The monsters we create are ourselves

A gem from Joyce Carol Oates’ essay, “Frankenstein’s Fallen Angel”:

Another aspect of Frankenstein‘s uniqueness lies in the curious bond between Frankenstein and his created demon. Where, by tradition, such beings as doubles, shadow-selves, “imps of the perverse,” and classic Doppelgängers (like poor Golyadkin’s nemesis in Dostoevsky’s Double [1846]) spring full grown from supernatural origins — that is, from unacknowledged recesses of the human spirit – Frankenstein’s demon is natural in origin: a manufactured nemesis. He is an abstract idea made flesh, a Platonic essence given a horrific (and certainly ludicrous) existence. Yet though he is meant to be Frankenstein’s ideal, a man-made miracle that would “pour a torrent of light into our dark world,” he is only a fragment of that ideal – which is to say, a mockery, a parody, a joke. The monsters we create by way of an advanced technological civilization “are” ourselves as we cannot hope to see ourselves – incomplete, blind, blighted, and, most of all, self-destructive. For it is the forbidden wish for death that dominates. (In intention it is customarily the deaths of others, “enemies”; in fact it may be our own deaths we plan.) Hence the tradition of recognizing Faustian pacts with the devil as acts of aggression against the human self — the very “I” of the rational being.


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