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In the year of 1818, author Mary Shelley published a gothic horror novel. A gothic horror novel that would proceed to thrill, shock and disturb the foundations of an unsuspecting world wide audience in the midst of great scientific, social and political developments. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley.
In this essay I am going to analyze in detail the characters: Victor Frankenstein and his infamous creation, the monster. I will study the methods Mary Shelley used to persuade the reader's sympathies to both Victor and the monster.
Mary Shelley's life is famously known to have influenced her writing. The Daughter of William Godwin, a popular, well known writer with revolutionary ideas. Her mother, Mary Wollstonecraft, was also a writer herself. Being from such a literate background, it was almost inevitable Mary would embark on the same route of both her parents and take advantage of her creative flair for writing.
Following her birth in 1797, Mary's mother died due to complications. The death of her mother was the beginning of one of many tragedies in her life that would lead on to inspire future events in her book, Frankenstein. At the age of 16 Mary eloped with fellow writer, Percy Shelley. As their relationship began to surface, Percy abandoned his wife Harriet and ventured to France with Mary in 1814. Shortly after, in 1815, Mary gave birth to Percy's child. Unfortunately, just 12 days later their baby was pronounced dead. Another unforeseeable tragedy in Mary's life. In 1816 Percy's abandoned wife, Harriet, committed suicide. This unfortunate circumstance benefited Percy, allowing him to marry Mary. The general public were enraged.
Mary's concept of Frankenstein arose in Switzerland after an apparent dream involving Mary and her deceased child. She dreamt that she had brought the child back to life by warming it near the fire. This event links in with one of her fictional characters, Victor Frankenstein, and his ambition to create life. The society in which Mary inhabited was not accepting of women with radical ideas. This prevented her from portraying the book as her own work; therefore Frankenstein was published in her husband's name, Percy Shelley. The prejudice against women soon began to erode and Mary eventually took credit for her literate creativity, correcting her husband's name with her own.
The story of Frankenstein revolves around 4 main characters; Victor Frankenstein, Elizabeth Lavenza (Frankenstein's favourite companion) Henry Clerval - his best friend, and of course ' 'The Monster' After losing his mother at birth, Frankenstein developed an unhealthy obsession with the creation of life it self. Undaunted by the unethical aspects of what he was striving for; Frankenstein set the ball in motion by constructing a non-living creature using body parts and lightning to summon his - quite evidently ' hideous creation . The risks of his composition were not considered by Frankenstein, therefore the unforeseeable murders of close friends and family conducted by the monster, were difficult for him to comprehend.
The reader may feel sympathetic towards Victor Frankenstein because he created the monster through his 'thirst for knowledge' and ambition to sustain life, in an attempt to benefit humanity. Despite his good intentions, Frankenstein suffered great loss through his own doings. 'I, the true murderer' ' Frankenstein is aware of the deaths that have resulted from producing his much anticipated creation, and blames himself. Frankenstein's repugnance to the monster (to an extent) is understandable. However, his fatal attraction to the unnatural scientific study of the reanimation of an inanimate object (the monster) was potentially the consequence for the overly curious mind. 'Hapless (innocent) victims to my unhallowed (evil) arts' - the language used in this quote is emotive, dramatic and portrays a sense of remorse from Frankenstein, indicating to the reader that he is aware of the consequences and holds himself to account.
However, despite 'The Monster' being the obvious perpetrator of the murders, we feel a need to question its motives. The monster was abandoned at 'birth' - therefore it thinks the most logical thing for it to do, is discover its creator; Frankenstein. 'These bleak skies are kinder to me than your fellow beings' - this quote demonstrates to the reader that the monster has emotions and recognizes it's mistreatment as it is shunned by humanity for its grotesque exterior. 'Unable to endure the aspect of the being I had created, I rushed out of the room' - Frankenstein keenly avoided taking responsibility and promptly rejected his creation. This rejection was incomprehensible to the creature. During an interval of time away from his 'father' Frankenstein, the reader is given an insight to just how the creature reacts, feels and adapts towards the intolerant, judgemental society in which it inhabits. Its unsightly appearance is the basis of which it is judged. The reader empathizes with this fact and identifies the monsters woe, subsequently engaging in an expression of sympathy. Nevertheless, the public's denunciation and rejection of the creature contributes to its loathsome outlook on humankind.
The monster learns quickly, developing intelligence and sensitivity. 'But it is true that I am a wretch. I have murdered the lovely and the helpless' ' the monster feels remorseful over its actions. His motives, however, could not justify the innocent victim's murders, therefore acknowledging the reader that despite the monster's oppression, it could fully comprehend its evil deeds.
I believe the reader's sympathies are directed to both characters; Frankenstein and the monster. I believe this because the role Frankenstein portrayed in the novel, displays resemblances to that of God. I think this because in spite of his beneficial intentions, he excelled himself in recreating human life and promptly disregarded the outcome, resulting in his own misfortunes. This refers to religion since people have faith in God as the architect of mankind. Therefore, this may be deemed immoral to attempt to imitate such a process of human replication. In other words, 'trying to play God'
I however, also think the reader would take into consideration the irresponsible attitude and conduction of Frankenstein towards his creation, the monster. I additionally feel that Mary Shelley also wanted the sympathies of the reader directed towards the monster. 'I shall die, what I now feel be no longer felt. Soon these burning miseries will be extinct' ' the monster felt neglected, lonely and vacant. Although, its intelligence was apparent... and yet it still carried out the brutal murders of the innocent. The monster's search for Victor is corresponding to that of man's search for God, his creator.
The Frankenstein novel is widely considered popular today due to the controversial theme of artificially creating life and the concept of 'playing god' therefore making the novel an extensively discussed piece of literature. I personally enjoyed the novel and relished the language used by both characters Frankenstein and the Creature. Due to the equal amount of positive and negative aspects of both characters, I have arrived at the conclusion that the reader's sympathies are aimed at both Frankenstein and the monster.