Contents Index

What is a Monster?
(According to Frankenstein)

Peter Brooks

In Body Work (Cambridge: Harvard Univ. Press, l993), pp. 199-220; reprinted in Frankenstein/Mary Shelley, ed. Fred Botting (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1995), pp. 81-106

monstrum horrendum informe ingens cui lumen ademptum
(Virgil, Aeneid, 3:658)
{199} Viewing woman's body in a phallic field of vision predominates in the nineteenth-century realist tradition, but there are examples of attempts to subvert this model and move beyond its epistemological implications to other kinds of knowing of the body. I shall argue in the next chapter that George Eliot provides the best instance of dissent from within the dominant tradition -- a dissent that Freud, attempting to supplant seeing by listening to the body, may also be struggling toward. The present chapter returns to an earlier example of the dissenting perspective, by another woman novelist, written before the realist novel has established its hegemony -- Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. Hence I propose here to violate chronology, and to interrupt the general trend of my argument, to look closely at a text which is too complex, peculiar, and interesting to be neglected.

Frankenstein, first published in 1818, concerns an exotic body with a difference, a distinct perversion from the tradition of desirable objects. The story of this ugly, larger-than-life, monstrous body raises complex questions of motherhood, fatherhood, gender, and narrative. The afterlife of the novel in the popular imagination has been intensely focused on that monstrous body, to the extent that the name "Frankenstein" tends to evoke not the unfortunate overreaching young scientist Victor Frankenstein but his hideous creation. This is both faithful and unfaithful to Mary Shelley's original: faithful, in that a monster indeed, even etymologically, exists to be looked at, shown off, viewed as in a circus sideshow; unfaithful, in that Shelley's novel with equal insistence directs us to issues of language in the story of the monster and his creator. In fact, the central issues of the novel are joined in the opposition of sight {200} and speech, and it unfolds its complex narrative structure from this nexus.

That narrative structure involves framed or imbedded tales, a tale within a tale within a tale: in the outer frame, explorer Robert Walton writes to his sister Mrs Saville, and tells of meeting Frankenstein in the Arctic; in the next frame, Frankenstein recounts his life story to Walton; in the innermost tale, the monster at a crucial moment tells his tale to Frankenstein. When the monster has finished, Frankenstein resumes speaking in his own right; when he has done, Walton resumes.1 The nested narrative structure calls attention to the presence of a listener for each speaker -- of a narratee for each narrator -- and to the interlocutionary relations thus established. Each act of narration in the novel implies a certain bond or contract: listen to me because . . . The structure calls attention to the motives of telling; it makes each listener -- and the reader -- ask: Why are you telling me this? What am I supposed to do with it? As in the psychoanalytic context of storytelling, the listener is placed in a transferential relation to the narrative. As a "subject supposed to know," the listener is called upon to "supplement" the story (to anticipate the phrase Freud will use in the case history of Dora), to articulate and even enact the meaning of the desire it expresses in ways that may be foreclosed to the speaker. Storytelling in Frankenstein is far from an innocent act: narratives have designs on their narratees that must he unravelled. The issues posed by such a narrative structure may most of all concern relation, or how narrative relation relates to intersubjective relation, and the relation of relation, in both these senses, to language as the medium of telling and listening, as the medium of transmission, transaction, and transference.

These issues take on their full import only in the context of the visual. I shall start with the opening of the innermost tale -- which strikingly poses the issues of the visual -- and then work out to the framing structures. Following the first murders committed by the Monster -- Frankenstein's brother William strangled, the family servant Justine Moritz executed as his killer through maliciously planted evidence -- Frankenstein seeks solace in the Alps above Chamonix. He penetrates the "glorious presence-chamber of imperial Nature," climbing to Montanvert and the Mer de Glace, hoping to recapture a remembered "sublime ecstasy that gave wings to the soul and allowed it to soar from the obscure world to light and joy."2 His ascension takes him to a "wonderful and stupendous scene," overlooking the Mer de Glace and facing the "awful majesty" of Mont Blanc; his heart once again opens to joy, {201} and he exclaims, in the tones of the Ossianic bard, "Wandering spirits, if indeed ye wander, and do not rest in your narrow beds, allow me this faint happiness, or take me, as your companion, away from the joys of life." At this point, the vision of sublimity is both fulfilled and undone by the sight of a superhuman shape that comes bounding toward Frankenstein over the ice. The Monster appears to be -- as in his original creation -- both born of nature and supernatural, and as such he puts normal measurements and classifications into question. In particular, he puts into question the meaning of looking, of optics, as the faculty and the science most commonly used to judge meanings in the phenomenal world.

Frankenstein's immediate reaction to the appearance of the Monster is to tell it to go away. When the Monster persists in his claim that he has the right to a hearing from his creator, Frankenstein curses the day of the Monster's creation, and reiterates: "Begone! Believe me from the sight of your detested form" (p. 97). To this the Monster, in a touching gesture, responds by placing his huge hands over Frankenstein's eyes: "Thus I relieve thee, my creator . . . thus I take from thee a sight which you abhor. Still thou canst listen to me, and grant me thy compassion." The Monster clearly understands that it is not visual relation that favours him -- indeed, as we will discover when he tells his own story, his only favourable reception from a human being thus far has come from the blind de Lacey -- but rather the auditory or interlocutionary, the relation of language. Thus, this first meeting of Frankenstein and his Monster since the day of his creation presents a crucial issue of the novel in the opposition of sight and language, of the hideous body and the persuasive tongue.

For the Monster is eloquent. From the first words he speaks, he shows himself to be a supreme rhetorician, who controls the antitheses and oxymorons that express the pathos of his existence: "Remember that I am thy creature; I ought to be thy Adam, but I am rather the fallen angel, whom thou drivest from joy for no misdeed. Everywhere I see bliss, from which I alone am irrevocably excluded. I was benevolent and good; misery made me a fiend. Make me happy, and I shall again be virtuous" (pp. 95-96). When we learn of the Monster's self-education -- and particularly his three mastertexts, Milton's Paradise Lost, Plutarch's Lives, and Goethe's Werther -- we will understand the prime sources of his eloquence and of the conception of the just order of things that animates his plea to his creator. But beyond the motives of his eloquence, it is important to register the simple fact of Shelley's decision to make {202} the Monster the most eloquent creature in the novel. This hideous and deformed creature, far from expressing himself in grunts and gestures, speaks and reasons with the highest elegance, logic, and persuasiveness. As a verbal creation, he is the very opposite of the monstrous: he is a sympathetic and persuasive participant in Western culture. All of the Monster's interlocutors -- including, finally, the reader -- must come to terms with this contradiction between the verbal and the visual.3

By persuading Frankenstein to give his creature a hearing, thus opening the innermost frame of the novel, the Monster has adumbrated what Roland Barthes would call a "narrative contract" between narrator and narratee.4 The narrative contract, like the psychoanalytic transference, is based on and implies the intersubjective, transindividual, cultural order of language. Language by its very nature transcends and pre-exists the individual locutor; it implies, depends on, and necessitates that network of intersubjective relations from which the Monster protests he has been excluded. That is, in becoming the narrator of his story, the Monster both dramatises his problem and provides a model for its solution, the solution implicit in the discursive interdependence of an "I" and a "thou" in any interlocutionary situation.5 The Monster's words assign to Frankenstein a parental role for the first time in the novel: "For the first time . . . I felt what the duties of a creator towards his creature were" (p. 97) -- a role all the more glaring in its neglect in that Frankenstein has dwelt at length on the parental love and concern lavished on him in his early years, the way he was guided by a "silken cord" toward happiness and goodness (p. 33). By the time the Monster has completed his narrative, Frankenstein still feels horror and hatred when he looks upon this "filthy mass that moved and talked," but he also avows: "His words had a strange effect upon me. I compassionated him" (p. 140). After establishing this tenuous link with his creator through narrative, the Monster takes the decisive step in his argument: "My vices are the children of a forced solitude that I abhor, and my virtues will necessarily arise when I live in communion with an equal. I shall feel the affections of a sensitive being and become linked to the chain of existence and events from which I am now excluded" (pp. 140-41).

