Developmental psychologist, Erik Erikson, is quoted as saying, “Life doesn’t make any sense without interdependence. We need each other, and the sooner we learn that, the better for us all.” It’s often the small things; a touch, a listening ear, a smile, a small act of caring, that have the ability to turn a life around. These outward expressions of love are important to the development of the human race. However, there are also fundamental needs that must be met in order for humans to function on a basic level. Developmental psychologists have studied the why and how of human behavior for decades. Their aim has been to understand thinking, feeling and behavior changes throughout a person’s life by examining three major areas: physical development, cognitive development, and socioemotional development. As a result, these professionals have discovered different stages a person will confront, and hopefully master, as they develop. Each stage builds upon the successful completion of earlier stages. When someone is unsuccessful in meeting these challenges it creates future problems later in life. However, Erikson explains, “the outcome of one stage is not permanent and can be modified by later experiences.” (Erikson) One supporting, but often overlooked, factor that must be expressed early on in development for a human to thrive and develop in crucial areas is validation. In the next few pages I will outline how Frankenstein and “The Thirteenth Night” explore the theme of love by asserting that unless basic needs, including validation, are met during the early stages of development, a person is incapable of developing socioemotional skills which lead to the ability to recognize, feel and demonstrate love.
The first title we will examine is Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. In this novel, we witness Doctor Victor Frankenstein’s creature expressing a desire to connect with humans and discover his place among them. In an effort to better relate to humans and discover who he is, the creature attempts to observe and communicate with them. Unfortunately, the beginning of the creature’s life is set in motion when Victor Frankenstein, a broken man who pushes the limits of science and alchemy to the point of horrific results, gives life to his creature and immediately abandons him to fend for himself. Although the creature is an unnatural monstrosity, he is also genetically human and has the same basic human needs as other people. He requires food and shelter to meet his physical needs. He needs to feel safe and secure. He needs companionship to meet his social development needs. And, perhaps above all else, he requires validation. His need to be accepted by his creator/father and fellow humans is the motivation driving him to seek out humans.
Instead, the creature is forced to figure out the world on his own. When children are born they are taught how to be humans by instruction and example. Since Victor abandons him before giving him any instruction he is like an unsupervised toddler, stumbling into situations that are potentially harmful to him. This newly “born” infant of a man is left to feed himself, find shelter, avoid danger, etc. For example, one day he discovers fire. His childlike curiosity leads to discovering fire keeps him warm, but the fire also burns him.
All humans have an innate desire for companionship. This need goes unmet for the creature. After a few unsuccessful attempts at connecting with humans he ends up hiding in a hovel near the De Lacey family. It’s obvious that he longs to be with other humans, but they are terrified of him. While he quietly observes the De Lacey family he does his best to go unnoticed so they won’t drive him away. He develops affection for his “adopted” family even though they are unaware of his presence. As he witnesses their way of life and how they interact with one another he learns their language and finds connection in observing their way of life. The creature adores them, and desires their love and acceptance. His emotional intelligence is developing as he clearly feels sympathy, affection, and desire. As a result, he begins to contribute to the needs of the household by delivering firewood, gathering food and doing chores. During his observations he, “felt sensations of a peculiar and overpowering nature; they were a mixture of pain and pleasure, such as I had never before experienced, either from hunger or cold, warmth or food; and I withdrew from the window, unable to bear these emotions.” (Shelley) His appreciation for aesthetic beauty and mastering the language proves he is capable of self-analyzing and reflection. As the creature progresses through the first levels of human development, physical and cognitive, his socioemotional development begins to flourish.
In the creatures observations of his “adopted” family he witnesses the wonders of love and their interactions. His thoughts turn inward and he begins to wonder why he doesn’t have a mate; an “Eve” of his own. He says, “no Eve soothed my sorrows nor shared my thoughts; I was alone.” (Shelley) Here we see the creature beginning to understand the many types of love. He knows he cannot connect with humans and wishes to express this newfound emotion with another creature like himself. He seeks out Victor to make him a mate and all hell ensues.
