The Genesis of a Monster – Marta Garay


The Genesis of a Monster


Marta Haydée Garay.



     "By monster I mean some horrendous presence or apparition that explodes all of your standards for harmony, order, and ethical conduct." 

 Joseph Campbell





        Through Literature, readers have had many opportunities to get to know different kinds of monsters. Some of them are imaginary creatures, very large, ugly and frightening but some others are people who are extremely cruel and evil. People read about monsters ranging from the horrific—such as Frankenstein’s monster, werewolves, and vampires—to the mythological— such as Gorgons, Chimaeras or Cyclops but they also read about human characters who are sometimes thought of as monsters because of their behaviour, for example, Claudius from Hamlet or Richard III.  Have all these characters been evil creatures since they were born? Or could it be that because of an external factor they turned themselves into monsters?

Two of the characters mentioned above have been chosen to be studied: the creature from Frankenstein and Richard III.

The aim of this research is to show how external features turned these men into what is defined as monsters.







Monsters exist in many forms. Human characters are sometimes thought as monsters because of their behaviour. According to what Sigmund Freud states in his theory of narcissism, the psychopathological destiny of a subject is a consequence of his first experience of being idealized. The parent sometimes fails to gratify the child’s narcissism or grandiose self, or fails in mirroring. The tension that such failure arouses is what ultimately leads to the development of the self pathways to pathology.


The legend of Narcissus will be taken into account for this analysis. This legend makes references to the Greek boy who fell in love with his own reflection in a pond. Presumably, this amply sums up the nature of his namesakes: narcissists. The mythological Narcissus rejected the advances of the nymph Echo and was punished by Nemesis, consigned to pine away as he fell in love with his own reflection – exactly as Echo had pined away for him. How apt. Echoes and reflections of their problematic personalities up to this very day punish narcissists.




The onset of narcissism is in infancy, childhood and early adolescence. It is commonly attributed to childhood abuse and trauma inflicted by parents, authority figures, or even peers.

In the case of Richard III, his mother herself tells him about her feelings in his early days:


Duchess:  I will be mild and gentle in my words.

King Richard:  And brief, good Mother, for I am in haste.

Duchess:  Art thou so hasty? I have stayed for thee.

                  God knows, in torment and in agony.

King Richard:  And came I not at last to comfort you?

Duchess:  No, by the Holy Rood, thou know’st it well,

                  Thou cam’st on earth to make the earth my hell,

                   A grievous burden was thy birth to me;

                   Tetchy and wayward was thy infancy;

                   Thy schooldays frightful, desperate, wild, and furious;

                   Thy prime of manhood daring, bold, and venturous;

                    Thy age confirmed, proud, subtle, sly, and bloody,

                    More mild, but yet more harmful –kind in hatred.


Throughout this dialogue it is clear that, even though Richard is now a cruel, evil man, he has being considered, as his mother herself expresses, a burden for her since he was a small child.

This example leads us to consider what Freud says about the neverending human struggle between the life wish and the death wish. The life wish is what makes us try to bear the difficulties and keep the desire of no desire, that is to say, a need of avoiding desire.

Narcissism is related to these theories so it can be said that there’s a narcissism of life and a narcissism of death. The narcissism of life gets higher with the stimuli of the person one loves and with the fulfilment of the ideal self. It looks after the need of rewarding, of promoting self esteem, of falling in love and this builds a constant in the psyche because it does not happen at a certain stage and then it is over for ever but this seek of narcissist pleasure gives meaning to human life. We love what makes us feel loved. The narcissism of death is marked by a lack of affection and produces a deep disruption that can lead a person to feel depressed or to consider the world as if it were something unimportant.

The creature from Frankenstein also underwent a painful experience at the beginning of his life. Like a newborn experiencing the jolt of being, he painfully adjusted to harsh light and sound, quickly learning the lesson that perception and consciousness hurt. Shying away from the glare of sunlight, the Monster was cradled by the moon’s subtle radiance. The gentler orb provided a patron, a companion, and a source of spiritual awe. Loneliness insisted that he personify the moon as a special sponsor, but the moon’s accompaniment was too subtle for the nurturing of the Creature. His craving for relationship was heartfelt and intense. He wanted to have and to be a friend, community was unimaginable. His hideous disfigurement obliged the Monster to live as a clandestine observer of humanity. Later, he discerned that their experiences of injustice were sources of extreme torment. It dawned upon him that injustice and betrayal played a significant role in his own wretched condition. In this excerpt, the reaction of Victor when the creature woke up is clearly illustrated.

The creature: “All men hate the wretched; how, then, must I be hated, who am miserable beyond all living things! Yet you, my creator, detest and spurn me, thy creature, to whom thou art bound by ties only dissoluble by the annihilation of one of us. You purpose to kill me. Do your duty towards me, and I will do mine towards you and the rest of mankind.”

Victor: “Abhorred monster! Fiend that thou art! The tortures of hell are too wild a vengeance for thy crimes. Wretched devil! You reproach me with your creation; come on, then, that I may extinguish the spark which I so negligently bestowed.”

The creature: “(…) Have I not suffered enough, that you seek to increase my misery? (…) Oh, Frankenstein, be not equitable to every other, and trample upon me alone, to whom they justice, and even thy clemency and affection, is most due. (…) Everywhere I see bliss, from which I alone am irrevocably excluded.

Victor: “Begone! I will not hear you. There can be no community between you and me; we are enemies.” “(Shelley, M. 108)


Learning language incited great thoughts in him but did not satisfy his longing for companionship. His insights and physical existence were kept to himself.