The metaphor of the chain is one that will reappear in various guises throughout the novel. It represents relation itself, including affective interpersonal relations (see the "silken cord" of Frankenstein's childhood) and the relations between tellers and listeners -- relations established through language and as language. The chain here closely resembles what Jacques Lacan calls the "signifying chain" of language, {203} especially language as the vehicle of desire. In the Monster's confrontation of and narrative to Frankenstein, we have a representation of the Lacanian distinction between the imaginary and the symbolic orders. The imaginary is the order of the specular, of the mirror stage, and arises from the subject's perception of itself as other; it is thus the order of deceptive relations, of ideology and fascination. The symbolic order ultimately is language itself, the systematic and transindividual order of the signifier, the cultural system or law into which individual subjects are inserted.6 In the specular or imaginary order, the Monster will ever cease to be the "filthy mass." In the symbolic order, on the other hand, he can produce and project his desire in language, in relation to an interlocutor. It is, however, in the logic of Lacanian desire and the "signifying chain" that such desire should be unappeasable, a metonymical movement that extends desire forward without reaching a goal: a goal which cannot be named, since the object of desire is unconscious. The Monster's stated object of desire is for a mate, a female creature like himself, which Frankenstein must create. But we will have occasion to ask whether this demand truly corresponds to the needs stipulated by the Monster's desire.

Before considering the Monster's demand for -- and Frankenstein's temporary acquiescence to -- the creation of a female monster, it is important to register the Monster's narrative of his discovery of language, its contexts and its effects. His first experience with humanity, he tells us, already demonstrated the hopelessness of the specular relation: the shepherd he discovered in a hut fled shrieking from his sight, the villagers pelted him with stones. Retreating into a hovel adjoining the de Lacey cottage, he commences his education as voyeur, observing the family through an 'almost imperceptible chink through which the eye could penetrate', seeing and himself unseen. His most important discovery is that of human language, which is presented in the context of human interaction and affect:

"I found that these people possessed a method of communicating their experience and feelings to one another by articulate sounds. I perceived that the words they spoke sometimes produced pleasure or pain, smiles or sadness, in the minds and countenances of the hearers. This was indeed a godlike science, and I ardently desired to become acquainted with it. But I was baffled in every attempt I made for this purpose. Their pronunciation was quick, and the words they uttered, not having any apparent connection with visible {204} objects, I was unable to discover any clue by which I could unravel the mystery of their reference. By great application, however, and after having remained during the space of several revolutions of the moon in my hovel, I discovered the names that were given to some of the most familiar objects of discourse; I learned and applied the words, 'fire,' 'milk,' 'bread,' and 'wood.' I learned also the names of the cottagers themselves. The youth and his companion had each of them several names, but the old man had only one, which was 'father.' The girl was called 'sister' or 'Agatha,' and the youth 'Felix,' 'brother,' or 'son.' I cannot describe the delight I felt when I learned the ideas appropriated to each of these sounds and was able to pronounce them. I distinguished several other words without being able as yet to understand or apply them, such as 'good', 'dearest', 'unhappy.'" (pp. 106-107)
Like so much else in the story of the Monster's education through sensation, experience, and the association of ideas, his discovery of language stands within Enlightenment debates about origins, coming in this instance close to the scenarios of Rousseau's Essai sur l'origine des langues, which sees language as originating not in need but in emotion.7 As the Monster encounters it, language is tied to human love and patterns of kinship and relation, as if in confirmation of the views of an anthropologist such as Claude Lévi-Strauss, for whom the structures of kinship are the first "writing" of a society. The Monster also discovers the proto-Saussurian notion that the linguistic sign is arbitrary, that there is no intuitable connection of a sign to its referent, and indeed that some signs ("good," "dearest," "unhappy") have no apparent referent. As a consequence, the Monster grasps the nature of language as a system, wherein meaning is created not as a simple movement from sign to referent but in context, dependent on the rule-governed relation of signs one to another.

Hence language presents itself as both the tool he needs to enter into relation with others, and a model of relation itself: it implies -- it both depends on and makes possible -- that 'chain of existence and events' from which he feels himself excluded. The "godlike science" of language is thus explicitly a cultural compensation for a deficient nature; it offers the possibility of escape from "monsterism," which is precisely lack of relation, apartness. Language is what he must use to experience human love. In Rousseau's terms, it is a "supplement" to nature. The Monster tells Frankenstein: "I easily perceived that, although I eagerly longed to {205} discover myself to the cottagers, I ought not to make the attempt until I had first become master of their language, which knowledge might enable me to make them overlook the deformity of my figure, for with this also the contrast perpetually presented to my eyes had made me acquainted' (p. 108).

Language is richly thematised at this moment of the novel. With the arrival of Safie, we have lessons in French offered to an Arab, in the context of what we know to be a German-speaking region, the whole rendered for us in English. This well-ordered Babel calls attention to issues of communication and transmission, in somewhat the same manner as the narrative frames of the novel. The Monster learns language through overhearing, and observing, the instruction of Safie by Felix and Agatha. He learns to read -- that is, he masters language in what is for Rousseau its mediate form, supplementary to the spoken word: the form in which it is most transmissible, since it does not demand presence, the specular relation, for its exchange, yet also the form in which it is potentially most deceitful, freed from immediate expressivity. The three texts which the Monster now discovers and reads -- Plutarch's Lives, Goethe's Werther, and Milton's Paradise Lost -- cover the public, the private, and the cosmic realms, and three modes of love. They constitute a kind of minimal Romantic cyclopedia universalis. Of the three, it is Paradise Lost -- in the literalist reading the Monster gives it -- that excite the profoundest reactions, and poses in emblematic terms the enigma of the Monster's nature. In the manner of Adam, he appears to be a unique creation, "united by no link to any other being in existence" (p. 124). Yet, "wretched, helpless, and alone," he is unlike Adam. "Many times I considered Satan as the fitter emblem of my condition, for often, like him, when I viewed the bliss of my protectors, the bitter gall of envy rose within me." In particular, the intertextual presence of Paradise Lost insistently poses the relation of language to the specular, especially in the implicit comparison of the Monster to Eve, in two passages in which he views himself in a mirroring pool. "I had admired the perfect forms of my cottagers -- their grace, beauty, and delicate complexions; but how was I terrified when I viewed myself in a transparent pool! At first I started back, unable to believe that it was indeed I who was reflected in the mirror; and when I became fully convinced that I was in reality the monster that I am, I was filled with the bitterest sensations of despondence and mortification (p. 108). This echoes Eve's report of the day of her creation, in Book 4 (460-76) of Paradise Lost. After first awakening to life, she finds a mirroring lake:

