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The Principles Of Life In Frankensteins Gothic Horror English Literature Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Literature
Wordcount: 2210 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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The story of Frankenstein by Mary Shelley is an unforgettable gothic horror story. Written by Mary Godwin Shelley while staying at Lake Geneva, in Switzerland, “Frankenstein” was inspired by a vivid dream that she had after hearing a conversation about science and the origins of life. In this dream she saw a “hideous phantasm of a man stretched out” (Querna) and a scientist trying to bring him to life. Thus, the sub-title “The Modern Prometheus” leads the reader to relate the story to the Greek myth that Prometheus a Greek god stole fire and gave it to mankind (Cohen); it was believed that Prometheus was responsible for the creation of man. In “Frankenstein” Victor Frankenstein is responsible for creating the monster causing the public to view him as “the mad scientist” (Shelley 302). This gothic horror “Frankenstein” is known as “more than a book…..it is a myth and a symbol” and inspires an undisclosed secret (315), the principal of life. Mary Shelley uses many themes to give us a vivid view of the different aspects of life including: humanity, creation and morality.

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Curiosity is shown in the passage of the story narrated by the monster. The monster is curious about the world around him. As he talks to Victor, “he demands Victor as his creator to hear his tale (67). The monster describes some of this curiosity when he tells of his happiness at the discovery of many things in nature including “the trees” and “the clear stream” and “was delighted when I first discovered that a pleasant sound, which often saluted by ears, proceeded from the throats of the little winged animals” (68-69). Thus, his description shows the innocent curiosity of his life and the things he finds around him. He spent many hours watching the family in the cottage “learning about their beauty and grace, the way they lived and loved” (77-80).

The love portrayed throughout Frankenstein also shows humanity. The monster, in his quest to learn about life learns about love from the family in the shack of the De Laceys. Shelley portrays the creature in a way that makes the reader feel sorry for him. He lives alone in a deserted shack fascinated by the closeness and the actions they show to each other including the “gentle manners and beauty” (75). He learns to read, speak and write during this time. He develops an evident compassion and learns to love the family. He in his kindness and love for the family decides it hurts them if he eats their food because it causes them to go hungry (75). He also realizes it helps them if he gathers their wood. He develops such a love for them that he becomes convinced in his thinking that they would “compassionate me, and overlook my personal deformity” (88). Shelley suggests that the monster had a great capacity to love as shown in the admiration of the De Lacey family. The monster is sadly disappointed when he is rejected and becomes angry learning that he cannot be accepted by society. At this point he again becomes alone and isolated from the world.

Isolation is another form of humanity shown by Mary Shelley. The first instance of isolation is apparent when Victor Frankenstein separates himself from his family. He spends hours of his time absorbed in his work and seems to forget his family (33) not even taking the time to reply to his father. The isolation is realized by the monster while observing the cottagers. It is at this point that he decides to reveal himself to the family thinking they will accept him. This starts out well as the old man can’t see well. However, it quickly becomes chaotic as the family returns home; they are frightened by his appearance and attack him and “dash him to the ground and strike him violently with a stick (91). He is once again alone and isolated as he says his “protectors had departed, and broken his only link to the world” (93). He realizes the prejudice against his physical appearance. These same prejudices exist today putting limits on how one should look. Anything not considered as what we call normal creates limits on the person that is different. I am sure these misfits in life also feel hurts and torments just as the monster did. Shelley wrote “the monster at this point couldn’t understand his being and his thoughts went back to his “father, his creator (94) the one that had given him life (94). He couldn’t understand why he had lived and thus “cursed his creator” (91).

Creation is another theme used by Mary Shelley. Victor Frankenstein spends hour upon hour in his lab working to bring to life a form he develops from the body parts of dead people and live animals. In The Landscape of Grief in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein by Matthew Brennan it is suggested that Frankenstein is Mary Shelley’s way of dealing with the death of her mother and her child. “Mary Shelley herself had fantasies of resurrecting the dead. After her first, nameless infant died, she dreamed of animating it” (3). Mary used Victor’s obsession as a parallel to her thinking as his “sole motivation becomes the infantile desire to animate the dead”. This theme of creation matches the fantasy and dreams (Brennan) she has had about bringing the dead people in her family back to life. Shelley’s description of how Victor creates his creature is close in resemblance to a human birth. She calls Victor’s lab a “workshop of filthy creation” (Shelley 32) indicating this could be the uterus. Shelley also uses the amount of time it takes for a baby to grow “Winter, spring and summer passed away during my labours” (page 33) suggesting he is taking the place of a women. The creation of Victor’s human and the animation to life suggests that reproduction would become unnecessary. This creation breaks the normal family structure. Victor also takes on the idea of being a God he thinks: “a new species would bless me as its creator and source” (32) and implies that the creature would owe him gratification. Upon the “accomplishment of his toils” he quickly realized that “the beauty of his dreams vanished, and breathless horror and disgust filled my heart (Shelley 34). His ideas of being a God quickly change when he realizes how ugly his creation is. He then abandons the poor creature refusing to be the father figure that he might have been and alienates himself from society and from the creature. He goes into a state of panic and shock and commences into a state of nervous fear for several months (Shelley 36). He then spends the following time in the story being tormented by the monster he has created. He thinks he sees the “dreaded spectre glide into the room” and imagines the monster has seized him (Shelley 37). Upon learning of the murder of his brother Victor travels toward home. During a very violent storm he sees in the gloom a figure, “its gigantic stature, and the deformity of its aspect, more hideous than belongs to humanity, instantly informed me that it was the wretch, the filthy daemon to whom I had given life” (48). Wherever Victor goes the monster follows him. The monster finally approaches the scientist demanding that “you must create a female for me, with whom I can live in the interchange of those sympathies necessary for my being. This you alone can do; and I demand it of you as a right which you must not refuse” (98). He threatens Victor for breaking his promise of the creation of a mate. “You are my creator, but I am your master—–obey!” (Shelley 116) he commands to Victor or “I shall be with you on your wedding night” the scientist would “have seized him, but he eluded” him and left the house (Shelley 116). Victor Frankenstein breaks his promise to the monster when he starts questioning the moral issue of creating a second being.

