Contents Index

Frankenstein, or Rousseau's Monster: Sympathy and Speculative Eyes

David Marshall

Chapter 6 in The Surprising Effects of Sympathy: Marivaux, Diderot, Rousseau, and Mary Shelley (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1988), 178-227.

{178} A book is a dead man, a sort of mummy, embowelled and embalmed, but that once had flesh, and motion, and a boundless variety of determinations and actions. I am glad that I can, even upon these terms, converse with the dead, with the wise and the good of revolving centuries.
William Godwin, Fleetwood
Rousseau's dream of an untheatrical autobiography, written in the figures and characters of a sympathetic ink that would reveal the self only to those who knew how to read it, finally is left in doubt. The utopian fête of mutual transparency and sympathy suggested in the Lettre à d'Alembert sur les spectacles is represented as forced and enforced theatrical exposure or as the idealized memory of a spectacle that would present rien à voir to the countless spectators who would regard it without sympathy. The attempt to write and to hide oneself, to inscribe oneself in exhibitionism using invisible ink, risks both overexposure and overconcealment. Indeed, the almost Sternean proliferation of Rousseau's autobiographical writings, accompanying his desperate attempts to find a literary executor who would convey his self-portrait to the supposedly less hostile reading public of the future, ends in the Rêveries du promeneur solitaire. There, in the autobiography Rousseau claims to write for himself, for which he doubles himself to play the roles of both writer and reader,1 the biographical events that make Rousseau a hero of hls own novel increasingly give way to densely figural descriptions of sympathetic transports transacted between himself and the landscape alone. All of this suggests that Rousseau looked to the possibility of representing himself before a sympathetic reader with increasing desire and doubt: desire, because his autobiographical project depended on sympathy; and doubt, because he could not trust sympathy. Given the apparent inevitability of hostile or uncomprehending readers, given the breakdown of sympathy in theatrical society, and given the secret language {179} which structured and inscribed the sympathetic readers or beholders for his camera obscura self-portrait. However, Rousseau could not trust sympathy because he feared its success as well as its failure.

I have traced the pattern of this ambivalence in my readings of Marivaux, Du Bos, and Diderot as well as Rousseau. Like other eighteenth-century observers of society and human nature, like other eighteenth-century theorists of an aesthetic of sentiment and sensibility, these authors often seem to depend on the powers of what many of their contemporaries assumed was an innate or natural sympathy. They seem to believe in both the need for and the possibility of a sympathetic transport that would allow readers and beholders of works of art or people in the world to exchange places, parts, and persons with the characters of others. However, this desire to transcend difference and distance, to cross the borders that turn people into both spectateurs ignorés and unknown actors, leads to two sets of problems.

First, the effects of sympathy often seem to be disconcerting. For Du Bos and Marivaux, sympathy is associated with acts and scenes of violence which picture the subjects of their spectacles as victims. Although these scenes are evoked to insist on the pity and compassion of readers and spectators who are moved or touched, they seem to generate only phantoms of passions that convert fellow feeling into aesthetic pleasure. Furthermore, this pleasure seems guilty since it often is occasioned by scenes of dangerous or transgressive eroticism; In the scenes I have discussed, actors become victims, and spectators are punished for both their voyeurism and their acts of sympathetic identification. For Diderot, sympathy seems to become a contagious disease which is dangerous for both victim and compassionate beholder. For Diderot and Marivaux, becoming the subject of a spectacle, the heroine or hero of a story, the object of sympathy, puts one in the position of victim; and to allow oneself to be moved by such a story or spectacle of suffering is to risk seduction and perhaps the punishment that seems to accompany erotic transgression. For both Diderot and Rousseau, these guilty transports also seem to represent a loss of self: a self-forgetting that threatens the concept of a stable identity and blurs the boundaries that define and differentiate both self and other.

Marivaux suggests in La Vie de Marianne that autobiography threatens to annihilate or victimize the self in turning it into the heroine or hero of a novel or the subject of a spectacle, although the doubling and replacement of Marianne's récit by the stories of {180} Varthon and Tervire suggest that the dédoublement of autobiography's self-representation might allow one to displace oneself and frame someone else in one's story. Rousseau enters the antitheatrical tradition to denounce actors for exhibiting the transport outside of self that he enacts throughout his life story; he condemns actors for possessing the acts of sympathetic imagination that he condemns spectators for lacking. Diderot, who appears to be anxious about the effects of sympathy on both actor and spectator, rejects the belief that actors should forget themselves in their roles -- as if, like Rousseau, to exorcise the self-forgetting that characterizes some of his self-portraits as an artist; yet Diderot remains preoccupied with scenes in which either spectator or actor forget theater in a moment of sympathy that denies the inevitable partition that divides actors from both their parts and their audience. Indeed, all of the texts we have considered reveal the deeply ambivalent investment of their authors in acts and spectacles of sympathy: whether works of fiction or aesthetic theory or both, these texts seem compelled to deny, counteract, or warn the reader about the dangerous consequences of the sympathy that they advocate and even seek to elicit.

However, at the same time that the effects of sympathy seem too powerful for both actor and audience, both author and reader, sympathy has another disconcerting aspect: the age of sensibility must be played out in the age of skepticism. Both sympathy and skepticism address the question of whether one person could enter into the thoughts and sentiments of someone else. Indeed, one could read the hyperbolic claims made for the effects of sympathy in the eighteenth century as a response to the threat of skepticism. I have suggested that although Adam Smith bases his Theory of Moral Sentiments on the presumption of a universal need for sympathy, he describes a society in which sympathy seems unlikely and even impossible -- not so much because people are disinclined to enter into sentiments or situations that are painful or distressing, but rather because (in Smith's view) people know the characters and sentiments of others only through representations they form in their imaginations of what they think others feel. We have seen that Du Bos, Marivaux, Diderot, and Rousseau are concerned with the representation, mimesis, and mediation that structure and even constitute acts of sympathy. Their investment in the analogies and parallels between moral sentiments and aesthetic experience comes less from an eighteenth- century interest in universal principles than from a sense that acts of sympathy depend on acts of reading and beholding.

One consequence of their recognition that sympathy must be acted {181} out in the realms of representation and interpretation is that Marivaux, Diderot, and Rousseau are aware of the threat of misrepresentation and misinterpretation. This means that spectators might be deceived by hypocrites: masters of a semiotics of the passions who either on or off the stage know how to imitate the exterior signs and symptoms of feelings and thus trick beholders into taking their presentations of self at face value. It also means that the spectacles of sincere people might be subject to misinterpretation by beholders who misread or misconstrue appearances. The tableau of someone innocent or sincere might appear the same as the tableau of someone guilty or deceptive.

However, for actors and spectators in scenes of sympathy, their dependence on the appearances or representations they want to penetrate or disregard leads to a greater threat than the possibility that they might enter into the thoughts and sentiments of others in a transport based on misreading. The real threat is that faced with the impenetrable aspects of others, faced with the impossibility of knowing other people's sentiments except through acts of imagination, sympathy itself might be impossible. In appearing before others, then, one risks not only misunderstanding but also theatrical exposure before unsympathetic spectators: the seemingly dangerous exposure of theatricality. In reading or beholding the characters of others, one risks not only being misled but also being placed in the position of distance, difference, and isolation that sympathy is supposed to deny. The investigations of sympathy conducted by Du Bos, Marivaux, Diderot, and Rousseau -- despite fears about the permeability of the boundaries of the self -- all confront the ineluctable barriers that obstruct knowledge and place sympathy in the realm of fiction.

I have suggested that for the authors discussed in this book both the success and the failure of sympathy present problems. In this chapter I will consider another text that displays and examines the effects of sympathy but which specifically focuses on the causes and effects of sympathy's failure: Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus. Rousseau once again will be at the center of this investigation as I argue that Mary Shelley uses Rousseau's writings to conduct a philosophical investigation of the failure of sympathy -- a reading of Rousseau that focuses on the epistemology and the rhetoric of fellow feeling as it dramatizes questions about identification, resemblance, likeness, difference, comparison, and the possibility of transporting oneself into the thoughts and sentiments of an other. Frankenstein represents both a continuation and an interpretation of the types of issues and texts discussed in the preceding chapters. In {182} enacting a series of dialogues with, through, and about Rousseau, Mary Shelley reflects on eighteenth-century accounts of sympathy and displays her own ambivalent assessment of the moral and aesthetic sentiments that are at stake.

In the pages that follow, I will consider the figure of Rousseau in Frankenstein, beginning with the complex identifications at play as Mary Shelley uses Rousseau to act out and work through some of the key psychological issues that inform the novel. Rousseau was more than an intellectual influence for Mary Shelley; he represented a cluster of overdetermined and sometimes contradictory signs, associations, and preoccupations (many of which relate to her parents). After tracing the literary animation of Rousseau in the text of Frankenstein, I will argue that the novel's concern with sympathy must be understood in the context of Mary Shelley's reading of Rousseau. Finally, the interplay between the novel's famous family romance and its theory of sympathy will return us to the scene of theater and in particular to the primal scene.

There is considerable evidence that Rousseau was a formative influence in Mary Shelley's intellectual development and even in her personal life in the years leading up to and including the period in which she composed Frankenstein.2 Rousseau was a major influence on (and was frequently mentioned in the writing of) Mary Shelley's parents, William Godwin and Mary Wollstonecraft. Wollstonecraft (who once claimed to "have always been half in love with" Rousseau) identified Rousseau as "the true Prometheus of sentiment" in her unfinished novel, Maria, or The Wrongs of Woman.3 The author of Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus read or reread numerous works of Godwin, Wollstonecraft, and Rousseau in the year before she began her novel and during the months she was at work on it. Indeed, the novel was conceived and begun in Switzerland, where Mary Shelley was immersed in both the literal and the literary landscapes of Rousseau's life and work; during the summer of 1816, Byron and Percy Shelley took their now famous boat trip around Lake Geneva with a copy of La Nouvelle Héloîse in hand. Percy Shelley called Rousseau "the greatest man the world has produced since Milton" only six days before Mary Shelley recorded what is at least the first extant reference to Frankenstein in her journal.4 It has been generally accepted that Frankenstein is deeply informed by Mary Shelley's reading of Milton.5 I will argue that the figure of Rousseau is an even more pervasive and significant presence in the novel; we must read this figure if we are to read Frankenstein.

{183} As a native of eighteenth-century Geneva, Victor Frankenstein is, as it were, a compatriot of Rousseau's. Frankenstein appears to present his narrative in English for the benefit of the English reader represented by Walton, although in one early version of the manuscript Mary Shelley has Walton praise Victor's eloquence when he speaks his native French;6 the monster's narrative presumably has been translated from the French by either Frankenstein or Walton, just as the books that the monster reads have been translated from English, Latin, and German. Indeed, Mary Shelley goes out of her way to make French the monster's native language; in terms of verisimilitude, it seems more likely that he would have stumbled upon the cottage of a German-speaking rather than French-speaking family in the forest near Ingolstadt, and there is no reason why he and Victor couldn't have had their conversations in German. However, in a book preoccupied with absent or dead mothers, it seems significant that they would share a mother tongue -- with both each other and the author who signed himself Citoyen de Genève.

It has been noted that Victor Frankenstein's descriptions of the sublime environs of Lake Geneva and the Alps resemble the landscapes of La Nouvelle Héloîse that so impressed the Shelleys and Byron in 1816.7 Frankenstein also depicts another landscape that is closely associated with Rousseau: its picture of the state of nature in which the monster first discovers himself and eventually learns the arts and sciences of language and civilization. Walton first imagines the monster to be "a savage inhabitant of some undiscovered island" (F p. 23); and indeed, the monster closely resembles the character of the homme sauvage that Rousseau created in his fiction of the state of nature. The monster's status as a noble (and sometimes not so noble) savage is the one indication of Rousseau in the text of Frankenstein that has received critical attention. Critics have recognized in the monster an Enlightenment noble savage whose early life in the forest (drinking at brooks, eating nuts and berries and not meat, sleeping under trees, encountering fire for the first time, acquiring language, and so on) conforms in both general outline and specific details to the life of Rousseau's savage.8 Paul A. Cantor has presented the most extensive argument for the importance of Rousseau's second Discours (or at least the myth of origins it narrates) to Frankenstein. Arguing that Mary Shelley "drew upon Rousseau's conception of natural man" in portraying the monster, he claims that "at the same time as Frankenstein involves a retelling of Paradise Lost, it also undertakes an imaginative recreation of the Second Discourse, blending Milton and Rousseau."9

{184} There are more signs of Rousseau's fiction of the state of nature in Mary Shelley's fiction. For example, the notes to the Discours sur l'origine de l'inégalité contain a long description of "monstres" taken from L'Histoire des voyages: one group of monsters, cites Rousseau, has "une ressemblance exacte avec l'homme, mais ils sont beaucoup plus gros, et de fort haute taille" ("have an exact resemblance to man, but they are much bigger and taller"). Like Frankenstein's monster, who looks like a human being despite being horribly ugly and "of a gigantic stature" (F, p. 52), these monsters eat fruit and nuts rather than meat. Just as Frankenstein's monster describes how he "found a fire which had been left by some wandering beggars" which "he knew not how to reproduce" (F p. 100), this account describes the monsters finding fires abandoned by people and not knowing how to prolong them; Rousseau insists, however, that they could have figured out how to add wood if they desired -- and indeed, Frankenstein's monster makes just this discovery. Rousseau notes that "on trouve dans la description de ces prétendus monstres des conformités frappantes avec l'espèce humaine" ("in the description of these supposed monsters we find striking similarities with the human species"), and he supposes that the so-called monsters were assumed not to be "hommes sauvages" only because they did not talk. He insists, however, that "quoique l'organe de la parole soit naturel a l'homme, la parole elle- même ne lui est pourtant pas naturelle, et qui connoissent jusqu'à quel point sa perfectibilité peut avoir élevé l'homme Civil au-dessus de son état originel?" ("although the organ of speech is natural to man, speech itself is not natural to him; and who knows how far his perfectibility may have raised civil man above his original state?" [OC, pp. 209-10]).

Frankenstein provides a detailed account of precisely this transition as the monster describes how he acquired language and the consequences of his elevation from his original state to so-called civil society. Rousseau's interest in this phenomenon has been noted by critics who have seen the monster as a version of the natural man Rousseau portrays in his Discours, but only Peter Brooks has suggested the relevance of Rousseau's L'Essai sur l'origine des langues.10 I will argue that this essay figures significantly in Frankenstein. For the moment, however, I will simply note that it provides further textual evidence that Mary Shelley was using Rousseau's fictions to help her imagine what the monster calls "the original era of my being" (F, p. 98). For example, Rousseau describes how in "les premiers temps" ("the earliest times") the only language possessed by primitive people consisted in "le geste et quelques sons inarticulés" ("gestures and a few {185} inarticulate sounds" [O, p. 445]). Frankenstein describes the monster in his first moments muttering "inarticulate sounds" (F, p. 57). The monster himself describes how in trying to imitate the "songs of the birds" he can make only "uncouth and inarticulate sounds"; he eventually observes Safie and the De Lacey family communicating through "signs" and finally understands the principle of language and then language itself (F, pp. 99, 112).

The monster also devotes considerable attention to the role of music in his first experiences with the expression of human emotion. He is "unable to bear these emotions" when he hears De Lacey's "sweet mournful air" (F, p. 103). This scene and other descriptions of the humans moving each other (and their hidden listener) by singing and playing the guitar recall Rousseau's unusual argument that "les vers, les chants, la parole, ont une origine commune" ("verse, song and speech have a common origin"). For the monster, as for Rousseau's first humans, "les premiers discours furent les premières chansons" ("the first songs were the first speech" [O, p. 468]); his more or less simultaneous discovery of music, language, and then poetry provides a condensed tableau of the theories Rousseau outlines in the Essai sur l'origine des langues. The learning of language that is seen in the lessons and example of the young lovers Felix and Safie also follows Rousseau's hypothetical representation of "l'amour" inventing "la parole" (O, p. 416). Finally, the monster also dramatizes Rousseau's claim in the Essai that "un homme abandonné seul sur la face de la terre, à la merci du genre humain, devoit être un animal féroce"("a man abandoned alone on the face of the earth, at the mercy of humankind, had to be a ferocious animal" [O, p. 445]).

The monster is not the only character in Frankenstein who resembles a character from Rousseau's fictions. Both Alphonse and Victor Frankenstein evoke aspects of the plot and characters of La Nouvelle Héloïse.11 However, even more significantly, Victor Frankenstein resembles Rousseau himself: in particular, the Rousseau of the Rêveries du promeneur solitaire. He twice describes his outings in a boat on Lake Geneva in language that often seems a translation of Rousseau's descriptions in the fifth Promenade. Rousseau writes:

j'allais me jeter seul dans un bateau que je conduisais au milieu du lac quand l'eau etait calme, et là, m'etendant tout de mon long dans le bateau les yeux tournes vers le ciel, je me laissais aller et dériver lentement au gré de l'eau, quelquefois pendant plusieurs heures, plongé dans milles rêveries confuses mais delicieuses . . . (R, p. 67)

I would go and throw myself into a boat all alone, which I would steer {186} into the middle of the lake when the water was calm, and there stretching myself out at full length in the boat, my eyes turned up to the sky, I would let myself go and drift slowly with the current of the water, sometimes for several hours, plunged into a thousand confused but delicious reveries . . .

Frankenstein's autobiographical narrative reads: "I took the boat and passed many hours upon the water. Sometimes, with my sails set, I was carried by the wind, and sometimes, after rowing into the middle of the lake, I left the boat to pursue its own course and gave way to my own miserable reflections" (F, p. 87). Like the author of the Rêveries du promeneur solitaire, Frankenstein recounts how he "took refuge in the most perfect solitude." He continues: "I passed whole days on the lake alone in a little boat, watching the clouds and listening to the rippling of the waves, silent and listless" (F, p. 143). Later in the narrative he describes how he "stretched myself at the bottom of the boat"; the scene is not at all tranquil at this point yet he calls his reflections a "reverie" (F, p. 164).

Frankenstein's remorse and torturous guilt over Justine, who is fatally punished for the crime he considers his own fault, recall the remorse Rousseau expresses in the second book of the Confessions and the fourth Promenade for the unjust punishment of another servant girl, Marion. In addition, Frankenstein feels "loathing" for the "dissecting room and the slaughter-house" which furnish the "workshop of filthy creation" where he feels as if he has "mangled the living flesh of a human being"(F, pp. 53, 163), and pleasure in "serene sky and verdant field" and the "flowers of spring" and "summer" (F, p. 68) when he is able to forget his experiments; these descriptions may recall the third Promenade where Rousseau writes of the "appareil affreux" ("frightful apparatus") of an "amphithéâtre anatomique" ("anatomical amphitheater") with its "cadavres puants, de baveuses et livides chairs" ("stinking cadavers, livid and oozing flesh") and the power of "brillantes fleurs . . . ombrages frais . . . verdure" to "purlfier mon imagination salié par tous ces hideux objets"("brilliant flowers . . . cool shades . . . verdure . . . to purify my imaginatlon, soiled by all these hideous objects" [R, p. 97]). It is, of course, "natural philosophy" that leads to Victor's creation of that "hideous" object which eventually haunts his "disturbed imagination" (F, pp. 49, 57, 61).12

In addition to his similarities to Rousseau's literary persona, in hls moments as Romantic poet turned madman and misanthrope, Victor also resembles the public persona of Rousseau that {187} early nineteenth century among enlightened English readers who wished to claim him as a poet of nature while at the same time acknowledging the apparent insanity that caused a scandal during his residence in England. However, Victor is like Rousseau in a specific way that is of obsessive concern to Mary Shelley throughout the pages of Frankenstein (and probably throughout her life). Frankenstein is guilty of a crime that Rousseau was notorious for throughout Europe: he is a parent who abandons his child. Although Mary Shelley -- like her mother -- appreciated Rousseau in spite of his flaws, it is clear that for her one of the most salient aspects of Rousseau's life story was that he made orphans of the five infants born to him and Thérèse Levasseur.13

Rousseau includes a lengthy discussion of this part of his life story in the ninth Promenade of the Rêveries. "J'avais mis mes enfants aux Enfants-Trouvés," he writes; "c'en était assez pour m'avoir travesti en père dénature" ("I had put my children into the Foundling Home. . . . that was enough to get me misrepresented as an unnatural father" [R, p. 121]). Insisting that it would be "la chose du monde la plus incroyable que l'Héloïse et l'Émile fussent l'ouvrage d'un homme qui n'aimait pas les enfants" ("the most unbelievable thing in the world that the Héloïse and the Émile could be the works of a man who did not like children" [R, p. 123]), he tries to defend himself by claiming that if he had kept his children, Therese's family "en aurait fait des monstres" ("would have made monsters of them" [R, p. 122]). I suggest that Mary Shelley has Rousseau in mind as she tells the story of a parent who made his offspring a monster -- precisely by abandoning him. The long biographical essay that she wrote on Rousseau in her volume Eminent Literary and Scientific Men of France for the Cabinet Cyclopedia reveals how much she associates Rousseau with this act, as she repeatedly turns and returns her attention to an examination and condemnation of the fact that "five of his children were thus sent to a receptacle where few survive." Mary Shelley is largely sympathetic to Rousseau throughout her recital of the controversial events of his life (taking Rousseau's side, for example, in his quarrel with Diderot and even with Hume), but she is relentlessly severe in denouncing him for having in regard to his children "failed in the plainest dictates of nature and conscience" (CC, p. 131)

Indeed, although she writes that it is "insulting the reader to dwell on the flagrancy of this act" (CC, p. 131), she dwells on it for two pages, justifying this digression from her narrative by insisting that it was necessary to bring it so far forward as to show the evil effects of so bad a cause" and then vowing that "it is too painful to dwell further {188} upon." However, she once again returns to "little children . . . ruthlessly sacrificed" in the next paragraph, this time acknowledging her digression with a reminder to herself: "However, to go back to narrative" (CC, pp. 132-33); and then, as if irresistibly, she returns to the subject two pages later and then finally again in the conclusion to the essay.