{206} As I bent down to look, just opposite,
A Shape within the wat'ry gleam appear'd
Bending to look back on me, I started back,
It started back, but pleas'd I soon return'd,
Pleas'd it return'd as soon as answering looks
Of sympathy and love; there I had fixt
Mine eyes till now, and pin'd with vain desire,
Had not a voice thus warn'd me, What thou seest,
What there thou seest fair Creature is thyself,
With thee it came and goes; but follow me,
And I will bring thee where no shadow stays
Thy coming, and thy soft embraces, hee
Whose image thou art, him thou shalt enjoy
Inseparably thine, to him shalt bear
Multitudes like thyself, and thence be call'd
Mother of human Race: what could I do,
But follow straight, invisibly thus led?
The passage of course recalls Ovid's Narcissus, and anticipates Lacan's scenario of the infant's discovery of his reflected self -- both same and other -- at the mirror stage. Narcissism is here a temptation to which Eve, immediately enamoured of her own image, would succumb, pining "with vain desire," were it not for the intervention of a divine voice that commands her to set aside this moment of primary narcissism in favour of sexual difference. The place "where no shadow stays" is almost explicitly the place of the phallus, as opposed to the insubstantiality of the female's sex and the love of two female bodies. As the Miltonic scenario unfolds, Eve's first perception of Adam is not itself sufficient to move her beyond primary narcissism: Adam is "fair indeed and tall," she says, "yet methought less fair, / Less winning soft, less amiably mild, / Than that smooth wat'ry image; back I turn'd" (4:478-80). She would return to the "answering looks" of the lake were it not that Adam at this point seizes her hand, and she yields to what is for Milton, in his thoroughly misogynist scenario, the explicit hegemony of the male.

Milton's story is thus about Eve's discovery of the law, which is variously the command of God, the law of sexual difference, and the rule of the phallus. In her submission to the law, she gives up desire for her own image, and for indifferentiation, with reluctance, in a prefiguration of her subsequent disobedience. The Monster, on the other hand, discovers himself as different, as violation of the law, in a scenario that {207} mirrors and reverses Lacan's; the outer image -- that in the mirror -- presents the body in its lack of wholeness (at least in human terms) while the inner apprehension of the body had up until then held it to be hypothetically whole: 'At first I started back, unable to believe that it was indeed I who was reflected in the mirror.' The experience is anti-narcissistic, convincing the Monster that he is, indeed, a monster, thus in no conceivable system an object of desire. As the Monster will put it in the second passage of self-reflection, "Increase of knowledge only discovered to me more clearly what a wretched outcast I was. I cherished hope, it is true, but it vanished when I beheld my person reflected in water or my shadow in the moonshine, even as that frail image and that inconstant shade" (p. 125). The mirror image becomes the negation of hope, severing the Monster from desire. He is simply outside the law, and thus will require a separate creation -- his own Eve -- in order to come under its sway. Thus his narrative plea to his creator concludes by focusing the discourse of desire on a new object to be desired, the monster woman.

The Monster's self-reflections in relation to Paradise Lost are succeeded by discovery of the literal story of his creation, in Frankenstein's laboratory journal, which he finds in the pocket of the coat he has worn since the day of his creation. Here, he discovers that he is the anti-image of Adam: "God, in pity, made man beautiful and alluring, after his own image; but my form is a filthy type of yours, more horrid even from the very resemblance" (p. 125). Self-recognition as "filthy type" completes the mirror stage of the Monster's development. He now knows he must trust wholly in the symbolic order. Having mastered language, he goes to confront the patriarch de Lacey. The "godlike science" at first appears to achieve the desired effects: "I am blind," de Lacey responds to the Monster's plea, "and cannot judge of your countenance, but there is something in your words which persuades me that you are sincere" (p. 128). Sympathy is on the point of creating the Monster's first entry into the social chain, when Felix, Agatha, and Safie enter the cottage, and the Monster is brutally returned to the specular order: Agatha faints, Safie flees, and Felix violently separates the interlocutors. The Monster in consequence becomes explicitly Satanic: "I, like the arch-fiend, bore a hell within me" (p. 130); he sets fire to what had late been his happy seat, and sets forth into the world in search of the hidden face of his creator, the deus absconditus who alone, now, has the power to bring him into social relation, through a second monstrous creation.

Along the way to his meeting with Frankenstein, the Monster -- after {208} being shot and wounded by a rustic whose daughter he has saved from drowning -- commits his first murder, that of Frankenstein's brother William, in a scene that evokes the question of relation in the most acute ways. The Monster's first idea is to take the boy as a companion; in a common Enlightenment thought experiment, he conceives that a child is probably too young "to have imbibed a horror of deformity" (p. 136). His error is immediately apparent: to his address of "Child," William in return calls him "monster! Ugly wretch! . . . ogre." But what provokes the murder is William's exclamation that his father is "M. Frankenstein" -- Victor's father also, of course, and by extrapolation the Monster's "grandfather" -- whom the Monster here calls "my enemy." When William lies dead at his feet, the Monster notices a miniature portrait worn around his neck: "I took it; it was a portrait of a most lovely woman. In spite of my malignity, it softened and attracted me. For a few moments I gazed with delight on her dark eyes, fringed by deep lashes, and her lovely lips; but presently my rage returned; I remembered that I was forever deprived of the delights that such beautiful creatures could bestow and that she whose resemblance I contemplated would, in regarding me, have changed that air of divine benignity to one expressive of disgust and affright" (p. 136). This moment of scopophilic fixation, of the gaze erotically medused by its (painted) object, has a special resonance because we know (as the Monster does not) that the portrait is of William and Victor's dead mother. The novel is notable for the absence of living mothers: Felix and Agatha's mother is dead (and the word "mother" nowhere figures in the language lesson observed by the Monster), so is Safie's, Madame Frankenstein dies after contracting scarlet fever from her adopted daughter, Elizabeth -- Frankenstein's intended bride -- and the Monster of course has no mother, only a "father." The portrait of the dead mother thus represents an essential lack or gap in existence, most particularly for the Monster, whose primal erotic experience here is directly Oedipal, but censored from the outset: the father's interdiction of the mother as erotic object to the son has never been so radical as in the case of Frankenstein and his created Monster.8

