Essay on Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein or The Modern Prometheus is treated under the genres gothic fiction and science/speculative fiction. It deals with the predicament of the learned man’s zest for inexorable levels of success. However, the protagonist, Victor Frankenstein, shuns the natural sciences of the Enlightenment Era and indulges in the dark sciences and alchemy of the medieval times. He is presented as someone who possesses a relentless spirit for adventure and strange longing for the occult.
In an attempt to fulfill his dreams, Victor thinks of doing something unique. In his own words, “It was the secrets of heaven and earth that I desired to learn; and whether it was the outward substance of things, or the inner spirit of nature and the mysterious soul of man that occupied me, still my inquiries were directed to the metaphysical, or, in its highest sense, the physical secrets of the world” (Chapter 2). He decides to create human life so as to be equal with God, and collects the various body parts of human beings and puts them together. With the help of the secret sciences that he has learnt, he manages to bring life to this creature. But on seeing the creature, its creator himself is horrified, as it was nearly eight feet tall and had abominable features. Frankenstein runs out of the house and on his return does not find the creature in the house. He falls sick for several months. The reaction of its creator and the treatment it receives in general from the external world makes the creature a recluse, with a mind filled with hatred, frustration, and revenge.
The creature takes away the lives of the near and dear ones of Victor – first his youngest brother William, and then the family’s faithful maid for long time, Justine, as she is accused of the murder and is executed. On detecting the creature near his the rocks where William was killed, Victor suspects it as the murderer and confronts it back in Geneva. It tries to communicate with its creator the shattered state of mind with which it is forced to live. It confesses that it committed the murders to shake Victor’s conscience, but now needs peace, and asks for a synthetic female as its pair. Though Victor agrees at first to create a partner for the creature, later decides not to do that, since he fears that this may lead to the birth of many evil creatures.
The creature kills Victor’s close friend Clerval and then his wife Elizabeth in his first night. Victor tries to hunt the creature down and to destroy him, and encounters the caption of a ship that was on an adventurous sail to the North Pole. Captain Walton recounts the death of Victor and the grief and disgust that the creature showed in its suicidal bout. The sailors are disenchanted of the adventurous prospects of the voyage as the witnessed the outcome of unnecessary inventions that questioned the rules of Nature and turn back home.
The general understanding of the creature as essentially evil cannot entirely be justified. It is rather the limitless quest of human beings and their prejudices that leads to the strange character of the creature. It is in fact similar to an infant longing for attention and care, but the world looks at it in horror and treats it cruelly. Its words on finding the dead body of Victor is evidence enough that it was only trying to survive with the help of its creator and the horrible things that it did to him were out of sheer frustration and lack of self-control. In assures the sailors: “Fear not that I shall be the instrument of future mischief. My work is nearly complete. Neither yours nor any mans death is needed to consummate the series of my being, and accomplish that which must be done; but it requires my own” (Chapter 24). The creatures lament that it failed to get any recognition in its life even from its own creature is as poignant as the disappointment and self-punishment of Victor for his own misdirected endeavors.