The Devaluating of Life in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein
- Date:Jul 21, 2019
Mary Shelley does not explicitly comment on her position on Frankenstein. Frankenstein appears as an open invitation for all kinds of theories and interpretations. This paper argues that Dr. Frankenstein’s devaluing of life for the sake of social standing leads to his downfall. His act leads to the monster wreaking havoc throughout the novel. Victor Frankenstein values his reputation than life. He desires to join the new class of learned men that has replaced the landed gentry as the upper society in Europe. Outside his closed social group, consisting of his family and a single friend, he has no real relationship. Victor finds himself alone when he joins the University. Victor focuses on the prospect of building his reputation.
The failure to value life over fame sets the beginning of Frankenstein’s suffering. Upon discovering the secret to reanimating dead, Frankenstein endeavors to create a being like himself. He states that he may not completely succeed but rather only lay the groundwork for future success. (101) He agrees that the minuteness of the parts forms a great hindrance to his speed (101). For these, we sufficiently conclude that Victor does not value life. He is to create as much as what the creation will give him- a place in history, recognition for reanimating dead flesh. Victor would not have embarked on creation until he was prepared and dedicated to the creating and rearing of the living being, to show that he truly values life.
Frankenstein becomes overwhelmed with the ugliness of the life he has created and flees from it, something he toiled so hard to achieve. He is greatly unwilling to deal with his creation as a living being. If Victor value life he would have helped the monster and prevented the plight that followed him. He dreaded what others would think of him for creating a monstrosity and his act of abandoning his creation the very moment it entered the world. He chooses to preserve his reputation at the expense of his family; he puts them at risk. He loses his three family members and two family friends. They die because of Victor’s desire to be reputable. William dies because of Victor’s shunning the monster at the moment of creation making him suffer at the hands of other men. The monster became vindictive and violent. The murder of William led to Justine’s execution. Victor refuses to take responsibility for the death of Justine. Instead, he justifies his silence saying that it is unnecessary to divulge the truth because of the incidental nature of the case against Justine.
Elizabeth and Victor’s father die. Victor refuses to admit that he created the monster that was behind all the deaths. His pride compels him into silence when people around him are dying. He does not go to the authorities to confess his act of creating a monster until the month after the death of his father. At this time, it was too late he would have stopped the death of those who had previously died. As the novel comes to a close, Victor lets go of his reputation and the prospect of being the great father of science. He sacrifices his life to deal with the monster (260).
Clerval, who plays the role of Victor’s Redeemer in the novel, falls victim of the monster because Victor did not warn her of the danger. Victor reasons that by not finishing the female monster he is saving humanity. On the contrary, Victor is not able to see the monster’s value. It is not an issue of his concern for the world that leads him to create the female monster for the male monster. The monster is motivated to kill repeatedly, indicating that Victor devalues life.
Even to the point of his death Victor Frankenstein seems not to learn that valuing life is important that valuing of self-gain. He assumes that Captain Walton and his men shall continue their quest for finding the Northwest Passage to the Pacific. He tells them that they shall be hail upon success and receive fame. He does not seem to understand the danger involved in such a mission like the loss of Captain Walton and his men’s lives. All that cloud his mind is reputation and honor, and not the value of life. In his hierarchy of preference, the value of life comes below reputation. Fortunately, Captain Walton learns great lessons from Victor’s story and agrees to return to England to avoid the sacrifice of innocent lives (258).
The desire for fame, power and self-gain in contemporary life is not worth the sacrifice of innocent lives. This is an object lesson that Mary Shelly attempts to express in her novel ‘Frankenstein’ by using an illustration of the main character Victor Frankenstein. The devaluing of life for selfish personal gain eventually leads to immense personal suffering.
Lunsford, Lars. “The devaluing of life in Shelley’s Frankenstein.” The Explicator, 68.3 (2010): pp. 174-176. Web. May 18, 2015.