International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies

Trauma and World Literature: Nature as a Healing Force After Trauma in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein

10/01/2017
by John Scott Janssen, LCSW
Trauma and World Literature welcomes and encourages submissions from ISTSS members who wish to share insights on the intersection between the clinical and scientific study of psychological trauma and the world of letters. In this issue, we feature a contribution from John Scott Janssen, LCSW.

Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein is layered with subtle explorations of psychological trauma, moral anguish and complex grief. At various times Victor Frankenstein experiences symptoms of what we would now call PTSD–acute anxiety, insomnia, withdrawal, rage, depression, hypervigilance, intrusive memories, loss of an ability to experience positive emotions, catastrophic foreboding about the future and hyper-reactivity to triggers (for example, struggling to overcome anxiety and despair following his creation of a monster, he finds that “the sight of a chemical instrument would renew all the agony of my nervous symptoms”). (p. 69) Isolated, harboring a secret he cannot share, he even contemplates suicide.

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