Even though I was generally familiar with the story of Frankenstein, I was thrown off by Victor’s reaction to the being he had created. I was vaguely aware that Victor eventually became appalled with his creation, but did not realize this repulsion was so immediate. After two years of working tirelessly on his project, Victor notices the creature’s eyes being to open (pg. 53). Admiration for his “beautiful” being was Victor’s first thoughts, but just as quickly “the beauty of the dream vanished, and breathless horror and disgust filled my heart” (pg. 53, 54). I am puzzled as to why Victor did not stay to give the creature a chance, but instead immediately dismissed him as terrible mistake. Perhaps this will become Victor’s own fatal mistake.
Frankenstein’s monstrous creation seems very much an ambiguous character, which was surprising to me. His language and overall demeanor seems to indicate civility, while his accusations make him out to be a monster. The juxtaposition raises this question: what is the nature of the beast? This Monster, for lack of a better term, seems to have a capacity for some deep emotions and even goes so far as to reflect and ask the questions “who am I?” and “where do I come from?” just as almost every adolescent asks him or herself. This was especially prevalent at the end of chapter thirteen where he asks, “But where were my friends and relations? No father had watched my infant days, no mother had blessed me with smiles and caresses; or if they had, all my past life was now a blot, a blind vacancy in which I was distinguished nothing” (Shelley,108). It was quite evident to me that Frankenstein’s creation has very human emotions, specifically feelings of alienation. The monster at first seems to be a simple, murderous brute, by I am curious as to how complex and human his true character really is.
Mary Shelley brings up a good point in her question of reanimated life: if humans had he secret to evading death, kind of like the possibility of bodies made of silicone, what the heck would we do? The ultimate goal of the quest for new technology seems to be a utopian society where humans do not die or feel pain, in the same way that Victor intends to complete his need for intellectual fulfillment manifested in the completion of his monster: “ I [Victor] had desired it with an ardor that far exceeded moderation…I might in the process of time, renew life where death had apparently devoted the body to corruption” (Shelley 35). Joy and Shelley serve as voices of reason, intending to write addressing humanity, asking what we would do with immorality and the implications of cheating death and pain since the quest for such a society often results in self-destruction. Shelley advocates a return to simplicity and participation in every day life rather than avoiding it with short cuts, but then, as Joy explained, "The Industrial Revolution has immeasurably improved everyone's life over the last couple hundred years" (Joy 6). Both conclude that the best path is to coexist and participate in everyday life, rather than trying to escape it, the blind man for example preoccupies himself with music. The clear winners in Frankenstein are Felix and the peasant family who escape the monster and work hard to survive, eating from the Earth, and Capt. Walden (and the readers of his letters), who still have a chance to be warned about the obsessive pursuit of progress and turn back. I have a feeling Mary Shelley would advise telling ghost stories over indulging an obsession with growth, profit, and advancement.
Much like Shakespeare’s tragedy Macbeth, Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein shows a reoccurring theory of ambition. What Shelly says here is that if one relentlessly pursues a goal or a project, like a dog chases cars, then one will be consumed by the goal. This unchecked ambition can be seen in Frankenstein. Throughout the earlier part of the book Frankenstein raved about how he loved being around his family and his beloved city of Geneva but on page 45 he states that “two years had past in this manner, during which I had paid no visit to Geneva, but I was engaged, heart and soul, in the pursuit of some discoveries.” Frankenstein even begins to neglect his own health as his “cheek had grown pale with study, and my person had become emaciated with confinement.”(pg.49) All just for scientific discovery. Frankenstein’s blind ambition would also explain his immediate disgust with the creature. Frankenstein had become so infatuated with the idea that a “new species would bless me as its creator and source.”(pg. 49) Frankenstein wanted to create something from nothing though, he could not even fathom what he was creating. Once the creature awakens from death, things became far too real for young Frankenstein, as he then abandons his creation out of fear and disgust.
During my reading of Frankenstein, what first that caught my eye is the relationship that Victor and Walton share with their sisters. Both are overly fond of their sisters, something that is not always the norm in today's society. This allows Shelley to create characters that exhibit both masculine and feminine characteristics- "Victor's temper was sometimes violent" (Shelley,p.29)- with a hint of characteristics generally associated more so with femininity, such as compassion and empathy. In Victor's case, he grows up with her and is devoted to "protect, love and cherish" (Shelley,p.26) her. Shelley states in the beginning of the text that Walton's attachment to the sea comes from the depths of "modern poets" (p.9), which in the sense of masculinity leans more towards the feminine side.
One of the topics in this novel that I found interesting is Victor’s immediate fascination with bringing a lifeless body back to life. It seemed to me that he became enthralled with restoring life in a “creature” after his exposure to chemistry and many different topics in Philosophy. Once he made his decision to go forth with the project, he obsessed over it, putting his family and his loved ones behind him, the people that he cared about most in life. It was almost too much of an obsession, a much different obsession that he had with his studies. Another puzzling topic that I found was through his philosophical studies, did he ever take into consideration the ethics or morals of the project he was undertaking? Victor had a very wide perspective on philosophy through his studies, and I feel that his obsession had him in a grasp that was just too tight to see what a monstrous act he had committed. We can see his realization when he finally brings the creature to life, and his reaction in which he responds.
