One of the most interesting British works that I would like you to include the next time you will be teaching this course is the work of Peggy Webling in his play Peggy Webling relating to the horror film Frankenstein. This is because this story connects between Sigmund Freud’s theories about the id, ego, and superego something that will be very interesting to learn through connecting with the story.
Thesis Statement: “One thing only do I know for certain and that is that man’s judgments of value follow directly his wishes for happiness-that, accordingly, they are an attempt to support his illusions with arguments” (Freud pg 111).
Sigmund Freud is regarded as the father of psychoanalysis. As a psychologist, Freud did a lot of research considering the behavior of humans in relation to certain environmental conditions. In Whale’s Frankenstein, it is clear that the love desire and egocentric motives on the part of Henry Frankenstein eventually lead to murder and humiliation. The painful and mortal part of human beings expresses itself in the film by the behavior of Frankenstein (Webling). Through the deaths of Fritz and Dr. Waldman who are key actors in the film, the cruel nature of the natural world reveals itself. This can be interpreted in light of Freud’s psychoanalytic theory. The third section of Sigmund’s book addresses the aspect of civilization that has been both advantageous and disadvantageous for humankind. The rapid advancement in science and technology leads to the death of scientists Fritz and Dr. Waldman. Despite the fact that the development of science intends to protect us through civilization, it has only led to destruction and limited the relationship of human beings in society (Viera). According to Freud, we are born with the id. The id does not care about anything else but only cares about satisfying its own will. In relation to Frankenstein, this is a practical truth. Frankenstein and his assistant Fritz develop a creature out of their own desires but they fail to remind themselves about the consequences of this creature in the society and the rest of the population. Another example is during the throwing of the girl into the lake with the horrible creature. The creature has no feeling and forgets that the girl could drown. Civilization and Its Discontents shares the view that we must find positive and constructive ways to direct our desires and behaviors rather than either repressing desires that will protect one another from the natural nature of the id. In addition to this, Freud asserts that life brings a lot of pain and difficulty and many people tend to deflect the pain and difficulty to other objects that perhaps lead to misery and disappointment (Freud). This is real in comparison to Frankenstein’s behavior in the film.
James Whale’s film is a good picture that illustrates the stages of development from the id, ego, and superego. According to Freud, the role of the ego is to control the selfish desires of the id. In the film, Frankenstein later comes to realize that their ghostly creature is horrible and can cause harm to society (Vieira). Therefore, he decides to lock the creature in the dungeon to tame it. Frankenstein comes into reality just as the ego bases its feeling about reality. The ego ensures that we take care of one another in society and protect our own desires. Frankenstein later launches a manhunt for the creature. However, this is the most difficult part for humans in society. They need freedom according to Freud, but humans are afraid of freedom since it comes with responsibility, which humans greatly fear.
From the film, Frankenstein isolates himself from normal life for various reasons. Analytically, one may argue that Frankenstein wanted to fulfill his own selfish ambition, which is true. We can also argue on the other hand that Frankenstein must be running from responsibilities, therefore, lacking freedom. For this reason, he locks himself all day in the lab. This argument conquers with Freud’s works in his book civilization and its discontents that human’s beings fear responsibilities and that responsibility is the key to freedom (Heffner).
Frankenstein and Fritz fall into this trap of the desire to have power and success while underestimating the real value of life. For their desire to remain powerful, they develop a ghostly creature not knowing its real value of life. Perhaps the two thought they will be regarded as powerful scientists only for their work to end up disastrously.
The works of Frankenstein remain powerful to date as they reiterate the need for positive thinkers and not to dwell on our personal motives. This book will be important in this course as it will combine philosophy and literature as well.
Freud, Sigmund. Civilization and its Discontents. Washington: W. W. Norton & Company, 1929.
Webling, Peggy. Peggy: Frankenstein. London: Hutchinson & Co, 1924.