Frankenstein and Autism

I recently finished Mary Shelley’s classic, Frankenstein. My perception of the novel was skewed by the movie clips I’ve seen, and I was pleasantly surprised by the novel’s depth. It certainly isn’t the graphic horror story I anticipated.

Learning of the creatures awakening to the world, I was struck by a few descriptions and wonder if Shelley knew something of Autism.

A strange multiplicity of sensations seized me, and I saw, felt, heard, and smelt at the same time; and it was, indeed, a long time before I learned to distinguish between the operations of my various senses. (Chapter 11)

No distinct ideas occupied my mind; all was confused. I felt light and hunger, and thirst, and darkness; innumerable sounds rang in my ears, and on all sides various scents saluted me; the only object that I could distinguish was the bright moon, and I fixed my eyes on that with pleasure. (Chapter 11)

I don’t have Autism, but from what I’ve read, I think she beautifully and accurately describes the overwhelming, hyper-sensitivity to sensory stimulus that so many autistic people struggle with.

Apparently I’m not the first to notice the similarities. Read an even more thorough comparison here.

One comment

  1. This is an intriguing suggestion and I’ll have to look into this – a fascinating idea. The Creature is certainly described in terms which suggest a difficulty in relating to others, but whether this is meant to be simply his childlike inability to relate to humanity (because he hasn’t been taught how to, by Frankenstein) or whether (since he’s ‘a child in the form of man’, as T’Pau have it) it suggests a link with autism, I’m not sure… Great post!

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