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Frankenstein: Dreams and Nightmares
Transcript of Frankenstein: Dreams and Nightmares
Use of dreams in literature in the period
Romanticism Literature: Often explored phases in between the conscious and unconscious.
Understanding the function of dreams in the text;
Theory of Dream in 1818
End of 1800s, early 1900s saw an increase of interest and scientific research on neuroscience new theories.
John Locke: Concerning Human Understanding (1700)
David Hartley: Observations on Man (1749)
3 causes for dreams:
residue of daily impressions
physical state of dreamer's body
of thoughts and images
Sigmud Freud: Interpretation of Dreams (1900)
saw dreams as "the window to the soul." Dreams told about oneself as they were expressions of impulses and desires buried in the privacy of the subconscious.
General assumptions about dreams in 1818
Dreams only occur in incomplete or warped sleep, when the brain is irritated:
strong emotions, extensive study, approaching sickness or other states which disturb proper sleep
Mary Shelley also uses this to make her dreams more true to life:
When Victor had his first dream, he has been working for an extensive amount of time, "I had deprived myself of rest and health" for "nearly two years." He also becomes ill shortly thereafter.
Psychoanalysis and scientific understanding of dreams in the 19th century
Cultural/Historical uses of dreams in literature in the 19th century
Gothic texts: Dreams do not appear to be relevant to dreamer's previous thoughts however function as an oracle or foretells an impending fate.
This is shown in Frankenstein as right after he creates the monster, he dreams about Elizabeth dying in his arms.
I thought I saw Elizabeth, in the bloom of health, walking in the streets of Ingolstadt. Delighted and surprised, I embraced her, but as I imprinted the first kiss on her lips, they became livid with the hue of death; her features appeared to change, and I thought that I held the corpse of my dead mother in my arms; a shroud enveloped her form, and I saw the grave-worms crawling in the folds of the flannel. I started from my sleep with horror; a cold dew covered my forehead, my teeth chattered, and every limb became convulsed; when, by the dim and yellow light of the moon ... I beheld the wretch—the miserable monster whom I had created. (Chapter 5, p58)
•Thus while the dream episode may suggest the neuro-physiological state of a character (
Window into the Soul
), its primary function is usually to further the plot or to anticipate later events based on Gothic literature patterns where dreams are used a
The dream could psychologically indicate that he is worried about Elizabeth, but it is most likely used to foreshadow Elizabeth's death. The timing of the dream seems irrelevant, but is on purpose as it follows the creation of the monster which is the cause to the dream being fulfilled
This dream shows Victor's association of Caroline Frankenstein from the "bloom of health" (Elizabeth) to the "hue of death" seeing a similar transformation with the monster.
"These thoughts calmed me, and in the afternoon I sank into a profound sleep; but the fever of my blood did not allow me to be visited by peaceful dreams. The horrible scene of the preceding day was for ever acting before my eyes; the females were flying, and the enraged Felix tearing me from his father's feet. I awoke exhausted." (Chapter 16, p 122).
Window to the Soul:
Dream projects timeless inner sentiment of the monster, that are not as evident on the exterior.
The monster's desire for a female companion and sting of rejection is manifested when in his dream "the females were flying."
The monster's desire for a father is manifested as in his dream the "enraged Felix tore me from the knees of his father."
Despite the monster feeling calmed at the point before sleeping, the "horrible scene from the
acting before [his] eyes."
His dream is timeless, like his inner struggle.
"Oppressed by the recollection of my various misfortunes, I now swallowed double my usual quantity [of laudanum] and soon slept profoundly. But sleep did not afford me respite from thought and misery; my dreams presented a thousand objects that scared me. Towards morning I was possessed by a kind of nightmare; I felt the fiend's grasp in my neck and could not free myself from it; groans and cries rang in my ears. My father, who was watching over me, perceiving my restlessness, awoke me; the dashing waves were around, the cloudy sky above, the fiend was not here: a sense of security, (Chapter 21, p168),
Window to the Soul:
Victor dying the same way William and Henry dies, reveals Victor's feeling of guilt and feeling of impending compensation for his irresponsibility in creating the monster.
