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The fourth chapter in Frankenstein opens with dark, intense, description under which the monster is created. It was on a "dreary night" (Shelley 35), in November when the creature is animated and brought to life from a state of being just body parts sown together. Normally when new life is born, it is born in the spring, a time of growth and brightness, not near the winter months which express the idea of misery. Oddly enough, the assembling of the parts that form the monster is never shown in the novel as well as the process taken to bring the monster to life, which leads me to believe that those processes were not important. "â€¦I collected the instruments of life around me, that I might infuse a spark of being into the lifeless thing that lay at my feet" (Shelly 35). The most important part of the creation scene is the fact that Victor is able to accomplish a feat similar to an almighty being's.
To start off, we have to analyze what Victor did before, during and after the creation of the monster. Victor spends two years intensely working to fulfill his goal, of bringing this creature to life, a reality. When he finally succeeds, Victor sees what has done and due to a conflict in expectations and ideals, he walks away and goes to seek rest which results in the form of a nap. "I threw myself on the bed in my clothes, endeavouring to seek a few moments of forgetfulness. But it was in vain;Â I sleptâ€¦" (Shelley 36).
This nap sticks out in the story since it is unexpected after the accomplishment of something of great magnitude. Although the nap is weirdly placed, it can be compared to Christian theology. In theology, God created the world and his own creations, including mankind, and withdrew from the world and rested on seventh day. Victor acts in the same manner. After having accomplished his goal, Victor retires since he is done, just as when God left Adam and Eve. Even though Victor undergoes sleep, it is what happens while sleeping that makes this act particular because Victor has a dream while taking this short rest.
The dream is not a regular dream that most people have. This dream can be considered a nightmare to Victor since it showed the women in Victor's life as dead. Elizabeth, who is still alive, is dead in the dream and unattractive as she turns more seemingly into Victor's mother, who passed away earlier in the story. In the dream Shelley describes, "â€¦her features began to change, and I thought I held the corpse of my dead mother in my armsâ€¦" (Shelley 36). This one line brought into question the meaning of the dream. One possible explanation is a simple explanation that the dream is a vehicle to foreshadow Elizabeth's death due to the appearance of Victor's mother in the dream. A second explanation is derived from the actions taken before the nap and natural process of life. When a child is born, it is usually born though a female medium, yet Victor manages to overcome this limitation, making the birth of the monster so unnatural. By doing this, Victor unbalances the natural order of things and instead of fixing his mistakes, Victor runs away from his responsibility due to fear.
The only point that refutes this connection to the theological view of Victor acting as a deity on Earth is that Victor runs away out of fear. The monster greets Victor just as Victor wakes up by grinning and extending his hand out to Victor. Although Victor perceives this action as the monster being hostile and about to harm him, the monster is happy since he finally gets the chance to see his creator. With this thought Victor flees. "I issued into the streets, pacing them with quick steps, as if I sought to avoid theÂ wretchÂ whom I feared every turning of the street would present to my view" (Shelley 37). In accordance to theology, God withdrew from the world to give humans the idea of free will. Victor runs away from his mistakes and gradually sickens due to the pressure he faces of knowing that the monster is out in the world, which separates him from any deity and makes him a neglectful mother.
Another theory about the creation in the novel is related to the mythological point of view. Victor gives life to the monster just as Prometheus gives "life" in terms of fire to mankind. In the myth, Prometheus is punished by Zeus in a situation where Prometheus suffers everyday, that is, until Hercules rescues him. Victor is punished as well. Instead of the physical suffering that Prometheus suffers, Victor suffers mentally which severely debilitates him to the point where he is bedridden, yet just like in Prometheus, someone comes along and saves the punished. In Victor's case, this is due to the unexpected appearance of Henry Clerval who nurtures Victors and nurses him back to health. In this sense, this creation scene in Frankenstein is exactly the same as the idea of the Greek myth, except the time, place and characters are the only difference.
Although the idea of the myth accurately expresses what happens in the story, it does not reveal the extra components that Mary Shelley decides to place in the story such as the dream. In the myth the only person who is supposed to suffer is the one who breaks the rules. Victor does indeed suffer, but he is not the only one. His whole family, as well as those who have a close personal connection to him, suffer due to his one action.
The final way one can view the creation scene that Shelley makes is in the form of alchemy. In previous chapters Mary Shelley includes that Victor at some point was reading old scientific books which become identified as books of alchemy. To understand how this ties into the novel, we need to know what alchemy is. Alchemy is defined by Dictionary.com as any magical power or process of transmuting a common substance, usually of little value, into a substance of great value. In the past alchemists were interested in transmutation which is the act of changing the state of an object. They tried to turn metals such as lead into valuable metals such as gold and turning solutions and mixtures into the immortality drink or the elixir of life. Their goal according to Alchemy: Ancient and Modern by Herbert Stanley Redgrove was the heightening of the human soul.
How does this tie into Frankenstein? Victor animates dead, lifeless, material in what can be considered an alchemic process. As mentioned in the previous paragraph, alchemists, in an attempt to obtain gold used lead to begin the process. In other words, something is needed to be used and lost in order to obtain something, which was at times was dangerous. When Victor succeeded in bringing the monster to life he would have given something up or used. Victor gives up is his own sanity since before the creation of the monster, Victor was content researching and learning about scientific material. It is after he creates the monster that he loses focus, comes to realize what he has just done, and sees the monster everywhere, even though the monster is not present everytime. From this point on, Victor never fully recovers his sanity. Throughout the book, Victor is faced against challenges that continue to harm his state of mind. Although the presence of Henry Clerval helps Victor view nature in a way that helps Victor feel better, it is not enough. "â€¦I perceived that the fallen leaves had disappeared and that the young buds were shooting forth from the trees that shaded my window.Â It was aÂ divine spring, and the season contributed greatly to myÂ convalescence" (Shelly 39). In other words, Victor starts to soothe his soul in this manner, yet he can never achieve a total state of comfort while the monster still exists in the world.
There are many possible ways to view the creation of the monster in Victor. One could see the animation of what Victor considers a fiend, in a theological, alchemic, or classical mythological point of view. Though it is important to understand why the monster is created, Mary Shelly places the creation of the monster possibly to warn about the advancement of science, and how it could possibly lead to the creation of our own monster or demon people would need to worry about.
"alchemy." The American HeritageÂ® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition. Houghton Mifflin Company, 2005. 19 Sep. 2012.
Redgrove, Herbert Stanley. The Aim of Alchemy. Alchemy: Ancient and Modern.
Harper and Row Publishers, 1973. Web. 16 Sept. 2012. <http://etext.virginia.edu/toc/modeng/public/RedAlch.html>.
Shelley, Mary. Frankenstein. (1818). Ed. J. Paul Hunter. 2nd ed. New York: W.W. Norton, 1996.