What has been united [in the child] is not divided again; [in love and through] God has acted and created.

This unity [the child], however, is only a point, [an undifferentiated unity,] a seed; the lovers cannot contribute to it as to give it a manifold in itself at the start. Their union is free from all inner division; in it there is no working on an opposite.

Everything which gives the newly begotten child a manifold life and a specific existence, it must draw into itself, set over against itself, and unify with itself. Each stage of its development is a separation, and its aim in each is to regain for itself the full riches of life [enjoyed by the parents]. Thus the process is: After their union the lovers separate again, but in the child their union has become unseparated. Love provides the subject with an ideal of its own unity as nostalgia and wish, a unity lost in the present and consigned to both an irrecuperable past and a distant future.


The fundamental contradiction of love appears in the renewed distancing of subject and object. Love, the ultimate and ideal unity of human consciousness, is wanting. Indeed, it exists as want: Love's intuition seems to fulfil the demand for completeness; but there is a contradiction.

Intuition, representative thinking, is something restrictive, something receptive only of something restricted; but here the object intuited [God] would be something infinite. The infinite cannot be carried in this vessel. Both Frankenstein and Werther are determined by the incomplete dialectic of love, subjected to the want of unity it prescribes.

They both speak the exorbitant language of the Romantic imagination and indulge in passions whose ultimate object is the idealised form of self. Werther, similarly, speaks of the imagination and the possibility of artistic expression 'if I had some clay or wax to model'.

The bleak identity of the monster in frankenstein a novel by mary shelley

As a Romantic artist, Werther identifies nature as the locus of total unity. Alone in the folds of nature, Werther feels the unifying presence of being; it elevates him, enabling his participation in the 'breath of the All-loving One who sustains us as we float in illimitable bliss' p.

This unity, as with Hegelian conceptions, assumes the fusion of internal and external worlds through the animating breath of life: Love elevates the subject himself: In love, Werther recovers the fullness of being which his first letter describes as having been lost. Early in his epistolary account he recalls the loss of a woman friend whose presence elevated his own sense of being, allowing him to become 'everything I could be' p.

Nature and women are the locus of love, linking the totality of being to the presence of maternal affection. Not only are women in Werther's past substitutes for lost maternal affection: Lotte is herself identified with the wonderful mother whose story has both Albert and Werther on the brink of losing consciousness.

Maternal figures predominate in Frankenstein's account of his idealised upbringing. Frankenstein is born into a family of love, the offspring of loving parents. Describing the sequence of events, that for him, culminated in his creation, Victor presents an environment that corresponds to the union of love Hegel associates with the family. His parents are united in 'bonds of devoted affection' while their child is 'their plaything and idol'a heaven-sent symbol of their unity.

Later, with the addition of an orphan girl to the family, the harmonious tones of Victor continue.

  • See Michael Hulse, Introduction to Werther, pp;
  • Significantly, it is the monster who severs all Frankenstein's ties with the human community:

She is another version of him: Elizabeth is an extension of Victor, a mark of his wish for completion, sign of his mother's love, a gift, a 'pretty present' p. She is, however, also a dangerous supplement, a sign of his lack in that she fulfils his mother's wish to have a daughter p.

Not the object of absolute love, Victor is incomplete because he is not a girl. Victor, the 'seed' and symbol of his parents' love, is left wanting the unity that it leaves in the past and promises in the future.

His creative project, furthermore, stays within the bounds prescribed by the familial metaphor. Frankenstein pursues feminine nature in order expropriate the knowledge, both carnal and metaphysical, that will enable him to understand its hidden laws and possess the secret of life. He describes his victory over nature as the achievement of the 'summit of his desires'. In this 'most gratifying consummation' he reaches the pinnacle of subjectivity and the end of his 'painful labour' p.

His penetration, consummation and labour signal the attainment of totality, success in reproduction, conception and creation. His identity is ideal, his union complete: Like the Hegelian love-child or the Wordsworthian child, he has superseded his parents and fathered himself. The plenitude that swells within Frankenstein as he enjoys this moment of idealised erotic selfunion lead to boundless speculations of a metaphysical nature, speculations whose object is the divine form of the self p.

  1. Werther, too, sees 'eternal life' transformed 'into the abyss of the ever open grave' p.
  2. He relies on a Benthamite utilitarian ethical calculus, the greatest good for the greatest number, without first demonstrating that the creature could not have benefited from the companionship of a female, and without proving that the female creature would have been more malignant than the male as he claimed when he destroyed her partially finished form. In the figure of Werther, however, the monster discovers a model that is less mythological.
  3. An imaginary phenomenon, love and its narcissistic subject is relocated as a symbolic construction, an effect of linguistic and cultural practices, dependent on speaking subjects amorously addressing an Other from whom they want a reply, a sign of recognition.
  4. It both ruptures and completes the narcissistic fantasy of unity, attenuating the divine at the expense of life. Oxford University Press, 1969 , p.
  5. Fleenor Montreal and London.

No one can conceive the variety of feelings which bore me onwards, like a hurricane, in the first enthusiasm of success. Life and death appeared to me ideal bounds, which I should first break through, and pour a torrent of light into our dark world. A new species would bless me as both its creator and source; many happy and excellent natures would owe their being to me.

No father should claim the gratitude of his child so completely as I should deserve theirs. The aspirations to absolute paternal power are uttered with a passion that is both erotic and catastrophic.

Wanting no less than the summit of being, the human realisation of divinity wherein the control of self and others is absolute, he transcends all limits. Being divine and human, creator and source, origin and end, cause and object of total love, he imagines the eroticised ideal of self. The images of natural energy, the hurricane and the flood, signal the catastrophe of amorous passion, the 'enthusiasm' that shatters all bounds in the first flush of love.

Want Love, however, is predicated upon loss: The fullness Frankenstein projects produces not the lasting union of self-copulation: The creation of life does not deliver the fantasy of homogeneous and total existence, but presents an uncontrollable flood of heterogeneity. As the bleak identity of the monster in frankenstein a novel by mary shelley monster stirs with life the creator is horrified by its physical incongruity, his failure perceived in distinctly aesthetic terms: This embodiment of life in full repulses the creator.

The monster presents the inverted image of Frankenstein's narcissistic project; its animation overturning the creative ideals in a process of complete and monstrous reversal: Frankenstein notes how his world has turned upside down. The inversion of poles from life to death, union to separation reopens the gap and arouses the subject's sense of absolute loss.

Mimicking the convulsions that brought the creature to life, Frankenstein's throes of despair constitute an unavowed recognition of his own monstrosity.

Werther, too, is possessed by a monstrous figure, undergoing the dramatic reversals characteristic of the Romantic subject of love. Bereft of the tiny acknowledgments a lover depends upon, Werther's bright vision of the world is replaced by a bleak prospect. Bliss and fullness once produced in sympathy with nature now cause 'unbearable torment', the infinity of being remains a memory that exacerbates his sense of total separation: Life turns to death, being to nothingness, as nature becomes a consuming destructive force rendering all beings transient and mortal entities.

The figure of the monster dominates this vision: