Who is the greater "monster" in this novel; Frankenstein or his creation?
Frankenstein is a novel written in the 18th century by Mary Shelly. It was also known as "The modern Prometheus" before changing its name. Mary Shelly wrote this revolutionary novel based on her experiences around her. Her mother, Mary Wollstonecraft died after giving birth to her and following that she experienced further death in her family. She then married a young romantic poet, Percy Shelly. Mary Shelly got her biggest influence in writing this novel from the industrial revolution and the discovery of electricity. It was also a time where people wanted to know more about science. It was the end for enlightenment period and the start of the Romantic era. This novel is considered to be gothic with gothic features but Mary Shelly has added romantic language to add effect on the overall reader of the novel.
The story begins with Victor Frankenstein the protagonist running away from a creature in the North Pole. There he meets Robert Walton, a young explorer who was keen to know about undiscovered lands on Earth. Victor recounts his story to Robert Walton how he ended up here. He tells him that it all began in Geneva, in Ingolstadt, where he wanted to become a scientist. He became obsessed with the idea of creating life after death. He worked hard until his creation was complete, but the birth of the hideous monster terrified him that he decided to destroy it. The creature, however, escaped from Frankenstein and swore revenge on his creator, his family and all mankind. The creature in this novel is the antagonist.
This novel is structured in three different narrations. It begins with Robert Walton writing letters to his sister Margaret Saville in England. In these letters he mentions about Victor. This is then linked into Victor's narration where he tells about what he had encountered and how he decided to create a hideous creature. This is then followed by the creature's narration on how he sees the world. Although the story is featured as a gothic story, Mary Shelly used romantic language. This is shown in the creature's narration when he describes the bond between him and nature and how it comforts him. Mary Shelly thought it might be confusing by changing the numerous numbers of narrations. The structure also tries to build suspense from the beginning.Using this technique the reader would be drawn into the novel by trying to understand it further.
The setting is an important aspect of this novel because it helps to emphasize many themes in the novel. For example, the setting goes beyond normal limits since it goes through the arctic an extreme place to be and back in those days arctic was considered to be in a place beyond limits. Also, places like the mountains and the island emphasize the theme of separation from society. The novel also mentions about Frankenstein's calm home and his laboratory where the creature came into life. These are total opposite sites as
Although in this novel Frankenstein said that the monster was hideous by appearance, the monster actions do not prove that he is evil. For example when it stretched out to reach Frankenstein, a 'grin wrinkled its cheeks', this shows that he needs his creator or the signs that it is a newborn baby in need of its mother. This doesn't show any monstrous action, he is still a human. As it escaped from the lab, the monster calls itself a 'poor, miserable wretch' and recognises its hideousness. The fact that it 'sat down and wept' shows its human nature. It is 'overcome with joy' when it experiences warmth from a nearby fire and howls with 'pain' as it 'thrust hands into the live embers'. It appreciates beauty in nature and tries to mimic sounds of 'sweet little winged animals.' However, the 'inarticulate sounds which broke from it, frightened it into silence.' The creature's link with nature is similar to one of a child and its parents. It discovers life through its interaction and bonding with Mother Nature and learns to understand the love and beauty in animals and humans. It uses nature to acquire new skills. Mary Shelley does try to change creature's mood and behaviour to show that its monstrosity is growing inside it, but it never got to a stage where the monster became outraged.
Frankenstein's actions can be considered differently to the monster even though its appearance is different I believe that Frankenstein is the one that truly shows his monstrosity. From the start of the novel, Shelly tries to show that Victor is a kind, caring and lovable person. When Frankenstein left his family after his mother death which devastated him, his ambitions made him change. The obsession of making a creature overtook his good side and by this he forgets about his family. He goes into graveyards and mortuaries cutting body parts which are seen to be disgusting but his obsession did not give it up made him into a monster. His selfishness and unawareness of his actions caused him to act this way. Frankenstein also rushed out of the room as soon as the monster opened its eyes and by being prejudice towards it. He rejected the creation and refused to take responsibility over what he thought was a 'demoniacal corpse to which 'had so miserably given life'. The reader at this point might think that he is the real monster by making an unneeded life but this personality is nearly in every single human and what Mary Shelly is trying to say is that obsessions as well as extreme ambitions can lead to destruction and turn anyone into a monster
A technique that Mary Shelly used to intensify the feelings of the characters is called pathetic fallacy. This is attributing human emotions and characteristics to lifeless objects or to nature. Shelly has used this in chapter 5 where Frankenstein brings the monster to life. The theme of this novel is gothic likewise, there are numerous gothic features to be looked upon at which is connected to the setting, such as rain pattering 'dismally against the frames' and darkness, which set up an almost mysterious atmosphere. The mood of the scene reflects the weather in the scene. Frankenstein states that his 'candle was nearly burnt out', which is highly ambiguous and show how much he cares about his creation. It is possible that this only reinforces the already tense scene, but it is more likely that the candle is a counting down to his creation. In Frankenstein this technique is used to show the start of a new era. This is rather ironic as it is the start of devastation.
There are indeed many themes in this novel which can easily be named but the most themes that have to be recognised are parenting and injustice. By showing that victor does not take responsibility, Marry Shelley allows the reader to judge about Victor for his actions. People who take responsibility of their wrong going are fair but Frankenstein's action when Justine was put up to be hanged was un acceptable. He knew it was the creature and yet he did not try to stop. Another theme which was influencing is the theme of parenting. Victor is playing the role of a parent. However he does not act like a parent and does not treat the monster as if he were a son. Victor didn't look at the long term consequences of creating a living being.
Overall in my opinion, the story of Frankenstein is where mixed emotions of love and hate are expressed in many ways throughout the different characters. Although the character of Victor Frankenstein shows love for Elizabeth and his family, his hate towards his creation is what makes Victor Frankenstein the monster in this novel. Victor shows his monstrous attitude through his changes in his goal. Frankenstein's priorities changed very quickly throughout the first couple of chapters of the book. He goes from loving and caring for his family and friends, to being a selfish, independent and arrogant scientist who is obsessed in creating life after death. The thrust for knowledge and lack of love made him dislike the monster even though the monster is his child which makes Victor a monster for rejecting and abandoning a worthless life. Although the creature expresses evilness in many ways, but the fact that he is still a human with human characteristics, must not be ignored. Overall I believe that Victor is the monster. It is also important to know that obsessions can lead to destruction and that Victor has learnt his lesson.