My questions relate to the passage where Frankenstein's father informs Victor that he wishes to wed Victor to Elizabeth to soothe Victor's suffering. It was Victor's reaction that was rather ironic to me. My first question, was Victor's emphatic response (p.171) tone of earnest or a blatant lie? Does Victor actually himself believe that this marriage will ease his madness? Why, after his first reaction to creating a Being, does he not expect a similar reaction of horror directed towards an arranged marriage? And could he honestly believe a marriage will allow him to forget his past?
“I am malicious because I am miserable. Am I not shunned and hated by all mankind? You, my creator, would tear me to pieces, and triumph; remember that, and tell me why I should pity man more than he pities me…Shall I respect man when he contemns me? Let him live with me in the interchange of kindness; and, instead of injury, I would bestow every benefit upon him with tears of gratitude and acceptance. But that cannot be; the human senses are insurmountable barriers to our union. Yet mine shall not be the submission of abject slavery. I will revenge my injuries: if I cannot inspire love, I will cause fear; and chiefly towards you my arch-enemy, because my creator, do I swear inextinguishable hatred. Have a care: I will work at your destruction, nor finish until I desolate your heart, so that you shall curse the house of your birth.” (Frankenstein 163)Based on this passage, who does the creature blame for his malicious and evil reign – Victor or society? Does he blame his creator for not giving him a companion or does he blame society for rejecting him? Does the creature’s placement of blame change throughout the novel?
I also questioned Frankenstein's empathy and love for Elizabeth when I was reading chapter 21. Frankenstein all of a sudden seemed so in love with Elizabeth-- "Yet I would die to make her happy." This selflessness caught me by surprise. It definitely seemed out of character since before Victor was so egotistical and self-obsessed in his own glory.
It's interesting to me that Frankenstein decided not to create a partner for the monster. Throughout the entire novel he has been completely obsessed with himself, but suddenly he 'selflessly' decides he cannot subject the world to another of his creations. Shortly before he destroys his work, he says, "Had I right, for my own benefit, to inflict this curse upon everlasting generations?" (pg. 189). Where does this 'selflessness' come from?
In the context of looking at feminist undertones in the novel, I found the passages referring to the monster’s potential female counterpart to be particularly contrasting. Frankenstein says to the monster, “I shall deliver into your hands a female who will accompany you in your exile” (Shelley 166). Here, this companion is being referred to as a possession being given to the monster by the creator. But the interesting contrast comes into play when Frankenstein entertains the idea that his female creation might have convictions of her own: “and she… might refuse to comply with a compact made before her creation. They might even hate each other...she also might turn with disgust from him to the superior beauty of man; she might quit him” (Shelley 188-189). In an instant, this possession Frankenstein is creating assumes an enormous amount of potential. I question the meaning behind Frankenstein’s outburst of thought regarding her as a decision maker all of a sudden in the context of her as a female, or possibly what this says about his altered perception of bringing a being to life based on his experience thus far.
For most of the second half of the novel, Victor seems to wallow in his self-pity. We discussed his self-centeredness in our last class, but it became extremely evident with further reading. At the discovery of death of Henry Clerval, Victor thinks, "More miserable a than a man ever was before, why did I not sink into forgetfulness and rest?" (Shelly 202-203). He thinks himself more depressed than any other human is capable of feeling, which demonstrates his extreme self-centeredness. Victor often makes statements like this, putting his feelings above all others.
I find myself feeling relief and confusion towards Victor over deciding not to create the female companion for the monster. My relief comes from Victor finally starting to think about the results of his actions and how they will affect other people in the world. He only thought about himself and the glory he would achieve creating the first monster but now he fears for the fate of the world should he start a new race of the monsters. My confusion comes from Victor’s inability to realize the monster was not planning to kill him on his wedding night, but Elizabeth instead. The monster had already told him about killing William and Victor had just denied the monster a life companion. More disturbing though, is considering the possibility that Victor knew the monster intended to kill Elizabeth. He had hinted at not wanting to marry Elizabeth for most of the novel and even fled to Scotland when his father proposed they wed immediately. I think there is a very real possibility that Victor understood the monster’s plan to kill Elizabeth but let it unfold regardless. He didn’t want to be her husband and he didn’t want to be the creator of a race of monsters and this was a way out of both.
I didn't understand Victor's attitude after he finished his story and Walton's ship was stuck in the ice. Victor had just finished chastising Walton for inquiring about the creation of the monster, saying "Are you mad, my friend? ... or whither does your senseless curiosity lead you? Would you also create for yourself and the world a demoniacal enemy? Peace, peace! learn my miseries, and do not seek to increase your own" (Shelley 243). This sounds like Victor has learned a lesson about overreaching in science. However, one of the next things Victor does is give an impassioned speech to the crew of Walton's ship when they want to give up and return to England. Frankenstein appeals to their sense of honor and glory and implores them to risk life and limb to continue. In my opinion, this seems like Victor hasn't really learned the cautionary message of his own tale.
