Hello and welcome to In Too Deep, where I over-analyse a certain section of pop culture.
Well since I got this essay back (it got a B-, mostly cos I wasn’t clear enough on a few things, so c’est la vie and all that) I thought I might as well post it on here to see if people are interested in the Uncanny. Without further ado, enjoy.
Frankenstein’s creation is the quintessential example of the Uncanny. The creature’s body fits two of the thirteen forms mentioned in the An Introduction to Literature, Criticism and Theory by Andrew Bennett & Nicholas Royle. The first is Anthropomorphism, where lifeless and/or inanimate objects that look humans (dolls, for example) are given life or spirit. Frankensteinâ€™s creation embodies this because it is giving something human characteristics (hair, teeth, eyes) when it should not have them. It is applying human characteristics to something that should be dead (since it was created from corpses). It is this duplicity idea, where it appears to be doubling as a human. It has some characteristics of a human, at least in physical form, to make us feel uncomfortable because it so closely relates to us. The other form is that of Automatism, where something human appears mechanical (people that have been brainwashed) or vice versa (robots that appear human). The best physical example of this is the creature’s ‘watery eyes’. If we take the old proverb ‘the eyes are the window to the soul’ to be true, then it is clear that this monster has no soul. He is in fact a product of the ‘Uncanny Valley’ – a term used when a human-like figure has just enough wrong with it to appear inhuman. Humans tend to give off non-verbal cues, for example the way we look at people. Our eyes reveal a lot about our thoughts. By having ‘watery eyes’ the creature is not acting like a normal human, which is uncanny. We find it uncomfortable to be near life-like wax models because they seem human when they are not, so the moving version of that is even more uncanny. It is this deception that we find uncanny because it is deceptively human; moving like it is alive when it is in fact soulless. So from the outside, Frankenstein’s creation seems uncanny.
But it is the creature’s internal mental process that once again shows the duplicity with the familiar. Contrary to popular belief, the creature is actually quite intelligent, having read Paradise Lost and formed its own opinions on it. Likewise it also encounters existential questions about its own purpose and existence; and why its creator would abandon it. We find it uncomfortable when non-living things are given a life of their own (Anthropomorphism). We find it even more unsettling when this newly bestowed life allows the thing to have thoughts of its own (Automatism). However the most unsettling part is when the thing is as intelligent as a human. The creature manages to convince a blind man that he is, for the want of a better word, a normal person. We find that uncanny because this duplicity puts it on level with us. This hideous monster is as smart, if not smarter, than the people he talks to. We find that unsettling because we feel ourselves compared to this physically inferior double. Furthermore, when the creature becomes bitter after being mistaken for murdering a child it strikes fear in us, because since the monster thinks so similarly to us, it raises the possibility of whether we too could become murderers. So not only is the creature’s mind like ours, we also question whether our minds could end up in the same dark places. A third thing, in relation to the list in the course-book, is that the creature has a ‘death drive’. It kills itself at the end of the novel for what it has done to its creator, but it has likewise had a desire to die at other points of the novel. Once again this puts it on level with a human, since animals do not want to kill themselves. This, along with the other listed things, makes the creation a twisted version of the human psyche. Thus the ultimate reason why we find the creation uncanny because it is so much like us, but also a distorted funhouse mirror version of humanity.
So there you have it. My reasons about why Frankenstein’s creature is uncanny. If you disagree with anything, or have anything to add, feel free to leave a comment. Till next time.