The Oedipal overtones of the scene become richer and more complex as we read on. Having taken the portrait, the Monster enters a barn, where he finds a sleeping woman -- Justine Moritz -- whom he describes as 'young, not indeed so beautiful as her whose portrait I held, but of an agreeable aspect and blooming in the loveliness of youth and health' (p. 137). In imitation of Satan whispering into the ear of the sleeping Eve in Paradise Lost, the Monster whispers to Justine: "Awake, fairest, thy {209 lover is near -- he who would give his life but to obtain one look of affection from thine eyes; my beloved, awake!" But this first attempt at seduction on the Monster's part is self-censoring; when the sleeper stirs, the Monster reflects that if she awakes, she will denounce him as a murderer. As a consequence, he decides to pin the murder on her. "Thanks to the lessons of Felix and the sanguinary laws of man, I had learned how to work mischief." He plants the mother's portrait in the folds of her dress and flees, with the reflection: "The crime had its source in her; be hers the punishment!" The claim is curious and excessive, since Justine is in no manner the "source" of William's murder, which takes place before the Monster has discovered her sleeping form. In the logic of desire, if not in syntax, we must find the referent of "her" in the mother herself. Under the (paternal) interdiction of the mother, the monsterchild turns to a substitute woman, in a clear example of what Freud calls an "anaclitic" object choice.9 When it becomes apparent that this object choice, too, is forbidden, censored at the root, the erotic drives turn to death drives, to sadism. The stolen portrait becomes, in the manner of Rousseau's famous stolen ribbon, a token of the reversibility of drives and the inversion of love offerings into poisoned gifts.

The story of this double crime terminates the Monster's narrative. He has now only to sum up the demand to which all his story has tended: "I am alone and miserable; man will not associate with me; but one as deformed and horrible as myself would not deny herself to me. My companion must be of the same species and have the same defects. This being you must create" (p. 137). The Monster thus attempts to state the object of his desire. In constructing his narrative appeal, he has contextualised desire, made it, or shown it to be, the very principle of narrative, in its metonymical forward movement. This movement, in Lacanian terms, corresponds to the slippage of the inaccessible signified -- the object of unconscious desire -- under the signifier in the signifying chain. The movement now, as so often when stories are told to a narratee, passes on the desire to the interlocutor, who is charged explicitly with finding the object of desire: of crossing the 'bar' of repression between signifier and that other occulted signifier that stands in the place of the signified of desire, in this instance by the creation of that which is supposed to signify desire. And yet, the Monster's call for a female companion, however sincere, may be only in the realm of conscious desire, may not have access -- as how could it? -- to what lies under the bar.

If one considers that desire (again in Lacanian terms) is born in the {210} split between need and demand, where demand is always in excess of need (for nourishment from the breast, essentially) and is always an absolute demand for recognition, and thus desire is essentially unappeasable since it is driven by infantile scenarios of fulfilment, one wonders whether Frankenstein's provision of a female companion would really satisfy the Monster. Love depends on demand -- it is the creation of speaking beings -- and is in essence the demand to be heard by the other. What matters is not so much the content of the demand as the fact that it is unconditional; it expresses "not the desire of this or that, but desire tout court," writes Lacan. What is finally desired by the speaker is "the desirer in the other," that is, that the speaking subject himself be "called to as desirable."10 The Monster's unconscious desire may most of all be for unconditional hearing, recognition, love from his parent. Its absolute requital could only take the form of handing over the mother, which in this case is barred not only by the law of castration but more radically still, since this mother does not exist and has never existed.

It appears that the Monster's artful activation of the symbolic order, in his narrative plea, results in a demand to his listener that, in its consciously stated desire, brings us back into the order of the imaginary -- to the desire for phantasmatic satisfactions, impossible to fulfil. How can you create a mother substitute, or a relationship of the "anaclitic" type, when there is no mother to substitute for? The radically absent body of the mother more and more appears to be the "problem" that cannot be solved in the novel. The female monster, furthermore, is conceived quite simply as the mirror image of the Monster, with solely the sexual difference: she has no other definition than "a female me," which suggests her place in a primal narcissism which the Monster needs to, and cannot, go beyond, however 'filthy' his mirror image. This inability to escape primal narcissism is suggested by other near incestuous relations in the novel, particularly the marriage of Frankenstein and Elizabeth.

The female monster will never fully come into being. Frankenstein tears her nearly completed body to pieces, in another scopic scene: the Monster is watching at the window of the laboratory with a "ghastly grin" which turns to a 'howl of devilish despair and revenge' when his promised body is denied him (p. 159). It is as if the Monster's phallic gaze at the female monster's body makes Frankenstein aware of the bodily potential of a sexual pair of monsters. Ostensibly Frankenstein abrogates the contract he has made at the end of the Monster's narrative appeal {211} through his reflection on the 'Eve problem': that procreation by the monsters will be simply a "propagated curse," and that the female monster, as a secondary creation, "might refuse to comply with a compact made before her creation" (p. 158) -- she might, like Eve, disobey the paternal injunction, which in this case stipulates exile from the inhabited parts of the globe. To allow the couple to create a race of monsters would be to create a new and wholly uncontrollable signifying chain from their desire, one whose eventual outcomes "might make the very existence of the species of man a condition precarious and full of terror." Rather than accepting a nurturing role toward the Monster, offering him "the small portion of happiness which was yet in my power to bestow" (p. 140) -- as he has decided to do at the close of the Monster's narrative -- Frankenstein performs the ultimate gesture of castration on the desiring Monster.

The destruction of the female monster negates any hope that the Monster might gain access to a "chain of existence and events" that would offer him relation and the possibility -- even the phantasmatic possibility -- of satisfaction for his desire. The godlike science of language has proved deceptive: it has contextualised desire as lack, as metonymic movement in search of the meaning of desire, but it has not provided a way to overcome lack and satisfy desire as, indeed, language never can. The Monster's error is to believe that signs in artful rhetorical patterns can produce the desired referent from one's interlocutor. His definition as monster leads him to an overvaluation of language, as that which could take him out of that specular position. Yet he is required, by the logic of desire, to attempt to make language produce another body, to return to the imaginary, the specular, and the drama of sexual difference.

The result is an exacerbated agony of desire between the Monster and Frankenstein, whereby the Monster strikes at Frankenstein, not directly, but through elements in Frankenstein's own "chain of existence and events": after William and Justine Moritz, Frankenstein's bosom friend Henry Clerval and his bride (and also adoptive sister) Elizabeth. "I will be with thee on thy wedding-night," the Monster tells Frankenstein after the destruction of the female monster (p. 161), a remark that Frankenstein interprets as a direct menace to his person, thus repressing what the reader at once grasps: that the threat is to Elizabeth. On the wedding night he sends Elizabeth to the nuptial chamber alone, while he prowls about, armed with pistols, looking to engage in combat with the Monster. "Peace, peace, my love," he says to Elizabeth; "this night, and all {212} will be safe; but this night is dreadful, very dreadful" (p. 185). We may read this dread as related to the quasi-incestuous nature of his union with Elizabeth. As his father has said, in sounding Frankenstein's intentions: "You, perhaps, regard her as your sister, without any wish that she might become your wife" (p. 144). Frankenstein denies this sentiment, but we cannot help but be struck by the complication and overlapping of kinship relations in the novel (as in the family in which Mary Shelley grew up), especially because they are thrown in high relief by the Monster's own lack of relation. As the Monster once again watches from the window, the wedding night ends in a necrophilic embrace, which may be in the logic of incestuous desire: "I rushed towards her and embraced her with ardour, but the deadly languor and coldness of the limbs told me that what I now held in my arms had ceased to be the Elizabeth whom I had loved and cherished. The murderous mark of the fiend's grasp was on her neck, and the breath had ceased to issue from her lips" (p. 186). The Monster has marked the body of Frankenstein's bride at the moment when Frankenstein's desire is on the point of consummation, in dialectical response to the destruction of his monstrous bride. The Monster has put his body in the way of Frankenstein's desire.11

