my own spirit
The doppelgänger or double is a feature of gothic tales
throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth century. As a literary type,
however, the double can have more than sensational uses. Within a year of
Frankenstein's publication, for instance, Percy Bysshe Shelley
incorporated the figure within the first act of Prometheus Unbound,
where the Earth tells Prometheus of a second realm of potentiality that
shadows the actual world:
Ere Babylon was dust,
Mary Shelley, too, is concerned with potentiality, both its development
and its thwarting, which she pursues on a number of different levels in
this novel, projecting the doubling on moral and psychological, but also
on mythic and theological, grounds. Up to this point in the novel the
theme of doubling has been only hinted at in the intensities of male
friendship we have encountered. Here, in directly introducing doubling as
a psychological condition, her basic stress is on the self-division and
resulting self-destructiveness that, we may now begin to realize, is the
driving force behind the arctic pursuit that initiates Victor's narrative.
The Magus Zoroaster, my dead child,
Met his own image walking in the garden.
That apparition, sole of men, he saw.