This dream foretells Victor's eventual death, indirectly caused by the monster.
This dream makes the leader anticipate Victor to die by strangulation from the monster, then have him die differently, allowing there to be an element of surprise in his death.
Victor associates himself to William and Henry, himself being very emotionally attached to them.
References of 'Dreams' in the book;
Dreams are associated with distant ideals and ambitions that turn into horror and disappointment.
"After I had finished, the
of the dream vanished, and breathless horror and disgust filled my heart." (Chapter 5)
"I love you and that in my airy
of futurity you have always been my companion" (Chapter 22)
of love and joy; but the apple was already eaten" (Chapter 22)
"what now appeared certain and tangible happiness might soon dissipate into an airy
and leave no place but deep and everlasting regret." (Chapter 22)
"now I indulge in
of bliss that cannot be realized" (Chapter 17)
Dreams and the Monster
Dreams represent the monster in many ways;
Dreams are ethereal and unearthly, like the monster
Nightmares occur when you are most vulnerable; when you are asleep.
The monster attacks where Victor is most vulnerable; his family, and Elizabeth.
Dreams reveal your inner evils, similar to the monster revealing the evil/neglectful character of Frankenstein.
In a way, the monster is Victor's inner evil; his son, doppelganger.
Dreams are distant, unattainable, cant be achieved, grasped or seized;
a monster in the way Frankenstein intended, was unattainable.
Significance of Frankenstein as a dream
"I saw the pale student of unhallowed arts kneeling beside the thing that he had put together." -Mary Shelley
By Mary Shelley conceiving the plot line of Frankenstein in a dream, it indicates that her life seemed as if there was a curse upon her, materialized by the monster, that destroyed everything and everyone she loved, and allowed her for no happiness and no mercy; which was evident when we look at her life.
“[O]ne by one, my friends were snatched away, and I remained desolate” p181
The idea of Frankenstein is a dream because it he is not completely tangible, one moment he is there, one moment he isn’t, and at times Victor feels he might’ve just imagined him because of his fever, and this ‘curse’ placed upon Mary Shelley is abstract. Often people think a curse is only a figment of imagination.
Since the monster was Victor Frankenstein's causing, Mary Shelley may’ve also believed her misfortunes to be of her causing eg. Her mother’s passing, her husband’s wife’s suicide.
The monster is unstoppable like her curse.
Her mother died days after giving birth to her .
Mary ran off to France with Percy in 1814. She gave birth to his child in 1815 but the baby died just 12 days later.
Harriet drowned herself in 1816, allowing Percy to marry Mary soon after. The general public was outraged.
Mary's second son, William, died at 3 years old in 1821.
Percy drowned in 1822.
Mary and Percy's great friend, Lord Byron, died in 1824.
Jonathan Glance, Jonathan. ""Beyond the Usual Bounds of Reverie"? Another Look at the Dreams in Frankenstein." "Beyond the Usual Bounds of Reverie"? Another Look at the Dreams in Frankenstein. The Journal of the Fantastic in the Arts 7.4 (1996): , n.d. Web. 19 Nov. 2013. <http://faculty.mercer.edu/glance_jc/files/academic_work/dreams_in_frankenstein.htm>.
"Life of Mary Shelley." BBC News. BBC, n.d. Web. 19 Nov. 2013. <http://www.bbc.co.uk/schools/gcsebitesize/english_literature/prosefrankenstein/0prose_frankenstein_contrev1.shtml>.
Ozolins, Aija. "Science Fiction Studies." Aija Ozolins- Dreams and Doctrines: Dual Strands in Frankenstein. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Nov. 2013. <http://www.depauw.edu/sfs/backissues/6/ozolins6art.htm>.