Frankenstein's narrative from this point on tells of the struggle of his nearly transferential relation with the Monster, where each represents the lack or gap in the other. "You are my creator, but I am your master; -- obey!" (p. 160) the Monster has said to Frankenstein, in a phrase that represents the impossibility of the situation in which each becomes for the other the "subject supposed to know" but neither can furnish satisfaction of the other's lack. Like the Monster, Frankenstein becomes explicitly Satanic: "like the archangel who aspired to omnipotence, I am chained in an eternal hell" (p. 200). The Monster leads a chase that will take them to the lifeless polar regions, maintaining the willpower and the strength of his pursuer by leaving inscribed indications of his route and caches of food. "Come on, my enemy; we have yet to wrestle for our lives" (p. 195) reads one inscription, nicely balancing enmity and affection.

The Monster, Frankenstein states following William's murder, is "my own vampire, my own spirit set loose from the grave and forced to destroy all that was dear to me" (p. 74). The statement is as excessive and curious as it is accurate. It turns the Monster into a symptom, in Lacan's sense of the term -- that is, a metaphor, a signifier standing for the indecipherable signifier of unconscious desire. It may ultimately speak of the sadism inherent in all intersubjective and especially familial orders {213} of relation. In particular, it may in this novel suggest the destructive affect that inhabits the relational order of language, and particularly narrative language, in the transferential situation of telling and listening. The Monster's narrative of unrequited desire and unappeasable lack cannot produce access to the referent of desire. Instead, it passes on desire and lack, through the signifying chain of language and through the interlocutionary relation established in language, with the result that lack and desire come to inhabit the listener. As listener or narratee, once you have entered into a narrative transaction with the Monster, you are yourself tainted with monsterism: you cannot break out of the relation established by the pronouns "I" and "thou" once they are seen as complementary, each elusively representing the answer to the lack within oneself. The interlocutionary relation, like the transferential relation in psychoanalysis, could be dissolved only by the production of that which would answer the Monster's lack. Because this is impossible, lack is passed on through the narrative frames -- which is indeed what the framing structure of the novel is all about.

Frankenstein, once he has become interlocutor to the Monster, is marked by the taint of monsterism, which he can never appease or dispel. When in turn, in the next frame (working out from the inside), Walton becomes Frankenstein's interlocutor, he, too, is marked by this taint. Walton, we note, is at the outset of the novel in a position analogous to Frankenstein's when he sets about his act of creation: he, too, is seeking for Promethean knowledge, dominion over the unknown, which in his case means exploration of the unknown polar regions. And like both Frankenstein and the Monster, he is searching for relation; he complains to his sister, Margaret Saville, that he has no one "to participate my joy' or to 'sustain me in dejection" (p. 18). Frankenstein speaks for both of them when he says: "I agree with you . . . we are unfashioned creatures, but half made up, if one wiser, better, dearer than ourselves such a friend ought to be -- do not lend his aid to perfectionate our weak and faulty natures" (p. 27). Friendship, relation, interlocution, suggest an ideal model of the androgyne, which, as in the Platonic myth, has been split in half and now desires the missing half. But by the end Walton's hopes for both Promethean conquest and friendship lie "blasted," as his mutinous sailors vote to turn southward and Frankenstein sinks into death (p. 204). All that remains to Walton is his epistolary narratee, his sister; and as he explains to her, being reduced to writing is no substitute for the living interlocutionary relation: writing is "a poor medium for the communication of feeling" (p. 18). Moreover, his sister may never even {214} receive these letters written from beyond the social world. In any event, for the reader of the novel, Mrs Saville has no more existence than a postal address, or even a dead-letter office -- the place where messages end up when they have nowhere else to go. Her lack of characterised personality makes her all the more effectively stand for the reader, as the ultimate receiver of all the nested messages of the novel.

Thus it is that the taint of monsterism, as the product of the unarrestable metonymic movement of desire through the narrative signifying chain, may ultimately come to rest with the reader of the text. Like Frankenstein at the close of the Monster's act of narration, like Walton at the end of Frankenstein's narrative, we have a residue of desire and meaning left over, which we must somehow process. Perhaps it would be most accurate to say that we are left with a residue of desire for meaning, which we alone can realise. One could no doubt say something similar about any narrative text, especially any narrative that dramatises the fact and the process of its transmission, as "framed tales" always do. In Frankenstein, the thematisation of the passing on of unresolved desire for meaning is particularly evident because the key question, the vital enigma, concerns the nature of monsterism itself. What is a monster? Reading inward from the outermost frame, the reader is led to believe that he or she is making a nearer approach to the solution to this problem; when the Monster speaks in his own person, assumes the pronoun "I," we enter the subjectivity of monsterism. But that solves nothing, and as we read outward from the innermost frame, we come to realise that we are following the process of the passing on of this unresolved question, in an unarrestable metonymy of desire.

In closing his narrative to Walton, Frankenstein warns his interlocutor against listening to the Monster's voice: "He is eloquent and persuasive, and once his words had even power over my heart; but trust him not . . . Hear him not" (pp. 198-99). Yet when the Monster does finally appear to Walton, saying farewell to Frankenstein's corpse, Walton bids him stay, and soon his impulses to destroy the destroyer of his friend are "suspended by a mixture of curiosity and compassion" (p. 208) -- the very elements required to seal again the interlocutionary relation, to produce a new narrative transaction. It is the Monster who unknots this relation -- and its possible production of a new narrative frame, a new nested box containing the Monster and Walton -- when he announces that he has resolved to destroy himself. Once the other of his transferential desire has ceased to be, the only choice that remains for the Monster is self-immolation. He announces to Walton: "Neither yours nor all any man's {215} death is needed to consummate the series of my being and accomplish that which must be done, but it requires my own (p. 210). A moment before, he has stated that with Frankenstein's death, "the miserable series of my being is wound to its close" (p. 207). "Series" here is used in the sense of "sequence" or "order." Conceptually, this phrase is related to the "chain" which figures the Monster's understanding of human interrelation, and its counterparts in language and narration. Failing to enter the "chain of existence and events," his narrative sequence has wound down to self-destruction. But the order in which he signifies cannot so easily be brought to a close, as the passing on of narrative messages, and narrative desire, may suggest.