The question of morality plays a very important role in “Frankenstein. Victor Frankenstein took on the role of God when he assumed the “capability of bestowing animation upon lifeless manner” ( ). Thus, bringing up the question of what is morally correct. In “Frankenstein” Victor in trying to create life and take God’s place. It seems Victor loses his sense of morality in his quest to find the knowledge of the secrets of the universe. Also, in his creation of the monster, all of the body parts are stolen from “the unhallowed damps of the grave” and he has no fear of disturbing the dead. He also gets parts from the torture of living animals (32). Victor Frankenstein’s loss of morals and ethics bring up the factor of the forbidden and the punishment that comes when a person crosses into this area. In the story of Adam and Eve, they were expelled from the garden because of the forbidden fruit. Victor Frankenstein in this myth crosses into forbidden areas as “this tale of a man who overstepped the bounds of what we should know, created life, and then was punished by having his monstrous creation turn on him in the most horrible way” (Cohen). This brings up the question also of what is ethically correct. In “The Circle of Friends at the Villa Diodai” by Mary Shelley, “the story assumed mythic dimensions as it addressed profound implications concerning man’s understanding of transgressing against God and Nature”(add page number if available). Victor Frankenstein “forfeits his integrity” and he becomes speechless and incapable of communicating with others, the most extreme instance is his inability to testify on Justine’s behalf and, thereby, becomes responsible for her execution (Abrams). He is ashamed and wants to keep his horrible creation a secret. The creation of a living being brings up the subject of medical ethics. In the ‘medicine’ of Shelley and Frankenstein by Steven Doherty, “medical ethics prevalent during the time of Frankenstein are still relevant today albeit in a different form. Debate over stem cell research and cloning poses the same ethical dilemmas as the creation of Frankenstein’s monster, and the ‘re-animation’ of life that scientists in Shelley’s day thought possible”. This brings up the questions, Can man create life? What would be the benefits to society? Will it be possible to clone a human being? Probably one of the biggest debates would be, what are the moral implications of cloning?

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According, to the Bible and the creation of mankind by God, cloning as well as the idea in the creation of Frankenstein, this would be a denial of God. Scientist continues to pursue knowledge and to find the secrets of the universe. Christians find this to be wrong. God is the creator and we cannot take his place.

Dr. Frankenstein apparently has some conscience nous to this fact towards the end of the story. With the knowledge that Dr. Frankenstein has he feels sorry for the monster and pledges to make him a companion believing that the Creation will do as he says and “quit the neighborhood and man, promises the morally corrupt monster upon the completion of his partner. Upon thinking about it, the scientist fears that the monster will not keep his part of the bargain. He gets into a moral battle in his mind realizing the possibility of being rid of his creation if he commits another moral sin and creates another one or the possibility they could become twice the amount of a problem (Shelley 114). It is at this time he decided to act morally. He destroys the second creation that he is in the process of assembling (Shelley 115). Mary Shelley upon this moral realization suddenly calls him “the good doctor, trying to act morally, destroys the monster for the good of the world” (Cohen).

Mary Shelley’s gothic horror “Frankenstein” “The Modern Prometheus” is a myth she wrote following a dream she had about the principles of life. During the time she wrote the story, the creation of life and re-animation by what were know as mad scientists were a main topic of conversation. Shelley’s story was written mainly in regard to the creation of the being, a monster, we call Frankenstein, who remained nameless throughout the story. The principles of her life were shown through the three narrations, the characters and parallelism to things in “Frankenstein”. To emphasize the principles of life she uses themes of humanity including curiosity, love and isolation to support her view of her personal evils in her life. She also writes using the themes of creation and morality. Her story sends out a message about creation and how moral irresponsibility can create something that was not meant for humanity. The thirst for knowledge can cause one to deny God and the creation process.


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