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Mary Shelley's Frankenstein created a monster, the repeatedly animated Frankenstein with green skin. Frankenstein is a common culture who wanders the streets on Halloween. In the book, the supernatural being is nameless, and Victor Frankenstein is the creator of this creature, a solemnly sentimental, intangible, and intelligent growing individual whose interest is in philosophy and chemistry. Emotions engulf Mary Shelley's gothic text; she enhances melodrama with Victor's sensibilities and melancholy, flirtations with insanity, and neurasthenic faints when reality overwhelms him. (Snodgrass) Shelley's Frankenstein projects a unique focus: the study of a willful, temperamental Swiss lab researcher at the University of Ingolstadt who is interested in metaphysics and inadvertently embraces doom by violating nature. To heighten the irony of the experimenter's failure, Shelley names her introspective hero Victor. While pursuing the synthesis of a living being in the laboratory through credible scientific methodology, he ignores the advice of his mentor, Monsieur Krempe, and the warning in M. Waldman's lecture. Enveloped in grief for his recently deceased mother and sunk in constant solitude, the foolhardy Victor presses into dangerous territory, pushing himself without rest until he compromises his mental and physical health, a common element in extreme Gothic scenarios. His manic involvement in anatomy is oddly erotic in that his workaholism far outpaces any interest in Elizabeth, his bride-to-be. (Green)
There is some argument in the well-known tendency to bind the monster and his maker under the title of "Frankenstein". As the novel moves forward, Frankenstein and his monster compete for the character of protagonist. We are expected to side with Frankenstein, whose role is valued by his ethical family and friends and by the captain of the ship who rescues him from the ice floe. The basic plot of the novel remains powerful in its simplicity. Most of it appears in flashback, as a defeated, guilt-ridden Victor Frankenstein relates on his deathbed his tale of horror to a ship's captain, Robert Walton, the first of the novel's three narrators. He writes letters that relate his contact with Frankenstein, who hunted his human creation in the Arctic, where Walton and his crew found him. The letters progress the novel's strongest theme, that of the conflict between science and poetry, or art. While Frankenstein represents science, his beloved cousin Elizabeth Lavenza, who loves poetry, and best friend Henry Clerval, an aficionado of romance and chivalry whose surname describes his clarity of vision, represent art.
Victor Frankenstein is a wealthy man with a promising future who is married to a beautiful and devoted wife, a member of a respected family. He is driven, unfortunately, by an obsession that grows more powerful with each passing day-the desire to create life where it did not previously exist, although in practice he may be reanimating rather than creating since presumably he is working with organic material. He clandestinely gathers the raw materials upon which to experiment, concealing his activities from everyone. Eventually he achieves his goal, after a fashion, though his monster varies considerably from the film interpretation in that it is intelligent and more human in appearance. Despite Frankenstein's early optimism, however, there is clearly something wrong with his creation, and it eventually escapes and then launches a campaign of terror and revenge against its creator's family. (D'Ammassa)
As Mary Shelley's novel Frankenstein unfolds, Victor is proved to be both right and wrong in his conjectures about community with the creature. He is right in believing that so long as monster and man are sworn "enemies" and hold nothing in common, they cannot possibly inhabit a shared social union. But Victor is wrong to think that coming up with things to hold in common is an insurmountable task. He in fact does hear the monster's story, and upon its completion creature and creator enter into a compact that obliges Victor to assemble a female monster. On the basis of the compact they forge, monster and man are able to reimagine the nature of their affiliation with each other. Their agreement renders them no longer "enemies" but individuals who commit themselves to each other for the foreseeable future. In this crucial scene on Montanvert, Shelley's protagonists remake their world out of necessity and through a process of agreement making. (Bentley)
As the story unfolds, readers learn that Frankenstein sought to create a composite human being from dead body parts. He reasons that those who have died might be restored if the secret to life can be found. Thus, his focus is not at first on the generation of life, but rather on regeneration. In what becomes a madness to reach his goal, he isolates himself from Elizabeth and Henry, ignoring their pleas that he abandon the ungodly project that comes to obsess him. Dismayed by the creature, Frankenstein allows him to escape and eventually pursues him after the monster murders several members of Frankenstein's family, including his beloved younger brother William, which leads to the execution of the Frankenstein family's maid, an innocent unjustly accused of William's murder. Frankenstein himself acts as the second narrator, his tale appearing within Walton's own, while the monster's third narration appears within Frankenstein's own. (Brackett)
Frankenstein absents himself from our world of ordinary awareness and relatedness, which recedes from him in much the manner that a dream fades at the instant of awakening. Severing all contact with his family, other beings, and familiar nature, he is intent on hollowing out a zone in reality where he can be utterly alone. This ingressive movement is attended by self-loss, a radical shrinkage of his empirical self, and self-aggrandizement, a heightening of his isolate selfhood to daemonic status. He becomes a force instead of a person as all the energy of his being concentrates on his grand project: "My mind was filled with one thought, one conception, one purpose"; "a resistless, and almost frantic, impulse urged me forward; I seemed to have lost all soul or sensation but for this one pursuit". The animation project, like the object intended by the Freudian libido, is a secondary affair. What matters is that it enkindles in the projector a lust for self-presence so intense that it drives out of consciousness everything except itself. Reality must yield if the self is to appear, and Frankenstein's primary creative act is to originate his own creative self. (Sherwin)
