Mary Shelley’s, Frankenstein, was written during a period of dramatic revolution. The failed French Revolution and Industrial Revolution seriously mark the novel with hints of moral and scientific revolution. Through Frankenstein, Shelley sends out a clear message that morally irresponsible scientific development can unleash a monster that can destroy its creator. Upon beginning the creation process, Victor Frankenstein uses the scientific advances of others to infiltrate the role of nature. “The modern masters promise very little..
But these philosophers .. have indeed performed miracles.. They penetrate into the recesses of nature and show how she works in her hiding-places. They ascend into the heavens; they have discovered how the blood circulates, and the nature of the air we breath. They have acquired new and almost unlimited powers; they can command the thunders of heaven, mimic the earthquake, and even mock the invisible world of its own shadows”(47). Frankenstein sees these innovations as overpowering and substantially giving humans the power of god.
Frankenstein believes that through these new scientific powers human kind would be served with a positive effect. Disease could be banished and self glory could result. “what glory would attend the discovery if I could banish disease from the human frame and render man invulnerable to any but a violent death”(40)! Shelley characterizes Frankenstein as a modern a mad scientist. One who fails to look at the moral and social implications when attempting to play god. Frankenstein gets obsessed with the power to master nature and create a new life.
In creating life, and ultimately the creature, Victor Frankenstein seeks unlimited power to the extent that he is taking the place of god in relation to his creation. “A new species would bless me as its creator and source; many happy and excellent natures would owe their being to me”(52). Frankenstein believes that there may be little end to his power. “I might in process of time renew life where death had apparently devoted the body to corruption”(53). In order to create the new life Frankenstein must look beyond moral obligation and dehumanize the act of life.
He exploits natures resources in his obsession to manipulate nature. For Frankenstein death and decay have no morality. The process is merely scientific, “I beheld the corruption of death succeed to the blooming cheek of life; I saw how the worm inherited the wonders of the eye and brain”(51). It is this vantage point which allows Frankenstein to gather the bones and body parts from dissecting rooms and slaughterhouses, and look at them as only materials for his product. He never once looks at each bone or body part as a person.
Frankenstein is not concerned with morality. There is never a question as to whether he should create life, only how to do it. “When I found so astonishing a power placed within my hands, I hesitated a long time concerning the matter to which I should employ it. Although I possessed the capacity of bestowing animation… still remained a work of inconceivable difficulty and labour”(52). Frankenstein never questions the ethics in creating a new life, he simply uses science.
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Through the exploration of value attached to friendship in Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein”, it is found that Victor, Walton, and the monster each desire a companion to either fall back on during times of misery, to console with, or to learn from. During various periods throughout the novel, it is found that Victor depends heavily on friendship when tragedy occurs to keep him from going insane. Walton desires the friendship of a man to have someone who he can sympathize with.
The sole purpose of the monster is to find a companion to learn from and not be a total outcast to society. None of these characters desire to be isolated and when any of them become so, they lose the ability to function properly and are driven insane. Whenever Victor suffers tragedy, he looks to the close comfort of his friends to raise his spirits. Following the creation of the monster, Victor undergoes great pain when he states, “I passed the night wretchedly”(p. 87). In the process of creating the monster, Victor has been isolated for a long time.
He becomes mad and sickened after the monster’s awakening and has never felt true horror and fear such as this. With the arrival of Clerval his emotions change when he states, “But I was in reality very ill; and surely nothing but the unbounded and unremitting attentions of my friend could have restored me to life”(p. 91). Victor rejoiced his spirit with pleasure on the arrival of his friend. Victor recollected the pleasant thoughts of his home and family through Clerval. He found that he could fall back on Clerval to forget the pain.
With Clerval’s aid, Victor returned to his former self in a short period and valued Clerval dearest among all friends. When Walton rescues Victor on the northern shores, he finds him “on the brink of destruction”(Shelley 58). Victor puts his quest on a halt to restore himself on Walton’s ship when he states, “And yet you rescued me from a strange and perilous situation; you have benevolently restored me to life”(p. 59). From the aid of Walton, Victor is able to feel confidence and some happiness once again so that he can continue his journey.
Victor values Walton because he saves him from dying on the ice while searching to kill the monster in a state of madness. Near the end of his tale, Victor falls back on Walton for support by making Walton reassure Victor that he will kill the monster if Victor can not. This occurs when he states, “If I do, swear to me, Walton, that he shall not escape; that you will seek him, and satisfy my vengeance in his death”(p. 232). With these last few words, he his once again able to rely on Walton so that he does not die in vain.
Walton values friendship by having someone to relate to on similar interests. He desires a man who can comply with him on all subjects of discussion and also correct him when he is wrong. His views on friendship are shared when he states, “I have no one near me, gentle yet courageous, possessed of a cultivated as well as of a capacious mind, whose tastes are like my own, to approve or amend my plans”(p. 53). Although he encircles himself in a community of good men, he does not meet a real friend until Victor arrives.
With Victor, he finds more than that and regards him as a brother. Victor possesses appealing qualities to Walton when Walton states, “He is so gentle, yet so wise; his mind is so cultivated; and when he speaks, although his words are culled with the choicest art, yet the flow with rapidity and unparalleled eloquence”(p. 60). Walton begins to notice all the interests Victor takes on deck and these interests gladden him. Victor suggests several alterations in Walton’s plan, which he finds useful.
Walton further clarifies his outlook on friendship when he tells Victor, “I wish therefore that my companion should be wiser and more experienced than myself, to confirm and support me; nor have I believed it impossible to find a true friend”(p. 61). From this, Walton tries to express how he values Victor as a friend. Walton regards Victor as an intelligent man and discovers that he has obtained his desire for the want of a friend. The monster strives to make a friend and have some reason to love humanity.
Among everything else, he pursues to learn and gain wisdom when he discovers the De Lacey’s. He learns to read and understand English along with many other things about human society. The monster observes how the De Lacey’s are so happy together and wants nothing more than to join them. He finds that by having someone to interact with, he can be just as cheerful as the De Lacey’s. The monster feels respect for the De Lacey’s when he states, “I cannot describe the delight I felt when I learned the ideas appropriated to each of these sounds, and was able to pronounce them”(p. 0).
By learning from them, he values them highly when he states, “I had admired the perfect forms of my cottagers – their grace, beauty, and delicate complexions”(p. 142). The monster begins to feel as their protector and wants to see them happy because their mood reflects on him. When he brings them wood and harvests their crop he does it so he can share the happiness with the De Lacey’s. The monster eventually learns everything he knows from the family and begins to love them.
After he finally confronts De Lacey, he believes that he has found a friend at last when he states, “Excellent man! I thank you, and accept your generous offer. You raise me from the dust by this kindness; and I trust that, by your aid, I shall not be driven from the society and sympathy of your fellow-creatures”(p. 162). Once he is driven out and beaten, the monster loses all hope of ever fitting in and becomes isolated and mad. All he ever needed was someone to show him compassion but when he was not shown any, he believed he had every reason to hate mankind.
Each character in Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein”, has their own unique perspective on how they value friendship. Victor Frankenstein prospers from the ability to rely on his friends during tragic times. Walton needs a companion that he can express his feelings to and relate to on many subjects. The monster greatly appreciates the ability to learn from a friend and wants someone so he can be freed from isolation. Together, all three men can love humanity when with companions but can also be crazy when isolated.
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