Frankenstein Short Analysis
This paper is aimed to discuss the genre-specific elements found in the book ‘Frankenstein’ written by Mary Shelley. Also, it discusses the primary genre for which the book was written. Further, it elaborates on how the author has deviated from her motifs and used a feministic approach in the novel.
Although science fiction was not a recognized genre at the time, Mary Shelley wrote the first true science fiction novel as a vehicle for expressing her anxiety about what Butler refers to as the ‘creation game’ (1993). The novel seems to revolve around the creation of life- a topic that was greatly discussed in the time the book was written. From various accounts of science-related information in the book, it can be observed that Mary Shelley was particularly interested in the scientific advancements and ideas that had come into existence lately.
According to Butler, the notions of science that have been used in the book are not part of the science that was formally taught in schools. (1993) It, on the contrary, was the science that represented the British public. Evidence in the book shows, that Mary Shelley greatly based her book on the debate which had taken place between two professors in London about the origins of life. (Butler, 1993) It is also important to note that one of the professors was William Lawrence; a friend of the Shelley’s who was in close contact with the author. If the studies and theories of Sir Lawrence are considered, it can be seen that most of the concepts in the book have been derived from his works. For instance, his notion of’ aggressive materialism’ is used in the book when Frankenstein tries to create a creature. One may also find while going through the book that Frankenstein used electricity to bring out the life in human beings. This is also related to one of Lawrence’s books where he tries to ridicule his opponent, Sir Abernethy, as the opponent thinks that life is something that is analogous to electricity. The book also talks about other scientific advancements such as magnetism, vivisection, and Polar exploration, etc. Hence, it would not be wrong to say that most of the ideas presented in the novel are based on scientific principles and rules- the basic definition of the genre of science fiction.
The characters of Frankenstein and the monster, themselves, represent the great influence that the author was under due to the scientific debate. According to Butler, the character of Frankenstein is the one that expresses religious remorse after creating the monster. (1993) The use of the ‘religion’ and the blundering role of Frankenstein here signifies the role of Sir Abernethy, a professor who was well known to combine science with religion. The monster’s role on the other hand symbolizes the character of Sir Lawrence as the monster is the one that is more powerful and better adapted between the two main characters since he lives all by himself in the forest and learns skills.
Although the main theme focuses on issues relating to science, there are some instances and elements in the book that show the way in which Mary Shelley deviated from her motifs. According to Gilbert & Gubar, the author has used romantic prose in her book too. (1979) Since the author was influenced by Lord Bryon and Percy Shelley (her husband) who were both renowned romantic poets, it was natural for her to use romanticism in her books. In those times, there was a general resistance towards the advancement of science. Most of the authors, as a consequence, wrote on things that could not be explained by the standard procedures of science. Although the work of Mark Shelley is different from the conventional writers of the time, it still carries some elements that relate it to the era of romanticism. For example, the use of Milton’s Paradise Lost as a book that is read by the monster is something of great importance. This is because Milton’s book discusses the events that led Eve into committing a sin. (Gilbert & Gubar, 1979) Milton’s work is purely one of romanticism, and the way it is followed by Mary Shelley makes Frankenstein a work of romanticism to some extent too. The characters that of Frankenstein are based on the ‘Satan’ and ‘Adam ’ used in Milton’s book. While Frankenstein’s character shows remorse after the creation of the creature (as Adam did after eating the fruit), the monster is used to represent Satan (ugly and disastrous). The notion of Gothicism has also been introduced here, owing to the fact that the monster terrorized and killed people. (Gilbert & Gubar, 1979). The book also portrays the characters of Walton and Frankenstein as fallen angels like Adam and Eve. Gilbert & Gubar, 1979). Moreover, there are many instances where the author, being a woman, analyzes some of the female characteristics buried under the mask of the masculine characters. For example, she uses Eve’s curiosity in Frankenstein’s character when he tries to find a secret of life. The character of the monster also depicts Eve’s feelings. For example, the feelings of rejection from Frankenstein, the isolation, and the sinful nature all depict the attributes of Eve. Critics like Moers also believe that Mary Shelley used feminine aspects. (1977) in her words,
‘The book is more interesting, most powerful and most feminine: in the motif of revulsion against newborn life’ (Moers, 1977)
The fact that Mary Shelley was pregnant when she wrote the book is a factor why she chose to write about the emergence of life. (Moers, 1977) The use of the drama of guilt surrounding the birth of a baby can all be seen as she describes the creation of the monster. Although she uses masculine characters, yet through her portrayal of the characters, she relates the story of her own miserable life.
To conclude, the book ‘Frankenstein’ has certain elements that may cause the critics to believe that it is a romantic or a gothic novel, however, the extensive importance that has been given to the scientific rules and beliefs in the book are the main reason why it primarily is a science fiction book.
Butler, Marilyn. “The First Frankenstein and Radical Science.” Frankenstein by Mary Shelley (Non-Critical Edition) (1996): 302-13. Print.
Gilbert, Sandra, and Susan Gubar. “Mary Shelley’s Monstrous Eve.” Frankenstein by Mary Shelley (Non-Critical Edition) (1996): 225-40. Print.
Moers, Ellen. “Female Gothic.” Frankenstein by Mary Shelley (Non-Critical Edition) (1996): 214-25. Print.