During this week’s reading, I found myself criticizing how grossly self-centered Frankenstein was, and how little he seemed to learn from his mistakes. After meeting the monster in the mountains, Frankenstein’s greatest concern was his own safety, and his own mental health. The monster had already made it clear he was willing to hurt people important to Frankenstein, and yet, Frankenstein only saw the monster as a threat to himself. He was willing to bring Clerval on the road with him because he thought it would add safety to Frankenstein (Shelley, 173). After the monster threatened to visit Frankenstein on his wedding night, he was only concerned with his own safety, to the point of staying armed with knives and guns, and yet took no look to Elizabeth’s safety (Shelley, 225). It was always his misery that was more painful than anyone else’s (Shelley, 222). In any situation, Frankenstein thought of his personal safety first, before anyone else. Frankenstein also had limited personal growth. While he did refuse to share the secret of the monster’s creation (Shelley, 243), even at the end of his life, he gave a rousing speech espousing the “glorious expedition” and the greatness of their actions (Shelley, 248), and still was loathe to admit that he was partly at fault for the murders the monster committed, except for subconsciously in delirium.
Victor exhibited a profound lapse of judgement the night of his wedding, after he and Elizabeth had reached the dwellings at Villa Lavenza. Victor, who had previously shown awareness of the dangers the Creature posed to his loved ones, seemed strangely certain that he himself would be the Creature's final victim on this night. Much earlier, the Creature clearly exclaimed "I will glut the maw of death, until it be satiated by the blood of your remaining friends!" (Shelly 106). Why then, did Victor send Elizabeth to her chamber unattended while he waited for the monster to confront him? Clearly there were still people alive of great interest to Victor... had he forgotten what the creature said? It is curious that Victor would clearly overlook the possibility of Elizabeth's murder, especially when she was so dearly beloved by him.
There are multiple examples in the text of characters going back and forth with themselves about certain situations or the way they feel and act. Victor and the monster do this consistently. Some of these instances are very quick such as the change in mindset of Victor between life and death, happiness and despair, and tranquility and rage. Some of them occur over longer periods of time such as when Victor explicitly states to Walton from the beginning of the story and other times thereafter not to make the same mistakes as him and heed his warning of how he lived his life causing such destruction and misery, but then at the end of the book, Victor gives a deep glory speech to the crew of Walton's ship instructing them to move forward North in fulfillment of the wishes, aspirations, and wants of honor of Walton, even though all the crew, including Walton and Victor, are certain of the imminent dangers that are surely to kill them. The monster also is involved in these changes when he goes from a loving and hopefully sympathetic being to a complete and utter murderer with happiness in the completion of his tasks. He even says at the end of the book that he felt bad about killing Clerval, but then immediately says how much joy killing Elizabeth gave him. My question then is how much of this flip-flop of character is meant to display the madness and evil of the two characters? How much of it is meant to make us as readers really question the seeming qualities of the characters for more depth and decision of the reader? Is there a difference between the quick and more prolonged changes? What does the constant use of this in her writing mean from the standpoint of Shelley for the sake of the story? Or is there a completely separate reason this comes about other than coincidence?
In the past week, my entry reflected on how much more I appreciate Frankenstein reading it a second time. My entry this week is directed towards those who have just completed their first reading of the novel; does the monster's immense character development come as a surprise? In Walton's last letter, he quotes the last words he had with the monster. "...I am a wretch. I have murdered the lovely and the helpless; I have strangled the innocent as they slept." (Shelley 257). Victor created this monster for many purposes, but were you as shocked to see such a cathartic moment from the monster as I was?
During the last few chapters of reading it became apparent that I absolutely hate Victor as a character. His extreme self-centeredness, naivety, and sheer stupidity led to the demise of his friends and family. If he had shown acceptance of his creation or at least prevented it from ever wandering the earth then we can presume that no deaths would’ve occurred. Also, after being specifically told by the monster “I will be with you on your wedding-night” (Shelley 192), you would think that since it is such a general statement it may not be wise for Victor to think that these threats only apply to him. Then by no surprise he allows his new bride to retire all alone for the night. Real smart. He also demonstrates this selfishness after agreeing to the demands of the monster, but later decides to destroy the female creation (Shelley 189). I saw the logic behind why he did it, so there wouldn’t be a species of monsters potentially ruling the world, however, by going back on his word and destroying this new creation he was almost playing with the emotions of monster. In my opinion, his fate was utterly deserved.
I was interested in the passage where it is revealed that Frankenstein’s monster did indeed kill William. What intrigues me the most is that the monster approached William with the intention of befriending him, but once he found out that he was related to Frankenstein, he murdered him. Do you think that if William had not mentioned Frankenstein’s name, that the monster would have let him go? Do you think that the monster would eventually won over the boy’s heart when the boy realized that the monster meant no harm? Or would have William stayed frightened forever?
I'm having a hard time interpreting what message, if any, Shelley was trying to send in terms of Victor's selfishness, especially in the second half of the book, where Victor is loathing in the pain that others were suffering and trying to attract attention to himself. I understand that the Romantic movement endorsed and inspired individualism, however, I wouldn't normally associate that kind of pity and pain that Victor says he is experiencing with being individualistic. Was Shelley trying to encourage new levels of empathy towards others, to oneself? Or maybe she was trying to show the harm done when one becomes too utterly self centered.
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