Frankenstein; Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley


Since a long time ago, human beings have looked for new technologies and new discoveries, trying to make life easier and better, or improving themselves. This is why, sometimes, science can show that we can break further boundaries, know how mysterious life is, and in some cases, how dangerous it is, as well. What I mean, nevertheless, is that there is something obvious, and it is that human beings can never control life; that is to say, we cannot stop life and create life, as we want to. There are some laws in the nature and, of course, we must allow nature to take its own course. Now, focusing on Mary Shelley's work that could be the mistake that Victor Frankenstein made. He forgot that he was only a scientist and, obviously, a human being. He liked playing God and when he released what he created and its terrifying consequences (such as the murder of William, Clerval, and Elizabeth and also Victor's father died by the pain produced by those murders, and also, Frankenstein's own death and the suicide of the creature), he kept himself so afraid that he did not know what to do but leave the creature to his own fate. The argument of this essay is aimed at morality in order to make clear whether Victor should have brought the creature to life or not and, of course, to establish who is the monster in Shelley's work.

The power of nature is always fascinating and mysterious, for instance: a moving earthquake, a wet rainforest, a burning volcano, or an electric storm with thunder. Thunder is a natural force, which Victor Frankenstein used to bring the creature to life because when he was a child he saw in a thunderstorm the most powerful phenomenon in the nature, as well as other wonders like mountains, or seasons of the year. From the very beginning, he was interested in science as well as why things in nature happen. This is why he was a follower of Albertus Magnus, Agrippa, or Paracelsus. Anyway, we can read in these extracts from the second chapter and, maybe, it will be easier to understand what I have said.

[…] When we visited it the next morning, we found the tree shattered in a singular manner. It was not splintered by the shock, but entirely reduced to thin ribbons of wood. I never beheld anything so utterly destroyed.

Before this I was not unacquainted with the more obvious laws of electricity. […]

[…] …and in the majestic and wondrous scenes which surrounded our Swiss home -the sublime shapes of the mountains, the changes of the seasons, tempest and calm, the silence of winter, and the life and turbulence of our Alpine summers- she found ample scope for admiration and delight. While my companion contemplated with a serious and satisfied spirit the magnificent appearances of things, I delighted in investigating their causes. The world was to me a secret, which I desired to divine. […]

One and another time, he asked himself about the origin of life, so he investigated deeply the composition and production of human bodies after dying because only knowing causes of death, he would get the secret of life. Curiosity and interest to learn the hidden laws of the nature might be, perhaps, why Victor liked playing God. We are not powerful enough, not only in the power of ability but also in the power of morality, to bring someone to life. Somebody who is a human being who can think on his own, who can feel love as well as hate, who can cry and laugh, … basically a human being as I said before, I repeat that he saw in external power like thunder the way to carry on with his ambitious dream of bringing someone to life from death and to re-build dead organs, skin, a brain, and so on in order to win against the laws of the nature and supersede death. It is a thing a little bit ridiculous because nobody has ever superseded death. Fate, or destiny must be what selects how we should be and not a scientist in a laboratory. On the other hand, either we know why Victor created the creature or the purpose of why he did it, so we cannot, obviously, form an opinion about Victor, at all, but we can condemn the action and, over all, what he did when he finished the work of the creation. A grotesque creature with Shelley's description of it belongs to Gothic Romanticism. He was an antihero, not nice-looking; everybody rejected him and he was deeply hurt by loneliness, and, maybe, can represent the fear of science and technology. Also, when Frankenstein paid him to create a partner, left a fear of they were able to have babies by themselves. Despite this will, Frankenstein laid to the creature because the monster said to Frankenstein he would kill his family. At the end this is what the creature did as his creator do not d what he promised. Again we have another proof why the creature became mad. Anyway, if we look at science and technology now, we can realise that the fear is not over. The miracle of cloning has superseded the fiction. I am not trying to judge that scientists, specialist of cloning, and whether they are performing correctly or not, although they do something similar to Victor's experiments, but just because they are real, it does not mean they proceed in a moral way. Also, I must say that I am disturbed with that miraculous discovery of cloning. I will consider it right only if they do it to avoid illnesses or improve medicine, but not to create chosen people, that is to say, a blonde baby with blue eyes, and a perfect body as well as the most beautiful. Do not consider cloning as an entertainment just because we should not manipulate features of people. Everybody is as everybody must be. Nobody must break this rule as, most of time they are punished because of the dare they do. We can compare this fact, actually, with Prometheus Myth. Searching in Greek mythology, Prometheus was the person who stole fire to Gods and he handed over it to them. Fire was a divine power, which only can be used by them because of gravity. Maybe, Gods did not want human beings to obtain this power because they were not able to handle properly and, of course, because they were not prepared to do it as well. Fire and life are two terms to discuss here. As well as fire can be dangerous because of its awfulness; life is, at the same time, as much dangerous as fire. The point is that neither fire, not literally, nor life can be controlled by low power like human power. It is a force divine or upper, which must be handle carefully, and knowing what are the consequences which origins if you try to manage carelessly.