In his peroration over Frankenstein's corpse, the Monster also claims: "Blasted as thou wert, my agony was still superior to thine" (p. 211). While the context assigns the cause of this superior agony to the Monster's remorse, we may want to read it, more absolutely, as a statement about the fact of being a monster. That is the supreme agony, which no other problem in desire can efface. The phrase, like so much else in the novel, returns us to the question, What is a monster? The novel addresses this question in different registers. Initially, there is the creation of the Monster, which is a result of Frankenstein's illicit curiosity. He takes, in his youth, to reading such alchemical literature as Cornelius Agrippa, Paracelsus, Albertus Magnus. When his father censures such work as "trash," he -- like Dora with her volume of Mantegazza -- seems to be only the more convinced that they will enable him to "penetrate the secrets of nature" (p. 38-39). He finds that philosophy has only partially "unveiled the face of Nature." "I had gazed upon the fortifications and impediments that seemed to keep human beings from entering the citadel of nature, and rashly and ignorantly I had repined" (p. 39). Frankenstein recapitulates here the traditional imagery of nature as a woman, and proposes that truth is a difficult penetration into her body. As in the case of Dora, epistemophilia finally centres on the woman's body as the key to forbidden knowledge.

When he reaches the university at Ingolstadt, he falls under the spell of the chemistry professor Waldman, who tells him that modern scientists "penetrate into the recesses of nature and show how she works in her hiding places" (p. 47). This increases his desire to discover the hidden principle of life itself, to be able to bestow animation on inanimate matter -- the Promethean revelation at the centre of the text, which it of course censors. He then learns how to proceed backward from death to a new life, using the "loathesome" robbing of graves to create a new {216} living species. "Life and death," he recalls, "appeared to me ideal bounds, which I should first break through, and pour a torrent of light into our dark world" (p. 52). Yet when, after two years of intense labour, he stands over his created body and sees "the dull yellow eye of the creature open," his heart is filled with "disgust" and he flees from his progeny.

Frankenstein's intense curiosity for forbidden knowledge, coupled with his hysterical reaction to witnessing its realisation, suggest, as the imagery of unveiling and penetration already indicated, that his epistemophilia centres on the arcana of the woman's body, specifically the mother's body in its reproductive function. The novel, as the psychoanalyst Marc A. Rubenstein has so well observed, is full of "primal scene imagery," to the extent that "the spirit of primal scene observation penetrates into the very structure of the novel and becomes part of a more deeply hidden search for the mother."12 The Freudian primal scene is an intense object of infantile curiosity which, even without actual observation by the infant, can have the status of a "primal phantasy." Parental copulation is of course for any individual the origin of origins, the very "citadel of nature." The novel suggests a fixation on the primal scene in the conjoined obsession with origins on the part of both Frankenstein and his Monster -- who are both deprived of a literal mother on whom to exercise this curiosity, with the result that they must strive to create the scene -- and in the intensely visual nature of the scenes created. Most pertinent here are the scenes of the Monster's creation (the moment when the Monster opens his eye produces Frankenstein's hysterical reaction, very much in the manner of the traumatic dream of Freud's "Wolf Man"); the aborted creation of the female monster as the Monster watches at the window; and the wedding night, which recapitulates the Monster at the window, watching the nuptial bed become a bier.13 Every time we reach one of the novel's manufactured primal scenes, something monstrous happens, and the observer is stricken, punished.14 The very structure of the novel, as Rubenstein argues, suggests the pervasive effects of primal scene curiosity, a need to witness the forbidden moment of origin, which produces the inextinguishable taint of monsterism that gets passed on through the narrative chain.

It is significant too, that the creation of the Monster from Frankenstein's studies in physics and chemistry, which are always on the verge of becoming metaphysics and alchemy, takes place on the borderline of nature and culture. The Monster is a product of nature -- his ingredients are 100 percent natural -- yet by the process and the very fact of his {217} creation, he is unnatural, the product of philosophical overreaching. Since he is a unique creation, without precedence or replication, he lacks cultural as well as natural context. He radicalizes the situation of Eve, who also has no "model" -- Adam is created in God's image, God is male; thus in whose image is Eve created? -- and is hence a unique creation, but one that will then be replicated by half the human race. The Monster is, so to speak, postnatural and precultural. That a monster can be created within nature may stand as something of an indictment of nature itself, especially when one considers the generally ambiguous conceptual position of nature in the novel. An important thematic focus of this ambiguity is the figure of Henry Clerval, a being formed "in the very poetry of nature," Frankenstein tells us (quoting Leigh Hunt), who is described through the citation of lines from Wordsworth's 'Tintern Abbey':

         The sounding cataract
Haunted him like a passion: the tall rock,
The mountain, and the deep and gloomy wood,
Their colours and their forms, were then to him
An appetite; a feeling, and a love,
That had no need of a remoter charm,
By thought supplied, or any interest
Unborrow'd from the eye.
The italicised "him replaces the "me" of the original. The lines are traditionally taken to represent the speaker's first, immediate, unreflective relation to nature, now lost to him but operative still in his sister Dorothy, to whom he can say that "Nature never did betray / The heart that loved her." Clerval loves and trusts nature, but he falls victim to the monstrous creation of his best friend and explicitly pays for Frankenstein's destruction of the Monster's mate. There is more to nature than sounding cataracts and sublime mountains: there is also one's friend's accursed curiosity, creating monsters demanding sexual satisfaction. It is in the awesome natural sublimity of the Alps, where Frankenstein has gone to seek consolation, that the Monster appears to his creator. One senses in Mary Shelley's novel a profound dissent from some of the more optimistic Romantic views of the moral principles embodied in nature -- a dissent which recent readings of Wordsworth and P. B. Shelley find figured in some of their most problematic moments. {218} Nature in Frankenstein appears not to be a principle at all: it is rigorously amoral, it is absence of principle.

What, then, in unprincipled nature, is a monster? A monster is that outcome or product of curiosity or epistemophilia pushed to an extreme that results -- as in the story of Oedipus -- in confusion, blindness, and exile. A monster is that which cannot be placed in any of the taxonomic schemes devised by the human mind to understand and to order nature. It exceeds the very basis of classification, language itself: it is an excess of signification, a strange byproduct or leftover of the process of making meaning. It is an imaginary being who comes to life in language and, once having done so, cannot be eliminated from language. Even if we want to claim that "monster," like some of the words used by Felix and Agatha -- "dearest," "unhappy" -- has no referent, it has a signified, a conceptual meaning, a place in our knowledge of ourselves. The novel insistently thematizes issues of language and rhetoric because the symbolic order of language appears to offer the Monster his only escape from the order of visual, specular, and imaginary relations, in which he is demonstrably the monster. The symbolic order compensates for a deficient nature: it promises escape from a condition of "to-be-looked-at-ness."

