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Possibly one of the very best works of literature of all time is the novel Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. It is a worldwide known book, and there have been countless film adaptations, sequels, and retellings of it. As one reads this novel he or she will more than likely be able to relate to the story or the characters in some way or another. It makes a great analysis project also. Things that readers are likely to find when researching this book are the interesting way Shelley came up with the idea of the book, the differences in film adaptations and the actual novel, the view of both science fiction and horror in the book, the relationship between creature and creator, the different interpretive levels the story has to offer, and the way Shelley related a lot of the topics of the story to the political community.
A very interesting topic to research when it comes to this novel is how it actually came into existence. The tale began to form in the year 1816 as a result of a ghost-story-telling session between Mary Shelly, her husband, and a couple friends when the Shelleys were in Switzerland. They decided to have a contest to see who could write the scariest story in one weekend. It took her a few days to get inspiration, but she eventually got her waking dream. She said that what terrified her would terrify others, and she needed only to describe the specter which had haunted her midnight pillow.
The story and it's monster-hero eventually became such a well known and popular subject for film and stage that many acquaint themselves with the creature before even reading the book itself. Most first-time readers shockingly discover that the monster remains unnamed throughout the whole book, and the creator's name is actually Frankenstein. The novel can be difficult for modern readers to understand, with an older form of language and a plot that has less action or suspense than expected. Usually readers discover a much more intimate view into the lives of Victor and his creation than they would with the movies.
Frankenstein is a novel thought of as both horror and science fiction. Although the reader is more than likely horrified and disturbed by the events that happen, Victor Frankenstein's creature is not born by magic or the supernatural but by scientific principles. It is true that it is terrifying to think the morbid events in this story, but they are done in the name of science. For example, Victor gathers the dead body parts, but he is doing it to have supplies for his experiments.
The very core of this story is the intensely bitter relationship between Victor Frankenstein and his creation. Victor creates the creature but is afraid of it after doing so. He completely rejects it and doesn't even give it a chance to show if it's good or evil. Victor just automatically assumes that it's an evil monster. At one point in the story the creature tells Victor to remember that he is Victor's creature and that he ought to be his Adam, but instead Victor treats him like the fallen angel. This shows that the creature feels hurt by the way his creator is acting, and therefore may not be a monster. Perhaps Victor Frankenstein is the actual monster here.
When one is reading Frankenstein the novel intends the reader to see Victor Frankenstein as stealing creative fire from heaven in order to make a creature, who most people call a monster. One of the only reasons this creature is even referred to as a monster is because of what Hollywood has done to the story. In spite of the creature's crimes, he is as much angel as he his monster. The traditional movies don't show the true side of the creature or the creator.
There is a significant difference in Hollywood's depiction of this relationship between creator and creation and the original story. One way to measure the distance in Mary Shelley's daemon and Hollywood's monster is to try to imagine the film monsters being self-educated by reading Milton's Paradise Lost. The original creature does exactly that, and actually receives a great education. Unlike Victor, who has lack of imagination, the creature has great sensibility. As a matter of fact, critics normally agree that Victor and his creation are two halves of the same being, somehow divided against itself. This is how most critics believe the confusion came about in Hollywood giving the creature the name Frankenstein. Readers realize that, in the actual novel, the creature's sympathy far surpasses Victor's.
Frankenstein exerts a very strong hold on the readers imagination because it works on so many different interpretive levels. Beyond its appeal as a gripping tale of morbid horror, it is also a myth of technological arrogance showing what happens when man attempts to rival the laws of God and mother nature. Victor's is the tale of an out of control ego whose drive for power is self-destructive in the end. From another point of view, it is the exploration and creation itself, both creative act and psychical birth, posing questions of responsibility and consequence. At a psychological level Frankenstein and the creature may possibly represent two combined aspects of a broken psychic whole, with the creature enacting murderous desires that Victor simply ignores. The novel also treats society's sin in blocking out disturbing aspects of human nature that challenge us to second guess what we conceive as monstrous. Is it that it resides with the creature, or does it reside with the denial of love that he wants?
The story of the way Victor treats his creation remains part of a tale that has just as strong a message against humans acting outside rational thinking now as it did two hundred years ago when Mary Shelley wrote the novel. It can be directly compared to an irresponsible father refusing to take responsibility for their children. As strange or comical as it may seem, this process can actually be compared to how some of fathers are when it comes to sexual intercourse. He was engulfed in the idea of creating this creature. He was overwhelmed with the process leading up to giving it life, but when the creature came alive Victor realized what he had done and refused to have anything to do with it. This leads to a very popular question about the book. Is the creature the monster for killing and causing so much trouble over wanting to be loved, or is Victor Frankenstein the monster for not loving and taking responsibility for what he has done?
