An Excess of the Deficient: Attempts to Normalize the Body of Frankenstein’s “hideous progeny”


  • Alice Dickinson Memorial University of Newfoundland


Mary Shelley, Frankenstein, ugly body, normal body, abnormal, abhuman, othering, Frankenstein's monster, ugliness, Romantic grotesque


This article takes into account previous scholarship regarding the body of Frankenstein's creation and explores possible ways of approaching the ugly body. Using Denise Gigante's categories of excess and deficiency and the distinctions between abnormality and anomaly in Georges Canguilhem's On the Normal and the Pathological as grounding points, this essay locates the ugly body in pre-existing categories and explores how normalized bodies attempt to “other” the ugly body through destruction, containment, or exhibition. This othering process occurs both to reinforce the normal body's identity and its right to other—a right that Victor protects in Shelley's novel. While considering the distinctions enacted between “ugly” and “normal” bodies in Shelley's text, this article emphasizes the deliberate narrowing of constructed parallels between human beings and abhuman creations, and suggests that narrowing or blurring the binary categories of human/abhuman creates uneasiness in both Victor and in Shelley’s readers. Shelley's deliberate attempts to make Frankenstein's monster more human and Victor less human unsettle the reader and force him or her to re-examine the subconsciously delineated categories of human and non-human.

Author Biography

Alice Dickinson, Memorial University of Newfoundland

Alice Dickinson completed her undergraduate degree at Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops, B.C., and is currently working on her MA at Memorial University of Newfoundland. Her areas of interest include the works of John Donne and depictions of the body in literature.