In order to emphasize their stigma of being rejected by people, there are some allusions to religion:


“And do you dream?” said the demon; “do you think that I was then dead to agony and remorse? (…) I cannot believe that I am the same creature whose thoughts were once filled with sublime and transcendent visions of the beauty and the majesty of goodness. But it is even so; the fallen angel becomes a malignant devil. Yet even that enemy of God and man had friends and associates in his desolation: I am alone.”  (Shelley,M. 238)



ANNE: Foul devil, for God’s sake hen and trouble us not,

            For thou hast made the happy earth they hell,

            Filled it with cursing cries and deep esclaims.

            If thou delight to view thy heinous deeds,

            Behold this pattern of they butcheries.  (Act I, Scene 2)


The arch-villain is the representative of evil on earth. Richard’s hellish origins stress his devilish nature and contrast with saintly Richmond, who ends Richard’s ends Richard’s evil reign.


There is a whole range of narcissistic reactions – from the mild, reactive and transient to the permanent personality disorder.

An all-pervasive pattern of grandiosity (in fantasy or behaviour), need for admiration or adulation and lack of empathy, usually beginning by early adulthood and present in various contexts. Five (or more) of the following criteria must be met:


·         Feels grandiose and self-important (e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents to the point of lying, demands to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements)

·         Is obsessed with fantasies of unlimited success, fame, fearsome power or omnipotence, unequalled brilliance (the cerebral narcissist), bodily beauty or sexual performance (the somatic narcissist), or ideal, everlasting, all-conquering love or passion

·         Firmly convinced that he or she is unique and, being special, can only be understood by, should only be treated by, or associate with, other special or unique, or high-status people (or institutions)

·         Requires excessive admiration, adulation, attention and affirmation – or, failing that, wishes to be feared and to be notorious (narcissistic supply)

·         Feels entitled. Expects unreasonable or special and favourable priority treatment. Demands automatic and full compliance with his or her expectations

·         Is "interpersonally exploitative", i.e., uses others to achieve his or her own ends

·         Devoid of empathy. Is unable or unwilling to identify with or acknowledge the feelings and needs of others

·         Constantly envious of others or believes that they feel the same about him or her

·         Arrogant, haughty behaviours or attitudes coupled with rage when frustrated, contradicted, or confronted.


When analysing these two characters from a psychological reading, it can be said that psychological interpretation of the creature and Richard III has tended to centre on ideas of the unconscious or subconscious: the unleashing of terrifyingly uncontrolled dark forces somehow created by the human mind but at the same time chillingly apart from it. These views have also tended to follow what was stated by Freud when referring to sexuality, and its potentially catastrophic repression, or perversion as the major driving force of both characters. This fertile ground for a psychoanalytical exploration of Richard III and Frankenstein’s creature, hinting as it does at the dark association of sex with death, will be explore in another paper. Meanwhile, in this paper it is possible to read about both characters as a study of individual, familial and more fully social psychology.




Considering what has been analysed, it would be correct to say that the absence of those elements needed during the first years of these characters’ lives have caused a serious pathology in their personalities what led them to commit several types of crimes. Such elements, as being loved by ones’ parents, are needed to build the self. The narcissist is portrayed as a monster, a ruthless and exploitative person. Yet, inside, the narcissist suffers from a chronic lack of confidence and is fundamentally dissatisfied. This applies to all narcissists. On the outside, the narcissist may appear to be labile and unstable. But, this does not capture the barren landscape of misery and fears that is his soul. His brazen and reckless behaviour covers up for a depressive, anxious interior. The frustrated and abused child learns that the only "object" he can trust and that is always and reliably available, the only person he can love without being abandoned or hurt – is himself. So, the family is the first and the most important source of identity and emotional support. It is a greenhouse, where the child feels loved, cared for, accepted, and secure – the prerequisites for the development of personal resources. On the material level, the family should provide the basic necessities (and, preferably, beyond), physical care and protection, and refuge and shelter during crises.

The role of the mother (the Primary Object) has been often discussed. The father’s part is mostly neglected, even in professional literature. However, recent research demonstrates his importance to the orderly and healthy development of the child.

The father participates in the day-to-day care, is an intellectual catalyst, who encourages the child to develop his interests and to satisfy his curiosity through the manipulation of various instruments and games. He is a source of authority and discipline, a boundary setter, enforcing and encouraging positive behaviours and eliminating negative ones.

The father also provides emotional support and economic security, thus stabilising the family unit. Finally, he is the prime source of masculine orientation and identification to the male child – and gives warmth and love as a male to his daughter, without exceeding the socially permissible limits.

We can safely say that the narcissist’s family is as severely disordered as he is. Pathological narcissism is largely a reflection of this dysfunction. Such an environment breeds self-deception.

These men were deprived from the pleasure of having been loved and supported, their self esteem was seriously hurt in a period of their lives which was crucial for a human being. The need of keeping themselves in contact with those people around them makes them find themselves exposed to a painful experience, to face the fact that it is impossible for them to control other people’s feelings and this implies that they are exposed to live not being loved by the others, by those who they do love. In order to bear such crude reality a serious and complex pathological behaviour has been developed unconsciously, turning normal, originally good-hearted people into monsters.




American Psychiatric Association. (2000). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders, fourth edition, Text Revision (DSM IV-TR). Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association.


Baldwin, P. (2002). King Richard III. C.U.P.


Freud, S. (1977). Obras Completas de Freud. Espasa Calpe. Barcelona


Sam Vaknin. (2003). Malignant Self Love – Narcissism Revisited, fourth, revised, printing. Prague and Skopje: Narcissus Publication.


Shakespeare, W. (1999) Ricardo III. Losada


 Shakespeare, W.  (1984). Richard III. Bantam


Shelley, M. (1996). Frankenstein. C.U.P.







1 comentario (+¿añadir los tuyos?)

  1. Max
    Nov 26, 2005 @ 11:59:35

    Quite interesting. I think I can spot one or two real monsters now…



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