Mary Shelley's condemnations of Rousseau were written about twenty years after she completed Frankenstein (although she began the project only six years after she revised her novel for its third edition);14 yet the language and tone of the article are remarkably similar to the reproaches that the monster makes to the parent who has abandoned and orphaned him. "Our first duty is to render those to whom we gave birth, wise, virtuous, and happy," writes Mary Shelley in Eminent Literary and Scientific Men, adding that "Rousseau failed in this." Victor remarks that in his unique moment of compassion for the monster, "I felt what the duties of a creator towards his creature were, that I ought to render him happy before I complained of his wickedness" (F, p. 97). In his idealized tableau of his own childhood he recounts that his parents "fulfilled their duties toward me," emphasizing their "deep consciousness of what they owed toward the being to which they had given life" (F, p. 33). When the monster first confronts the man who proves what Mary Shelley says Rousseau's example proves -- "that a father is not to be trusted for natural instincts towards his offspring" (CC, p. 131 ) -- he speaks with the rhetoric of the literal author of his being: "you, my creator, detest and spurn me, thy creature, to whom thou art bound by ties only dissoluble by the annihilation of one of us. . . . Do your duty towards me, and I will do mine towards you and the rest of mankind" (F, p. 95). However, like Rousseau, who "neglected the first duty of man by abandoning his children" (CC, p. 172), Victor abandons the monster; and the monster in turn is like Rousseau's children, who in Mary Shelley's imagination are "brutified by their situation, or depressed by the burden, ever weighing at the heart, that they have not inherited the commonest right of humanity, a parent's care" (CC, p. 131).

Like Mary Shelley's biography of Rousseau, Frankenstein tells the story of a man "full of genius and aspiration after virtue" who "failed in the plainest dictates of nature and conscience"; Mary Shelley might have said of Frankenstein's failure what she said of Rousseau's: "can we wonder that his after course was replete with sorrow?" (CC, pp. 131-32). In the same year that she read the Rêveries and the Émile, had her dream about a "hideous phantasm" and a "hideous corpse," and, unable to rid herself of "my hideous phantom" (F, p. xi), began to {189} write the story of "a figure hideously deformed" (F, p. 115), Mary Shelley read in her mother's Vindication of the Rights of Woman: "A great proportion of the misery that wanders, in hideous forms, around the world, is allowed to rise from the negligence of parents."15 Frankenstein's great failure in the novel -- directly responsible for the monster's murderous rage as well as his misery -- is his negligence as a parent. "No father could claim the gratitude of his child so completely as I should deserve theirs," he boasts as he imagines the "new species" that he plans to create after learning how to "animate the lifeless clay" (F, pp. 52-53); but Frankenstein misses the point that Mary Shelley found in her father's Enquiry: "Children are a sort of raw material put into our hands, a ductile and yielding substance, which, if we do not ultimately mould in conformity to our wishes, it is because we throw away the power committed to us, by the folly with which we are accustomed to exert it."16

In recent years several important readings of Frankenstein have demonstrated the novel's status as a "gothic psychodrama of [Mary Shelley's] family," a "phantasmagoria of the nursery" that is a deeply ambivalent account of a daughter's attitude toward the father who came close to disowning her and the mother who abandoned her at the moment of her birth.17 I am suggesting that for Mary Shelley the figure of Rousseau was charged with all of the valences of this perverse family romance. I suggest in the Appendix that because of Mary Wollstonecraft's personal and public interest in Rousseau, Mary Shelley would have associated Rousseau with her mother. My point here is that Rousseau's abandonment of his children would have given Mary Shelley compelling psychological reason (consciously or unconsciously) to identify her mother with Rousseau. Like Rousseau, Mary Wollstonecraft was a genius who aspired after virtue and devoted herself to the education of children while abandoning her own offspring (albeit involuntarily). Consequently, in order to understand the family psychodrama that is enacted by the characters and phantoms of Frankenstein, we must understand how Mary Shelley uses Rousseau to triangulate, so to speak, her relation to her mother; we must understand the extent to which Victor plays the part of Rousseau in the pages of Frankenstein because in the series of identifications that are set in play in the novel, Rousseau often stands in for Mary Shelley's mother.

I want to suggest, however, that the dramatis personae of Frankenstein -- its distribution of parts, persons, and roles -- is still more complex and overdetermined. We have seen that in addition to the presence throughout the novel of various textual echoes of characters {190} and ideas from Rousseau's works, the monster appears to be playing the role of the homme sauvage dramatized in the two Discours and the Essai sur l'origine des langues, while Victor, the genius who aspires after virtue yet commits the crime of abandoning his offspring, seems to be cast as Rousseau. I want to argue now that Mary Shelley's portrait of Rousseau in this most ambivalent of novels is in fact divided between Frankenstein and his monster. It has become a critical commonplace to observe that the monster is Frankenstein's "alterego" or "doppelgänger" -- an "alternative Frankenstein."18 I believe that part of what makes them doubles or more precisely two sides of the same person is their shared representation of the man who wrote Rousseau juge de Jean-Jacques, a series of dialogues created by the dédoublement of their autobiographical subject. It should not, therefore, contradict my assertion that Mary Shelley identifies Victor with Rousseau to assert now that the unnamed monster of the novel is, so to speak, Rousseau or at least an allegorical version of him.

For example, for the same reasons that she repeatedly condemns Rousseau for abandoning and orphaning his children, Mary Shelley would have been very conscious of the fact that Rousseau himself was orphaned and abandoned by his mother. "His birth cost the life of his mother," she writes in her biography, "and was, he says, 'the first of his misfortunes'" (CC, p. 111). As this paraphrase and translation from the Confessions suggests, Rousseau was in this misfortune most like Mary Shelley herself; but as we have seen, of the many orphans in the novel the monster most explicitly dramatizes and laments this misfortune. "Un homme abandonné seul sur la face de la terre, a la merci du genre humain," Rousseau suggests in the Essai sur l'origine des langues, "devoit être un animal féroce" ("A man abandoned alone on the face of the earth, at the mercy of humankind, had to be a ferocious monster" [O, p. 445]); the monster is doubly abandoned and if his eloquent reproaches to Frankenstein suggest Mary Shelley's condemnation of Rousseau the parent, they also suggest her identification -- through the monster -- with the Rousseau whose mother died in giving him life.

Furthermore, Mary Shelley's portrayal of the abandoned monster specifically evokes Rousseau's role as outcast, exile, and wanderer -- a public and literary persona of almost mythic proportions who was well known throughout Europe and, of course, dramatized in Rousseau's own versions of his life story.19 We can read in the monster's eloquent lamentations and especially in the misfortunes of his life a dramatization of the conditions and sentiments that {191} Rousseau depicts in the Rêveries. Indeed, the monster acts out and at times seems to translate the striking first words of the first Promenade:

Me voici donc seul sur la terre, n'ayant plus de frére, de prochain, d'ami, de société que moi-même. Le plus sociable et le plus aimant des humains en a été proscrit par un accord unanime. Ils ont cherché dans les raffinements de leur haine quel tourment pouvait être le plus cruel à mon âme sensible, et ils ont brisé violemment tous les liens qui m'attachaient à eux. (R, p. 3)

Here I am, then, alone on the earth, without brother, neighbor, friend, or any society but myself. The most sociable and loving of human beings has been proscribed by a unanimous accord. They have sought, in the refinement of their hatred, the torment that would be the cruelest to my sensitive soul, and they have violently broken all the bonds which attached me to them.

The monster -- who, we have seen, is like a savage man "abandonné seul sur la face de la terre, à la merci du genre humain," describes himself in similar terms. In his first confrontation with Frankenstein he laments, "must I be hated, who am miserable beyond all living things! Yet you, my creator, detest and spurn me . . . to whom thou art bound by ties only dissoluble by the annihilation one of us." He continues: "Everywhere I see bliss, from which I alone am irrevocably excluded. I was benevolent and good . . . my soul glowed with love and humanity; but am I not alone, miserably alone?" Frankenstein's "fellow creatures," he says, "spurn and hate me. . . . If the multitude of mankind knew of my existence, they would do as you do, and arm themselves for my destruction" (F, pp. 95-96).

What seems paranoid or hyperbolic in Rousseau's autobiography is literally true in the life story of the monster. The monster seems to literalize the conditions that Rousseau describes with a figure of speech when he explains that despite his feelings of benevolence he has been taken for a monster: "Moi qui me sentais digne d'amour et d'estime . . . je me vis travesti tout d'un coup en un monstre affreux tel qu'il n'en exista jamais" ("I, who felt myself worthy of love and esteem . . . I saw myself suddenly misrepresented as a frightful monster, such as had never existed" [R, p. 108]). Like Frankenstein's monster, Rousseau tells the story of how he unexpectedly finds himself regarded as "un monstre" and "un assassin" (R, p. 4). Mary reproduces this image in her biography of Rousseau; she recounts how the "peasantry of Neufchatel were taught to regard him as a monster; from execration they proceeded to personal attack; stones were thrown at him during his walks" (CC, p. 157). Mary Shelley also {192} reproduces these images in her novel as she tells the story of a monster and a murderer -- who is, by the way, "bruised by stones" when the peasants of a village "attack" him (F, p. 101). The monster, then, might be seen as a literal translation of the figure of Rousseau represented in the Rêveries; another sign of this is contained in the beginning of the monster's autobiography in words that read as a translation or paraphrase of Rousseau's autobiography: "It is with considerable difficulty that I remember the original era of my being; all the events of that period appear confused and indistinct. A strange multiplicity of sensations seized me, and I saw, felt, heard, and smelt at the same time, and it was, indeed, a long time before I learned to distinguish between the operations of my various senses" (F, p. 98). This description of the first impressions of a being who awakens from the dead recalls the moment of awakening that Rousseau describes in the second Promenade: "Je naissais dans cet instant à la vie, et il me semblait que je remplissais de ma légère existence tous les objets que j'apercevais. Tout entier au moment présent je ne me souvenais de rien; je n'avais nulle notion distincte de mon individu, pas la mondre idée ae ce qul venait de m'arriver; je ne savais ni qui j'étais ni où j'étais" ("At that instant I was born into life, and it seemed to me that with my frail existence I filled all the objects I perceived. Entirely in the present moment, I remembered nothing; I had no distinct notion of my individuality, nor the least idea of what had just happened to me; I knew neither who I was nor where I was" [R, p. 17]). The monster's experience is a literal version of the figurative awakening from death that Rousseau experiences after the accident that seems to kill him (and indeed is reported to have killed him by a premature obituary).20 If the monster's awakening seems less pleasant, it may be because Mary Shelley grafted this description of gaining consciousness onto her condensed translation of Rousseau's description of the life of the homme sauvage; it is on the same page that Mary Shelley lists the activities that Rousseau ascribes to man in his natural state.21

As the monster gains consciousness, details of his early life also resemble the childhood Rousseau portrays in his autobiographies. We have seen that both narratives begin with the misfortune of losing the parent who gives the subject life. The monster's autobiography also resembles Rousseau's in its account of the reading that forms his sensibilities and idea of the world and constitutes his first education; of the three books that make up the monster's personal library, one of them -- Plutarch's Lives -- is singled out by Rousseau in the Confessions as having been "ma lecture favorite" ("my favorite reading" [C, p. 8]). {193} Rousseau writes of his preference for Plutarch in the Rêveries: "ce fut la première lecture de mon enfance, ce sera la derniére de ma vicillesse" ("it was my first reading in childhood, and it will be my last in old age" [R, p. 41]). In her biographical essay about Rousseau Mary Shelley devotes a long paragraph to a translation of Rousseau's account in the Confessions of his childhood reading and the influence on him of Plutarch, including his comment that "the pleasure I took in it cured me somewhat of my love for romances" (CC, p. 112). If the monster's reading list can be seen as an autobiographical gesture on Mary Shelley's part to her own reading lists, it also doubly refers to Rousseau -- whose own reading list was included in a book she lists next to Paradise Lost, The Sorrows of Young Werther, and Plutarch's Lives.

However, in spite of these many echoes of language and plot, perhaps the most striking allusion to Rousseau's autobiography in the monster's life story is to be found in the fact that the monster has an autobiography. At the center of the novel we read the monster's confessions: insisting that even the guilty are allowed "to speak in their own defence," he insists on appearing before the being he calls "my creator" to present his life story (F, pp. 96, 95). I have suggested that Mary Shelley goes out of her way to make the monster speak French; but the monster speaks Rousseau's language in other senses as well. As Peter Brooks has written -- in words that are reminiscent of descriptions of Rousseau -- the monster is "a supreme rhetorician of his own situation, one who controls the antitheses and oxymorons that express the pathos of his existence."22 We are continually reminded of the monster's eloquence, not just by the power of his language but by the commentaries on it included in the novel. Victor is at first "moved" (F, p. 39) in listening to the monster's autobiography; he later warns Walton: "He is eloquent and persuasive" (F, p. 198). When Walton meets the monster he is "touched by the expressions of his misery" until he recalls "what Frankenstein had said of his powers of eloquence and persuasion" (F, p. 209).

In Mary Wollstonecraft's book on the French Revolution (read or reread by Mary Shelley in 1814), man in "his savage state" is said to be "distinguished only by superiority of genius, prowess, and eloquence." "I say eloquence," Wollstonecraft adds, "for I believe, that in this state of society he is most eloquent, because most natural."23 If the monster resembles natural man in his eloquence, however, he most resembles the author of the ideas that Wollstonecraft is borrowing. From Rousseau's first celebrity as an author (with his paradoxical Discours sur les sciences et les arts), he was noted by both {194} advocates and detractors for his eloquence. Godwin writes of Rousseau in his Enquiry that "the term eloquence is perhaps more precisely descriptive of his mode of composition than that of any other writer that ever existed." An unsympathetic contemporary of Godwin's described "the glowing hues of impassioned eloquence" in Rousseau's writing; and Mary Shelley describes her husband as being "charmed by the passionate eloquence" of La Nouvelle Héloîse in her account of the summer spent "on the shores of Lake Geneva" in 1816.24 Admired for its paradoxes and originality, Rousseau's eloquence was also considered suspect and he was sometimes accused of sophistry. Mary Shelley herself writes that he "defends himself by many baseless sophisms" (CC, p. 173), just as Frankenstein thinks that he had been "moved by the sophisms of the being I had created" (F, p. 159).

The monster understands his own investment in his powers of eloquence and persuasion; he realizes that his fate depends on his ability to move others through a recital of his autobiography. He delays his appeal to the De Laceys until he has confidence in his mastery of their language. When he finally confronts Frankenstein, he entreats him "to hear me . . . Listen to my tale . . . Listen to me . . . listen to me . . ." (F, pp. 95-96). Like Rousseau, he is not surprised by the hostility he meets with -- "'I expected this reception,' said the demon" (F, p. 95) -- yet like Rousseau he seems to possess a naive faith in the power of autobiography, in the effects of telling one's own story, as he reveals both his virtues and his crimes before the judgment of his creator. In the Essai sur l'origine des langues, arguing against the eighteenth-century truism that sight was the most powerful of the senses, Rousseau writes:

lorsqu'il est question d'émouvoir le coeur et d'enflammer les passions, c'est tout autre chose. . . . Supposez une situation de douleur parfaitement connue; en voyant la personne affligée vous serez difficilement ému jusqu'à pleurer: mais laissez-lui le temps de vous dire tout ce qu'elle sent, et bientôt vous allez fondre en larmes. Ce n'est qu'ainsi que les scènes de tragedie font leur effet. (O, p. 419)

when the point is to move the heart and inflame the passions, it is another matter altogether. . . . Imagine someone in a painful situation that is fully known; in seeing the afflicted person it would be difficult to be moved to tears: but give him the time to tell you everything he feels, and soon you will burst into tears. It is solely in this way that the scenes of a tragedy produce their effect.

{195} The monster, of course, knows perfectly well that sight will not be adequate if the representation of his tragedy is to have any effect other than horror; it is for this reason that he first approaches the blind De Lacey. Asking Frankenstein, "How can I move thee?" and pleading, "Let your compassion be moved. . . . Listen to my tale" (F, p. 96), he places his hands over Frankenstein's eyes and seeks to move him through his story: "Thus I take from thee a sight which you abhor. Still thou canst listen to me and grant thy compassion. By the virtues that I once possessed, I demand this from you. Hear my tale" (F, p. 97). Like Rousseau, the monster puts his faith in autobiography, believing that everything depends on his ability to move the heart of his listener: to inflame his passions, to elicit his compassion. He understands that the story of his life depends on sympathy. This realization is at the center of the scene of his tragedy; I will suggest that it has its origins in a story that Rousseau tells about the origins of sympathy.

Frankenstein, I will argue, can be read as a parable about the failure of sympathy. From the outset of the novel the letters from Walton introduce a preoccupation with sympathy and fellow feeling. Noting in his letter to his sister that writing "is a poor medium for the communication of feeling," Walton writes: "I desire the company of a man who could sympathize with me, whose eyes would reply to mine" (F, p. 18). He complains about the lack of "interest and sympathy" in the master of the ship; he looks upon Frankenstein "with sympathy and compassion" (F, pp. 20, 25). By the end of Frankenstein's story he is almost overwhelmed with sympathy and compassion: "His eloquence is forcible and touching; nor can I hear him, when he relates a pathetic incident or endeavours to move the passions of pity or love, without tears" (F, p. 200).

Encouraged by "the sympathy which [Frankenstein] evinced to use the language of my heart," Walton tells Victor "of my desire of finding a friend, of my thirst for a more intimate sympathy with a fellow mind than had ever fallen to my lot" (F, pp. 26, 27). He laments, "I have longed for a friend; I have sought one who would sympathize with me and love me" (F, p. 201). The relatively large proportion of Walton's narrative devoted to these declarations of sentiment suggests Mary Shelley's interest in framing the stories of Frankenstein and the monster with the problem of sympathy; and indeed, her introduction of many of these passages in the revisions for the 1831 edition of the novel reveals her effort to make the problem {196} of sympathy even more explicit, especially at the beginning of the text.25

Victor Frankenstein rebuffs Walton's plea for sympathy, describing himself as incapable of "new ties and fresh affection" (F, p. 201). His own narrative, however, often takes note of the presence or absence of sympathy: "Her sympathy was ours" (F, p. 37), he says of Elizabeth; and he notes that Clerval "had never sympathized in my tastes for natural science" yet still "sincerely sympathized in my feelings," expressing (for example) "his heartfelt sympathy" when William is killed and Victor "longed to console and sympathize with my loved and sorrowing friends" (F, pp. 66, 68, 71). He delays returning to Geneva after William's death because, he says, he feels "as if I had no right to claim their sympathies," and he later senses that he must check his "impatient thirst for sympathy" (F, pp. 142, 177). Frankenstein is disturbed when the woman who watches over him in prison seems "accustomed to see without sympathizing in sights of misery," and he notes that the "countenance" of Mr. Kirwin "expressed sympathy and compassion" (F, pp. 170, 171).

It is the monster, however, who is most concerned with sympathy in the course of the novel. Describing himself as "fashioned to be susceptible of love and sympathy" (F, p. 208), he displays all the characteristics of what was considered in the eighteenth century to be natural sympathy even before he reads Goethe and learns about "sentiments and feelings, which had for their object something out of self" (F, p. 123). His account of his sentiments while watching the De Laceys reads like a citation from any of numerous eighteenth-century treatises on moral philosophy: "when they were unhappy, I felt depressed; when they rejoiced, l sympathized in their joys" (F, p. 107); and (like theoreticians of sympathy) extending his responses into the realm of aesthetic experience, the monster describes how he "sympathized with" the "beings concerning whom I read" (F, p. 123). Watching how the cottagers "sympathized with one another," he senses a desire to receive sympathy himself: "I required kindness and sympathy," he explains, noting that he hoped that the De Laceys "would compassionate me . . . who solicited their compassion and friendship" (F, pp. 126, 125).

Of course the monster is unsuccessful. Finding himself "unsympathized with" and realizing that "none among the myriads of men that existed would pity or assist" him (F, p. 130), he seeks out Frankenstein and demands his "compassion." As we have seen, the monster tries to "move" his creator, to make Frankenstein "commiserate" him, pathetically trying to measure "the more moving part of my story" {197} and persuade him with all the pathos his eloquence can convey (F, pp. 96, 111). Victor describes the "strange effect" of the monster's words: "I compassionated him and sometimes felt a wish to console him"; yet finally the effect of this compassion is not sympathy: "I could not sympathize with him" (F, p. 140). Walton's response at the end of the book is similar. Listening to the monster out of "curiosity and compassion," he is "at first touched by the expressions of his misery" (F, pp. 208-9); but the monster knows by this point not to expect sympathy. He says: "I seek not a fellow feeling in my misery. No sympathy may I ever find. . . . in what should I seek for sympathy? I am content to suffer alone" (F, p. 209). By the end of the novel -- the last word of which is "distance" (F, p. 211) -- sympathy seems impossible.

