minor character analysis

frankenstein's dead mother 

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letter the fourth

chapter the fourth

images of the creature

an explication

contemporary authorship: m. a. lamb

shelley's letters

modern adaptations: walt and warhol

existentialism: jean paul sartre

a review of a review

works cited


        the void that victor's mother creates in her son's psychological development ultimately leads him to create, despite being ill-equipped to create responsibly. interestingly, the influence that victor's mother has on his life is highlighted by her total absence, save her single appearance as a decaying corpse in the dream sequence in chapter four. the fact that victor's latest experience with his mother is a traumatic one that featured death and fright, the reader is left with the notion that she is a figure that must carry a negative sentiment in victor's subconscious. in fact, if his mother had never appeared at all, the reader would have been free to question whether or not her absence was incidental or was actually significant. thus, it is perhaps more jarring that she appears as a shocking figure and then never again: her only identity is as a uninvited, interrupting, dead thing.
        additionally, because her appearance in the novel is as a character that no longer exists physically, her presence is sorely missed and attention is drawn to questions about her life and her relationship with victor. by demonstrating to the reader that his mother's absence is still an intensely emotional reality to victor, shelley establishes that victor's life is wrought with a tremendous imbalance: he lacks select traditionally maternal qualities, such as empathy, selflessness, foresight. it is unclear that he was ever the benefactor of these valuable traits, and perhaps was unable to develop them as a result. in the remainder of the chapter, and the novel in total, this imbalance corrupts his ability to responsibly conduct major decisions.
        it is interesting to note that, aside from frankenstein’s mother appearing in his dream, she appears in place of his lover, cradled in his arms before a kiss. in this instance, his mother becomes sexualized, which is especially interesting because the novel features virtually no sexuality or intimacy whatsoever. victor’s mother is not a natural object of intimacy, because she is his mother, and she is also not an object for any relationship of any kind, because she is dead. this dream is now fodder for a somewhat different conception of what the mother represents to victor: she, and all of the maternal characteristics that are connected to her influence, are a sort of forbidden and unreachable pursuit. this parallel is particularly interesting if the creation of the creature is examined. it is arguable that the creature was intended to fill some void in frankenstein’s life, and if it is the case that frankenstein is designed to be outfitted with those maternal traits, any attempt to do so would be erroneous or dangerous.
        victor frankenstein's drive to assemble a creature satisfies more than just the next revolution in technology. the degree to which the creature reflects victor's outstanding strengths and glaring deficiencies is substantial, but the most significant of victor's showcased traits are psychological ones. more specifically, victor's thirst for science implies a love for the earth, for rules and systematic thought, and for creative manipulation of these in order to invent: it is the use of knowledge to exercise power. this combination of raw intelligence, drive to achieve and gain fame, and means to follow through with his dangerous plans makes victor a possible threat to his community, unless he is controlled. however, given victor's mother's absence, the temperance she would have taught cannot act as interlocutor between the recklessly intelligent scientist and the fate that he seems destined to satisfy. 


note: an alternate interpretation of frankenstein's mother's role in the novel can be found here. it is skillfully written by colleague zac wagner.