Mary Shelley’ novel Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus is a great example of a thrilling story about good versus evil, natural versus artificial, and humane versus inhumane. While it is possible to state that all of these ideas have been disclosed in the novel, we still cannot clearly identify who was playing on the side of good and who was representing evil. In her novel, Mary Shelley gives us a chance to decide who has been right and who has mistaken and to interpret the distinction between man and a monster in a way most suitable to our understanding of a world.
Victor Frankenstein is a young man, dearly loved by his family and his cousin Elisabeth who is to become his wife. He leads a life of an open-minded scientist who is eager to learn and most of all is overwhelmed with a desire to create. It is hard to judge whether he is a kind person, as he is the one telling the story. However, bearing in mind the letters from his family and how they and his friend devote themselves to him, we can assume that he is indeed loved and there is no reason for him to be disliked by anyone. Even his Creature in its conversation with Captain Walton refers to Victor as “the select specimen of all that is worthy of love and admiration among men” (Shelley ch. 24). Not to mention what feelings Walton has experienced while enjoying the communication with Frankenstein. In one of the letters, he wrote to his sister, “For my own part, I begin to love him as a brother; and his constant and deep grief fills me with sympathy and compassion.
He must have been a noble creature in his better days, being even now in wreck so attractive and amiable.” (Shelley Preface) Nevertheless, Victor appears to me as an ambiguous character for the actions of his I cannot consider as those worthy of a good man. He certainly is a talented man of a great mind, but this does not excuse him from his responsibility before the Creature no matter how terrifying it is. I do believe it is his lack of masculinity and responsibility that caused terrible consequences. He should have taken care of his creation. If he did, there would be a chance of using it for good. His failure to act properly proves that he was a human being with weaknesses and shortcomings, which were the reasons why he did have neither the right nor the power to create something as great as new life.
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Victor decides to make his to-be-human eight feet tall and parts of dead human and animal bodies serve as the material of his work. While reading, I often asked myself why Frankenstein made his creation so horrible. Indeed, he was a great chemist, a master who could do far better than that. However, to my regret, the answer appears obvious. He was too blinded with the desire of “great enterprise” (Shelley ch. 24) He aimed to create a life not to experience its precious nature but to make it his greatest accomplishment. “Creature”, “wretch”, “monster”, “vile insect”, “fiend”, “daemon”, “being”, and “it” – this is how “father” refers to his creation. (Shelley ch. 10) He leaves the Creature alone for his lonely battles against life. No wonder, the monster refers to himself as Victor’s “fallen angel”. (Shelley ch. 10) He finds out that people around him have families while he is alone and experiences that people fear him so much that this feeling makes them either run away or defend themselves whereas he merely tries to help them. What kind of a father a man is if he leaves his son to his fate? In our world people having left their children are considered not to deserve any respect. Victor’s Creation was not born of a woman; it was not a full human being, but it was made and had to be if it was not for its irresponsible master. The Creature was good initially. It did not harm and tried to help. It collected the firewood for Felix, saved a daughter of a farmer when she was about to draw. It was smart enough to learn the languages and humane enough to understand what was good and what was bad. Its words prove this. It said, “For a long time I could not conceive how one man could go forth to murder his fellow, but when I heard details of vice and bloodshed, my wonder ceased, and I turned away with disgust and loathing.” As we see, he was disgusted by mere thoughts of people killing their fellows. Wouldn’t this mean that initially, he had no intention of murdering? I think the reason he grew mad was that people themselves were not ready to judge not by the appearance but rather by the actions of the Creature. It was them who made it do the horrible things he did.
In my opinion, Victor Frankenstein was a good man, who has mistaken and was too desperate to correct his mistake. Though, it is hard for me to call the Creature a monster. Monsters are the ones without feelings, who are initially intended to carry evil and horror into people’s lives for the fun of it. The Creature had feelings and was nothing like that. Indeed, it killed three people, but it was the consequence of his desperation and Victor’s irresponsibility and negligence. The Creature explained to Walton, “After the murder of Clerval I returned to Switzerland, heartbroken and overcome. I pitied Frankenstein; my pity amounted to horror; I abhorred myself”. (Shelley ch. 24)
In fact, Mary Shelley uses a method of framing so that the readers can get acquainted with the letters of Captain Walton. It helps us to get a better view of Frankenstein’s story. Here, an important detail is that Walton is very alike Frankenstein in his youth, but Victor tells him not to follow his path and not to ruin his life by ambitions. The Captain’s reception of Victor is of great significance, as well as it proves that Frankenstein was a good man and did not deserve such a terrible fate he constructed for his family and himself. Another moment I want to stress upon is that part of the novel is the Creature’s story and it is the one telling it. This is where we find out that it had a personality and deserves to be identified as an individual instead of an artificial result of an experiment.
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I think this story was about a man and its creation, not about a man and a monster. We cannot put the responsibility for its actions on the Creature, because it never was a human. I believe, that for a thing made of the dead he was very much like men and did well enough according to his experience of a mad world and a lack of gratitude in it. Nevertheless, the novel proves that the artificial will never compare to the natural and a human is too complicated to be artificially created.
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