Mary Shelley’s novel “Frankenstein” (Shelley), like many texts of the gothic genre, describes the actions, and resulting grave events, of the main character, Victor Frankenstein, who discovers how to create life and then uses this knowledge to create an intelligent being. Although this being is later responsible for the murder of many people, Frankenstein is not a monster for creating it, as he has reasonable and in no way evil motives for constructing it. Also, like any human being should do, he acknowledges and learns from his mistakes.
His creation, on the other hand, s a monster, both physically and morally. The circumstances in which he found himself explain why he felt and acted the way he did, however this does not make him any less of a monster. Frankenstein, by his lack of care for his creation immediately following its coming to life, is to a large extent responsible for its conduct, even though, like in Coleridge’s “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner”, the main character does not foresee, let alone plan, the tragic events that occur as a result of his actions.
By this and other negligent and rash behaviour, Frankenstein demonstrates how eckless a character he is, however like of Adam and Eve in Milton’s “Paradise Lost”, he later sets about trying to redeem himself. Other similarities can be seen in “Frankenstein” and “Paradise Lost”, both in terms of character and story line, as is true of “Frankenstein” and the Greek myth of “Prometheus”, referred to in the subtitle of Shelly’s novel.
Shelley’s “Frankenstein” is similar to many gothic novels, about a person who unleashes a violent and destructive being upon the world, however in Shelley’s novel the being’s creator, Frankenstein, is not evil nd does not wish for his creation to be destructive and murderous. His original inquiries into the field of creating life were purely driven by a thirst for knowledge, as this area of science interested him greatly. This changed, however, because as a very socially isolated person, especially at his university, he longed for recognition.
Once he realised that he had the knowledge and ability to create something like no other before, Frankenstein imagined the fame and glory that would be his for years to come amongst the scientific and broader communities if he were to bring to ife a being constructed from lifeless materials. He envisaged an entire new race of creatures, all honouring him as their father and master, and longed for such a day. Frankenstein also had another motive, which was due to his mothers recent death- an event which had had a devastating effect on his entire family.
He saw that if he was able to perfect the technique of bestowing life upon lifeless matter, one day he might be able to restore her to her former health and restore his family to its former happiness. It was with these harmless intentions that Frankenstein created the being, and e just was not able to predict the death and destruction that would follow. Frankenstein is deeply upset and disturbed by the death and destruction caused by his creation, further proof that he is not a senseless monster.
He realises and acknowledges that he is responsible for creating such a dangerous being, and tells his story, as does the Mariner in Coleridge’s “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner”, as a precautionary tale to prevent similar happenings occurring in the future. He is able to see that the creation of another terrible being, similar to the one he created, could be devastating.
The being created by Frankenstein is truly a monster. Being “… about eight feet in height, and proportionally large… ” (Shelley, p. 5), constructed from old body parts and absolutely hideous, its physical appearance alone is all that is needed to qualify it for this description. It is an enormous, misshapen creature; horribly deformed, distorted and completely unnatural. Even without considering his behaviour, Frankenstein’s creation can be seen to be a monster. The creature created by Frankenstein behaves wickedly throughout the story, both violently and destructively, further qualifying him as a onster. He murders men, women and children, and destroys others’ property, apparently believing he is justified in doing so.
Regardless of the reasons for his actions, his behaviour is that of a monster. Although seemingly evil, explanation of the creature’s actions is in the circumstances in which he found himself. Unlike any other creature to exist, Frankenstein’s creation found himself feared and hated by all who saw him. He saw people undertaking various activities; but he was forced to hide himself for fear of persecution. He saw people communicating and nteracting; but he was isolated and friendless. He saw people experiencing joy, excitement, and love; but he was lonely, depressed, and frustrated.
Not able to understand why he should be so despised, Frankenstein’s creation set about trying to learn the ways of man and how he had come to be in his present situation. On discovering his creator and learning of the events surrounding his coming to life, the creature felt neglected and betrayed, and was overcome by anger. He turned to the only thing he knew, violence, as a solution to his problems, and was responsible for the death f a number of people. Throughout the story Frankenstein’s creation feels that he is resented without reason and unfairly denied all joy, especially when denied by Frankenstein a like companion.
After this he vows, as what he sees as his only remaining option, to dedicate the remainder of his life to making Frankenstein’s existence as miserable as possible for him, by committing many terrible violent acts. The creature sees this as only fair, because in his eyes Frankenstein is to blame for much of his own pain and misery. These circumstances explain why Frankenstein’s creation might chose o act in the way he does, but his conduct is, nonetheless, wicked and monstrous.
Frankenstein is very much responsible for the conduct of his creation, even though he did not plan for events to unfold as they did. As its creator Frankenstein had a duty to shelter and protect his creation, especially when it was at its most vulnerable and open to impression and influence, however he instead disowned and abandoned it. Frankenstein was too horrified, immediately after the being’s creation, to see himself as being responsible for its well being, and deserted the creature- not oreseeing the devastation to which this would lead.