It is a desire for sympathy that motivates the monster's demand that Frankenstein create another monster to be his companion. "You must create a female for me," he insists, "with whom I can live in the interchange of those sympathies necessary for my being" (F, p. 138). He insists that his "evil passions" will disappear when he meets "with sympathy" (F, p. 140). His plea, "Let me see that I excite the sympathy of some existing thing" (F, p. 139), recalls the pleas of Walton, yet in his wish for a companion who will satisfy his need for sympathy the monster also resembles Frankenstein himself. Indeed, it is precisely in creating a creature in the first place that Frankenstein seems to display the same interest in sympathy that is manifested by Walton and the monster. He describes his plan for "the creation of a human being" as a plan to "attempt the creation of a being like myself" (F, p. 52). This is the desire that torments both Walton and the monster, the desire that underwrites the pervasive preoccupation with sympathy in the novel: each character wishes for a fellow being, someone who is like himself. What they seek is not a friend or a companion but rather a semblable. It is not a coincidence that the only moment in which Frankenstein admits being moved and displays compassion in listening to the monster is during his plea for a being like himself.

Ironically, it is Frankenstein's creation of a being like himself that seems to cut him off from sympathy. It is after he creates the monster that he feels of his family and friends that he "had no right to claim their sympathies" (F, p. 142); and it is only after he destroys the companion monster that he feels "as if I belonged to a race of human beings like myself" (F, p. 162). After trying to create a being like himself, he feels separated from beings like himself; and he insists on denying the monster and Walton the sympathy and fellow feeling of beings like themselves. What has gone wrong? On the level of plot, {198} we are told that the monster is of gigantic stature, that he is hideously disfigured, and that people are frightened when they see him. But does this mean that Frankenstein has failed in creating a being like himself? I suggest that the novel turns on this question.26

At the same time he imagines creating a being like himself, Frankenstein pictures himself as the father of a "new species" (F, p. 52). The question of whether Frankenstein is like the monster, whether the monster is like Frankenstein, is related to the question of whether Frankenstein and the monster are of the same species: whether they can regard each other as fellow creatures. When De Lacey assures the monster that he takes pleasure in being "in any way serviceable to a human creature," the monster responds: "You raise me from the dust by this kindness; and I trust that, by your aid, I shall not be driven from the society and sympathy of your fellow creatures" (F, p. 128). But the monster's identification of this patriarch with the father who literally raised him from the dust, as well as his reference to "your fellow creatures," suggests his apprehension that he will not be regarded as a "human creature." When he asks for a companion, he specifically requests a being "of the same species" (F, p. 137). The father of his species is indeed particularly concerned with such differences and likenesses. Throughout the novel he refers (and only occasionally in the context of the monster) to his "fellow creatures" (F, pp. 55, 141, 157, 163), his "fellow beings" (F, pp. 78, 176), his "fellow men" (F, p. 151), and "human beings like myself" (F, p. 162). It is this concern with the existence of fellow creatures -- or more precisely, with the possibility of the existence of fellow creatures -- that lies at the center of the novel's investigation of the conditions of sympathy.

I am suggesting that Mary Shelley's evident insistence on the language and the problem of sympathy in Frankenstein amounts to more than a gothic translation of a sentimental novel. She might have constructed the same plot around a monster who had read The Sorrows of Young Werther too many times and was frustrated in his desire for love and friendship. The question of sympathy in Frankenstein is also more specific than a Romantic meditation on the projection of self onto the landscape or the wish for a companionable form. Using terms and formulations that have their source in discussions of sympathy in eighteenth-century moral philosophy and aesthetics, Mary Shelley focuses on the epistemology and the rhetoric of fellow feeling -- which, she shows, raise questions about identification, resemblance, likeness, difference, comparison, and the ability to transport oneself into someone else's thoughts and sentiments. I will argue, of course, that Rousseau is the theoretician of sympathy who {199} most significantly informs Mary Shelley's investigation; but I would like to approach Rousseau through the two other figures who preside over the conception and composition of Frankenstein: Wollstonecraft and Godwin.

The first paragraph of the introduction to A Vindication of the Rights of Woman announces the author's interest in what she calls "the education of my fellow-creatures"; Wollstonecraft suggests that the "false system of education" that she deplores is based on books written by men who consider "females rather as women than human creatures." Women, she argues, have been "treated as kind of subordinate beings, and not as part of the human species." Singling out Rousseau, she insists that women are "one half of the human species," not "a fanciful kind of half being one of Rousseau's wild chimeras." Wollstonecraft writes that she addresses men "as a fellow-creature" to "claim, in the name of my sex, some interest in their hearts"; and she continues, in an appeal that anticipates the monster's appropriation of Miltonic rhetoric, "I entreat them to assist to emancipate their companion, to make her a help meet for them!"27

Wollstonecraft suggests that by refusing to regard women as members of the same species, men not only deny women sympathy; they deprive themselves of the benefits of fellow feeling. In a long condemnation of Rousseau for making Sophie the slave of love as well as the slave of Emile, she cites Adam Smith's Theory of Moral Sentiments: "'The charm of life,' says a grave philosopher, 'is sympathy; nothing pleases us more than to observe in other men a fellow-feeling with all the emotions of our breast.'"28 Smith argues that fellow feeling is possible only through the imaginative transport and identification that constitute an act of sympathy, the interchange of parts and persons that allows one to represent in one's imagination the thoughts and sentiments of someone else; hut, as Wollstonecraft (following Smith) insists, this identification will only be possible if we recognize an other as a fellow creature, as a member of the same species. We can experience fellow feeling only with those whom we recognize as fellow creatures.

Mary Shelley's story about the denial of sympathy, fellow feeling, and fellow creatures seems to draw upon Wollstonecraft's critique of the ideology of sexual difference. In this context we can also see Mary Shelley continuing the analysis her mother dramatizes in the fictional counterpart of her Vindication: Maria, or The Wrongs of Woman, where a feminist critique is extended to include a class analysis. The unfinished novel in which Wollstonecraft inscribed Rousseau as Prometheus clearly provided a model for the narrative of Frankenstein: {200} the story about the protagonist named in the title contains within it the autobiographical narrative of someone who tells a life story that is remarkably similar to the monster's.29 Jemima, Maria's attendant, is orphaned immediately after her birth; like the monster, she receives her literary and moral education while observing a household in which she is unseen and unheard (in her case because of her rank).30 Jemima describes herself in her early life as "an egg dropped on the sand; a pauper by nature, hunted from family to family, who belonged to nobody." "l was despised from my birth," she recounts, "I had not even the chance of being considered as a fellow creature." Like The Rights of Woman, The Wrongs of Woman emphasizes the predicament of not being viewed as a fellow creature: Jemima is mistreated by one family because "they had been accustomed to view me as a creature of another species"; she asks Maria, who is said to be the first person to treat her "like a fellow-creature," "Who ever acknowledged me to be a fellow-creature?"31

Describing her life after being cast out from the household where she gained literacy and refined her sensibilities, Jemima says: "To be cut off from human converse, now that I had been taught to relish it, was to wander a ghost among the living." Without "any companions to alleviate" her existence "by sympathy," she becomes embittered and she even, by her account, acts like "a monster."32 Like Frankenstein's monster, who is also in a sense a ghost among the living, Jemima is an orphan and an outcast who is denied sympathy and fellow feeling because she is regarded as a creature of another species. As she does with Rousseau's autobiographical narrative, Mary Shelley literalizes what is figurative in her mother's text, creating a sort of allegory about a monster who really is (or seems to be) a creature of another species. This translation from Wollstonecraft supports the interpretation advanced by Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar that Frankenstein, as a mock rendition of Paradise Lost, casts the monster in "the part of Eve," "a female in disguise," a "creature of the second sex."33 However, if we recognize Frankenstein as an allegory about the status of women as creatures of a different species, we must also recognize how Mary Shelley inscribes herself in a literary and philosophical dialogue with her mother about the possibility of fellow feeling. We should recognize further that this dialogue includes the literary and philosophical reflections on this subject by her father.

Godwin's Caleb Williams (read or reread by Mary Shelley, along with The Wrongs of Woman, in 1814) also tells the story of "a solitary being cut off from the expectation of sympathy" who is accused of being "a monster"; he is told, he reports, that "it would be {201} an abuse of words to consider me in the light of a human creature" (CW, pp. 247, 249). Unjustly persecuted as a criminal throughout the narrative, he is considered "a monster of depravity" and the "opprobrium of the human species" (CW, p. 174). Even the woman whose family provided "an enviable resting-place for me, who . . . had scarcely dared to look for sympathy and kindness in the countenance of a human being," comes to consider him "a monster, and not a man" (CW, pp. 292, 300). Describing himself as completely "cut off from the whole human species," Williams recounts an existence in which he is deprived of fellow feeling: "Sympathy, the magnetic virtue, the hidden essence of our life, was extinct" (CW, pp. 303, 308). Once again, we see the rhetoric of sympathy representing a being who is denied fellow feeling and cut off from the human species as a monster and not a man. The psychologically and dramatically intense dialectical struggle between a master and a servant and a hunter and the hunted in Caleb Williams has been recognized as a model for Frankenstein -- which, of course, was dedicated to the author of Caleb Williams. I am suggesting that (along with Wollstonecraft's novel) Godwin's novel also provided Mary Shelley with a vocabulary for thinking about sympathy.34

Furthermore, like The Wrongs of Woman (which addresses in fiction many of the issues discussed in A Vindication of the Rights of Woman), in its relation to An Enquiry Concerning Political Justice Godwin's first fiction also provides a model for a philosophical novel. In the same year in which she read Caleb Williams and The Wrongs of Woman, Mary Shelley also read her father's Enquiry -- including, presumably, the chapter entitled "Of Self-Love and Benevolence." There, following Smith, Rousseau, and a tradition of eighteenth-century moral philosophy, Godwin writes: "We find by observation that we are surrounded by beings of the same nature as ourselves. They have the same senses, are susceptible of the same pleasures and pains. . . . We are able in imagination to go out of ourselves, and become impartial spectators of the system of which we are a part."35 Writing in the context of a discussion of our ability to counter the delusions of self-love with the perspective and points of view of others, Godwin relates the imaginative transport of sympathy to the perception that other beings are like ourselves. Earlier in the Enquiry, in discussing "man in his original state" -- and specifically, the origins of language -- Godwin writes that the act of "comparison, or the coupling together of two ideas and the perception of resemblances and differences,"36 constituted the first step following the existence of mind and the capacity for abstraction.

{202} Godwin does not explicitly relate the perception of resemblance that leads us to see others as beings like ourselves (allowing an imaginative transport that takes us outside of ourselves) to the perception of resemblance that occurs to man in his original state and allows the invention of language. These two moments of observation are explicitly juxtaposed, however, in a text that, I believe, is behind Godwin's speculations: Rousseau's Essai sur l'origine des langues. Whether or not Godwin was drawing on Rousseau in these particular passages is finally not relevant here, for we have seen that Frankenstein appears to draw on Mary Shelley's own study of Rousseau's Essai sur l'origine des langues. I have suggested that in her efforts to write a philosophical novel of her own, Mary Shelley is working through Godwin's and Wollstonecraft's inquiries into the effects of the failure of sympathy and the recognition of others as fellow creatures with fellow feelings that sympathy seems to depend on. What I want to argue now is that in her attempt to carry on her parents' philosophical and literary investigations, Mary Shelley (like her parents) found Rousseau to offer compelling formulations about the perception of resemblance, the recognition of fellow creatures, and the transport of sympathy.

In the Essai sur l'origine des langues, Rousseau describes the first activation of pity by the transport of imagination and identification. "La pitié, bien que naturelle au coeur de l'homme, resteroit éternellement inactive sans l'imagination qui la met en jou. Comment nous laissons-nous émouvoir à la pitié? En nous transportant hors de nous-mêmes, en nous identifiant avec l'être souffrant" ("Pity, although natural to the heart of man, would remain forever inactive unless it were set in play by imagination. How are we moved to pity? By transporting ourselves outside of ourselves, by identifying ourselves with the being who suffers"). This act of identification which accompanies imagination and reflection is, according to Rousseau, a precondition of fellow feeling: "Comment souffrirais-je en voyant souffrir un autre, si je ne sais même qu'il souffre, si j'ignore ce qu'il y a de commun entre lui et moi? . . . La réflexion naît des idées comparées" ("How could I suffer when seeing another suffer, if I do not even know that he suffers, if I do not know what we have in common? . . . Reflection comes from the comparison of ideas").

Without this act of comparison man is "seul au milieu du genre humain" ("alone in the midst of humankind"); without the ability to perceive resemblances and understand what he shares in common with another, he is in his most primitive state:

{203} Appliquez ces idées aux premiers hommes, vous verrez la raison de leur barbarie. N'ayant jamais rien vu que ce qui étoit autour d'eux, cela même ils ne le connaissaient pas; ils ne se connaissaient pas eux-mêmes. Ils avaient l'idée d'un père, d'un fils, d'un frère, et non pas d'un homme. Leur cabane contenait tous leurs semblables; un étranger, une bête, un monstre, étaient pour eux la même chose: hors eux et leur famille, l'univers entier ne leur étoit rien. (O, pp. 445-47)

Apply these ideas to the first men, and you will see the reason for their barbarity. Never having seen anything but what was around them, they did not know even that; they did not know themselves. They had the idea of a father, a son, a brother, but not that of a man. Their hut contained all their fellow beings; a stranger, a beast, a monster, were for them the same thing: outside of themselves and their family, the whole universe was nothing to them.

Without the ability to compare himself to others and recognize them as fellow creatures, as beings like himself, primitive man cannot look on anyone outside of his immediate family with sympathy. Where he should see a semblable, he sees an other who appears to him as a stranger, a beast, a monster.

I believe that in this tableau of primitive man we can see the story of Mary Shelley's monster. Looked on without fellow feeling, he is considered to be a creature of another species: a monster, anything but a semblable. Alone among humankind, seeking refuge from "the barbarity of man," he comes across the cabin of a family where he discovers the ideas of "father," "sister," "brother," and "son" (F, pp. 102, 107). (Neither Rousseau nor Mary Shelley imagines a family with the idea of "mother.") These ideas coincide with the origin of the monster's acquisition of language and sympathy; but he will learn that they do not include him in their reference. In this sense the De Lacey family resembles the Frankenstein household as Victor describes it in his account of his youth: "My life had hitherto been remarkably secluded and domestic, and this had given me invincible repugnance to new countenances," he says; "I believed myself totally unfitted for the company of strangers." Yet Victor decides to "enter the world and take my station among other human beings" (F, p. 44). Neither the Frankenstein nor the Oe Lacey family, however, will recognize the monster as another human being, as a man. Paradoxically, it is the homme sauvage embodied by the monster who experiences the transport and identification of sympathy, while the civilized family (who know only the ideas of "father," "sister," "brother," and "son" that exist in their secluded and domestic life) display repugnance to {204} the "stranger" (F, p. 127) -- this is De Lacey's term -- who enters their cottage in the shape of a monster. They act as if he is a beast; their idea of "man" does not include the creature Frankenstein created to be a human being.37

Mary Shelley's dramatization of this tableau from the Essai sur l'origine des langues also seems to be informed by the "Entretien sur les romans" that serves as the second preface to La Nouvelle Héloïse. In Rousseau's dialogue between the characters N. and R., N. insists that a novel should present not a mere "portrait" of a particular individual but rather "un tableau d'imagination" in which "toute figure humaine doit avoir les traits commune à l'homme" ("every human figure should have the features common to man"); to his claim that the characters of La Nouvelle Héloïse are not "dans la nature," R. responds that both men and characters can differ. He asks: "Qui est-ce qui ose assigner des bornes précises à la nature, et dire: 'Voilà jusqu'où l'homme peut aller et pas au-delà'?" ("Who dares assign precise boundaries to nature and say: this is as far as man should go, and no further?"). R. then counters: "Avec ce beau raisonnement, les monstres inouïs, les géants, les pygmées, les chimères de toute espèce, . . . tout serait defiguré; nous n'aurions plus de modèl commun. Je le répète, dans les tableaux de l'humanité, chacun doit reconnaître l'homme" ("With this fine reasoning, unheard of monsters, giants, pygmies, chimeras of all kinds, . . . all would be disfigured; we would no longer have any common model. I repeat, in the tableaux of humanity, everyone should recognize man" [NH, p. 738]).

The issue in Frankenstein is not whether its characters can be found in nature (although Percy Shelley's preface makes claims for "the truth of the elementary principles of human nature" [F, p. xiii]); the novel, after all, is about the transgression of the borders of nature. The problem dramatized in the novel is how, in spite of disfiguration, one can recognize man in the tableaux of humanity; how one can delineate among the figures in the tableaux the human figure with the characteristics that are common to a man; how one can draw precise borders between a man and a monster. Frankenstein is obsessed with "the tremendous secrets of the human frame" (F, p. 53). Hoping to "banish disease from the human frame," he makes a special study of "the structure of the human frame" (F, pp. 40, 50). But after he succeeds in his project it is difficult for him to "delineate" (F, p. 56) the creature he meant to create in his own image. When the monster pleads for a companion he tells Frankenstein, "The picture I present to you is peaceful and human" (F, p. 139), but no one in the novel will {205} regard his picture as human or recognize the figure of a human in his frame. He forms in his "imagination" what he describes as "a thousand pictures of presenting myself" (F, p. 109); he hopes to move De Lacey "by my representations," and he eagerly notes when Frankenstein for a moment seems "moved by my representations" (F, pp. 131, 140). However, the monster meets with no one who will pardon his "outward form," and he ends the novel ready to "consume to ashes this miserable frame" (F, pp. 209-10). The frame that forms the pictures he presents and represents is not recognized as the frame of a human; the traits of his disfigured figure seem to have more in common with an unheard of monster or a giant than a man.38

This predicament is more fully explained in a remarkable tableau contained in the Essai sur l'origine des langues. In arguing that the first language was figurative, Rousseau offers this example:

Un homme sauvage en rencontrant d'autres se sera d'abord effrayé. Sa frayeur lui aura fait voir ces hommes plus grands et plus forts que lui-même; il leur aura donné le nom de géants. Après beaucoup d'expériences, il aura reconnu que ces prétendus géants n'étant ni plus grands ni plus forts que lui, leur stature ne convenait point à l'idée d'abord attachée au mot de géant. Il inventera donc un autre nom commun à eux et à lui, tel par example que le nom d'homme, et laissera celui de géant à l'objet faux qui l'avait frappé devant son illusion. Voilà comment le mot figuré naît avant le mot propre, lorsque la passion nous fascine les yeux, et que la première idée qu'elle nous offre n'est pas celle de la vérité. (O, p. 425)

A primitive man, coming upon others, will at first be frightened. His fear will have made him see these men as bigger and stronger than himself; he will have given them the name of giants. After many experiences, he will have recognized that these supposed giants are neither bigger nor stronger than himself, that their stature did not at all fit with the idea first attached to the word "giant." Thus he will invent another name, common to himself and them, such as for example the name man, and will leave that of giant to the false object which had struck him during his illusion. This is how the figurative word comes into being before the literal, when passion fascinates our eyes, and when the first idea it presents to us is not the true one.

I have quoted this well-known passage at length because I believe that it represents an emblem for the monster's condition in Mary Shelley's novel. An homme sauvage who wanders the forests like man in the state of nature, the monster is in fact a giant. He is first described by {206} Walton (who also calls him a "savage") as "a being which had the shape of a man, but apparently of gigantic stature" (F, p. 23). Frankenstein recounts his decision to "make the being of a gigantic stature, that is to say, about eight feet in height, and proportionately large" (F, p. 52); when he first sees him again in the Alps he recognizes the monster first by "its gigantic stature" (F, p. 73). The monster himself calls his "stature gigantic" (F, p. 123). In pursuing his creature, Frankenstein reports the testimony of frightened eyewitnesses who described seeing a "gigantic monster" (F, p. 196).39

The point of Rousseau's allegory about sympathy is that the giant that frightens the man is not literally a giant; "giant" is only a mot figuré for "man" in this story: a metaphor born in mistake. Frankenstein's monster according to the plot of Mary Shelley's story appears to be literally a giant. But how do we know that Frankenstein and the others are not also making a mistake in failing (or refusing) to recognize in his frame the figure of a man? Rousseau describes the first apparition of another man in the form of a giant as an "illusion" (O, p. 425). Walton refers to the "appearance" of "a being which had the shape of a man, but apparently of gigantic stature" as an "apparition" (F, p. 23) -- and in Mary Shelley's earlier version of this passage, he refers to an "optical delusion."40 How do we know that Frankenstein really failed in his attempt to create a "human being," a "being like myself" (F, p. 52); can we be sure (regardless of the monster's actual size) that Frankenstein and the others are not operating under an illusion when they fail to recognize the monster as a fellow creature? Frankenstein tells how "none could behold" the young Elizabeth "without looking on her as of a distinct species" (F, p. 34) -- a perspective which he represents as a sign of admiration but which Wollstonecraft represents as a mistake which denies one half of the species the status of human creatures.

What is at stake in the story of the monster, however, is more than the error of not recognizing an other as a semblable: a fellow creature who shares the common name of man. The monster in Mary Shelley's novel is denied that status of a fellow creature because -- unlike the homme sauvage in Rousseau's story -- Frankenstein never realizes that monster, like giant, is only a trope. He never realizes that the appellation "gigantic monster" is only a figure for a man: a figure of a man. Frankenstein, in short, is not a good reader. In his account of his childhood he remarks that when his mother presented Elizabeth to him as a "gift" that he "interpreted her words literally and looked upon Elizabeth as mine" (F, p. 35). He makes the same error in reading when he interprets the monster literally, rather than as a {207} figure. When the monster represents himself to De Lacey by saying that people who see him "behold only a detestable monster. . . where they ought to see a feeling and kind friend," De Lacey interprets these words figuratively and suggests that the monster "undeceive them" (F, p. 128). Monster here is recognized as a figure, just as it is when Elizabeth says, "men appear to me as monsters," or when Justine says, "I almost began to think that I was the monster that he said l was," or when Frankenstein is told that the body of Clerval seemed to have been "placed, as it were, by some fiend across your path" (F, pp. 88, 83, 171).

