Posted on Saturday, 27 October 2012
“Remember, that I am thy creature,” the being states adeptly to his maker. “I ought to be thy Adam; but I am rather the fallen angel. … I was benevolent and good; misery made me a fiend.” It is a complicated accusation, full of ambiguities. The analogy to Paradise Lost goes two ways. With Victor Frankenstein playing God, his monster could be either Adam or Satan.
Creature and creator, Adam and his maker, Satan up against God: monster and Frankenstein. In the relationship at the center of her novel, Mary Godwin captured an elusive and powerful psychology, self and shadow, described by psychologist Carl Jung more than a century later. According to Jung, the human mind projects universal yet often unrecognized psychic contents, or archetypes, as embodiments and personifications, out of which mythic characters and stories form. One of those archetypes is the shadow. “Everyone carries a shadow,” he said in a lecture on psychology and religion, “and the less it is embodied in the individual’s conscious life, the blacker and denser it is .”The shadow is the converse of man’s ideal picture of himself—it is an image of the actual, the primitive, the uncivilized, the less than perfected part of a personality, “consisting not just of little weaknesses and foibles, but of a positively demonic dynamism.” It is a remarkable force within the personality, and it must be embraced, not denied or suppressed; otherwise, says Jung, “there emerges a raging monster.” In harmony with E. O. Wilson’s interpretation of Prometheus, Jung identifies the shadow as the primeval part of the psyche, “the invisible saurian tail that man still drags behind him.”The shadow is most likely to emerge in the absence of a ruling god, when a society or an individual turns from conventional religion. The shadow is overwhelming in its power, all the more so when unacknowledged. It is, paradoxically, intimately interior and yet totally other—another way in which the archetype of the shadow, defined by Jung long after the publication of Shelley’s novel, still helps explain the power of the mysterious monster character Mary Godwin created.