However, to explore further what I was explaining and focusing on the exaltation of the fantasy, the idealism to the human being, and life, it is easy to perceive that Frankenstein belongs to Romanticism period. Even the vivid descriptions of places make us to feel as if we were there, living the moment, and being characters in the work.

[…] Spring advanced rapidly; the weather became fine and the skies cloudless. It surprised me that what before was desert and gloomy should now bloom with the most beautiful flowers and verdure. My senses were gratified and refreshed by a thousand scents of delight and a thousand sights of beauty. […]

[…] The wind, which had fallen in the south, now rose great violence in the west. The moon had reached her summit in the heavens and was beginning to descend; the clouds swept across it swifter than the flight of the vulture and dimmed her rays, while the lake reflected the scene of the busy heavens, rendered still busier by the restless waves that were beginning to rise. Suddenly a heavy storm of rain descended. […]

Feelings such as friendship, Frankenstein to Clerval, love and fraternal feelings, Frankenstein to Elisabeth, hate between Frankenstein and the creature, loneliness, and revenge (the creature) are represented in the work. These last three were strongly felt by the creature when his creator left him alone. Nevertheless, at the very beginning the creature manifested love, friendship, and human feelings… but because of the abandonment and the refection of everybody made the creature to change his mind. Love, politeness, good thoughts are not only the feelings of a human being but also hate, pain, desire of revenge… Anyway, the monster changed his mind when he was in the cabin of “his father” and saw him dead. Although he was thirsty for revenge, when the monster analysed all the pain he had done to his father (creator), he apologised himself and he was very sorry and cried for the death of Victor. The pain he felt was so strong that he decided to commit suicide throwing himself by the window to the sea, and thus, finishing forever and ever all the suffering he was feeling (from the rejection of everybody to the pain he had caused). Anyway, nor everybody rejects his because when he was in the farm where he learnt to write, speak, behave, and modals and people who lived there were polite and they do not run away when the creature was living with him. To clarify my ideas we can analyse the extract chosen by myself:

[…] “But soon,” he cried with sad solemn enthusiasm, “I shall die, and what I now feel be no longer felt. Soon these burning miseries will be extinct. I shall ascend my funeral pile triumphantly and exult in the agony of torturing flames. The light of that conflagration will fade away; my ashes will be wept into the sea by the winds. My spirit will sleep in peace, or if it thinks, it will not surely think thus. Farewell.”

He sprang from the cabin window as he said this, upon the ice raft, which lay close to the vessel; he was borne away by the waves and lost in darkness and distance. […]

In the first two lines, Shelley explained how the creature felt after all the pain he did. We can notice that the creature, at the end, is regretted for everything he did. The regret is as harder that he decided to stop his life. Maybe, we can think that the creature is the monster but is not it worse what Victor Frankenstein did? We have to think about these two facts and analyse if Victor had not left the creature alone, he would not have become mad, bad, wicked, and he would not have wanted vengeance him. The experiment and ambition made Victor create something that he did not understand. He was only interested in breaking two powerful boundaries: life and death. Look at these extracts:

[…] Life and death appeared to me ideal bounds, which I should first break through, and pour a torrent of light into our dark world. A new species would bless me as its creator and source; many happy and excellent natures would owe their being to me. […]

[…] Learn for me, if not by my precepts, at least by my example, how dangerous is the acquirement of knowledge and how much happier that man is who believes his native town to be the world, than he who aspires to become greater than his nature will allow. […]

Frankenstein is quite worried about knowing the force of very different lines; life and death. Although these forces are unknown to the society and even to scientists, he wanted to clarify these dark fields in order to manipulate them. The reason of getting this knowledge is to create a powerful and perfect race of human beings. From the second extract, we can realise the anxiety of Frankenstein in learning everything, even though, sometimes, is very dangerous and, actually, he knows that it is dangerous but he wants to obtain that knowledge at any price. What he supposed, it was that the creature would be calm and polite but he did not realise what he was creating, even he did not take into account that the creature could change his mind like some human being. Anyway, at the beginning, although the creature was grotesque and not nice-looking, he showed peaceful and nice but the fear of his creator made him to become in a shy, fearful, calculating, and revengeful person, but the rejection of that who brings him to life made him to think he was the guilty himself. Loneliness was the feeling that he felt deeply and, maybe, this is why the creature said to his father that he wanted to create another being like him to be his partner. Look at this extract about the thoughts of Frankenstein. The perfect human being whose main perfection is not the physical appearance but the feelings inside his mind such as tranquillity and not being disturbed by passion or vices like smoking, sex, eating or falling in love with somebody. He was focused on generating a kind of human beings who were interested in knowledge, science, I mean, being better choosing the path of learning. Now it is easier to understand the following example:

[…] A human being is perfection and ought always to preserve a calm and peaceful mind and never to allow passion or a transitory desire to disturb his tranquillity. […]

He thought that he was creating a perfect man, improving the imperfections of human beings; although the creature was formed with different parts of human bodies (bones, organs -the brain of a human being-) Victor did not think too much about either the consequences or the changeable humour of people (being one of his biggest mistakes). If you remember what I explained before about Prometheus Myth, now it is easier to appreciate the acuteness of the power of bringing somebody to life. This is the punishment for using an unknown power. Although Prometheus's punishment was to be tied in the high of a mountain while an eagle ate his liver, Frankenstein's one is not better. The creature killed all his family and his best friends; the same creature that Frankenstein created by himself, that is to say, the power or the secret of life rebelled against him. Perhaps, this was his punishment for having challenged forbidden powers without knowledge enough to do it. On the other hand, even the creature himself tells how he has changed and all the bad things he had done to Victor and not for pleasure but for the pain caused in the monster when he saw that his own father rejects him. He realises and shocks himself the two opposite moods he had had. First of all, he was as a fallen angel, like he describes himself, and then, he becomes in the demoniac devil. He played with two different points: the angelical God and the demoniac devil. Maybe, this is because the monster has two personalities, one with good feelings and another one with feelings of revenge and death. Everything is reflected in the next extract:

[…] When I run over the frightful catalogue of my sins, I cannot believe that I am the same creature whose thoughts were once filled with sublime and transcendent visions of the beauty and majesty of goodness. But it is even so; the fallen angel becomes a malignant devil. Yet even that enemy of God and man had friends and associates in his desolation; I am alone. […]

The point is that the creature is looking for his own identity and nobody wants to show or to teach him - the creature's learning is one of the most mysterious points in the story because the creature becomes the narrator in some of the chapters where he explains how he is learning language, models, how to behave…- him what he is. Instead of helping him, everybody is afraid and do not want to see him or speak to him. Limits between the normal and the monstrous raise some questions; for example what is the identity of those who are created in laboratories? We return again to the morality. Are we able to create a creature with so many responsibilities? Can it be sensible focusing on the ignorance of how we are created and if is it better to live without it? Perhaps, the lack of knowledge is happiness. Nobody knows.

Looking at the problem from another perspective, it is necessary to add that Victor brought the creature to life as a couple have a baby. Should it be responsible to abandon the baby to his own fate? Surely, society would criticise them. Is not it the same comparison? So, Who is the monster? Another important fact, and one of the biggest nuances of Frankenstein is that Mary Shelley, who wrote the novel, is a woman who was very important in the history of feminism. Perhaps, Shelley wanted us to say that men are not able to bring someone to life, that is to say, to be pregnant and if it would be possible, they would not be the same as women. Also, Shelley's work can be seen as a fierce attack on male chauvinism. Some specialist about feminism have said that Victor's creature is an interpretation of the fate of women themselves as they were treated like creatures instead of human beings. It is a strong suggestion, without doubt, but we can think that Shelley might be the monster herself, of course, not in a monstrous sense but in the most ingenious sense. If it was her intention, she was very witty and clever. In this case, we have to ask for ourselves again, who is the monster in Frankenstein? Victor Frankenstein, the creature, or the writer?

We have set out many suggestions to solve the question I asked before and I completely think that relate to the work. Victor is the monster because he did not know what he was doing and the consequences, which it could bring. Anyway, curiosity and ambition of human beings can be the guilty in the same situation as we are not powerful enough to control neither some power nor changing the laws of the nature. Finally, I have to add that although Frankenstein is a fiction work, it will be true, real, and extremely dangerous because science is developing some unknown fields of which even we are not able to imagine; not only cloning but also the robotic era, for instance. Everybody is a monster; the problem is that we must not to achieve him inside of ourselves. In conclusion, the resolution of the novel, depending on me, of course, is that human beings have always tried to succeed their possibilities, becoming no prisoners of their own bodies and mind but in something no human; being prisoners of their knowledge.


Enviado por:Alberto Peñalver
Idioma: inglés
País: España

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