No one will recognize an "as it were" framing the figure of the monster that Frankenstein repeatedly calls a "fiend" (F, p. 95); the monster cannot "undeceive" man from his "illusion," the "optical delusion" that blinds him to his error in reading. Frankenstein insists on taking the monster literally -- even though the monster is continually presented to him as a figure, even though his own narrative repeatedly represents the monster as a figure. When Frankenstein sees the monster for the first time after the creation scene and its subsequent nightmare, just after watching "the lightnings playing on the summit of Mont Blanc in the most beautiful figures," he relates that he "perceived in the gloom a figure which stole from behind a clump of trees near me," and after he recognizes the creature as "the filthy demon to whom I had given life," he says, "the figure passed me quickly" (F, p. 73). When he sees the monster again, he says, "I suddenly beheld the figure of a man, at some distance" (F, p. 94).

Frankenstein beholds the figure of a man at some distance, just as in the next chapter the monster recounts: "I saw the figure of a man at a distance" (F, p. 102). The monster beholds the figure of a man and recognizes him as a man, even if what he expects from him is only "the barbarity of man" (F, p. 102). Frankenstein, however, does not understand that the figure he sees is a figure. The monster may be "a figure the most hideous and abhorred" (F, p. 187); even to himself he may be "a figure hideously deformed" who wishes people could "overlook the deformity of my figure" (F, pp. 115, 108). Yet however disfigured, he is represented as a figure; and because people cannot or will not recognize him as a figure, because they overlook the figure that he forms, they cannot recognize him as the figure of a man. Blinded to his figurative status, they deny the nameless monster a nom propre.

Rousseau suggests that only sympathy, only the perception of resemblance that reveals what one has in common with others, will allow one to recognize others as fellow creatures rather than as {208} monsters or giants or beasts or strangers; only the recognition of fellow feeling can save people from monsters: save them from turning others into monsters, save them from becoming monsters. Mary Shelley's monster offers this moral for his story when he suggests that had he been granted sympathy and fellow feeling, had he been acknowledged as a fellow creature, he would not have acted like a monster. Yet at the same time Frankenstein also suggests that people might regard the monster as a monster precisely because they perceive his resemblance; they might refuse to recognize him as a man, a human creature, precisely because they apprehend the extent to which this monster is the figure of a man. To understand this we need to ask what is so monstrous about the creature Frankenstein sets out to make in his own image as a human being like himself. We need to recognize that the monster is not a figure only because he is a trope substituted for the proper name of man. He is also a figure in the sense that he stands as a simile: he is in fact a being like his creator -- and it is this likeness that makes him so monstrous.

I am suggesting that what is so horrible about Frankenstein's experiment is that it is too successful. He might have been happier if he had created an unheard-of monster, a chimera in which he could not recognize the traits of man; but he has instead created "a being which had the shape of a man" (F, p. 23). Writing of "the possibility of shaping a life in one's own image" and describing the monster as "a figure for autobiography as such," Barbara Johnson argues: "the desire for resemblance, the desire to create a being like oneself -- which is the autobiographical desire par excellence -- is also the central transgression in Mary Shelley's novel."41 The punishment for this transgression is that Frankenstein ends up creating a being who is both similar to and unlike himself, a being who is caught in what Peter Brooks calls (referring to the principles of language acquired by the monster) the "play of sameness and difference."42 The monster's predicament in this story of failed sympathy and misreading is perhaps best summed up in his account of his own trouble identifying with the characters in his reading: "I found myself similar yet at the same time strangely unlike to the beings concerning whom I read" (F, p. 123). In perceiving his resemblance and difference, the monster glimpses his uncanny threat to the system of human signifiers, to the figures that stand as similes for men, but he does not understand that it is his sameness that is most threatening.

The monster reproaches his creator for not, like the God he reads about in Milton, making him "after his own image"; he tells Frankenstein: "My form is a filthy type of yours, more horrid even {209} from the very resemblance" (F, p. 125). What is so horrid is precisely the resemblance, precisely the likeness that makes him a type of his creator. He becomes convinced, he says, that "I was in reality the monster that I am" (F, p. 108) when he sees the image of himself reflected in the mirror of a pool; but what he sees -- what Frankenstein sees -- is the monstrosity of resemblance, the likeness that proves something in common between his figure and a man. When Frankenstein speaks toward the end of the novel of planning to destroy the monster, he speaks of putting "an end to the existence of the monstrous image which I had endued with the mockery of a soul still more monstrous" (F, p. 174). What is so monstrous, however, is the image itself, the reproduction of himself that presents a simile of a man in its likeness. In creating a being like himself, a type of himself that is like yet strangely unlike him, Frankenstein has created a monstrous image that is most horrid in its resemblance, a figure that is monstrous precisely because it is a figure.

Behind Mary Shelley's dramatization of the creation of monstrous images there is also a scene from William Godwin's third novel, Fleetwood. Toward the end of the novel, wrongly convinced of his wife's infidelity in a plot borrowed from Othello, Fleetwood procures life-size wax models of his wife and the man he imagines is her lover. He recounts how he brings a "miniature of my wife" to a "celebrated modeller in wax" and instructs him to "make a likeness, as exact as he could, of the size of life" which he then dresses in a "complete suit of my wife's clothes." For the lieutenant he believes is having an affair with his wife, writes Fleetwood, "I fixed upon a terrible and monstrous figure of a fiend, which I found in the magazine of my artist." After he dresses this figure in a lieutenant's uniform, Fleetwood conducts in his room an insane ceremony, complete with props and music. He places himself, he relates, "my eyes fixed," as the spectator to a tableau vivant in which he eventually can no longer "distinguish fiction from reality." He describes how he "gazed at the figure" of his wife, thinking "it was, and it was not" her; as a valet "who ever executed his orders literally" guards the door, Fleetwood beholds "the figures before me" and he raves at them using "all the tropes that imagination ever supplied to the tongue of man" until finally he tears his wife's clothes "from off the figure that represented her" and "struck the figures vehemently . . . till they were broken to pieces."43

Like Fleetwood, Frankenstein sets out to make a likeness of the size of life; as an "artist" (F, p. xi), he makes a figure that is supposed to represent a human being. However, the only creation that comes {210} out of this artist's magazine turns out to be literally a terrible and monstrous figure of a fiend. (Among the first names that Frankenstein calls his creation, after he recognizes what he first calls "the figure of a man," are "Abhorred monster" and "Fiend" [F, pp. 94-95].) Fleetwood, in a flurry of tropes, loses the ability to distinguish between fiction and reality, figures and human creatures. Frankenstein's mistake is more complicated: as in the Pygmalion story that both he and Fleetwood perversely repeat, his figure really does come to life; but this means that it is both more difficult and more crucial for him to recognize that he has created a figure, that his monstrous figure of a fiend is in fact a likeness -- a fiction for himself.

Fleetwood in his madness finally strikes his figures "till they are broken to pieces." Frankenstein, who fails to destroy the "monstrous image" (F, p. 174) of the male fiend he has created from various pieces, does destroy his female figure; he says: "I thought with a sensation of madness on my promise of creating another like to him, and trembling with passion, tore to pieces the thing on which I was engaged" (F, p. 159). What drives him mad is the thought of another likeness -- a creature like to the figure he created to be like to himself. (It is no coincidence that before he enters the room to pick up the pieces of the second monster that "lay scattered on the floor," Frankenstein recounts, "I paused to collect myself" [F, p. 163].) Fleetwood and Frankenstein suggest that it may be both mad and monstrous to create likenesses: fictions and figures in one's own image that will act out scenes from one's life. This, as Johnson suggests, is also the madness of autobiography; Mary Shelley's novel, which readers have considered to be as painfully and uncontrollably autobiographical as a dream, reveals why the monstrous image of likeness must be destroyed or disowned or denied.

In Fleetwood, a character named Macneil (who is locally renowned for having been a friend of Rousseau) claims that there is "a principle in the heart of man, which demands the society of his like. He that has no such society, is in a state but one degree removed from insanity." Asserting a universal need for sympathy and fellow feeling, Macneil insists: "If there is any thing in human form that does not feel these wants, that thing is not to be counted in the file for a man; the form it bears is a deception, and the legend, Man, which you read in its front, is a lie."44 Frankenstein rejects the society of his like; he denies fellow feeling to the being he created to be like himself by refusing him both his own sympathy and the sympathy the monster seeks in the society of his like.45 Paradoxically, in denying the monster sympathy, in refusing to recognize in his figure the traits common to {211} man, Frankenstein makes a lie of the legend that names him as Man. In the terms of Macneil and Rousseau, by misreading the figure of a man as a monster, by persisting in an illusion rather than granting him the name of man, Frankenstein turns his own form into a deception and forfeits his own legend of Man. In other words, he turns himself into a monster. The monstrous image of the monster is in this sense an exact likeness of Frankenstein.

This speech about sympathy and the society of one's like by the friend of Rousseau (in terms that recall the texts of Rousseau we have been reading, as well as accusations about Rousseau's insanity and preference for solitude over society) returns us to the tableaux about figures and sympathy in the Essai sur l'origine des langues. There Rousseau tells stories about the origins of figurative language and the origins of sympathy and shows the relation between them. The story of the origin of language is a parable about sympathy that demonstrates the likeness of sympathy and similes: sympathy depends on the syntax of a simile, the perception of resemblance or likeness that allows a transport from one term to another. Sympathy, in Rousseau's terms, would prevent one from turning others into monsters because it would allow one to recognize them as similes in a double sense: the monster stops being a monster when it is recognized as a figure for man, and it is recognized as a man when it is acknowledged to be a being like oneself. Sympathy would allow one to stop regarding others as figures by bringing one to recognize them as figures, but to do so one must recognize others as similes, likenesses, fellow creatures in a society of one's like.

Horrified by the uncanny likeness of what is other to him, repelled by the monstrous image of resemblance, tormented by the fiendish figures of his own artistic workshop, Frankenstein must deny sympathy and fellow feeling because they present and represent a mirror of likeness. In these terms sympathy itself must seem monstrous to him. Indeed, the thought that provokes Frankenstein to tear to pieces the creature who is supposed to be like the creature he made to be like himself -- the companion of the same species who will let the monster see that he excites "the sympathy of some existing thing" (F, p. 139) -- is his fantasy that "one of the first results of those sympathies for which the demon thirsted would be children, and a race of devils would be propagated upon the earth" (F, p. 158). In the science fiction of the novel one can imagine Frankenstein's fears of a race of monsters. However, he specifically images and imagines these monsters as the results of sympathy. Sympathy may be a euphemism for sexual relations here, but in the network of associations and analogies {212} of the novel sexual union can be seen as a physical instance of sympathy. It is no coincidence that Frankenstein looks with equal horror on the idea of his own marriage to the fellow creature whose sympathy was always his; he says: "To me the idea of an immediate union with my Elizabeth was one of horror and dismay" (F, p. 145).

Of course Frankenstein once looked on Elizabeth as if she were of another species; and part of his horror at the likeness of the female monster may be the uncanny combination of likeness and difference that has caused the male monster himself to be read as a figure for woman rather than man.46 Yet Frankenstein's fear of sexual union like his fear of sympathy, seems to be related to the threat of likeness rather than difference. Readers have noticed the shadow of incest cast throughout the pages of Frankenstein, a novel written in the form of letters from a brother to his sister; this was apparently disconcerting enough to cause Mary Shelley to change Elizabeth from Victor's cousin to an adopted orphan when she revised the novel for the third edition.47 Indeed, this reading is first offered by Frankenstein's father, who speaks to his son about the woman called "my more than sister" (F, p. 35) and suggests: "You, perhaps, regard her as your sister, without any wish that she might become your wife" (F, p. 144) -- a possibility that Elizabeth herself addresses when she says: "as brother and sister often entertain a lively affection toward each other without desiring a more intimate union, may not such also be our case?" (F, p. 178). Furthermore, the sympathy that the monster seeks in an intimate union with a fellow creature would be literally incestuous since as offspring of the same parent the monster and his female companion in effect would be brother and sister.

Sympathy, then, seems incestuous. In Frankenstein, as in La Religieuse, both sympathy and incest seem to be associated with the fear of too much sameness and not enough difference.48 Sexual union would embody the monstrous likeness that makes sympathy so threatening; it must therefore be regarded by Frankenstein with horror and dismay. In destroying the similar yet strangely unlike female monster, he destroys the possibility of sympathy for the monster and ultimately for himself since the destruction of the creature -- which he says almost makes him feel as if "l had mangled the living flesh of a human being" (F, p. 163) -- leads directly to the murder of Elizabeth by the monster on Frankenstein's wedding night. Frankenstein thus simultaneously destroys (one is tempted to say murders) sympathy, incest, sexual union, and monstrous likeness.

In describing the scene of Elizabeth's death, Frankenstein suddenly shifts into a present tense and says: "Everywhere I turn I see the same {213} figure -- her bloodless arms and relaxed form flung by the murderer on its bridal bier" (F, p. 186). This is the only time in his narrative that Frankenstein uses "figure" to refer to someone other than the monster; just two paragraphs later he describes the image of the monster at the window as "a figure the most hideous and abhorred" (F, p. 187). The association between these two figures is furthered by Frankenstein's strange use of the possessive pronoun "its"; ostensibly he shifts in midsentence from "her" to "its" because he is speaking of the "figure" or "form" of Elizabeth, because "she" is now a corpse. Yet the juxtaposition of "the murderer" (that is, the monster) and "its bridal bier" causes a moment of confusion, as if the figure of the monster and the figure of Elizabeth have merged for a moment into the same figure.

In the context of the novel this fusion or confusion makes sense; both Elizabeth and the monster are figures for sameness, figures for the sympathy that Frankenstein destroys when he murders the female monster meant to be his double's bride in his symbolic and overdetermined destruction of monstrous likeness. Elizabeth and the monster are the same figure: they are figures of the same, figures for the same. In refusing sympathy, Frankenstein is like the reader described by Roland Barthes who is condemned to read the same story everywhere because he does not reread.49 Condemned to repeat rather than remember the error of reading that both determines and is determined by his failure of sympathy, Frankenstein must see the same figure everywhere he turns. Everywhere he turns he must see the monstrous figure of a monster.

Like Marivaux, Diderot, and Rousseau, Mary Shelley presents an ambivalent view of sympathy. Her revisionary dramatization of Rousseau's parables about sympathy suggests the dangerous effects of both sympathy and a lack of sympathy: the failure to recognize others as fellow creatures with fellow feeling turns both oneself and others into monsters, while sympathy itself seems to result in monstrous forms of reproduction -- both the monstrous images and figures of likeness that reflect horrid resemblance and the horrifying sexuality that seems like incest in its union of too much sameness and not enough difFerence. After reading Les Effets surprenants de la sympathie, La Vie de Marianne, and La Religieuse, we should not be surprised to discover in the scene of sympathy a scene of dangerous or at least ambivalent eroticism. I would like to conclude my reading of Frankenstein with a consideration of this scene; as our readings of Du Bos, Marivaux, Diderot, and Rousseau suggest, it is a scene that {214} should be regarded from the perspective of the theatrical relations that structure scenes of sympathy.

The central and in some ways the paradigmatic scene of sympathy in Frankenstein -- the scene of the origins of the monster's sympathy -- is represented as a scene of theater. Mary Shelley seems to adopt the theatrical model of sympathy she has inherited from eighteenth-century aesthetics and moral philosophy by placing the monster as an unseen, sympathetic spectator to the tableau de famille of the De Laceys. As he looks through "a small chink" in the wall of his hovel, "a small and almost imperceptible chink through which the eye could just penetrate," the monster is "unseen and unknown" (F, pp.102-3, 115) -- which is to say that he assumes precisely the position of Diderot's ideal "spectateur ignoré" who watches the "spectacle domestique et réel" of another French family "sans être vu" (OE, pp. 78, 369).50 Indeed, as he watches the drame bourgeois and tragédie larmoyante of the De Lacey family, the monster plays the role of the ideal sympathetic spectator in a theater.

In this position the monster witnesses musical performances and has his first aesthetic experiences; he witnesses the cottagers as they (in his words) "exhibited" respect or "performed" acts of affection and sympathy which, he says, "moved me sensibly" (F, p. 106); and in the transport of sympathy through which one takes someone else's part and person, he feels what they feel: "when they were unhappy, I felt depressed; when they rejoiced, I sympathized in their joys" (F, p. 107). Finally, moved by the sentiments that they exhibit, the monster experiences "a desire to become an actor in the busy scene where so many admirable qualities were called forth and displayed" (F, p. 122) -- in Diderot's formulation, a desire to "ajouter un personnage réel à la scène" ("add a real character to the scene" [OE, p. 78]).

As Diderot suggests, this ideal aesthetic and sympathetic response must finally be frustrated. After watching the cottagers the monster may find ways to "assist their labours" (F, p. 106), but he can only assister à this tableau de famille as a témoin ignoré; he can no more become an actor in the scene of the De Lacey's family drama than the moved spectator in the theater can help the actors or enter the scene on stage. Like De Lacey, the actors in this scene must be blind to him or else the play will come to an end. The monster's attempts to move De Lacey by his own "representations" are doomed to fail and he is left with only the "horrible scene of the preceding day . . . forever acting before my eyes" (F, p. 131). The monster's experience as sympathetic spectator seems to dramatize Diderot's parable about the {215} limits of sympathy; Diderot also suggests that this is a lesson which must be forever acting before the eyes of readers and spectators.

We have seen that if the scene of theater must end in the failure of sympathy, this is also because of the epistemological limits that define one's ability to enter into the thoughts and feelings of someone else. When the monster acknowledges the hopelessness of his desire to live with humans "in the interchange of kindness" and pity since "the human senses are insurmountable barriers to our union" (F, p. 138), he is referring to humans' revulsion at the aspect of a being whom they will not recognize as a fellow creature; but this barrier does not apply to him alone. Victor Frankenstein says at one point, "I saw an unsurmountable barrier placed between me and my fellow men" (F, p. 151). He later looks upon the sea as "an insuperable barrier between me and my fellow creatures" (F, pp.161-62). On the next day he says that he feels again "as if I belonged to a race of human beings" (F, p. 162) but the novel suggests that there are insurmountable barriers even between humans, even between beings of the same species. Justine Moritz is condemned to die because misleading appearances (which turn upon the presence of a picture) are misconstrued and misinterpreted by witnesses and spectators.

Justine is a victim of misinterpretation because she is a victim of the limits of the human senses. Frankenstein describes Justine's "appearance," her "countenance," and her "look" as she is "gazed on and execrated by thousands"; she pleads: "I hope the character I have always borne will incline my judges to a favourable interpretation where any circumstance appears doubtful or suspicious" (F, pp. 78-79). However, the aspects of her appearance and public character and even Elizabeth's testimony about "what I know of her character" are contradicted by the "evidence," and her guilt seems to be "proved" by the "picture" (F, pp. 81, 78-79); her spectators and judges can know her inner character only by its outward appearances -- a predicament even temporarily (and in this case inappropriately) brought home to Elizabeth when she hears that Justine has confessed. Justine has been framed by the monster's manipulation of a picture; the portrait of a woman he places in the folds of her dress convicts her because it stands for a secret motive; since the inner sentiment that would prove her innocence cannot be known, she is condemned by the pictures and appearances by which and through which the world construes her inner motives and judges her.

This, of course, is the monster's predicament throughout the novel. He also wants to appear as "the most amiable and benevolent of {216} human creatures" (F, p. 81) (Elizabeth's description of Justine) yet becomes a victim of misinterpretation and misleading appearances. At the end of the novel, in response to Walton's claim, "It is not pity that you feel," he acknowledges that no explanation or defense will prevent his actions and feelings -- indeed, in this case his very sympathy -- from being misinterpreted: "Yet such must be the impression conveyed to you by what appears to be the purport of my actions." He has resigned himself to the impossibility of sympathy: "Yet I seek not a fellow feeling in my misery. No sympathy will I ever find" (F, p. 209). Sympathy appears to be impossible because both impressions and expressions will be misconstrued; and the imaginative transport that might convey his beholder across the epistemological void that separates even fellow beings, carrying him beyond or across the purport of appearances, will be blocked by the insurmountable barrier of the human senses. Like Rousseau's parable about the origins of language and sympathy, the meeting of these two creatures is a scene of misreading in which the sense of a human is misinterpreted.

The theatrical conditions of sympathy, then, seem to dictate sympathy's failure, either by leading sympathy to the limits where it must discover its own impossibility, or by underlining its epistemological barriers. The theater of sympathy must depend on representations: representations presented to the beholder that will deny the beholder's presence unless counteracted by the imaginary transport of sympathy and identification; and representations imagined by the beholder that might be misrepresentations or at best mere fantasies. Furthermore, even the idealized sympathy with which the monster watches the De Lacey family drama in the position of Diderot's spectateur ignoré itself suggests a voyeurism that might give the theatrical scene of sympathy a more sinister aspect.

