There are many varied interpretations of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein in the study of literature. In fact, most critics have, if not opposing, somewhat contrasted views on the novel. However, a popular perception of the novel seems to be one in which Shelley is said to be representing her own views through the voice of the monster created by Victor Frankenstein. But what exactly are Shelley’s views? So many have taken apart this novel, analyzing it beyond all bounds, and yet it still remains a puzzle to most, as to what message Shelley tries to give to the reader.
Perhaps this quandary is the direct result of this over-analysis. What if we are looking too carefully? If we were to take a step back, we should see that Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is nothing more than the not uncommon story of the average teenager. This isn’t to say that the novel is not a work of art, rather, it is quite possibly the best prose ever written by an eighteen year-old. But the fact of the matter remains. Mary Shelley was eighteen going on nineteen when she wrote Frankenstein.
Taking this into account, it becomes more apparent that Shelley was not commenting on social aspects of her time or the feminist movement that her mother helped create, rather, she was simply expressing her feelings as a teenager, as so many of us need to do. These feelings of isolation, separation, and being misunderstood, all of which are not uncommon to many teens, are in fact the same as those experienced by the monster in Frankenstein. In this way, the monster most likely is a representation of Mary Shelley.
Almost all of us can relate to a time in our lives when we were young, and misunderstood by our parents. Almost all of us have had an experience where we had done something wrong and during the process of being berated by our parents, tried to convince them that they were wrong, instead. This point is universal to all teenagers and apparently it was to Mary Shelley as well, when we observe the following passage: Be calm! I entreat you to hear me, before you give vent to your hatred on my devoted head.
Have I not suffered enough, that you seek to increase my misery? Life, although it may only be an accumulation of anguish, is dear to me, and I will defend it. When viewed from a teenager’s point of view here, it looks as if the monster, being berated by Frankenstein, is trying to “get a foot in” on the argument. All to often, parents will simply tirade their child. Here Shelley is arguing back to her parents. She is asking for a chance to be heard, rather than just undergo an invective. This situation fits in very well with Shelly’s life.
In fact, at about the time that she began writing this novel, Shelley ran away with her soon to be husband Percy Blysse Shelley. Percy Shelley was married at the time. This caused her to be deemed as an outcast from society, even by her very own father, William Godwin. Perhaps this is representative of an argument she had with her father, in which he proceeded to berate her, not allowing her to voice her opinions. The monster could very well be a representation of the way she felt that her father, and the rest of society, viewed her.
When this interpretation is taken, the novel appears to be a vent for Shelley’s adolescent feelings. The following passage also recounts an incident that can be interpreted as a teen trying to earn an ear from a misunderstanding parent. Listen to my tale: when you have heard that abandon or commiserate me, as you shall judge that I deserve. But hear me. The guilty are allowed by human laws, bloody as they are, to speak in their own defense before they are condemned. Listen to me Frankenstein
Again, Shelley seems to be arguing as a teen would to try and have her point of view accepted as relevant. Rather than just stating an opinion, the monster first has to justify that its position is valid, just as a teen would do with a parent. This further implicates that the monster represents Shelley, and that Frankenstein is represents her obdurate father. While these examples are conducive of the fact that the monster actually is representative of Shelley, the following passage demonstrates the feelings that she felt of detachment and resentment on her father’s part.
How can I [Victor] describe my emotions at this catastrophe, or how delineate the wretch whom with such infinite pains and care I had endeavored to form? Unable to endure the aspect of the being I had created, I rushed out of the room If the monster represents Shelley, and Frankenstein represents her father, this passage is quite disturbing in that it shows that she apparently felt that her father looked very poorly upon her, seeing her as a major disappointment. It’s as if she feels that her father had worked hard for years raising her, yet was thoroughly disappointed by the outcome.
Again, this follows the chronology of Shelley’s life fairly accurately. These feelings of disappointing her father can be understood when taking in to account the fact that she married Percy Shelley against her father’s wishes. Critics argue that Shelley was aiding the plight of women by interlacing themes of feminism into her novel through the monster’s voice. This is obviously the result of over-analysis of the text. When taken at face value, a much simpler, more romantic version of truth is perceived.
There is a well-known principle in the scientific community, called Occam’s Razor. This principle states that if there exists more than one explanation to a problem, then the simplest one is most probably true. With this in mind, the notion that Shelley was bettering the women’s movement at the age of eighteen is rather frivolous when compared to the simpler possibility. Shelley was simply venting her feelings as a teenager. Feelings that are universal to all teens. Occam never lies.