That, we may recall, is the term that Laura Mulvey applies to the "traditional exhibitionist role" given to women in the cinema.15 When one considers the Monster's creation in the place of the absent mother, his role and very definition as the insistent object of visual inspection, with the inevitable hysterical reaction, and his equally insistent attempt to redefine his person within the medium of language, especially narrative language as the vehicle of interpersonal relation, one may ask if the Monster is not in fact a woman who is seeking to escape from the feminine condition into recognition by the fraternity.16 The very peculiarity of a novel about the monstrous that insistently stages its central issues in terms of language, rather than in sheerly visual terms -- characteristic, for instance, of Gothic novels -- would thus become doubly determined: on the thematic level, by the Monster's attempts to escape the imaginary order; and in the creative process itself, by Mary Shelley's attempts to escape the generic and cultural codes that make heroines into objects to be looked at -- a fate that such heroines as Jane Eyre or Gwendolen Harleth never entirely escape. If, as Mulvey and other feminist film theoreticians have argued, the male gaze defines both the place of the female and the codes for looking at and defining her -- and also the very genres that stage that looking -- we may want to understand the {219} persistent countervisual emphasis of the Monster himself, and the contexts created around him, as an effort to deconstruct the defining and classifying power of the gaze, and to assert in its place the potential of affect created in interlocutory language -- as used, notably, in the relation of love.

The Monster would thus be a woman, but a woman who would answer Freud's infamous question "What does a woman want?" with the ostensible reply: to be a male, with a female to love. In the failure of that project, the Monster is forced to play the role of the castrating Medusa woman.17 The novel of course never for a moment suggests that the Monster is anything but a male, and both Frankenstein and his creature assume that he is sexually functional as a male (there would otherwise be no need for Frankenstein to destroy the female monster). Yet the Monster never is given the chance to function sexually, and we are never given a glimpse of those parts of the body that would assure us that he is male. Of course we aren't: such is not part of the discourse of the novel (setting aside pornography) at the time. But this necessary cultural reticence, subjected to our retrospective critical pressure, may add a further ambiguity to the problems of definition of monster -- may indeed add another dimension to that question "What is a monster?" A monster may also be that which eludes gender definition. In this sense, Frankenstein would be a more radical version of that considerable body of Romantic and "Decadent" literature -- such as Théophile Gautier's Mademoiselle de Maupin, Henri de Latouche's Fragoletta, Balzac's Sarrasine, Rachilde's Monsieur Vénus -- that uses crossdressing and hermaphroditism to create situations of sexual ambiguity that call into question socially defined gender roles and transgress the law of castration that defines sexual difference. The Monster's demand for recognition by his father could then be read not only as desire for the absent mother but as a wish to be a sexual object for the father, in the manner of Freud's Senatspräsident Schreber.18 Because a monster is that which calls into question all our cultural codes, including language itself, we can understand the persistent afterlife of Mary Shelley's creation, which shows us that, quite literally, once you have created a monster, whatever the ambiguities of the order of its existence, you can never get rid of it.

In this context, one might reflect on the moment when Frankenstein perceives the Monster for the first time following his flight from the scene of its creation. It comes when Frankenstein is on his way home after receiving news of William's murder. It is another of those scenes that bring into play the sublime power of nature. A storm breaks out in {220} the Alps, a tempest "so beautiful yet terrific" (p. 73). "This noble war in the sky elevated my spirits; I clasped my hands and exclaimed aloud, 'William, dear angel! This is thy funeral, this thy dirge!'" No sooner has he uttered these words than a flash of lightning reveals the presence of the Monster: natural sublimity once again produces the monstrous. With this revelation swiftly comes the thought that the Monster must be William's murderer. "He was the murderer! I could not doubt it. The mere presence of the idea was an irresistible proof of the fact" (pp. 73-74). The logic of the "mere presence of the idea" becoming an "irresistible proof of the fact" does not stand the test of reason. It is an excessive conclusion. Yet it is also true. The statement in fact mimes the process of creation of the Monster, who from a scientific idea becomes a bodily fact: an idea embodied.

We are always led back, in Frankenstein, to the peculiarity that this cultural creation, this epistemophilic product, has become part of nature -- that the idea or concept of the monster, which at first has no referent in the natural world, gains one. It gains this referential status as a body. On a basic level, it is nothing but body: that which exists to be looked at, pointed to, and nothing more. You can't do anything with a monster except look at it. Like Virgil's Cyclops, it blocks out the light, including the light of reason, if reason be a matter of mental classification and rationalisation. In this manner, the Monster offers an inversion of the many scenarios, in Balzac and other novelists, in which the human body is marked or signed in order to bring it into the field of signification, so that it can be a narrative signifier. In Frankenstein, language is marked by the body, by the process of embodiment. We have not so much a mark on the body as the mark of the body: the capacity of language to create a body, one that in turn calls into question the language we use to classify and control bodies. In the plot of the novel, that body cannot be touched by any of the human bodies; apparently indestructible, it can be eliminated only when the Monster himself chooses to burn himself up. "I shall ascend my funeral pile triumphantly and exult in the agony of the torturing flames" (p. 211). Note that his words are in the future tense. The Monster's death never is recorded within the novel; it never becomes matter for retrospective narration. We know it is not so easy to get rid of the monstrous body linguistically created. Mary Shelley's monster is still out there. It has taken a permanent place in our imaginary.


[Peter Brooks' essay uses Lacanian psychoanalysis to examine relationships between narrative, sexuality and subjectivity, exploring the way that identity and connections between beings are constructed in language. The subject is formed by means of a specular identification with the mirror image of the body: the imaginary unity of the body that is glimpsed, as other, in the mirror also provides a sense of psychical integrity. The assumption of this imaginary unity allows the subject to position him/herself in relation to the other, the rules and values of language and culture. Conventionally the body constitutes a sign of natural origin, but from Lacanian perspectives it is always inscribed with cultural and symbolic significance. In Frankenstein, however, the monster has an artificial body whose development runs counter to conventionally natural human modes of socialisation: its image is repulsive and it is only in language that an almost human identity is attained. The monster thus exceeds and undermines symbolic categories, showing how notions of nature, culture and humanity are effects of language and culture. The process of unnatural embodiment questions the way bodies are created, classified and controlled, demanding that the relationship between bodies and representation be seen and thought in different ways. Fred Botting, p. 103]

1. A diagram of the narrative structure would look like this: {[( )}}.

2. Mary Shelley, Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus (New York: NAL/Signet, 1983), pp. 92-93. Subsequent references are to this edition, which reprints the revised text of 1831. I have also consulted the helpful critical edition by James Rieger (Indianapolis and New York; Bobbs-Merrill, 1974), which prints the original text of 1818 (with the corrections of 1823) and indicates the variants occurring in the revised edition.

3. For the reader, the contradiction between the visual and the verbal appears also as a clash of generic expectations, between the Gothic novel and the philosophical tale: the Monster's hideous body and the frightful crimes belong to the Gothic tradition, whereas his autobiographical narrative and the issues it raises suggest an eighteenth century philosophical tale.

4. See Roland Barthes, S/Z (Paris: Editions du Seuil, 1970), pp. 95-96. For some comments on the model of the "narrative contract," and the need to extend it toward a more dynamic concept of narrative transaction, see Peter Brooks, 'Narrative Transaction and Transference', in Reading for the Plot (1984; rpt. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1992), pp. 216-37.

5. On these questions, see the classic essay by Emile Benveniste, "De la subjectivité dans le langue," in Problémes de linguistique générale (Paris: Gallimard, 1967), pp. 258-66.