We have seen that Du Bos, Marivaux, and to some extent Rousseau at moments anticipate Freud's suggestion that the sympathy experienced in watching spectacles of suffering might be interpreted as a reaction formation against a secret sadistic pleasure or as a masochistic identification with the role of victim.51 Diderot's versions of these scenes in La Religieuse depict a dangerously contagious eroticism in the experience of sympathy. However, it is in Marivaux's dramatizations of the theater of sympathy that we saw the most explicit characterizations of these scenes as scenes of violence or dangerous eroticism. In particular, we saw the frequent repetition of what I called a primal scene scenario, a set of spectator-spectacle relations that infuse the scene of sympathy with a sense of anxious or ambivalent {217} sexuality. We saw that Frankenstein relates the effects of sympathy to a problematic sexuality; in these contexts we need to speculate about what it means that Mary Shelley also casts her central scene of sympathy not only as a scene of theater but specifically as a primal scene.52

As he secretly looks through the chink in the wall at his adopted family, gaining an education in "the difference of sexes, and the birth and growth of children . . . and all the various relationships which bind one human being to another in mutual bonds" (F, p. 115), the monster acts out a remarkably explicit primal scene scenario. In addition to this family drama (which includes the romance of the young lovers, Felix and Safie) the monster has a literary primal scene when he discovers the journal kept by Frankenstein which tells the story of "the four months that preceded my creation" and his "accursed origin" (F, p. 124). These experiences both raise and help to answer the questions that present themselves to him in the form of spectacle and speculation: "Who was I? What was I? Whence did I come?" (F, p. 123).

Readers have remarked the preoccupation with primal scenes that is acted out in the pages of Frankenstein.53 In the most extensive account of the novel's "primal scene imagery" to date, Marc A. Rubenstein argues that "the spirit of primal scene observation penetrates into the very structure of the novel," and he offers a psychoanalytic interpretation of the novel's obsession with origins, exploration, and investigation in terms of Mary Shelley's "search for the mother."54 (Gilbert and Gubar emphasize the ways in which Mary Shelley's "birth myth" is projected onto the "myth of origins" represented in Paradise Lost -- to which we could now add Rousseau's myths about the origins of society, language, sympathy, and the self. Rousseau's status as a composite figure representing both an abandoning parent and an abandoned child, as well as his associations with Mary Shelley's mother, also demonstrate how deeply Rousseau is implicated in the novel's primal scenes.

Rubenstein argues persuasively that the monster's primal scenes can be specifically related to Mary Shelley's investigations of her own origins. In particular, he reads the monster's discovery of the journal of his creation as a screen for Mary Shelley's reading of her parent's love letters.55 Without disputing this interpretation, I would note that it is not necessary to conjecture about Mary Shelley's knowledge of the then unpublished letters between Godwin and Wollstonecraft when we know for certain that she read the letters Wollstonecraft wrote to Gilbert Imlay (the father of Wollstonecraft's first child) -- letters that {218} Godwin rather scandalously published in his edition of Wollstonecraft's Posthumous Works.56 Furthermore, and perhaps more importantly, Mary Shelley read in Godwin's Memoirs of Wollstonecraft a detailed and graphic account of her own birth: what she might have called, in the words the monster uses to refer to his origin, the "disgusting circumstances" (F, p. 124) of her delivery on her mother's death bed. Godwin provides a clinical description of the "extraction of the placenta . . . in pieces,"57 just as Frankenstein presumably describes how he created his progeny from "pieces" of the dead.58

Godwin's Memoir also indicates that the monster's reading of The Sorrows of Young Werther dramatizes a primal scene scenario. Narrating the story of someone who tries to kill herself because of unrequited love, he calls Wollstonecraft "a female Werter."59 In his introduction to her letters to Imlay, Godwin claims that "they bear a striking resemblance to the celebrated romance of Werter."60 Thus the monster's reading of Goethe's epistolary novel represents more than his education in sensibility; the romance of Werther can be seen to stand in for Wollstonecraft's letters. The monster's reading of his parent's memoir must also allude to Mary Shelley's experience reading her mother's posthumously published novel. Gilbert and Gubar have suggested that in Maria, or The Wrongs of Woman Wollstonecraft would have seemed to be reaching "from beyond the grave . . . toward a daughter."61 Indeed, the novel tells the story of a daughter whose mother died nine days after her birth (Mary Wollstonecraft died eleven days after her daughter's birth) and it contains what is written to be a posthumous letter from a mother to an "abandoned daughter."62 We can see, then, that all of the texts the monster reads -- his parent's memoir, the romance of Werther, Milton's myth of origins and original parents, and the book of Plutarch that alludes to the reading of a child whose mother died after giving him life -- in some sense replicate or allude to the scenes of reading that appear to constitute Mary Shelley's primal scenes. There are still more ways, however, in which the primal scenes of Frankenstein can be traced to primal scenes involving the texts of Godwin and Wollstonecraft. I have suggested that while she was composing Frankenstein Mary Shelley was thinking of what is arguably the strangest and most interesting chapter in Fleetwood: the scene with the wax figures. This scene takes on another level of significance if we recognize that it placed her in a particularly complex primal scene scenario in relation to both her father's text and his marriage. Fleetwood tells the story of a man who becomes obsessed with jealous fantasies about his wife's relationship with another man; {219} if we remark that Fleetwood's wife's name is Mary, and that her supposed lover is a lieutenant, we can read in Fleetwood's mad fiction-making the tableau vivant of William Godwin creating a fiction that retrospectively torments him with fantasies about Mary Wollstonecraft's affair with Gilbert Imlay -- a man who was known as a captain.63

Fleetwood's bizarre inclusion in his tableau vivant of a "cradle, and a chest of child-bed linen"64 (apparently representing Mary's pregnancy) makes the scene correspond even more closely to Godwin's situation in publishing Wollstonecraft's letters to Captain Imlay, many of which are about their illegimate infant -- as well as Godwin's situation in making up a fiction about a man who fantasizes that his wife Mary is having a child after an affair with an officer. One could read in the scene with the wax figures Godwin's portrait of himself as a (retrospectively) jealous and obsessed spectator to a tableau vivant that turns life into fiction and threatens to turn fiction into life.65 The confusion of fiction and reality is compounded by the apparent intersection of the story line of Fleetwood with the proposed story line of Maria: the account of Fleetwood's court proceedings indicting Mary for adultery evokes Maria's trial for adultery (as if imagined from the husband's point of view).66

I am not arguing that Mary Shelley necessarily would have been consciously aware of this relation between Fleetwood and her father's somewhat daring edition of Wollstonecraft's letters to Captain Imlay -- the publication of which led to one anti-Jacobin journal to cross reference "Mary Wollstonecraft" with the entry "Prostitution" in its index.67 (Mary Shelley did read both books in 1815, the year before she began Frankenstein.) I do believe that the voyeuristic scene that Fleetwood stages to dramatize his fantasy about Mary's love affair with an officer and the child of their illicit union must have had some resonance with the fantasies in which the author of Frankenstein became a spectator to an imagined primal scene -- either the one that produced her sister Fanny or the one that produced her. Furthermore, reading Fleetwood in 1815, Mary Shelley might have been alerted to biographical and autobiographical interpretations by the novel's uncanny evocation of its author's rage at another Mary: the daughter who recently had incurred her father's wrath by entering into an illicit affair with the young Percy Shelley and becoming pregnant. (Borrowing a relationship from the plot of La Nouvelle Héloïse, Fleetwood emphasizes Mary's role as a kind of daughter to the intimidating husband who was a friend and peer of her father.)68

Godwin's novel, then, offers a multiple and overdetermined primal {220} scene: it represents a tableau of Mary Wollstonecraft and Imlay and the child they created; it constitutes a tableau of Godwin picturing that scene; it represents a tableau of Godwin picturing himself as a beholder of the scene; it offers a reflection of the primal scene Mary Shelley might have imagined, as well as a dramatization of someone fantasizing and beholding that scene; and finally, it offers what we might call a reverse primal scene in which the father is pictured -- watching the illicit sexual scene enacted by the daughter and her lover. In evoking, picturing, and combining these scenes, Fleetwood's description of the tableau vivant of the wax figures makes explicit the vertiginously theatrical relations enacted in the primal scenes that are behind the primal scenes of Frankenstein. This situation is further compounded (in a way that makes Mary Shelley's position as a reader and spectator of the fictions of her father even more relevant to her first novel) by the fact that Godwin's first novel is also obsessed with primal scenes.

I do not have space here to present a complete reading of Caleb Williams; but it is not difficult to see that the novel is in one sense about a child who is punished for having witnessed a primal scene. Williams sums up the sad story of his life when he asks the rhetorical question, "Have I not been employed from my infancy in gratifying an insatiable curiosity?" (CW, p. 185). He puts this another way when he says in the first pages of his life story: "The spring of action which, perhaps more than any other, characterised the whole train of my life, was curiosity" (CW, p. 4). At the age of eighteen (Mary Shelley was seventeen when she read Caleb Williams in 1814) Williams enters the service of Mr. Falkland, whom he describes as a kind of father figure and almost immediately develops an obsessive curiosity about him. "l determined to place myself as a watch upon my patron," he says, explaining his resolution to "spy upon Mr. Falkland"; he adds: "The more impenetrable Mr. Falkland was determined to be, the more uncontrollable was my curiosity" (CW, pp. I07-8).

Williams finds this "study" an "ample field for speculation and conjecture" (CW, p. 6), but his curiosity and speculation get him into trouble in a climactic scene that excites his curiosity even further and provokes the wrath of his patron. Williams writes:

I went to a closet or small apartment which was separated from the library by a narrow gallery that was lighted by a small window near the roof. . . As I opened the door, I heard at the same instant a deep groan expressive of intolerable anguish. The sound of the door in opening seemed to alarm the person within; I heard the lid of a trunk hastily shut, and the noise as of fastening a lock. . . . (CW, p. 7)
{221} Williams's master is enraged with this intrusion and threatens him: "You set yourself as a spy upon my actions. . . . Do you think you shall watch my privacies with impunity?" This "extraordinary scene" (CW, p. 8) -- the language and details of which read as a scarcely transfigured screen memory of a childhood intrusion into the parental bedroom is the originary trauma that leads to Williams's misfortunes. It arouses his curiosity even more and convinces him that Mr. Falkland is guilty of some crime, and it leads to accusations of his own guilt which are followed by imprisonment, punishment, and years of persecution.

However, the real punishment begins after Mr. Falkland unexpectedly discovers Williams in the act of prying into the trunk that occasioned the "original" primal scene. (Williams describes this as "an act so monstrous" and can account for it only in terms of an "unexplained and involuntary sympathy" and a "kind of instant insanity," and he defends himself by saying, "My offence had merely been a mistaken thirst of knowledge" [CW, p. 133].) This reversal of positions inaugurates the punishment that will pursue Williams for the rest of his narrative: from that moment on, he becomes a spectacle for Mr. Falkland: "All my actions observed; all my gestures marked. I could move neither to the right nor the left, but the eye of my keeper was upon me. He watched me; and his vigilance was a sickness to my heart" (CW, p. 143). He begins a desperate flight to escape the eyes of Mr. Falkland and the various surrogates and spies who are sent to seek him out, see through disguises that would have impressed Moll Flanders, and expose him to the world.69

Caleb Williams suggests that the punishment for beholding the spectacle of a primal scene (or relentlessly imagining one) is to be cast in the role of a criminal actor in a guilty spectacle. Like Defoe's Roxana (which I see as a model for Godwin's first novel), Caleb Williams dramatizes a struggle between a parent and child about theatricality; the relentless spectator finds himself an unwilling spectacle and cannot escape the eyes of relentless spectators.70 This reversal of the roles of spectator and spectacle seems to be a punishment for observing the primal scene -- the only consolation of which might be the sort of displacement of responsibility that we can see in the dream of Freud's "wolf man" that he is the one being watched.71

One could speculate about how Mary Shelley might have consciously or unconsciously responded to Williams's or William's dramatization of primal scene anxiety: whether (as in her experience reading her mother's fiction) she would have found an uncanny {222} proleptic message in a novel written by her parent before she was born; or whether, despite her evident preoccupation with primal scenes, she might have preferred not to focus on such a story. We must recognize, however, that Mary Shelley's first novel tells virtually the same story about a struggle concerning the theatrical positions enacted in the primal scene. Even more than Caleb Williams (which is named in Mary Shelley's dedication of her novel to her father) Frankenstein explores the theatrical dynamics of the primal scene from multiple points of view, as if it were both compulsively repeating Godwin's scenario and dramatizing its own relation to the tableaux of his figures and fiction.

From the outset, Frankenstein emphasizes the curiosity of both Walton and Victor in terms that evoke primal scene speculation.72 Walton (whose dangerous acts of exploration Rubenstein relates to primal scene observation)73 speaks of his "curiosity" and his drive for "the acquisition of knowledge" (F, p. 26). Frankenstein, of course, shares with Caleb Williams a compulsion to investigate causes; he says: "The world was to me a secret which I desired to divine. Curiosity, earnest research to learn the hidden laws of nature, gladness akin to rapture, as they were unfolded to me, are among the earliest sensations I can remember" (F, p. 36). There are many references to Frankenstein's "curiosity," his "eager desire to learn," his fascination with "secrets," his "fervent longing to penetrate the secrets of nature," his desire to "penetrate into the recesses of nature and show how she works in her hiding-places," and, of course, the obsession with "the deepest mysteries of creation" which leads him to discover "the cause of generation and life" (F, pp. 40, 37, 39, 47, 51). It is no accident that he describes the "acquirement of knowledge" as "dangerous" or that after his fantasies are realized he feels "as if I had been guilty of a crime" (F, pp. 52, 55).

Paradoxically, however, at virtually the moment he arrives at the primal scene of creation, Frankenstein finds that his position as spectator to the primal scene has been reversed. The first sign that a "spark of life" has been infused into the creature is the opening of an eye; Victor observes: "I saw the dull yellow eye of the creature open" (F, p. 56). He emphasizes his horror at the sight of these "watery eyes," which he finds upon him once again after going to sleep and dreaming of his fiancée and his dead mother (in another allusion to the scene of Mary Shelley's birth). He describes the moment of his trauma: "by the dim and yellow light of the moon, as it forced its way through the window shutters, I beheld the wretch -- the miserable monster whom I had created. He held up the curtain of the bed; and {213} his eyes, if eyes they may be called, were fixed on me" (F, p. 57). As the curtain opens to reveal the yellow eyes which force entry like the yellow light forcing its way through the shutters, Victor experiences the trauma of a primal scene as viewed from the perspective of the parent. As he lies in bed embracing and kissing his wife-to-be in a dream, turning her into a "dead mother," he is interrupted by the creature "whom I had created" who pulls open the theatrical curtain and with ubiquitous eyes fixes him as a spectacle.

This scene obviously parallels the "account of the origin of the story" that Mary Shelley provides in the 1831 introduction to Frankenstein in which she describes first imagining "the pale student of unhallowed arts" -- "the artist" -- awakening in the night: "behold, the horrid thing stands at his bedside, opening his curtains and looking on him with yellow, watery, but speculative eyes"; at this point in her waking dream, Mary Shelley recounts, "I opened mine in terror" to see "the closed shutters with the moonlight struggling through" (F, pp. x-xi). Thus the primal scene of Frankenstein and the monster is apparently the primal scene of the novel; or to put it another way, the novel apparently has its primal scene in a fantasy of a primal scene. Mary Shelley recalls (in a memory that James Rieger claims she invented)74 that Polidori's entry in the ghost story contest concerned "a skull-headed lady who was so punished for peeping through a key-hole -- what to see I forget: something very shocking and wrong of course" (F, p. ix); her own ghost story has its origins (at least in this account) in a primal scene viewed from the perspective of the person who is seen through the keyhole. Of course, Frankenstein himself has been peeping through the keyhole of nature; but the punishment for his peeping is to find himself confronted by the "speculative eyes" of his offspring.75

Once the monster opens his speculative eyes on this primal scene he becomes obsessed with repeating it: first benevolently in witnessing the family romance of the De Laceys, then sympathetically in reading the primal scene of creation in Paradise Lost, then traumatically in reading about the disgusting circumstances of his creation in Frankenstein's journal, and finally most obsessively in becoming the relentless spectator of the creator he saw when he opened his eyes tor the first time. Indeed, we can read in the monster's insistence that Frankenstein create another monster not only the desire for a fellow being with whom to share sympathy but also the desire to witness a reenactment of the primal scene that gave him life. He tells Frankenstein that he will watch this new scene of creation: "Depart to your home and commence your labours," he commands; "I shall watch {224} their progress with unutterable anxiety" (F, p. 141). Frankenstein feels a corresponding anxiety, and his decision to interrupt violently the "labours" of giving life to another creature is immediately prompted by his sudden realization that his first offspring is secretly watching: "on looking up, I saw by the light of the moon the demon at the casement. A ghastly grin wrinkled his lips as he gazed on me, where I sat fulfilling the task which he had alloted to me." It is at this moment that Frankenstein, "trembling with passion, tore to pieces the thing on which I was engaged," vowing "never to resume my labours" (F, p. 159).

Caught in the act of procreation by the offspring whose speculative eyes watch him through the window, Frankenstein once again finds himself at the center of a primal scene, cast as the spectacle rather than the spectator who tried to penetrate secret recesses and hiding places. He vows never to repeat this scene of creation; but he is cast as a character in a story that repeatedly collapses the moment of birth and the moment of sexual union, and the monster responds to his vow by vowing: "I shall be with you on your wedding-night" (F, p. 161). These words become a source of great anxiety for Frankenstein, who is haunted by the specter of the monster beholding him. He describes himself as surrounded by darkness that vvas "penetrated by no light but the glimmer of two eyes that glared upon me. Sometimes they were the expressive eyes of Henry, languishing in death, the dark orbs nearly covered by the lids and the long black lashes that fringed them; sometimes it was the watery, clouded eyes of the monster, as I first saw them in my chamber at Ingolstadt" (F, p. 174). As he returns to Geneva to marry Elizabeth, Frankenstein is tormented by this recurrent vision of both past and future primal scenes.

The scene of creation and procreation that obsesses both parent and child is finally repeated as the monster keeps his promise to intrude on Frankenstein's wedding night. Frankenstein is "anxious and watchful" after arriving at the "amphitheatre of the mountains" (F, pp. 184-85) where he and Elizabeth are to spend their honeymoon; but, he says, "the monster had blinded me to his real intentions" (F, p. 182), and he is surprised to find that he is again the spectacle in the theater of a primal scene that once more unites sexual union, birth, and death. Discovering the "figure" of Elizabeth "flung by the murderer on its bridal bier" -- "Could I behold this and live?" he asks -- Frankenstein looks up to see this vision: "The windows of the room had before been darkened, and I felt a kind of panic on seeing the pale yellow light of the moon illuminate the chamber. The shutters had been thrown back, and with a sensation of horror not to {225} be described I saw at the open window a figure the most hideous and abhorred" (F, pp. 186-87). Once again we can recognize all of the ingredients that formulated the primal scenes of the monster and the novel: the window, the yellow light of the moon entering the shutters, the marriage bed which has become a bridal bier -- like the marriage beds of Victor's dream and Mary Shelley's birth -- and of course the watching face of the monster. Frankenstein has imagined that the monster "had determined to consummate his crimes" (F, p. 179) by killing him, but he has blinded himself to the character of both the consummation and the crime at the center of a scene in which a father "embrace[s]" the corpse of the dead wife whose body bears "the murderous mark" (F, p. 186) of the intrusive offspring.

The details of the window and especially Frankenstein's "pistol" (F, p. 187) recall the props and setting of the primal scene confrontations that take place in Caleb Williams;76 but I have been suggesting that this entire series of primal scenes in Frankenstein is inscribed under the sign, as it were, of Godwin's first novel. Whereas the father's novel tells the story of a child whose "father" turns him into a spectacle as punishment for his primal scene speculation, the child's novel tells the story of a "father" who is punished for his primal scene curiosity by the relentlessly speculative eyes of the child. In the child's version of this scene, both father and child seem responsible for the death of the wife/mother -- who is completely absent and effaced in the father's novel.77

Mary Shelley incorporates both Caleb Willlams and her reading of Caleb Williams into the text of Frankenstein as she dramatizes a child who beholds a primal scene that includes and reflects the tableau of the father beholding a primal scene; we saw the same vertiginous doubling in her incorporation of the wax figures scene from Fleetwood. Father and child (that is, Godwin and Mary Shelley, and Frankenstein and the monster) seem united in a bond of mutual obsession with a primal scene that becomes both the scene of the crime and the scene of punishment: the amphitheater in which a desperate struggle over the roles of spectator and spectacle takes place between parent and child. We can see in Frankenstein's relation to Caleb Williams a mise en abîme of primal scene identification in which the transport of sympathy seems directed at the spectators rather than the actors in the scene.

We could speculate also that part of the guilt of primal scene observation comes from identification, the act of sympathy through which the spectator imaginatively plays a part in the scene; Williams ascribes the "act so monstrous" by which he pries into Mr. Falkland's {226} trunk and thus plays the parent's role in the primal scene in terms of "unexplained and involuntary sympathy" (CW, p. 133). The reverse primal scene we have been tracing is in this sense a punishment for sympathy: the observing child's act of identification imaginatively transforms him or her from a spectator to an actor in the scene. In Mary Shelley's case, this would have been compounded by Godwin's position as a Fleetwood-like jealous spectator to the tableau of Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin becoming a lover and a mother. Imagining the tableau of a primal scene representing her parents, Mary Shelley finds herself identified with the figure of "Mary."

At the center of the primal scene in Frankenstein is a spectator peeping through a keyhole to see a shocking sight: the sight of speculative eyes that punish sympathy and speculation by presenting the mirror image that turns the spectator into a spectacle. This is the vision represented by the monster. The most horrifying aspect of his figure is not his deformity as much as the speculative eyes that represent vision itself. At the end of the novel, in describing a "scene" which he doubts he has "the power to detail," a "form which I cannot find words to describe," Walton writes of the sight of the monster: "Never did I behold a vision so horrible as his face. . . . I shut my eyes involuntarily" (F, p. 207). The vision that the monster forces one to behold, the vision that makes Walton close his eyes and back away from representation, is vision: not only seeing and sight but that which is seen.