Now, if one does a close analysis of this novel there is actually a lot to that the reader can see. In Victor's attempt to create life in his laboratory, he makes a somewhat frightening being. At the same time the being has great sensitivity and intellect. After Victor does this deed, he considers his actions to be a crime against mankind. He thinks that he has crossed the boundaries of forbidden intelligence, and he realizes that he failed to take responsibility for what he has unleashed upon the world. In consequence, Victor Frankenstein places himself, and his creation, beyond all possibility of forgiveness and redemption.
It's true that the reader can tell the Victor Frankenstein apart from his creature, but can be difficult to tell what to make of them. Victor Frankenstein is a young man who comes from a nurturing family, and the creature is something completely different than human. Sure he's made from human, but they were dead human parts. He's simply made up of dead body parts that were brought to life by an electric current and the brilliance of a very curious student. The question remains as to the true essence and nature of Victor Frankenstein and his creation. It is hard to speak of them separately. The creature is Victor's daemon and is type of manifestation of his subconscious personality. Victor probably never imagined how the birth of his creature would turn out or what consequences would result from it.
There are actually ways that Victor Frankenstein and his creation can be compared to a plant, however this will require some explanation. There are basic properties that plants must have. The plant is an organism, starting as a seed, with the entire thing being greater than the sum of all of its parts. In it's natural state, it grows and manifests. It evolves spontaneously from some type of internal source of energy. It's structure is organic whereas a machine is just a combination of things whose parts can be substituted.
From a physical point of view, Victor Frankenstein is clearly a human being. The son of Alphonse and Caroline Frankenstein. While growing up, he is intelligent, sensitive, and a very responsible person who starts his education at the University of Ingolstadt. He has a huge enthusiastic love for the natural sciences. However, it's this enthusiasm that eventually brings him to his own downfall as he becomes seduced by his own personal abilities to surpass the rest of the scientists that came before him. This all begins at the very moment he gives life to the creature he has assembled together. Starting from his creature's creation onward, Victor Frankenstein's mental and physical well-being are terribly interrupted and continuously become increasingly unstable as he is aggravated and just sickened by the deed he has done. The most important thing, though, is Victor's belief and overwhelming fear that he must not ever tell what he has done. So, he vows to never tell another soul of his doings, and can never again act ethically. Victor Frankenstein forfeits his integrity as a result of his experiment and the transgressions that it implies. Victor becomes more and more speechless and it gets harder for him to even communicate with others. As a very extreme result of his lack of integrity he is unable to testify during Justine's trial, and he becomes responsible for her undeserved execution.
In the creature's case, he is a manufactured being who was put together from body parts that Victor Frankenstein went around collecting from grave sites and crypts. The creature is made up of dead matter that is missing an organizational plan, and Victor has no idea of how or whether the disparate parts will even work. Victor Frankenstein just learns as he gets further into the construction of his being and makes adjustments as needed.
The creature is being condemned to loneliness and he is rejected by all who look at him, but he is very sentient. The creature develops amazing language skills and eventually convinces Victor Frankenstein that he is obligated to at least create him a female companion. The creature agrees with Victor that he will go out into the wilderness away from all civilization forever with his wife, as long as Victor will create her for him. It's almost like the creature has stolen Victor Frankenstein's powers of articulation and surpassed him as well. We really don't have any evidence of Victor's previous rhetorical skills. The monster plays with the reader's sympathies and, although one probably wouldn't uphold him for the crimes of murder and all of the chaos that he has caused, the novel allows you to understand the motives that drives him to do those horrendous acts. In the moments when the creature acts out of love and desire to be a part of the human civilization, the creature acts with integrity. So basically, the monster's possession of human characteristics appears to be because of Victor Frankenstein's dehumanization, blurring the distinctions between the human and mechanical being.
Mary Shelley could have very well titled her work â€œOne Catastrophe after Another.â€ Victor Frankenstein is in love with his own disastrous history and thinks about his creation all the time. The night of the creation is actually the fateful event to which all the other catastrophe in the story follows. So much hardship follows people in this tale, but Victor Frankenstein is the chief victim. Not only does he have to live with the fact that he created what he thinks is a hideous monster, but he also has to live with the fact of knowing that he is responsible for all of the grief that has fallen on the world from his creation.