The second piece of literature we will examine is “The Thirteenth Night” where we read about Oseki’s plight. The beautiful daughter of a low ranking family and married to a high ranking official, Harada Isamu. The theme of love is deeply intertwined throughout the story. In the beginning, Oseki stands outside her parents’ home, dejected, wondering how she will broach the topic of divorce with her parents. As Oseki pours her heart out, she tells of Isamu’s poor treatment of her and why she has decided to leave the marriage. Her husband has an imperial appointment, so it is presumed Oseki and her son Tarō live in lavish dwellings. Although no specific details are offered about their home, we learn about their position in the community when her father sees his daughter as “the perfect matron: the proper hairdo fastened with a gold circlet, the black crepe jacket, it was all very tasteful”. (2.9) This clearly infers Isamu is wealthy. From this we can conclude Oseki’s physical needs are being met by her spouse. However, other fundamental needs are lacking and therefore Oseki is suffering.
Isamu doesn’t respect Oseki. He is an adulterer, verbally abusive and seems to delight in humiliating her. She speaks of his complaining about her in front of the maids, “he complains how I can’t do anything right, how ill-bred I am”. (2.8) Oseki goes on to explain how Isamu “slights me for my lack of learning. You should hear him dismiss me as ‘a woman without any education.’” (2.8) Oseki describes her husband as “a monster, not a husband.” (2.8)
Oseki has put a lot of thought into this decision. The story is it set in the Meiji Japan era and divorce was not entered into lightly, so Oseki’s decision to leave must be based in something more than “hurt feelings”. As she recounts the mistreatment and her suffering, it is clear her decision to leave is based in the fact that her fundamental needs are not being met in the relationship.
Her parents are sympathetic, expressing care and concern for her situation. However, her father calmly reminds her of what will be lost if she divorces her husband. Along with the monumental tangible benefits of being Harada Isamu’s wife, Oseki’s mother points out the benefits their family receives from the marriage. For example, Inosuke, Oseki’s brothers, career is doing well because of his connection to Isamu. “His supervisor is quite fond of him. Everything seems to be going well. It’s thanks to our having Harada Isamu for a son-in-law, of course. Not a day goes by we don’t acknowledge it.” (2.7) Her father is compassionate, but also kindly reminds her of “the fine salary your brother is making is all thanks to Isamu. They say the light a parent sheds on his child is sevenfold. In that case, the benefits we’ve received from Isamu must be tenfold! His way of helping out is to do things behind the scenes, but we’re indebted to him nonetheless.” (2.9) He goes on to say, “Think what your marriage means to us, though, and to Inosuke, and to Tarō,” (2.9) thus, solidifying his opinion on the matter that if she must complain she might as well do it as the wife of Harada Isamu, instead of the daughter of Saitō Kazue.
It is at this point of the story Oseki realizes she is trapped in a loveless marriage by the weight of responsibility it carries. She had gone to her parents to receive validation, to seek the emotional support needed to leave her husband. Instead, she found a sympathetic ear and saw the tears drop from their eyes as they urged her to return to a marriage where she is a trapped victim. Oseki returns home, resigned to her fate.
Frankenstein and “The Thirteenth Night” clearly demonstrate a person’s desire for basic needs to be met, such as physical and cognitive, in order to progress through to the higher level of human development and hone socioemotional skills. As previously stated, these earlier stages are fundamental to future success. Also, the refusal of their counterparts to validate them results in devastating sadness. This lack of compassion leads to them turning on themselves. In the end, Frankenstein’s creature is wracked with grief, builds a funeral pyre and throws himself on it to die. And Oseki, broken, considers herself dead to the world, nothing more than a spirit to watch over her son. We can conclude validation is required in order to recognize, feel and demonstrate love; even loving ourselves.
“The Thirteenth Night,” from IN THE SHADES OF SPRING LEAVES: The Life of Higuchi Ichiyo With Nine of Her Best Short Stories by Higuchi Ichiyo, translated by Robert Lyons Danly. Copyright © 1981 by Robert Lyons Danly. Used by permission of W. W. Norton and Company, Inc.
Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus, by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley (Project Gutenberg, 1993), retrieved from http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/84.
Erik H Erikson. The Stages of Psychosocial Development According to Erik H. Erikson. Copyright © 2005 GRIN Verlag, Open Publishing GmbH. ISBN: 978365837695. Print.
This work was originally written for my LIT 202 class at Southern New Hampshire University on 8 February 2018. I received an A on this paper and decided to post it here because I worked hard on it!! This work is copyrighted and should not be used without my permission.