In Phèdre, another fiction obsessed with sight, secrets, and both figurative and literal monsters, Thésée calls Hippolyte a "Monstre" immediately after asking him, "oses-tu bien te montrer devant moi?" ("do you dare show yourself before me?").78 The apposition of monstre and montrer suggests on an etymological level a relation that is demonstrated on a thematic level throughout the play: that which is shown -- what should be kept secret and hidden -- is monstrous. Frankenstein also plays upon these senses. One aspect of what is most monstrous about the monster is his appearance as a figure of what is montré. The vision the monster represents is also a vision of the monstrosity of showing. Frankenstein demonstrates the danger of sight, both seeing and being seen; it displays how vision and speculation can show one to be showing as well as looking. But in the vision of the surrealistically metonymic eyes that haunt its pages, the novel also suggests that vision itself is frightening.

At the end of Frankenstein, the monster vows to Walton: "I leave you, and in you the last of humankind whom these eyes will ever behold" (F, p. 211). He may promise that his eyes will behold humans {227} no more, but Mary Shelley knows that such vision is not easily forgotten or escaped. As she says of the "hideous phantasm" that she saw "with shut eyes, but acute mental vision," "I could not so easily get rid of my hideous phantom; still it haunted me" (F, p. xxi). What is so hideous about the monster is his embodiment of phantasma: the monstrous image of that which is made visible, shown, presented to the eye, brought to light. This is the monstrous figure that will not disappear when one shuts one's eyes, or one's book.


{228} I argue in chapter six that the character of Rousseau is present throughout the narrative of Frankenstein, both in the portrayals of Victor and the monster and in the novel's theoretical investigation of the problem of sympathy. Although my argument for this literary animation and philosophical dialogue is based primarily on textual evidence, it is logical to ask what Mary Shelley might have known of Rousseau -- not only what she read or might have read before and during the composition of Frankenstein, but also to what extent the figure of Rousseau was a presence in both her education and her life. Although I do not want to suggest that the argument I have made in chapter six can be "proved" by circumstantial or biographical "evidence," there are many reasons (in addition to the textual echoes and allusions I have described) to believe that Mary Shelley was aware of Rousseau both from reading his works and from reading her parents' works, that she would have associated Rousseau to some extent with her mother, and that she was intensely engaged with Rousseau's work at the moment she began her first novel.

In 1815, the year before she began to write Frankenstein, Mary Shelley read Rousseau's Confessions, Emile, and La Nouvelle Héloïse.1 (Percy Shelley read the Rêveries.) During the same year Mary Shelley read Fleetwood and the Posthumous Works of Wollstonecraft, as well as the three books that constitute the monster's education: Paradise Lost, Plutarch's Lives, and The Sorrows of Young Werther. She continued to read Rousseau throughout the period in which she wrote her first novel, noting on specific days in her journal the Rêveries and Émile in 1816 and La Nouvelle Héloïse and the Confessions et Lettres de Rousseau in 1817. (We know that the Shelleys were still carrying Rousseau around with them in 1818 since they had trouble with a customs agent when "Rousseau, Voltaire, etc." were discovered among their possessions.)2 Since Mary Shelley lost the box of her early writings -- what Percy Shelley calls the "productions of her mind before our intercourse" -- and since her journal for 14 May 1815 to 20 July 1816 {229} also has disappeared, we do not have a record of any of Rousseau's works Mary Shelley might have read before she left her father's house or, more important, in the two months immediately preceding the composition of Frankenstein. When the journal resumes, however, she is reading Rousseau, often on the same days that she is writing what she calls "my story" -- for example: "August 1: Write, and read 'Reveries' of Rousseau."3

We do know that during the months for which the journal is missing and in which the Shelleys, Byron, and Polidori had the ghost story contest that inspired Frankenstein, Rousseau must have been on Mary Shelley's mind.4 She describes (in a letter dated I June 1816) walking around Geneva and visiting "a small obelisk" which was "erected to the glory of Rousseau."5 It was during the month of June that Byron ancd Percy Shelley took their now famous boat trip around Lake Geneva "with Rousseau in hand," as Byron wrote on 23 June, "to see his scenery -- according to his delineation in his Heloise now before me."6 Percy Shelley wrote to Peacock that the trip was "delightful, but most especially, because then I first knew the divine beauty of Rousseau's imagination, as it exhibits itself in Julie"; he recounts how he and Byron traced the steps of Julie and Saint-Preux (already shrines and tourist attractions) and even came close to accidentally drowning "precisely in the spot where Julie and her lover were nearly overset."7

If Mary Shelley did not join in this literary excursion, she surely participated in the poets' conversations about Rousseau -- whom Percy Shelley (writing to Hogg on 18 July) described as "in my mind the greatest man the world has produced since Milton."8 Some years later, when she wrote the notes for the poems her late husband wrote in 1816, the salient piece of information that Mary Shelley recalled for the reader was that the poet read "The Nouvelle Heloise for the first time . . . on the very spot where the scenes are laid"; she adds that "there was something in the character of Saint Preux . . . that coincided with Shelley's own disposition."9 Indeed, having herself read Rousseau's novel in 1815, she might have thought of herself as a Julie who did elope with the engaging young philosophe her father had unsuspectingly welcomed into his house. Furthermore, as Mary Shelley recalls in her 1831 introduction to Frankenstein, Byron "was writing the third canto of Childe Harold" during the summer in which she began her novel (F, p. viii). (She records Byron's poem on her list of books read in both 1816 and 1817.) Canto three devotes five stanzas to a poetically condensed yet extensive portrayal of Rousseau, and Byron's notes to the poem reveal that he also associated Rousseau with {230} that summer: a particularly long note contains citations from the Confessions and La Nouvelle Héloïse and describes the "voyage round the lake of Geneva."10 Byron himself would later be called a "patrician Rousseau."11

Jacques Voisine suggests that the Shelleys and Byron would have read the article on Rousseau that Hazlitt published in The Examiner in April of 1816 in which he compares Rousseau to Wordsworth and concludes that "we see no other difference between them, than that the one wrote in prose and the other in poetry."12 It would not be until several years later that Hazlitt would call Rousseau "another Prometheus," just as Mary Wollstonecraft named him "the true Prometheus of sentiment."13 My point, however, is that the author of The Modern Prometheus began her novel in the context of the growing reappropriation and rehabilitation of Rousseau by a new generation of Romantic writers.14 Furthermore, I suggest that whereas Percy Shelley makes much of his discovery of Rousseau during this period, Mary Shelley would have had uninterrupted access, as it were, to a "tradition" of reading Rousseau -- in short, to the Rousseau of her parents. She appears to have grown up with a library that included the complete Oeuvres of Rousseau; but she also would have encountered Rousseau in the most famous works of Wollstonecraft and Godwin (whose writings she was reading and rereading, along with works of Rousseau, shortly before and during the composition of Frankenstein).15

Godwin specifies "the works of Rousseau" as a major influence on his Enquiry Concerning Political Justice; as he himself notes, he "frequently quote[s] Rousseau in the course of this work."16 Anti-Jacobin critics blamed both Godwin and Rousseau for having written highly influential books that supposedly encouraged the excesses of revolutionary terror.17 Godwin was interested in more than Rousseau's political writings, however. He appears to have worked intermittently on translating parts of the Confessions.18 In the second volume of Fleetwood, the novel Godwin published in 1804, the narrator seeks out the acquaintance of a man named Macneil who "was supposed particularly to have possessed the confidence of the celebrated Jean Jacques Rousseau, who had been some years an inhabitant of the banks of the Windermere."19 Macneil becomes Fleetwood's best friend and during conversations about "the character of Rousseau" he provides a sympathetic portrait of "a man of exquisite sensibility," explaining if not defending Rousseau's notorious behavior while exiled in England.20

It seems appropriate that Macneil should claim intimacy with {231} Rousseau; his story in some respects resembles the plot of Julie, ou La Nouvelle Héloïse: like Wolmar, he has married a young woman who had been seduced by one of her instructors and he now lives in seclusion and domestic harmony. The character of Wolmar is also evoked in the novel in the portrait of Fleetwood's only other intimate friend, M. Ruffigny. The paternal and white-haired Ruffigny often speaks of the moeurs and republican virtues of his native Switzerland and he reproaches the young Fleetwood for living an immoral life (like Saint-Preux) in cosmopolitan Paris and London. Godwin's second novel, St. Leon, also draws on the Rousseau of sensibility in describing domestic scenes that have been identified with both La Nouvelle Héloïse and Mary Wollstonecraft.21

It is in Mary Wollstonecraft's works that Mary Shelley would have discovered the most complex and ambiguous representation of Rousseau. If A Vindication of the Rights of Woman is acutely critical of Rousseau, specifically the Émile, the extent of this critique often casts the book in the form of an ongoing dialogue with him. Wollstonecraft's condemnation includes sympathetic (if somewhat ironic) gestures of accommodation: "But all Rousseau's errors in reasoning," she writes,"arose from sensibility, and sensibility to their charms women are very ready to forgive! . . . peace to his manes! I war not with his ashes, but with his opinions. I war only with the sensibility that led him to degrade woman by making her the slave of love."22 It is likely that in her almost obsessive search for her mother -- what was by necessity a search conducted through textual research23 -- Mary Shelley would have read the pieces her mother wrote on Rousseau for the Analytical Review, reviewing editions of his works and on one occasion defending him in personal terms: "It is impossible to puruse his simple descriptions without loving the man in spite of the weaknesses of character that he himself depicts."24

Wollstonecraft's first novel, Mary, A Fiction, published in 1788 and read or reread by Mary Shelley in 1814, takes its epigraph from Rousseau: "L'exercice des plus sublimes versus èléve et nourrit le génie" ("The exercise of the most sublime virtues fosters and nourishes genius"); although it specifies in its Advertisement that the "Heroine of this Fiction" is not "a * Sophie" (the asterisk names "Rousseau" at the bottom of the page).25 Wollstonecraft dramatizes a double moment of reading Rousseau in Maria, or The Wrongs of Woman, the unfinished novel of Mary Wollstonecraft that Godwin published in her Posthumous Works in 1798. While wrongly imprisoned in a private madhouse, Maria is loaned a book by a man who is a fellow inmate. The book is "Rousseau's Hélo*iuml;se"; the narrator {232} explains that Maria "had read this work long since; but now it seemed to open a new world to her -- the only world worth inhabiting."26 She imagines the man with whom she will enter into first a secret correspondence and then an illicit love affair as "the personification of Saint Preux" and she feels justified in attributing "all St. Preux's sentiments and feelings" to the owner of the book when she finds inscribed "on the margin of an impassioned letter, written in the well-known hand -- 'Rousseau alone, the true Prometheus of sentiment, possessed the fire of genius necessary to pourtray the passion, the truth of which goes so directly to the heart.'"27

My point in detailing Wollstonecraft's evident engagement with Rousseau is not merely to suggest that Mary Shelley would have read in her mother's works recommendations, so to speak, of Rousseau's works. I want to suggest that Mary Shelley had reason to associate Rousseau with her mother. (In chapter six I argue that Mary Shelley's intense interest in the figure of her mother and her intensive engagement with the figure of Rousseau not only exist side by side in the pages of Frankenstein but are in many ways inseparable.) She may have read the note that Wollstonecraft sent to Godwin toward the beginning of their relationship: "I send you the last volume of 'Heloise,' because if you have it not, you may chance to wish for it. You may perceive by this remark that I do not give you credit for as much philosophy as our friend."28 (Indeed, perhaps Mary Shelley read this volume; she might have found in it an inscription from her mother to her father.) She did read the letter that her mother wrote to Gilbert Imlay about their newly born daughter, Fanny: describing an outing to a "fête" in revolutionary Paris, Wollstonecraft writes: "to honor J. J. Rousseau, I intend to give her a sash, the first she has ever had round her -- and why not? -- for I have always been half in love with him."29 In addition to reading Wollstonecraft's public and private comments about "loving" Rousseau, Mary Shelley also read in her father's Memoirs of the Author of A Vindication of the Rights of Woman that her mother was in love with Henry Fuseli. In addition to being an artist, Fuseli was the author of Remarks on the Writings and Conduct of Rousseau (a book included in the inventory of Godwin's library), and in a somewhat condescending portrait of him Godwin goes on at some length about Fuseli's worship of "Jean Jacques Rousseau."30

Based on this circumstantial evidence, then, it seems clear that Mary Shelley would have learned about the importance of Rousseau early in her education, at the very least from her study of the writings of her parents; that she would have participated in the general {233} Romantic appropriation of Rousseau; and, more specifically, that during the months in which she conceived and began to write Frankenstein she was immersed in the literary as well as the literal landscapes of Rousseau's life and work. It seems certain -- indeed, it would be strange to doubt -- that just as Percy Shelley and Byron had intense experiences with Rousseau's writing which became specifically and identifiably and explicitly translated into the texts they were writing at the time, as well as inscribed in memories of those times and texts, Mary Shelley began to write her first novel in the context of a similarly intense engagement with Rousseau. Critics have recognized that Frankenstein is deeply informed by Mary Shelley's reading of Milton.31 Percy Shelley (who himself would cast Rousseau as a character in "The Triumph of Life") called Rousseau "the greatest man the world has produced since Milton" only six days before Mary Shelley recorded what is at least the first extant reference to Frankenstein in her journal.32 There are biographical, psychological, literary, and philosophical indications that Rousseau is inscribed in the margins and the characters of Mary Shelley's first novel more than any other author except Wollstonecraft and Godwin. Mary Shelley's overdetermined acts of reading (of Rousseau, Wollstonecraft, and Godwin; of her parents' reading of Rousseau; and of the biographical and autobiographical texts of Rousseau, Wollstonecraft, Godwin, and herself) are also signs of the surprising effects of sympathy.



CL Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Les Confessions, ed. Jacques Voisine (Paris: Garnier Frères, 1964).

CC: Mary Shelley, "Rousseau," in Eminent Literary and Scientific Men of France, 2 vols., The Cabinet Cyclopedia Conducted by the Rev. Dionysius Lardner (London: Longman, Orme, Brown, Green, and Longmans, 1838-39).

CWL William Godwin, Things as They Are, or The Adventures of Caleb Williams, ed. David McCracken (New York: Norton, 1977).

E: Rousseau, Émile, ou De l'éducation, ed. François and Pierre Richard (Paris: Gamier Freres, 1964).

F: Mary Shelley, Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus (New York: New American Library, 1965).

L: Rousseau, Lettre à M. d'Alembert sur les spectacles, in Du contrat social et autres oeuvres politiques (Paris: Garnier Frères, 1975).

NH: Rousseau, Julie, ou La Nouvelle Héloïse, ed. René Pomeau (Paris: Garnier Frères, 1960).

O: Rousseau, Essai sur l'origine des langues, in vol. 2 of Oeuvres complètes, ed. V. D. Musset-Pathay, 25 vols. (Paris: P. Dupont. 1823-26).

OC: Rousseau, Oeuvres complètes, vol. 3, ed. François Bouchardy et al., 4 vols. (Paris: Gallimard, 1959-69).

OE: Denis Diderot, Oeuvres esthétiques, ed . Paul Vernière (Paris: Garnier Frères, 1968).

OJ: Marivaux, Oeuvres de jeunesse, ed. Frédéric Deloffre (Paris: Gallimard, 1972).

OR: Diderot, Oeuvres romanesques, ed. Henri Bénac (Paris: Garnier Frères, 1960).

R: Rousseau, Les Rêveiies du promeneur solitaire, ed. Henri Roddier (Paris: Garnier, 1960).

RC L'Abbé Du Bos, Réflexions critiques sur la poésie et sur la peinture, 4th ed. (Paris: Pierre-Jean Marette, 1740).

VM: Marivaux, La Vie de Marianne, ed. Frédéric Deloffre (Paris: Garnier Frères, 1963).


1. Contrasting his enterprise to that of Montaigne, Rousseau writes: "je n'écris mes rêveries que pour moi. Si dans mes plus vieux jours aux approches du départ, je reste, comme je l'espère, dans la même disposition où je suis, leur lecture me rappellera la douceur que je goête à les écrire, et faisant renaître ainsi pour moi le temps passé, doublera pour ainsi dire mon existence" (R, p. 11).

2. See Appendix. 3. [Mary Wollstonecraft], Posthumous Works of the Author of a Vindication of the Rights of Woman, 4 vols. (1798; reprint New York: Garland Publishing, 1974), 1:42-43.

4. Mary Shelley's Journal, ed. Frederick L. Jones (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1944), p. 53. All further references to Mary Shelley's reading will be based on this journal. Although the entries and the lists of books read contained in this journal are invaluable, it is important to keep in mind that the lists are not always complete or consistent with the books noted in the actual entries of the journals (see Jones's preface, p. xiv); the absence of a title from the journal obviously does not mean that Mary Shelley did not read a particular book; nor do the lists indicate whether Mary Shelley was rereading a book or reading it for the first time. Percy Shelley refers to Rousseau in a letter to Hogg on 18 July. (See The Letters of Percy Bysshe Shelley, ed. Jones [Oxford: The Clarendon Press, 1964], 1:494.) The first entry that reads "write my story" appears in Mary Shelley's entry for 24 July (Journal, p. 53). For more information, see Appendix.

5. See, for example, Joyce Carol Oates, "Frankenstein's Fallen Angel," Critical Inquiry 10 (1984): 543-54; Margaret Homans, "Bearing Demons: Frankenstein's Circumvention of the Maternal," in Bearing the Word: Language and Female Experience in Nineteenth-Century Women's Writing (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1986), pp. 104-6, 114-15; Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar, "Horror's Twin: Mary Shelley's Monstrous Eve," in The Madwoman in the Attic: The Woman Writer and the Nineteenth-Century Literary Imagination (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1979), and Harold Bloom, "Afterword" to Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus (New York: New American Library, 1965), pp. 212-23. I have used this text, which is based on the 1831 (third) edition, throughout this chapter. I also have utilized James Rieger's reprint of the 1818 text with textual variants. See Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus (The 1818 Text) (Indianapolis: The Bobbs-Merrill Company, 1974).

6. At one point, in writing in corrections on the book she presented to Mrs. Thomas in 1823, Mary Shelley inserted the bracketed phrase in this passage: "when he speaks, [in his native language which is French], although his words are culled with the choicest art, yet they flow with rapidity and unparalleled eloquence." See Frankenstein or The Modern Prometheus (The 1818 Text), p. 22, and Rieger's "Note on the Text," pp. xliii-xlv. The phrase does not appear in the 1831 edition. In both the 1818 and the 1831 texts, Walton writes: "the stranger addressed me in English, although with a foreign accent" (p. 18 [1818]; p. 23 [1831]).

7. Jean de Palacio, Mary Shelley dans son oeuvre: Contribution aux études shelleyennes (Paris: Editions Klincksieck, 1969), p. 378. A few critics have detected traces of Rousseau's works in Mary Shelley's novel. De Palacio hears echoes of Rousseau in the praises of Swiss liberty and "republican institutions" spoken by Elizabeth and Justine (pp. 186-87). Burton R. Pollin suggests that Safie, the young woman whose lessons provide a model and a means of education tor the monster, might be named after Sophie of the Émile: and he notes that the Pygmalion myth which ironically informs the plot of Frankenstein might have been suggested to Mary Shelley by her reading in the summer of 1816 of Mme de Genlis's "Pygmalion et Galatée" -- a play that announces itself as a companion piece to Rousseau's "Pygmalion" ("Philosophical and Literary Sources of Frankenstein," Comparative Literature 17 [1965]: 100). Peter Dale Scott notes also: "In Safie, Frankenstein proffers an androgynously balanced corrective to Rousseau's docile, domestic, and affectionate Sophie, a figure reproved by Mary Wollstonecraft." He adds: "On an ideological level, then, one might say that 'The Modern Prometheus' is a pendant to Émile and La Nouvelle Héloïse" ("Vital Artifice: Mary, Percy, and the Psychopolitical Integrity of Frankenstein," in The Endurance of Frankenstein: Essays on Mary Shelley's Novel, ed. George Levine and U.C. Knoepflmacher [Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1979], p. 174). The "Avertissement de l'auteur sur Galatée" begins: "Cette pièce fut composée pour être jouée en société, à la suite du Pygmalion de Rousseau." See [Mme de Genlis], "Pygmalion et Galatée, ou La Statue Animée Depuis Vingt-Quatre Heures," in Nouveaux Contes Moraux, et Nouvelles Historiques, 6 vols. (Paris, 1825), 16:236.

8. For example, Pollin notes, "We might mention in passing the considerable admixture of the primitivistic doctrines of the Rousseau of the two Discours" ("Philosophical and Literary Sources," p. 106). De Palacio juxtaposes the monster's account, "I ate some berries which I found hanging on the trees or lying on the ground. I slaked my thirst at the brook, and then lying down, was overcome with sleep" (F, p. 98), with this account from the second Discours: "Te le vois se rassasiant sous un chêne, se désaltérant au premier Ruisseau, trouvant son lit au pied du même arbre qui lui a fourni son repas" (OC, p. 135; quoted in de Palacio, Mary Shelley, p. 210). See also Peter Brooks, "'Godlike Science/Unhallowed Arts': Language, Nature, and Monstrosity," in The Endurance of Frankenstein, p. 209; Martin Tropp, Mary Shelley's Monster (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1976), p. 71; Christopher Small, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein: Tracing the Myth (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1972), p. 62; Radu Florescu, In Search of Frankenstein (Boston: New York Graphic Society, 1975), pp. 179-80; and John A. Dussinger, "Kinship and Guilt in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein," Studies in the Novel 8 (1976): 39-40. Lowry Nelson, Jr., suggests that the "monster's account of his awakening consciousness and his education is Mrs. Shelley's version of her father William Godwin's notions derived from Rousseau" ("Night Thoughts on the Gothic Novel," Yale Review 52 [1963]: 246). It might be said that the monster's exposure to Volney's Ruins of Empires, which Felix reads to Safie (F, pp. 113-14), constitutes an indirect exposure to the ideas of Rousseau. See M. Volney, Les Ruines, ou Meditations sur les revolutions des empires (Paris, 1792).