6. On the Lacanian terms used here see in particular Jacques Lacan, "Le stade du miroir" and 'L'instance de la lettre dans l'inconscient ou la raison depuis Freud," in Ecrits (Paris: Editions du Seuil, 1966), pp. 93-100 and 493-528.

7. See Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Essai sur l'origine des langues (Paris:Bibliothèque du Graphe, 1973), reprinted from the 1817 edition of Rousseau's works published by A. Belin. For a thorough and subtle discussion of Rousseau's presence throughout Frankenstein, see David Marshall, "Frankenstein, or Rousseau's Monster: Sympathy and Speculative Eyes," in The Surprising Effects of Sympathy (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1988), pp. 178-227. Marshall's comments on the Essai sur l'origine des langues start from my own evocation of the pertinence of that text in a very early version of this chapter, "'Godlike Science/Unhallowed Arts': Language and Monstrosity in Frankenstein," New Literary History, 9:3 (1978), reprinted (slightly modified) in The Endurance of Frankenstein, ed. George Levine and U. C. Knoepflmacher (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1979) -- but Marshall treats the subject far more fully than I did.

8. Several critics have pointed to the importance of the absence of mothers, and the search for a mother, in Frankenstein: see in particular Marc A. Rubenstein, "'My Accursed Origin': The Search for the Mother in Frankenstein," Studies in Romanticism, 15 (1976), 165-94; Sandra M. Gilbert and Susan Gubar, "Horror's Twin: Mary Shelley's Monstrous Eve," in The Madwoman in the Attic (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1979), pp. 213-47; Mary Jacobus, "Is There a Woman in This Text?" in Reading Women: Essays in Feminist Criticism (New York"Columbia University Press, 1986), esp. p. 101; and Margaret Homans, "Bearing Demons: Frankenstein's Circumvention of the Maternal," in Bearing the Word (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1986), pp. 100-19. On the biographical resonances of some of these issues -- particularly the relation of Mary Shelley to her mother, Mary Wollstonecraft, who died shortly after giving birth to her, and her father, William Godwin, and her children, especially William -- see, in addition to the studies just mentioned, Ellen Moers, "Female Gothic," U. C. Knoepflmacher, "Thoughts on the Aggression of Daughters," and Kate Ellis, "Monsters in the Garden: Mary Shelley and the Bourgeois Family," all in The Endurance of Frankenstein. See also Barbara Johnson, "My Monster/My Self," in A World of Difference (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1987), pp. 144-54. The fullest and most useful biography of Mary Shelley is Emily W. Sunstein, Mary Shelley: Romance and Reality (Boston: Little, Brown, 1989).

9. On the "anaclitic" or "attachment type" (Anlehnungstypus) of object choice, see Freud, "On Narcissism: An Introduction," Standard Edition, 14:87. The attachment is that of the sexual instincts to the ego instincts, with the result of a choice of love objects that takes the subject back to the mother.

10. 'Qu'est-ce qui est désiré? C'est le désirant dans l'autre -- ce qui ne peut se faire qu'à ce que le sujet lui-même soit convoqué comme désirable. C'est ce qu'il demande dans la demande d'amour.' Lacan, Le séminaire, vol. 8, Le transfert (Paris: Editions du Seuil, 1991), p. 415.

11. Note in this context the curious scenario leading to the death of Clerval: Frankenstein rows out to sea in his skiff and throws the mangled pieces of the female monster overboard; a storm comes up and blows him off course; he lands on a strange shore -- it is Ireland -- and is at once arrested as a murderer, and taken to see the body of his supposed victim, Clerval. Thus there is a direct exchange between the body of the female monster and that of Clerval.

12. Rubenstein, "My Accursed Origin," p. 165.

13. In the Wolf Man's dream, 'suddenly the window opened of its own accord', and the terrified child sees the wolves sitting in a tree in front of the window, looking at him attentively. Freud's patient then interprets the window opening to mean 'My eyes suddenly opened'. See Freud, "From the History of an Infantile Neurosis," Standard Edition, 17:29-47. On "primal phantasies," see this case history and also Introductory Lectures on Psycho-Analysis, Standard Edition, 16:367-71. David Marshall, working from Marc Rubenstein's suggestions, gives a fine analysis of these scenes, in The Surprising Effects of Sympathy, pp. 222-6.

14. It is worth mentioning in this context that during the evenings of reading ghost stories in the Villa Diodati, on the shores of Lake Geneva, that brought together the Shelleys with Lord Byron, his personal physician Dr. Polidori, and Claire Clairmont (Byron's mistress and Mary's stepsister) and led to the ghost story writing 'contest' that produced Frankenstein, P.B. Shelley had a hallucination: "Byron repeated some verses of Coleridge's Christabel, of the witch's breast; when silence ensued, and Shelley, suddenly shrieking and putting his hands to his head, ran out of the room with a candle. Threw water in his face and after gave him ether. He was looking at Mrs. Shelley, and suddenly thought of a woman he had heard of who had eyes instead of nipples, which taking hold of his mind, horrified him" (The Diary of Dr John William Polidori, ed. W.M. Rossetti [London: Elkins, Matthews, 1911], pp. 128-29, quoted by Rubenstein, p. 184). The woman with eyes in the place of nipples effectively sexualizes vision, and turns the male's scopic fixations back on the voyeur, with hallucinatory results.

15. Laura Mulvey, "Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema," in Visual and Other Pleasures (London: Macmillan, 1989), p. 19.

16. See Gilbert and Gubar, who suggest that the Monster's "intellectual similarity to his authoress (rather than his 'author')" indicates that he may be 'a female in disguise' (The Madwoman in the Attic, p. 237). Mary Jacobus notes the "bizarre pun' in which Frankenstein describes the Monster as "a mummy again endued with animation" (Reading Women, p. 101). Margaret Homans, citing my own argument (in my earlier essay on the novel) about the Monster's failure to gain his place in the symbolic order, states: "I would argue that in its materiality and its failure to acquire an object of desire, the demon enters the symbolic primarily as the (dreaded) referent, not as signifier. The negative picture of the demon's materiality is a product of its female place in the symbolic, and not of any lingering in the realm of the imaginary (which Brooks, with other readers of Lacan, views as tragic)" (Bearing the Word, pp. 304-305, n. 18). I would agree with this to the extent that the materiality of the Monster continually vitiates his assumed place -- the place he would assume -- in the symbolic. But doesn't that status as dreaded referent continually throw him back into the imaginary?

17. The Monster, we have noted, is often the observer in the novel, which is the male role. When he is looked at, however, he takes on aspects of the Medusa, who turns (male) observers to stone, and who for Freud represents the terror of the female genitals to the (childish) male observer: see Freud, "Medusa's Head," Standard Edition, 18:273-74. Note, in this context, Walton's reaction when he first meets the Monster: "Never did I behold a vision so horrible as his face, of such loathsome yet appalling hideousness. I shut my eyes involuntarily" (p. 207).

18. See Freud, 'Psychoanalytic Notes upon an Autobiographical Account of a Case of Paranoia (Dementia Paranoides)" (1911), Standard Edition, 12:9-82.