In the monster's predicament, which literalizes Victor's, is precisely that his sympathetic looks cannot be returned. After his abandonment and troubled early wandering, he joins the loving De Lacey family only invisibly, as, from his hiding place, he regards their "interchanging each day looks of affection and kindness". He reveals himself solely to the blind father, and when the others return, instead of requiting his kind look, they evince "horror and consternation on beholding". In some sense, Frankenstein takes as its central subject the longing to be truly seen, as well as the despair about whether such recognition is possible; and Alphonse's "cursory glance" epitomizes the self-denying "lessons" that structure Victor's early experience. (Zimmerman) The scenes with the De Lacey's demonstrate the monster's capacity to transform his manifold perceptions of group dynamics into meaningful social action. They also reveal the development of his self-consciousness as he becomes gradually attuned to the cottagers' world. Observing the cottagers' interactions, the monster comes to understand what it means to make a relevant intervention in their small society. Thus, even though the monster remains on the physical periphery of the cottagers' world and is as yet unacknowledged by them, he is shown to be increasingly adept at grasping the manners and features-that is, the forms and activities-of group life. (Bentley)
The creature displays the same kind of stimulating comfort as well as terror in people who hear this story. He needs our humanity to the fullest that we notice ourselves in his existence and being so alone. Denied by his designer and totally abandoned, he attains what he can of humankind by monitoring on a family of dwellers, and he schools himself by reading a couple of books that have incidentally came his way, among them Paradise Lost. He also learns to decipher some writings which he carried off from the laboratory in which he was designed. By these papers, he becomes familiar with the name and residence of Frankenstein and his family, and as his education has given him so good of a taste to despise himself, he has also the good sense to abhor his manufacturer for burdening upon him such a terrible punishment as conscious existence, and he launches an arrangement of raw attacks against the saddened Frankenstein-he kills his baby brother, his early bride, his affectionate friend; even the very nursery maids of the family are not safe from his vengeance, for he contrives that they shall be hanged for robbery and murder which he himself commits. (Crocker)
Although the monster is dangerous, physically daunting at eight feet in height, and lacks a soul, it is difficult not to feel some sympathy for its plight, and when the novel concludes with it drifting off alone to an unknown fate, it is not a moment of triumph for the reader. It is Frankenstein who is the true villain, because he acted without thinking, took risks without considering the consequences, and brought death and misfortune to the innocents around him while not directly suffering himself. Even as he nears his own death at last, he refuses to express regret for what he has accomplished, holding out hope that others will replicate and continue his work to accomplish even greater achievements. (D'Ammassa)
Noting their records, Frankenstein and the creature both start with generous directions and become killers. The creature may seem and act more affectionate because he is by description an outsider, whereas Frankenstein intentionally extracts himself from society. When Frankenstein primarily becomes occupied in his attempt to create life, accumulating equipment from the slaughterhouse and dissecting room, he breaches his ties with family and friends, becoming more and more secluded. His father lectures him for this, advising Frankenstein to ask himself what his narrow-minded research for intelligence has cost him, and if it is honestly legitimate. Thinking back, he closes that it is not, opposite to his theory at the time.
Frankenstein's monster, tempting his revengeful creator on through a world of ice, is another Emanation pursued by a Spectra, with the enormous difference that he is an Emanation flawed, a nightmare of actuality, rather than dream of desire. Though abhorred rather than loved, the monster is the total form of Frankenstein's creative power and is more imaginative than his creator. The monster is at once more intellectual and more emotional than his maker; indeed he excels Frankenstein as much (and in the same ways) as Milton's Adam excels Milton's God in Paradise Lost. The greatest paradox and most astonishing achievement of Mary Shelley's novel is that the monster is more human than his creator. This nameless being, as much a Modern Adam as his creator is a Modern Prometheus, is more lovable than his creator and more hateful, more to be pitied and more to be feared, and above all more able to give the attentive reader that shock of added consciousness in which aesthetic recognition compels a heightened realization of the self. For like Blake's Spectre and Emanation or Shelley's Alastor and Epipsyche, Frankenstein and his monster are the solipsistic and generous halves of the one self. Frankenstein is the mind and emotions turned in upon themselves, and his creature is the mind and emotions turned imaginatively outward, seeking a greater humanization through a confrontation of other selves. (Bloom)
Frankenstein is far more than the plain scary story a teenaged Shelley set out to author. Frankenstein acquires features of Gothic horror, apprehends science fiction, and directs abiding questions about humankind and the association between man and God. Modern man is the creature, antagonized from his originator-frequently accepting his own motives to be insignificant and unexpected, and full of anger at the state of his being. Frankenstein is modern man also, likewise separated from his creator-seizing the abilities of God and heedlessly dawdling with nature, full of little purpose and destructive results. Frankenstein exerts such a strong and intriguing hold on the imagination because it works on so many different interpretive levels. Beyond its appeal as a gripping tale of fascinating horror, it is a myth of technological arrogance dramatizing what happens when man rivals the laws of God and nature. Victor's is the cautionary tale of the unchecked ego whose drive for mastery and power is ultimately self-destructive.
On another level it is the exploration of creation itself, both physical birth and the creative act, posing fascinating questions of consequence and responsibility. At a deep, psychological level Frankenstein and his monster may represent twinned aspects of a fractured psychic whole, with the monster enacting murderous desires that the conventional Victor represses. The novel also treats society's sin in turning away from disturbing aspects of human nature that ask us to redefine our conception of the monstrous. Does it reside with the creature or with the denial of love and fellowship that he craves? Frankenstein stimulates so many responses that it is clear that the novel is as powerful as a vehicle for exploring human nature and the modern world now as it was at the moment of its birth. (Burt) Frankenstein is an analysis of mankind, particularly of the human idea of science, understanding, technical progress and an intensely humanistic work full of empathy for the human circumstances.