9. Cantor continues: "The monster as originally created corresponds to natural man; his fall is his fatal attraction to civil society; and his attempt to join the ranks of social men leads to his misery" (Creature and Creator: Myth-making and English Romanticism [Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984], pp. 119-20). Cantor's persuasive account of the novel takes place in the context of an argument about the influence of Rousseau's Second Discourse as a Romantic myth of creation -- an influence, he rightly claims, that was "so pervasive in the late eighteenth century that we need not show that individual Romantics had read it in order to claim that it shaped their thinking about human nature" (pp. 4-5).

10. Brooks, "'Godlike Science, Unhallowed Arts,'" p. 209. In an article I became acquainted with after writing this chapter, Daniel Cottom mentions in passing that an aspect of the "representational crisis that produces Frankenstein's monster and the novel of which he is the image . . . may be related to Rousseau's suggestion that the idea of gigantism signifies a distortion of perception caused by man's fear of others" ("Frankenstein and the Monster of Representation," Sub-stance 28 [1980]: 61). He is referring to an "analysis" suggested in a passage in the Essai, which will be discussed in detail later in this chapter. The Essai sur l'origine des langues, published posthumously, appears in editions of Rousseau's Oeuvres after 1781. It was published in the third volume of the Oeuvres posthumes de Jean-Jacques Rousseau, ou Recueil de pièces manuscrites pour servir de supplément aux éditions publiées pendant sa vie (Geneva, 1781-83) and it appears in subsequent Oeuvres complètes, sometimes with the essays on music, sometimes under the category of "Mélanges." The July, 1782 edition of A New Review reviews the posthumous writings for an English audience (2:12-24). (See Edward Duffy, Rousseau in England: The Context of Shelley's Critique of the Enlightenment (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1979], pp. 46-47). Rousseau refers to the Essai sur l'origine des langues by name in book 1 of the Confessions (C, p. 662).

11. Details and characters of La Nouvelle Héloïse can be seen throughout Mary Shelley's novel. The venerable Alphonse Frankenstein, who marries a younger woman and continually recalls the overenthusiastic Victor to reason and duty, resembles M. de Wolmar. In addition, one could read the waking nightmare that (according to the Introduction) gave Mary Shelley the idea for her story, together with the companion nightmare that Victor has in which the image of Elizabeth is replaced by the image of his dead mother, as a reworking of the nightmare in which Saint-Preux sees Julie's mother on her deathbed and then sees "Julie à sa place." "I could not so easily get rid of my hideous phantom," writes Mary Shelley, "still it haunted me" (F, p. xi), just as Saint-Preux describes how his dream leaves him "environné de fantômes." One might also juxtapose the dreamed and figuratively painted tableau of Julie on her knees by her mother's death bed -- "cette scène que vous m'avez autrefois dépeinte," writes Saint-Preux -- with the actual painting of Elizabeth "kneeling by the coffin of her dead father" (F, p. 75) that hangs over the mantelpiece in the Frankenstein library. (These images, of course, hang over the literary phantasmagoria through which Mary Shelley perpetually kneels by the mother's deathbed on which she was born.) One can imagine Mary Shelley's reaction to this deathbed scene, in which the dying mother says to her daughter: "il faut remplir son sort . . . Dieu est juste . . . tu seras mère à ton tour" (NH, pp. 603-4).

12. See the list of the activities of "l'homme" in the first lines of the Émile: "Il bouleverse tout, il défigure tout, il aime la difformité, les monstres; il ne veut rien tel que l'a fait la nature, pas même homme" (E, p. 5). At this point I might add that Walton's decision to keep a journal to record the autobiography of the man he wishes to regard as a "fellow mind" and his exclamation, "with what interest and sympathy shall I read it in some future day!" (F, pp. 27, 29), evoke Rousseau's comment about the future of the autobiographical manuscript of the Rêveries: "leur lecture me rappellera la douceur que je goûte à les écrire, et faisant renaître ainsi pour moi le temps passé, doublera pour ainsi dire mon existence" (R, p. 11).

13. Rousseau discusses his decision to send his children to the "Enfants-Trouvés" in the seventh and eighth books of the Confessions (pp. 404-5 and 423-24). In the twelfth book, he refers to the "aveu public" (p. 702) he included out of remorse in the first book of the Émile. For his discussion in the Rêveries, see below. See Maurice Cranston, Jean-Jacques: The Early Life and Work of Jean-Jacques Rousseau 1712-1754 (New York: Norton, 1983), p. 244.

14. Mary Shelley writes in a letter to Leigh Hunt in 1837, "I am now writing French Lives" (The Letters of Mary W. Shelley, ed. Jones, 2 vols. [Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1944], 2:122).

15. Wollstonecraft, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, ed. Carol H. Poston (New York: Norton, 1975), p. 154.

16. William Godwin, Enquiry Concerning Political Justice and Its Influence on Modern Morals and Happiness (Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1985), p. 112. At the end of Caleb Williams, Williams says to Mr. Falkland, who, in a perverse way, has been a father figure to him: "You took me up a raw and inexperienced boy, capable of being moulded to any form you pleased" (CW, p. 282).

17. Gilbert and Gubar, The Madwoman in the Attic, p. 223; Ellen Moers, "Female Gothic," in The Endurance of Frankenstein, p. 87. In recent years, several articles, especially those informed by feminist and/or psychoanalytic criticism, have helped to illuminate this aspect of the novel. In addition to Gilbert and Gubar, Moers, and Homans, see Mary Poovey, The Proper Lady and the Woman Writer: Ideology as Style in the Words of Mary Wollstonecraft, Mary Shelley, and Jane Austen (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1984); Marc Rubenstein, "'My Accursed Origin': The Search for the Mother in Frankenstein," Studies in Romanticism 15 (1976): 165-94; U. C. Knoepflmacher, "Thoughts on the Aggression of Daughters," in The Endurance of Frankenstein, pp. 88-119; Mary Jacobus, "Is There a Woman in This Text?" New Literary History 14 (1982): 117-41; William Veeder, "The Negative Oedipus: Father, Frankenstein, and the Shelleys," Critical Inquiry 12 (1986): 365-90; Barbara Johnson, "My Monster/My Self," Diacritics 12 (1982): 2-10. See also Gordon D. Hirsch, "The Monster Was a Lady: On the Psychology of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein," Hartfod Studies in Literature 8 (1976): 116-53; Susan Harris Smith, "Frankenstein: Mary Shelley's Psychic Divisiveness," Women and Literature 5 (1977): 42-53; J. M. Hill, "Frankenstein and the Physiognomy of Desire," American Imago 32 (1975): 332-58; Morton Kaplan, "Fantasy of Paternity and the Doppelgänger: Mary Shelley's Frankenstein," in Morton Kaplan and Robert Kloss, The Unspoken Motive: A Guide to Psychoanalytic Literary Criticism (New York: The Free Press, 1973), pp. 119-45; and Paul Sherwin, "Frankenstein: Creation as Catastrophe," PMLA 96 (1981): 883-903.

18. Robert Kiely, The Romantic Novel in England (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1972), p. 170; Muriel Spark, Child of Light: A Reassessment of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley (Hadleigh, Essex: Tower Bridge Publications l.imited, 1951), pp. 137, 134. See also Nelson, "Night Thoughts," p. 244; Kaplan, "Fantasy of Paternity," pp. 135-45; Gerhard Joseph, "Frankenstein's Dream: The Child as Father of the Monster," Hartford Studies in Literature 8 (1976): 105; R. E. Foust, "Monstrous Image: Theory of Fantasy Antagonists," Genre 13 (1980): 444-45; and Masao Miyoshi, The Divided Self: A Perspective on the Literature of the Victorians (New York: New York University Press, 1969), pp. 79-89.

19. Consider this portrait from a book called Extracts from the Diary of a Lover of Literature: "Expelled at a tender age from those domestic habitudes which mitigate the natural fierceness of man; a sort of outcast from his family, his country, and almost from his species; a wild and needy adventurer, cursed with a fastidious delicacy, and exposed to that scorn and contumely and insolent neglect, which the pride of genius most impatiently endures; he contracted a distempered sensibility, which forms the distinguishing feature of his character . . . . Upon [mankind! he pours out, in consuming fire, the vials of his wrath, while he arrays in all the glowing hues of impassioned eloquence, romantic modes of being . . ." ([Thomas Green], Extracts from The Diary of a Lover of Literature [Ipswich, 1810], p.72). I cite this passage at length because it reads almost word for word as a description of Frankenstein's monster; indeed it is not a bad plot summary of the monster's autobiographical narrative. Thomas Green, the author, published his Diary in 1810, six years before Mary Shelley dreamed of her monster; what makes its uncanny applicability to the monster less surprising is that Green is summarizing the life and character of Rousseau.

It is not important whether or not Mary Shelley read Green's description (although there is reason to believe she might have). This and other passages from the Diary appeared in Quarterly Review 4 (1810): 155-56. The Godwin household would have had some reason to pay attention to Green's Diary: Green's Examination of the Leading Principles of the New System of Morals (1798) was, according to Godwin's most recent biographer, "the most able and serious reply" to the Enquiry Concerning Political Justice (Peter H. Marshall, William Godwin [New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1984], p. 220). In addition to the discussion of Rousseau, Green's Diary contains reviews of both "Godwin's Memoirs of Mrs. Woolstonecraft" [sic] (p. 81) and Godwin's second novel, St. Leon. Green writes of Godwin: "I flatter myself with having been instrumental in a little humanizing him; but the volcanic and blasphemous spirit still peeps, occasionally, through a flimsy disguise" (p. 209). Various critics have argued that Mary Shelley paid close attention to the reception of her parents' works, especially by the "opposition" (see, for example, Lee Sterrenburg, "Mary Shelley's Monster: Politics and Psyche in Frankenstein," in The Endurance of Frankenstein, pp. 143-71). Mary Shelley's own account of Rousseau, although more sympathetic, describes Rousseau in similar terms. For example, he acquires "a taste for the romantic, and a precocious knowledge of the language of passion and sentiment" and later becomes an "exile and wanderer" who "could not tell where to take up his abode" (CC, pp. 112, 162). Compare Frankenstein's remark that had he known about the monster's plans for revenge, "l would rather have banished myself forever from my native country and wandered a friendless outcast over the earth" (F, p. 182).

20. See Henri Roddier's Introduction to R, pp. xliv-xlvi.

21. See note 8, above.

22. Brooks, "'Godlike Science/Unhallowed Arts,'" pp. 206-7.

23. [Wollstonecraft], An Historical and Moral View of the Origin and Progress of the French Revolution; and the Effect it has Produced in Europe (London, 1794), p 485.

24. Godwin, Enquiry, p. 497n. See Green, Diary, p. 72. See The Poetical Works of Percy Bysshe Shelley, p. 496. D'Alembert's response to the Lettre à d'Alembert sur les spectacles refers (in an ironic and somewhat bitter apostrophe to Rousseau) to "l'éloquence & la chaleur de votre style" (Lettre à M. Rousseau, Citoyen de Genève, in Oeuvres de M. Rousseau de Genève. Nouvelle Edition [Neuchatel, 1764], p. 275). Duffy notes that the Monthly Review 15 (August 1751): 237] responded to the English translation of the Discours sur les sciences et les arts with praise for this "'complete master of the declamatory art' and similar contempt for his sophistical opinions"; and the Quarterly Review [ll (April 1814): 174] wrote of passages in La Nouvelle Héloïse that "astonish by their eloquence" (Rousseau in England, pp. 9, 56).

25. See Rieger's "Collation of the Texts of 1818 and 1831," The 1818 Text, pp. 230-59, particularly for the pages relating to Walton. Nelson notes that through Walton's letters "the major theme of 'sympathy' is established, as is the documentary and 'sincere' mode which helps to domesticate the strange events" ("Night Thoughts," p. 243).

26. Kiely writes that "Mary Shelley's definition of a monster is precisely that being to which nothing corresponds, the product of a genius who tried to exercise its will without reference to other beings"; although he calls the monster Frankenstein's "alter-ego," he suggests that the monster finds "no true resemblance, no reciprocation." I would like to hold this question open, at least long enough to pose it as a question. On the question of sympathy, Kiely notes that "through human sympathy" Frankenstein's crime "might have been avoided or redeemed" (The Romantic Novel, pp. 171, 170, 167). Cantor writes: "In depicting the monster's sympathetic reaching out for human beings, Mary Shelley draws upon another trait of natural man in Rousseau's view, his compassion . . . From the beginning, the monster experiences fellow feeling for all living creatures . . . One can compare his situation to that of the savages brought to Europe whom Rousseau discusses in the Second Discourse. His situation is even worse, since the people who meet the monster will not even acknowledge his common humanity" (Creature and Creator, pp. 124-25). Poovey writes that the monster "cannot enter the human community it longs to join, and it cannot earn the sympathy it can all too vividly imagine" (The Proper Lady, p. 128).

27. Wollstonecraft, Vindication, pp. 7-8, 22, 39, 150.

28. Ibid., p. 90. For a discussion of Smith's theory of sympathy in The Theory of Moral Sentiments, see my chapter, "Adam Smith and the Theatricality of Moral Sentiments," in The Figure of Theater: Shaftesbury, Defoe, Adam Smith, and George Eliot (New York: Columbia University Press, 1986), pp. 167-92.

29. Janet M. Todd also makes this point, along with a discussion of other similarities between Frankenstein and The Wrongs of Woman, "Frankenstein's Daughter: Mary Shelley and Mary Wollstonecraft," Women and Literature 4 (1976): 18-27.

30. In an account that anticipates the monster's educational experiences watching the De Laceys, Jemima remarks that she had "the advantages of hearing discussions, from which, in the common course of life, women are excluded. You may easily imagine that it was only by degrees that I could comprehend some of the subjects they investigated, or acquire from their reasoning what might be termed a moral sense. But my fondness for reading increased . . ." (Wollstonecraft, The Wrongs of Woman, in Posthumous Works l: 104-5). See Gilbert and Gubar, The Madwoman in the Attic, p. 246.

31. Wollstonecraft, Posthumous Works, 1:90, 93, 76, 127.

32. Ibid., I:109; 91; 119.

33. Gilbert and Gubar, The Madwoman in the Attic, pp. 230, 237, 235. See also Poovey, The Proper Lady, p. 128; Homans, Bearing the Word, pp. 105-6; and Hirsch, "The Monster Was a Lady."

34. See Bloom, Afterword, p. 216; Spark, Child of Light, p. 136. The dedication reads: "To William Godwin, Author of Political Justice, Caleb Williams, etc. These Volumes Are respectfully inscribed By The Author" (Rieger, The 1818 Text, p. 5). In Godwin's novel, Fleetwood, the narrator describes his "impatient thirst for friendship" in terms of sympathy and

(271} species. A few pages before recounting his meeting with Macneil -- who knew Rousseau -- he writes: "If the last inflicted on me, will, being inflicted on another, be attended with a similar effect, I then know that there is a being of the same species or genus with myself. But, if there is a being who feels the blow under which I flinch, in whom my sensations are by a kind of necessity echoed and repeated, that being is a part of myself. Every reasoning and sensitive creature seems intuitively to require . . . this sort of sympathy" (Fleetwood, or the New Man of Feeling, 3 vols. [1805; reprint New York: Garland Publishing, 1979] 2:l48-49).

35. Godwin, Enquiry, p. 381. See note 28, above.

36. Ibid, pp. 157, 159.

37. In this discussion I have been informed by Paul de Man's readings of Rousseau in Allegories of Reading: Figural Language in Rousseau, Nietzsche, Rilke, and Proust (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1979). See also Jacques Derrida's readings of the question of pity and related issues in the Essai sur l'origine des langues in De la grammatologie (Paris: Editions de Minuit, 1967). I might note at this point that in discussing the idea of "man" in Rousseau's and Mary Shelley's texts, I have consciously retained the masculine category rather than substituting the more universal "human." Any discordance with the gender of Frankenstein's author or the screened gender of the monster is part of the meaning and irony of the novel; it is at the center of the critique Mary Shelley presents of the "idea of man" through the story of the monster.

38. It is no coincidence that everyone assumes that the motive for William's murder was "a very valuable miniature" of Frankenstein's mother or that Frankenstein remarks that "a sense of mortal agony crept over my frame" after he beholds another "picture of my mother" and "a miniature of William" (F, pp. 70, 75). The monster is enraged when he sees the miniature William possesses and imagines the "portrait of a most lovely woman" (F, p. 136) regarding him; he uses the portrait to frame Justine after he imagines her beholding him. The novel is concerned with the pictures that people present and represent to each other within human frames. It is also worth noting that this scene contains many of the ingredients of the scene from Les Effets surprenants de la sympathie in which Frédélingue discovers Parmenie sleeping in a garden next to a miniature and experiences pangs of jealousy (see chapter 1).

39. In another context, de Man notes: "The actual word 'giant,' as we know it from every day usage, presupposes the word 'man' and is not the metaphorical figure that Rousseau, for lack of an existing word, has to call 'giant.' Rousseau's 'giant' would be more like some mythological monster; one could think of Goliath, or of Polyphemos (leaving aside the temptation to develop the implications of Odysseus' strategy in giving his name to Polyphemos as no-man)" (153 n. 2). For a different treatment of questions of figures and literalization in Frankenstein, see Homans, Bearing the Word, esp. pp. 109-11.

40. Rieger, The 1818 Text, p. 18.

{272} 41. Johnson, "My Monster/My Self," pp. 3-4. Cottom mentions the ideas that the monster "images the monstrous nature of representation" and is "a figure for the text" ("The Monster of Representation," pp. 60, 63) but takes his discussion in different directions than those taken here.

42. Brooks, "'Godlike Science/Unhallowed Arts,'" p. 218. See also Brooks's use of this category in his reading of Absalom, Absalom! in Reading for the Plot: Design and Intention in Narrative (New York: Knopf, 1984), pp. 286-312.

43. Godwin, Fleetwood, 3:247-51.

44. Ibid., 2:198-99.

45. Frances Ferguson writes in a different context of Frankenstein that "it figures the Gothic reversal of the sublime dream of self-affirmation, the fear that the presence of other people is totally invasive and erosive of the self" ("The Nuclear Sublime," Diacritics 14 [1984]: 8). See also Poovey's reading of the novel as a critique of romantic egotism (The Proper Lady, pp. 114-42).

46. See notes 33 and 37, above.

47. On the question of incest, see Knoepflmacher, "The Aggression of Daughters"; Veeder, "The Negative Oedipus"; Joseph, "Frankenstein's Dream," pp. 102-3; Kaplan, "The Fantasy of Paternity," pp. 132-34.

48. Homans writes: "The demon's promise to be present at the wedding night suggests that there is something monstrous about Frankenstein's sexuality. A solipsist's sexuality is monstrous because his desire is for his own envisionings rather than for somebody else, some other body" (Bearing the Word, p. 104). My chapter 3, "La Religieuse: Sympathy and Seduction," also discusses the problem of sexuality, incest, and sameness.

49. Barthes writes: "la relecture est ici proposée d'emblée, car elle seule sauve le texte de la répétition (ceux qui négligent de relire s'obligent à lire partout la même histoire)" (S/Z [Paris: Editions du Seuil, 1970], p. 22).

50. Diderot, Oeuvres complètes, 25 vols. (Paris: Herman. 1975-). 10:17. Against my interests perhaps, I should note that Jones is surely wrong in glossing the reference to the "Tableau de famille" in Mary Shelley's journal entry of 4 August 1816 as "A play by Denis Diderot, translated 'by a lady' as The Family Picture" (Journal, p. 55). (Neither a translation nor a work by the name of The Family Picture is mentioned in the journal in any case.) Although Diderot's plays and his writings about his plays concern both tableaux and families, Diderot never wrote a play with that name. The Salon de 1767 does contain a brief section with a subheading, "Un Tableau de Famille" in the discussion of l'Épicié but I doubt this is what Mary Shelley was referring to; see Oeuvres complètes, ed. J. Assézzat and Maurice Tourneaux (Paris: Garnier, 1875-77), 11:292-94. There is a pamphlet from the French Revolution that the Shelleys might have come across in their wide-ranging reading about this subject: Le Tableau de Famille. Fragment de l'Histoire de France. (It bears neither author nor place of publication on its title page -- only "L'an de la Liberté O"; it is collated in vol. 15 of French Revolution Tracts contained in the Sterling Memorial Library of Yale {273} University.) For an indication of the extent of the Shelleys' interest in the Revolution, see Sterrenburg, "Mary Shelley's Monster," and Ronald Paulson, Representations of Revolution (1789-1820) (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1983), pp. 239-47. All this being said, I can add that Mary Shelley apparently had access to Diderot's works: Percy Shelley wrote a letter on 24 December 1812 ordering "Les Ouvres [sic] de Diderot"; on both 17 December 1812 and 15 February 1813 he wrote letters ordering the Encyclopédie -- "a book," he says in the February 15th letter, "which I am desirous, very desirous of possessing" (Letters of Percy Bysshe Shelley, I: 345, 342, 354).