Upon reading and examination, one can see that this novel is deeply interested in a certain kind of social union; the political community. The book was written in 1818 which was the time period between revolution and reform. Mary Shelley's novel raises discussions and theorizations of the political community. In her novel Shelley engages with certain political debates by depicting characters who endeavor to attach themselves to others, like the creature. On Montanvert, Victor Frankenstein declares that there can be no community among enemies. This voices Shelley's belief that hostility and alienation are unavoidable characteristics of the human condition. It also draws some attention with the book's preoccupation with building new communities. All of the characters in Shelley's novel long for companionship, whether it be longing for a father, longing to be married, etc.. So one of the principal tasks the story sets for the characters is the building of social community.
In contemplating new communities on new terms, Mary Shelley uses her creature to interrogate the basis and boundaries of certain social groups. The creature, in a sense, represents a version of a man, put together by carefully picked out body parts, just as government is carefully assembled of different people. The creatures origins, however, meant that he is unaffiliated with others. He is looked at as a person but not a citizen. He isn't naturalized nor socialized with any certain community. He is the novel's main community seeker. Because the creature is self-dependent and is related to no one he must seek out membership in different groups that don't rely on ties of intimacy, ancestry, or memories as a necessity for inclusion. However, what is very intriguing about Mary Shelley's novel is that she chose to stage the creature's searches for community and acceptance around the most intimate of social groups, family. Normally, it may seem that family groups are not candidates for trying to find acceptance because they are usually defined by special obligations and attachments. Choice has virtually no role in a family's organization, but Shelley's representative households are not solely private unions; instead, they are mobile and joinable. She uses family unions and the fact that the creature is an outsider to think through the problems of the value of affiliation, heredity, and sentiment as the basis of political commonality.
Starting around the second half of the novel Mary Shelley further explores alternatives to familial bases for communal ties through Victor and the creature's relationship. Victor is not given the option of living in a creature-less world. Him and his creation are unable to flee from each others presence. They must confront the task of figuring out how to live in the same world together. They eventually meet on the Alpine slopes. It is there where they form the compact of Victor creating the female companion for the creature, as mentioned earlier. The compact here didn't last, but it actually is a crucial point in the book. It sets up brand new principles of connectivity with certain characters who normally disagree deeply with one-another. The creature begins to suspect that Victor Frankenstein cannot be entrusted to be a loving parent. He then presents himself to Victor as a person who has been deeply injured by Frankenstein's doings; in doing so, the creature blames Victor for his actions. The agreement reached at Montanvert produces a reality effect in the story. It is the moment when the characters' different opinions and interests meet on a common political world.
If one looks only at the surface it will appear that the creature solicits Victor mainly because he is a father figure when they meet. He refers to Victor Frankenstein as his creator and his natural lord and king, and to himself as Frankenstein's own creature. Victor does not argue against these facts. He actually admits that he is the author of the creature. Victor admits that he is the one who has authorized the creature's existence. Back at the laboratory right before he created the creature, he was talking about how his new species would bless him as its creator and source. He was really looking forward to giving the being life. Even though Victor was horrified when the being actually came to life, he now seems willing to be moved by something like paternal care. Frankenstein agrees to hear the creature's story because he felt that it was his duty as creator to render the creature happy before complaining of his wickedness. Victor suddenly has a small amount of compassion for the creature that he has given life, he is prepared to render him happy by sympathizing with the creature and accepting his wish to just be heard out.
However, a closer look of this scene shows the creature's true intent to appeal to Victor Frankenstein's paternity as more strategic than sincerity. The creature seems to only coax Victor into temporarily forgetting his hatred in order to hear what the creature has to say. He placates Victor to buy some time in order to tell his story. In other words, he intends to soften Victor up before he makes the request that may very well decide their fates. The creature's tactic is very strategic. He has every reason to be wary of affective ties. What the creature already knows at this time is that sympathy isn't always given to other people, even if they deserve it. He learned this through the way people have treated him when he done good to them. It is clear that Shelley was making a reference to political strategy here. They get you to think of the sympathies and get your vote, just like the creature is getting Victor's sympathy to coax him into making him a companion.
So, after reading this it is very apparent that there are very many different things to look into when reading Frankenstein. When looked at closer the reader can get a deeper view of the lives of the characters. One may even be able to compare his or her own self to the story. Either way, Frankenstein is arguably one of the very best pieces of literature of all time.