I read Frankenstein about three years ago, and the English class was to direct attention toward the theme of the creation of a disaster. However, reading Mary Shelley’s Gothic novel a second time, I approached it by looking closely at the individuals characters. Overall, I find all of the characters to be passive. In terms of Victor Frankstein’s monster, I couldn’t classify his actions as passive, but because he hasn’t been nurtured and integrated into society, I’m not so sure he comprehends what it means to be passive. The females are the most passive of the novel, listening and agreeing with what men tell them. Victor Frankstein’s mother, she takes a more passive role as the husband swoops in to provide shelter and security to Elizabeth (Shelley 26). Elizabeth herself can’t even formulate her own opinions, listening to either what the police say or Victor about Justine Moritz role in William Frankenstein’s death. Justine Moritz is the most passive woman in the novel so far, welcoming death despite her not murdering William (Shelley 91). However, when I consider that the author of Frankenstein is a woman, this brings me to a question that relates to my insight: Is Mary Shelley telling the story from a man’s point of view? The story of Victor’s despair is told through Victor telling it to Robert Walton.
In reading the book, I've been interested in the fact that we're being told this story second- or third-hand the entire way through, from Walton's letters to his sister, Frankenstein's story told to Walton, and the monster's story as related by Frankenstein to Walton, at different times. Shelley uses this technique, it seems, in order to present us with multiple points of view while avoiding the distancing effect of an omniscient third person narrator. Of course this gives us the typical questions about unreliable narration and so on, but I think it might be more interesting to apply the title of the course in a very strict way and consider the kinds of "technology" that actually enable this sort of epistolary (or semi-epistolary) narrative. Letter-writing, or diary-keeping, etc., seem to allow for a different kind of introspection and relationship to history than were common before writing utensils, cheap paper, etc. were widely available and used in private. It is a that everything we're going to be reading requires the "technology" of a written language, I think this more fundamental question about the effects of a postal service and common personal or private writing is worth discussing as well.
I feel that Shelley made an interesting point when Victor mentions how his "study is unlawful" because he does not give himself appropriate time to enjoy himself (51). Throughout the first half of the book, it seems like every time he is in the direct presence of nature, Victor feels a sense of peace and tranquility that directly contrasts with his determination and fast-paced nature while working on his own research. I'm curious as to whether or not slowing down a bit and enjoying the simple pleasures of life would have affected Victor's attitude towards his creation in a positive manner.
Before reading this book I found myself thinking that it would be all about technology and how he actually made this being come to life. I was surprised to see that it is in fact a lot more about the larger questions and more about finding some meaning in life, and oddly enough prayer. The narrator talks a lot about the celestial and angels, which I found surprising and was wondering what anyone else made of these references to other worldly and heavenly creatures.
This being my second time through Frankenstein, I am noticing things I missed the first time through. Having only become familiar with The Rime of the Ancient Mariner after having read Frankenstein the first time, I further understand and appreciate the allusions this second time through. For example, when Robert Walton states, "I have often attributed my attachment to, my passionate enthusiasm for, the dangerous mysteries of ocean, to that production of the most imaginative of modern poets," (Shelly, 9) it was made much clearer to me how similar Robert's insatiable desire to explore the unknown is to Victor Frankenstein's need to go further in the field of Natural Philosophy. In addition to this allusion, Shelley also quotes The Rime of the Ancient Mariner on page 56. She references a stanza describing how one must not look behind themselves when walking alone at night for fear of a danger following close behind. This stanza seems to match the section perfectly as it is placed in the midst of Victor initially fleeing the creation he just brought life to. All said and done, if Mary Shelley was not inspired by the Rime of the Ancient Mariner when writing Frankenstein, she certainly allowed her readers to further understand the passages via these allusions.
This is one of the few books that I never get tired of reading. This being my third time reading Frankenstein, I enjoy re-exploring themes I’ve discussed with peers before as well as picking up on previously seemingly minute details. For example, the introductory letters by R. Walton seem to subtly highlight many of the themes, one of which being the theme of sublime nature. While R. Walton is rediscovering himself, his passions and simultaneously exploring the natural world around him on the surface level via his expedition on his ship, Frankenstein is relaying his story about his exploration of human nature on a deeper, more complex level. On a different note, I never noticed before just how quickly Frankenstein’s attitude switches from sheer pride and delight from the anticipation of his work coming to life to fear, disgust and shame even from the moment the first yellow eye opened. Frankenstein recognized the outer beauty of the creature in limited light, merely looking towards his teeth and hair, but scowled in disgust at the rest of the monster’s appearance. It makes me wonder whether at any point in his experimentation before he officially gave the creature life, he had begun to subconsciously second guess himself and his work. Yet because of his lack of connection with the outer world, and his pride in his intelligence and innovation, could not consciously second guess himself. Maybe I’ll reread the novel a fourth time and look for clues pointing to that the fourth read through.
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