Jung and the Shadow Archetype

Within every person there is typically a sense of self and accompanying structure of morality that follows it. These statements which form our morality such as “killing is wrong” inevitably have an antithesis such as “killing is good”. Carl Jung takes a similar perspective to the human psyche in his theory of the shadow archetype. The basic theory behind the shadow archetype is that everyone’s perceptions of themselves that forms their identity inevitably gives rise to qualities their opposites within themselves which they must suppress. For example somebody who prides themselves on being stoic and professional must actively suppress their more emotional wild side in service of their identity

Basically this. credits-to-bakoahmed-and-watermelonhero_fb_4373367
Basically this is the Jungian struggle. Credits-to-bakoahmed-and-watermelonhero_fb_4373367

Within literature this manifests itself in the narrative technique of foils. Foils are a pair of characters made with the intent of contrasting each other. This is completely present within Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein. Specifically the focal characters of Victor Frankenstein and his monster. Victor a man who is disgusted with the act of creation and the reckless pursuit of knowledge. His monster in contrast covets the power of creation in order to make for himself a bride. In pursuit of this end and to further give himself a sense of identity he seeks further his own knowledge in contrast of Victor’s later decision to obfuscate the method he used to create Frankenstein

Related to Jung and shadows is the concept of Hegelian Dialectics, conceived by George Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel. Much like Jung it involves conflict between concepts and their antithesis but the ensuing conflict isn’t internal within one person. Instead someone or something that represents the antithesis such as Victor being challenged by his monster comes along and tries to subjugate it’s antithesis. How it differs from Frankenstein is that after the conflict is a synthesis born from the best parts of both which doesn’t occur at the end of Frankenstein seeing as how nearly everyone’s dead at the end

Jungian shadows in their natural habitat
Jungian shadows in their natural habitat

Projection is also a big part of the Jungian shadow.  The shadow pertains everything that we repress unconsciously. One of the ways people cope with this is through projection. The way Victor reviles his creation so could definitely be his way of reviling all the traits he can’t accept in himself. For example he created the monster’s appearance with his own his own hands and his own judgment. If it’s hideous as he describes it then it’s his fault and he’s disgusted with his own inadequate abilities of creation. A big part of why he is mad at the monster is because he’s disgusted at the limits of his own creative abilities.

It’s only at the end when Victor is retelling the story to his savior that he begins to acknowledge his shadow and begins to find peace. Throughout his retelling within narration you can see that Victor regrets his choices and begins to acknowledge parts of himself that he’s hidden. Only then does he find peace through his death when his greatest goal was to cheat death. In addition it’s only through his creator’s death that Frankenstein’s monster finds peace and accepts his own transient existence.

Things can get a little weird with self identity
Things can get a little weird with self identity

One of the most common shadow’s most fears that nearly everybody’s shadow contains is the fear of death so as stated before it makes a lot of sense that fear would be the antithesis of both Frankenstein and his monster. They both try to cheat death and they only find peace when they accept death. Also a big part of their motivation is to preserve themselves in one way or another.

Jung was heavily influenced by Sigmund Freud and his influence on the theory of the shadow can easily be felt within his theory of the Thanatos Drive also known as the Death Drive. Aside from the obvious presence of death in aforementioned elements in this article, the Death Drive is also defined as human’s desire to engage in behavior that’s risky, blatantly harmful, wrong or all of the above at once. This is demonstrated in Victor’s attempt to cheat death in the beginning of the book.

On the other end of Freud’s spectrum is the Eros Drive. It composes our drive to procreate and to give life. This is clearly shown within the characters of Frankenstein’s fixation. Aside from the obvious drive to be with someone and not die lonely they serve to contrast the huge theme of death within Frankenstein. In addition to this phenomenon serves the opposite function of a shadow. They are so desperate to master life and to find a lover of their own to reaffirm their conscious identity and find greater congruity with the world at large

Related to Freud’s theory of the Eros is Jung’s theory of the Anima. To put it in anothers word the Anima is “the woman within the man”. For the record, no I’m not talking about a certain “sweet transvestite” from a certain famous horror picture show. Actually no come to think of it, it’s a really apt comparison. The Rocky Horror Picture Show is a reinterpration of Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein in which Victor (named Frank n Furter in this reimagining) is a transexual working out his gender through creating a mate. Much like Rocky Horror Picture Show implies with it’s take on Victor Frankenstein with Frank n Furter, the drive to create and to find a lover within both Victor and his monster may be proof of some latent repression of femininity manifesting itself in other ways. Victor’s shadow very may well contain the traits of a “sweet transvestite from transsexual, Transylvania,“.

Tied with Jung’s theory of the Anima is the Animus. They look similar but take note of the “us” in Animus they’re two different words. Animus is the archetype of reason and spirit within women. As other scholar’s have noted it tends to be prone to criticism. Now does this sound like somebody we know within Frankenstein? Someone with a fixation on science and mastering the art of animating the dead? Someone who relentlessly and doggedly pursues the destruction of his creation? If you guessed Victor Frankenstein of Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein  congratulations you win! ! I can’t give you a new car or anything but here take this picture of a dog dressed as Frankenstein

Has science gone too far? Have veterinarians played god?

I don’t think it’s a stretch of the mind to equate the Anima, Animus and the word animate have the same origins. Y’know due to having “anim” in all three. And as established before by pursuing science and animation Victor was working out unconscious forces within himself. Now the crux of Jung’s shadow and Hegelian Dialectics is that said person (Victor in this case) they are assailed by a inner conflict or by outside forces that just so happen to represent everything they do not stand for. Apparently those conventional ways of working out one’s opposites were too quaint seeing as how Victor had to actually animate a living being to function as a shadow for himself as a trial to overcome. You can call Victor a lot of things but I suppose you can’t say he was a underachiever. Few men are so dedicated to fighting their inner demons that they animate corpses to do so. Even fewer end up killed by said demons but hey, Victor was a trailblazer.

Anyway to close this page out Frankenstein is a fascinating study in Jung’s shadow, Anima, Animus, Hegelian Dialectics and all sorts of other strange fascinating psychological and philisophical theories. And hey even if you’re not the most interested in such things, at least the concept of the shadow, the unconscious and opposites gave way to a catchy musical.