51. See chapter I and Sigmund Freud, "Instincts and Their Vicissitudes," General Psychological Theory: Papers on Metapsychology (New York: Collier, 1978), pp. 83-103, esp. p. 93. See also Jean Laplanche, Vie et Mort en Psychanalyse (Paris: Flammarion, 1970), pp. 145-73; and Leo Bersani, "Representation and its Discontents," Allegory and Representation: Selected Papers from the English Institute, 1979-1980, ed. Stephen J. Greenblatt (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1981), pp. 145-62, esp. pp. 149-50. (See chapter 1, note 25.)

52 Following Freud, I am concerned here with the power of the primal scene as a fantasy, whether or not an actual event really took place. Freud's most famous and extensive discussion of the primal scene is, of course, the "wolf-man" case history, "From the History of an Infantile Neurosis" in The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, ed. and trans. James Strachey, 24 vols. (London: Hogarth Press, 1953-74), 17:7-122. (I was tempted to title the last section ot this chapter, "Frankenstein Meets the Wolf-Man.") See also Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality (Standard Edition, 7:125-43) and "The Sexual Theories of Children" (Standard Edition, 9:205-26). For other discussions of the primal scene, see J. Laplanche and J. Pontalis, "Fantasme originaire, fantasme des origines, origines du fantasme," Les Temps modernes 215 (1964): 1833-68; "Scientific Proceedings Panel Reports: The Pathogenicity of the Primal Scene." reported by Richard A. Isay, Journal of the American Psychoanalytical Association 26 (1978): 131-42; Aaron H. Esman, "The Primal Scene: A Review and a Reconsideration," Psychoanalytic Study of the Child 28 (1973):49-81; Henry Edelheit, "Mythopoiesis and the Primal Scene," Psychoanalytic Study of Society 5 (1972): 212-33. Esman, citing Greenacre, notes that "the scary ogres that people children's fantasies and children's literature are representations of the primal scene with the sexual images of the parents fused into frightening or awe-inspiring figures" (p. 65). Edelheit notes that the image of the "bound Prometheus" is "built upon a widely recurring pattern which I call the primal scene schema" (p. 212). (See also Edelheit "Crucifixion Fantasies and their Relation to the Primal Scene," Summaries of Scientific Proceedings 4 [1970]: 19-21.) I am grateful to Dr. Seymour Handler for conversations about psychoanalytic theories of the primal scene, Frankenstein, and related questions.

53. In addition to Rubenstein, "'My Accursed Origin,'" see Johnson, "My {274} Monster/My Self," p. 7; Hirsch, "The Monster Was a Lady," p. 125; Kaplan, "Fantasy of Paternity," pp. 125-26.

54. Rubenstein, "'My Accursed Origin,"' p. 165.

55. See ibid. pp. 170-71.

56. Mary Shelley refers to these letters in a letter she wrote to Percy Shelley on 2 October 1817: "come and see your sweet babes and the little Commodore [Allegra or Alba] who is lively and an uncommonly interesting child -- I never see her without thinking of the expressions in my Mother's letters concerning Fanny" (The Letters of Mary W. Shelley, ed. Jones, 2 vols. [Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1944], 1:39).

57. Memoirs, p. 176. See also Gilbert and Gubar, The Madwoman in the Attic, p. 244.

58. Frankenstein describes how he "collected bones from charnel-houses" and how "the dissecting room and the slaughter-house furnished many of my materials" (F, p. 53); when he destroys the female monster, he says he "tore to pieces the thing on which I was engaged" (F, p. 159).

59. Memoirs, p. 112.

60. Wollstonecraft, Posthumous works, 3:5.

61. Gilbert and Gubar, The Madwoman in the Attic, p. 246.

62. Wollstonecraft, Posthumous works, 1:132.

63. The title page of the 1797 (London) edition of Gilbert Imlay's Topographical Description of the Western Territory of North America describes the author as "A Captain in the American Army during the War" (reprinted in "Series in American Studies" [Johnson Reprint Corporation, 1968], p. v).

64. Godwin, Fleetwood, 3:248.

65. B. J. Tysdahl writes of Godwin's publication of his wife's letters to Imlay that "twentieth-century readers may speculate on the psychological undercurrents in Godwin's mind that enabled him to luxuriate in the idea of his wife being so happy with another man." As I read the Memoirs, Godwin is demonstrating Wollstonecraft's unhappiness in detailing her love for (her obsession with) Imlay: for example, her suicide attempts. Tysdahl goes on to suggest, "It was only when Godwin had recovered from the loss of Mary Wollstonecraft and had himself experienced another kind of marriage that he could return to some of the problems that he touched in writing his first wife's biography. Fleetwood (1805) is a study in a husband's strange mixture of insecurity and aggression" (William Godwin as Novelist [London: Athlone, 1981], pp. 79-80).

66. See Wollstonecraft, Posthumous Works, 2:159 61. Of course "Mary" was also the name Mary Wollstonecraft used to represent a version of herself in the autobiographical fiction of her first novel, Mary, A Fiction.

67. Ralph M. Wardle, Mary Wollstonecraft: A Critical Biography (Lawrence: University of Kansas Press, 1951), p. 318; see also pp. 317-30.

68. As I mentioned earlier, Alphonse Frankenstein marries the young daughter of his best friend. Mary Shelley later wrote of her "excessive and romantic attachment to my father" (Letters, 2:88). For more on the theme of {275} father/daughter incest in Mary Shelley's works, including Mary Shelley's attitude toward her father, see Veeder, "The Negative Oedipus," and Knoepflmacher, "The Aggression of Daughters."

69. Caleb Williams's adventures often resemble those of Moll Flanders. He falls in with a gang of rogues, and becomes a master of deceit, disguise and impersonation. At one point he disguises himself as a beggar (CW, p. 233); at another he disguises himself as a Jew: "By the talent of mimicry, which I had hitherto had recourse, I could copy their pronunciation of the English language. . . . one of my cares was to discolour my complexion . . . when my metamorphosis was finished, I could not upon the strictest examination conceive, that any one could have traced out the person of Caleb Williams in this new disguise" (CW, pp. 254-55).

70. Roxana is pursued by her daughter in a relentless chase which begins when her daughter sees her dancing in an immodest dress in what amounts to a spectacular primal scene scenario. For relevant readings of Moll Flanders and Roxana, see The Figure of Theater.

71. Freud, "From the History of An Infantile Neurosis," Standard Edition, 17:29-47.

72. David Seed notes, "Like Frankenstein, Caleb Williams is driven by curiosity to discover what is the secret of his employer, Mr. Falkland," although he claims that "there is no explicit allusion to this novel in Frankenstein" ("Frankenstein -- Parable of [sic] Spectacle?" Criticism: A Quarterly Journal for Literature and the Arts 24 |l982]: 337-38).

73. Rubenstein, "'My Accursed Origin,'" p. 174.

74. James Rieger describes the "received history" of the ghost story contest as "an almost total fabrication." See his "Dr. Polidori and the Genesis of Frankenstein," appendix to The Mutiny Within: The Heresies of Percy Bysshe Shelley (New York: George Braziller, 1967), pp. 237-47.

75. At this point we might recall another waking nightmare brought about by the ghost story contest that also informs the primal scenes of Frankenstein: according to the now well-known story recounted by Polidori, Byron's recital of the lines about Geraldine from Coleridge's Christabel caused Percy Shelley to scream and run out of the room; he explained that looking at his wife while hearing the lines, he "suddenly thought of a woman he had heard of who had eyes instead of nipples." See The Diary of Dr. John William Polidori, ed. W. M. Rossetti (London: Elkin Mathews, 1911), pp. 128-29. For comments on this episode, see Rubenstein, "'My Accursed Origin,'" pp. 184-85, and Homans, Bearing the Word, p. 109.

76. Williams notes that the room in which he spies Mr. Falkland with the trunk is lit "by a small window near the roof" (CW, p. 7). When he is caught in the "private apartment" with the trunk, Mr. Falkland puts a loaded pistol to Williams's head but then throws it out the window (CW, pp. 131-32).

77. Critics have read in Frankenstein's scientific achievement a repression of the primal scene: the repression of sexual union as the origin of human beings and especially the repression of the mother. See Rubenstein, "'My Accursed Origin,'" p. 177; Jacobus, "Is There a Woman in this Text?" p. 131; Knoepflmacher, "The Aggression of Daughters," p. 105; Kiely, The Romantic Novel, p. 164; Homans, Bearing the Word, pp. 101-4. Another parental text behind the primal scenes that conflate the wedding night and the death of the mother in Frankenstein may be the suicide note that Wollstonecraft sent to Imlay after her return from Scandinavia -- published as Letter 69 in Godwin's edition of her Posthumous Works. Wollstonecraft, who already had survived a suicide attempt, writes: "Let my wrongs sleep with me! Soon, very soon shall I be at peace. . . . I go to find comfort, and my only fear is, that my poor body will be insulted by an endeavour to recall my hated existence. . . . Should your sensibility ever awake, remorse will find its way to your heart; and in the midst of sensual pleasure, I shall appear before you, the victim of your deviation from rectitude" (Posthumous Works, 4:11-12). The monster, who has been "called . . . into being" by Frankenstein, whose existence has been recalled from the dead, ends the novel with a vow of suicide: "My spirit will sleep in peace . . ." (F, p. 211). I hear in the monster's vow to Frankenstein, "I shall be with you on your wedding-night" -- the sentence that haunts Frankenstein -- an echo of Wollstonecraft's vow to appear before Imlay when he is "in the midst of sensual pleasure." It is perhaps not a coincidence that after he destroys the female monster and hears the monster's promise to appear at the consummation of his marriage, Frankenstein receives a letter from Clerval, about which he says: "This letter in a degree recalled me to life" (F, pp. 161-62).

78. Racine, Phèdre, act 4, sc. 2, ll. 10-11. Of course incest also figures prominently in Racine's play.


1. Mary Shelley's Journal, ed. Frederick L. Jones (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1944), pp.47-50. All further references to Mary Shelley's reading will be based on this journal. Although the entries and the lists of books read contained in this journal are invaluable, it is important to keep in mind that the lists are not always cotuplete or consistent with the books noted in the actual entries of the journals (see Jones, p. xiv); the absence of a title from the journal obviously does not mean that Mary Shelley did not read a particular book; nor do the lists indicate whether Mary Shelley was rereading a book or reading it for the first time.

2. Journal, p.94. The entry is written by Percy Shelley on 26 March 1818. See also The Letters of Percy Bysshe Shelley, ed. Roger Ingpen (London: G. Bell, 1914), 2:590.

3. Journal, pp. 5, 55. Jones notes the loss of the journal on p. 50 n. 1.

4. In her account of the ghost story contest in the 1831 Introduction to Frankenstein, Mary Shelley seems to repress the presence of her stepsister, Jane (or Clare) Clairmont.

5. The Letters of Mary W. Shelley, ed. Jones, 2 vols. (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1944),1:12. She writes: "Here a small obelisk is erected {277} to the glory of Rousseau, and here (such is the mutability of human life) the magistrates, the successors of those who exiled him from his native country, were shot by the populace during that revolution which his writings mainly contributed to mature, and which, notwithstanding the temporary bloodshed and injustice with which it was polluted, has produced enduring benefits to mankind."

6. Byron's Letters and Journals, ed. Leslie A. Marchand (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1976), 5:81. See also the letter of 27 June to John Murray: "I have traversed all Rousseau's ground -- with the Heloise before me -- & am struck to a degree with the force and accuracy of his descriptions -- & the beauty of their reality" (5:82).

7. The Letters of Percy Bysshe Shelley, ed. Jones 2 vols. (Oxford: The Clarendon Press, 1964), 1:480,486.

8. Ibid., 1:494.

9. The Poetical Works of Percy Bysshe Shelley, ed. Edward Dowden (London: Macmillan, 1900), p.496. See Percy Shelley's 1811 letter to Hogg about Harriet Shelley: "I am not jealous, I perfectly understand the beauty of Rousseau's sentiment; yet Harriet is not an Heloisa, even were I a St. Preux, -- but I am not jealous" (Letters of Percy Bysshe Shelley, 1:140). See also Voisine, Jean-Jacques Rousseau en Angleterre à l'époque romantique: Les Ecrits autobiographiques et la légende (Paris: Librairie Marcel Didier, 1956), p. 281.

10. Byron, ed. Jerome J. McGann (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1986), pp. 142-45. See stanzas 77 to 81. P. D. Fleck argues that Mary Shelley "was profoundly affected by her reading with Shelley during the summer of 1816 of the third canto of Childe Harold" ("Mary Shelley's Notes to Shelley's Poems and Frankenstein," Studies in Romanticism 6 [1967]: 245).

11. Cited in Edward Duffy, Rousseau in England: The Context of Shelley's Critique of the Enlightenment (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1979), p. 74.

12. William Hazlitt, "The Round Table" (No. 36), The Examiner (14 April 1816), p. 238.

13. In "Mr. Northcote's Conversations," originally published in 1826 and 1827 and revised in 1830, Hazlitt writes: "Rousseau was the first who held the torch (lighted at the never-dying fire in his own bosom) to the hidden chambers of the mind of man -- like another Prometheus, breathed into his nostrils the breath of a new and intellectual life, enraging the Gods of the earth, and made him feel what is due to himself and his fellows" (The Collected Works of William Hazlitt, ed. A. R. Waller and Arnold Glover [London: J. M. Dent, 1903], p. 424).

14. In addition to Voisine and Duffy, see Irving Babbit, Rousseau and Romanticism (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1977); Henri Roddier, J.-J. Rousseau en Angleterre au XVIIle siècle: L'oeuvre et l'homme (Paris: Boivin & Cie [1949?]; Henri Peyre, Shelley et La France (Paris: Librairie E. Droz, 1935). I have not attempted to cite or summarize the many critical works devoted to particular Romantic poets (especially Percy Shelley) and Rousseau.

15. See Voisine, Rousseau en Angleterre, p. 262; G. D. Kelley, "Godwin, Wollstonecraft, and Rousseau," Women and Literature 3 (1975): 21-26. Entry 633 of the catalogue of Godwin's library includes: "Rousseau, (J.J.) ses Oeuvres. 17 vol. Londres 1782-86/ Remarks on the Writings and Conduct of Rousseau, 1767/ Anecdotes of his Life, 1798 3 vol." The "Catalogue of the Curious Library of that Very Eminent and Distinguished Author, William Godwin, Esq.," used for the auction conducted by Sotheby and Son on 17 June 1836, is reprinted in Sales Catalogues of Libraries of Eminent Persons, ed. A. N. L. Munby (London: Mansell with Sotheby Parke-Bernet Publications, 1973), 8:307. The Remarks are by Fuseli and the Anecdotes appears to be a translation of Corancez. Voisine speculates that although the Oeuvres of Rousseau are said to list London as the place of publication, they are "vraisemblement édités par Cazin, qui a donné entre ces deux dates sous la mensongère indication 'a Londres' dix-neuf volumes de Rousseau" (p. 182). (See also J. H. Warner, "Bibliography of XVIIIth-Century Editions of Rousseau with Notes on the Early Diffusion of His Writings," Philological Quarterly 13 [1934]: 225-47.) Although we do not know exactly when Godwin acquired his works of Rousseau, it seems more than likely that they were part of his library before Mary Shelley was born. Describing the evolution of his ideas in the 1793 preface to his Enquiry Concerning Political Justice, Godwin notes that approximately "twelve years" earlier (he is not precise in his dates) "the works of Rousseau" "fell into his hands" -- in other words, around 1781, or about when his edition of the Oeuvres began to be published (Enquiry Concerning Political Justice and Its Influence on Modern Morals and Happiness [Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1985], p. 69.) It is also possible that some of these books belonged to Wollstonecraft before her death and thus were in the house while Mary Shelley was growing up.

16. Godwin, Enquiry, pp. 69, 496.

17. For a brief discussion of Godwin's relation to Rousseau as seen in the Enquiry, see Isaac Kramnick's Introduction to the Enquiry, esp. pp. 16-24. Lee Sterrenburg argues that Mary Shelley was responding to and drawing upon anti-Jacobin attacks on both her parents and the philosophes associated with the French Revolution ("Mary Shelley's Monster: Politics and Psyche in Frankenstein," in The Endurance of Frankenstein: Essays on Mary Shelley's Novel, ed. George Levine and U. C. Knoepflmacher [Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1979], pp.143-71). See also Ronald Paulson's account of the analogies at play between the Revolution, the creation of the monster, and the birth of Mary Shelley herself in Representations of Revolution (1789-1820) (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1983), pp. 239-47. Burke's polemics in his Reflections on the Revolution in France and elsewhere also are relevant here. Coleridge, an ambivalent reader of Godwin, draws on Godwin and Rousseau together for a critique of property in the sixth of his lectures on politics and religion. See Lectures 1795 {279} On Politics and Religion, in The Collected Works of Samuel Taylor Coleridge ed. Lewis Patton and Peter Mann, 13 vols. (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1971-81), 1:214-29.

18. See Kelley, "Godwin, Wollstonecraft, and Rousseau," p. 24.

19. William Godwin, Fleetwood, or the New Man of Feeling, 3 vols. (1805; reprint New York: Garland Publishing, 1979) 2:155.

20. Ibid., 2:179-80. See B. J. Tysdahl, William Godwin as Novelist (London: Athlone, 1981), p. 81.

21. For information about the importance of Rousseau for Godwin and Wollstonecraft (as well as Percy Shelley, Byron, and to some extent Mary Shelley), see Voisine, Rousseau en Angleterre, pp. 167-85, 261-319; see also pp. 21-26. For more on the relation of Fleetwood to Rousseau (as well as Mackenzie) see Tysdahl, Godwin as Novelist, pp. 100-01.

22. Mary Wollstonecraft, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, ed. Carol H. Poston (New York: Norton, 1975), pp. 90-91. Compare Godwin: "Rousseau, notwithstanding his great genius, was full of weakness and prejudice. His Émile deserves perhaps, upon the whole, to be regarded as one of the principal reservoirs of philosophical truth as yet existing in the world; though with a perpetual mixture of absurdity and mistake" (Enquiry, p. 497).

23. Sandra M. Gilbert and Susan Gubar write: "Endlessly studying her mother's works and her father's, Mary Shelley may be said to have 'read' her family. . . . she studied her parents' writings, alone or together with Shelley, like a scholarly detective seeking clues to the significance of some cryptic text" ("Horror's Twin: Mary Shelley's Monstrous Eve," in The Madwoman in the Attic: The Woman Writer and the Nineteenth-Century Literary Imagination [New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1979], p. 223.) See also Marc A. Rubenstein, "'My Accursed Origin': The Search for the Mother in Frankenstein," Studies in Romanticism 15 (1976): 165-94.

24. Analytical Review 11 (1791): 528. See also Analytical Review 9 (1791): 182-83; and Analytical Review 6 (1790): 385-91. On the attribution of these and other articles to Mary Wollstonecraft, see Voisine, Rousseau en Angleterre, pp. 118-21, 169, and Ralph M. Wardle, Mary Wollstonecraft: A Critical Biography (Lawrence: University of Kansas Press, 1951), pp. 131-32. Wollstonecraft also refers to Rousseau in A Vindication of the Rights of Men in A Letter to the Right Honourable Edmund Burke; Occasioned by his Reflections on the Revolution in France (London, 1790). On 24 March 1787 Wollstonecraft wrote to her sister Everina: "I am now reading Rousseau's Emile, and love his paradoxes. He chuses a common capacity to educate -- and gives as a reason, that a genius will educate itself -- however he wanders into that chimerical world in which I have too often [wand]ered -- and draws the usual conclusions that all is vanity and vexation of spirit. He was a strange inconsistent unhappy clever creature -- yet he possessed an uncommon portion of sensibility and penetration" (Collected Letters of Mary Wollstonecraft, ed. Wardle [Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, I979], p. 145).

{280} 25. [Wollstonecraft,] Mary, A Fiction (1788; reprint New York: Garland Publishing, 1974), title page; p. 1.

26. [Wollstonecraft], Posthumous Works of the Author of a Vindication of the Rights of Woman, 4 vols. (1798; reprint New York: Garland Publishing, 1974), I:42. Mary Poovey suggests another reading of Wollstonecraft's relation to the novel of sensibility in The Proper Lady and the Woman Writer: Ideology as Style in the Works of Mary Wollstonecraft, Mary Shelley, and Jane Austen (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1984), pp. 114-42.

27. [Wollstonecraft], The Wrongs of Woman, in Posthumous Works, I:42-43.

28. Letter of I July 1796, Collected Letters of Mary Wollstonecraft, p. 331. Rubenstein argues that Mary Shelley would have read the unpublished correspondence between Wollstonecraft and Godwin ("'My Accursed Origin," pp. 170-71).

29. Wollstonecraft, Letter 23, Posthumous Works, 3:59. Mary Shelley refers to her mother's letters about Fanny in a letter she wrote to Percy Shelley on 2 October 1817: "come and see your sweet babes and the little Commodore [Allegra or Alba] who is lively and an uncommonly interesting child -- I never see her without thinking of the expressions in my Mother's letters concerning Fanny" (The Letters of Mary W. Shelley, 1:39).

30. William Godwin, Memoirs of the Author of a Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1798; reprint New York: Garland Publishing, 1974), p. 88. See [Henry Fuseli], Remarks on the Writings and Conduct of J. J. Rousseau (London, 1767). See also note 15 above.

31. See Chapter 6, note 5.

32. Percy Shelley writes to Hogg on 18 July; the first appearance of the phrase "write my story" occurs in Mary Shelley's entry for 24 July (Journal, p. 53).