This parallels Coleridge’s “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner”, when the Mariner shoots the albatross. He does not think, at the time, that this will lead to any harm, however in both stories the protagonist’s actions leads to disastrous consequences. Just as the Mariner loses his ship and his crew, Frankenstein loses several of his dearest friends and family as a result of his failure to predict the effects of his actions. By this failure to foresee what might occur as a result of what he did, Frankenstein’s actions display a clear want of consideration.
Although difficult to predict, the events resulting from Frankenstein’s actions were his responsibility to prevent, thus showing his recklessness in not doing so. He was irresponsible to create a creature without considering how he would care for it, or control it, and especially one of such gigantic stature. Letting it lose on the world was extremely reckless, even if he did not know it would become so destructive. Another example of Frankenstein’s recklessness is his failure to alert anyone to his creation’s existence, especially after the deaths of William and Justine.
Had he considered the creature’s potential to do damage and shown the level of care due to the matter, Frankenstein should have acted differently at any one of several opportunities. He could have alerted more people to the existence of the being that he had created or, if he feared it enough, he could have tried to calm and satisfy the creature by meeting its requests. Frankenstein is reckless by not acting immediately, as he neither warns people of the danger posed by the creature nor in any way reduces threat of it striking again.
Although Frankenstein realises early on that he is responsible for the eath and destruction caused by his creation, it is not until much damage has already been done that he tries to make amends. Just like Adam and Eve in Milton’s “Paradise Lost”, after they are expelled from Paradise, Frankenstein goes about trying to redeem himself for his previous sins and errors. While Adam and Eve want to gain God’s forgiveness for eating the forbidden fruit, Frankenstein is trying to put an end to and clear his conscience of the destruction brought about by the being of his creation.
Several parallels can be drawn between Shelley’s “Frankenstein” and Milton’s “Paradise Lost”. In both, a character defies normal convention, becomes an outcast as a result of this, realises their wrong doing, and finally attempts to redeem themselves. In “Frankenstein”, the protagonist creates a being from lifeless materials, becomes extremely socially isolated, realises his mistake in giving the creature life, and then goes about trying to destroy it.
In “Paradise Lost”, Adam and Eve eat the forbidden fruit, are expelled from Paradise, accept their wrong doing, and then devote themselves to doing God’s will in order to gain redemption. Also, Frankenstein’s creation sees similarities between himself and Satan n “Paradise Lost”. Just as he was transformed from an enthusiastic, positive and virtuous creature to one of violence and destruction, “… the fallen angel becomes a malignent devil. “(Shelley,p. 280).
He continues to say, however, that, “… even that enemy of God and man had friends and associates in his desolation; I am alone. “(Shelley,p. 80). Frankenstein’s creation feels he is even worse off than Satan in “Paradise Lost”, though he is able to draw parallels between the two texts. Shelley’s “Frankenstein” also has parallels, in some aspects, to the Greek myth of “Prometheus”. In both stories one of the characters breaks common convention (also like in “Paradise Lost”, when Adam and Eve eat the forbidden fruit), is repeatedly dealt the same punishment (also like in “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner”, when the Mariner revisits the murder of the albatross each time a crew member dies), and eventually escapes from this torture.
In “Frankenstein” the protagonist creates a living being, repeatedly suffers the loss of close friends and family members, and finally dies- putting an end to his misery. In the Greek myth, the character Prometheus steals fire rom Zeus and gives it to the people, is punished by having a giant bird eat out his inner organs every day, until after some time when he is freed and the bird killed. The author of “Frankenstein” refers to this Greek myth in the novel’s subtitle, “The Modern Prometheus”, implying closer links between the two stories.
It is likely that Shelley is trying to suggest that, judging from example, it is best not to go against the will of or try to fill the role of God because, as happened in both the myth of “Prometheus” and in Shelley’s “Frankenstein” when this was done, great suffering followed. Frankenstein”, by M. Shelley, is a typical gothic creator/creation novel, however unlike in most stories the protagonist, Frankenstein, does not wish for the violence and destruction that occurs. Frankenstein is not a monster, even though he is responsible for the shocking events that follow his actions.
He purely misjudges the consequences of his actions, and then learns from what he has done. His creation is the true monster because, besides from his appearance, his actions are monstrous. His mentality and circumstances explain his behaviour, but this does not make him any less of a monster. These just explain how he became a monster, rather than show that he isn’t one. Frankenstein is largely responsible for his creation turning into a monster, because he failed to show enough care in looking after and controlling it.
Like the Mariner in Coleridge’s “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner”, the Frankenstein is unable to foresee the damage caused by his rash actions, and suffers greatly. Through this and other similar behaviour, Frankenstein exposes his recklessness, before realising the errors of his ways and trying to redeem himself. This is similar to the actions Adam and Eve in Milton’s “Paradise Lost”, and is one f several parallels that can be drawn between the two texts.
Similarities between Shelley’s “Frankenstein” and the Greek myth of “Prometheus” can also be found, and are especially implied by the reference to this story in the subtitle of Shelley’s novel: “The Modern Prometheus”. “Frankenstein” is a story of an ambitious scientist who unintentionally releases upon the world, as a result of his recklessness, a terrible monster who, although violent and destructive, remains a miserable and sensitive creature, as depressed and isolated as his suffering creator.