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Power and Control in Mary Shelley's 'Frankenstein'

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Literature
Wordcount: 1488 words Published: 28th Sep 2017

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How Mary Shelley portrays the theme of power throughout her novel ‘Frankenstein’

Power is one of the most prominent themes which has coursed throughout Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. The intensity of power within the novel adds to the unnatural storyline which Mary Shelley created. Power within the novel is the most obvious and perhaps the most interesting because power can come from many perspectives.The overall power is in Victor Frankenstein’s hands, an example of this is him going against the true nature of god and creating new life in which he thinks he can control and manipulate. “I had worked hard for nearly two years, for the purpose of infusing life into an inanimate body.” This shows his dedication into looking beyond possibilities and moving one step further so he can be looked upon like a god. The quote ‘taking nearly two years’ implies that if his invention is not perfect, it’s not right. Because Victor has taken nearly two years on ‘infusing life’ shows his dedication no matter how long the process takes. Dangerous knowledge links with this theme because without the right knowledge the prospect of ambition is unreachable, as we come to find out later in the novel. The effect of the word ‘infusing’ gives emphasis to the giving of life, this creates a contrast into the positivity that the phrase conveys and how the story turns into a negative. The gothic novel contrasts the ways in which evil and power are shown throughout the novel. Each interpretation is different depending on the characters story and background.

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In the 1800s there was a high discontent because of the great depression in that era. Mary Shelley went against society to produce a novel that would make humanity question the power behind god. The full title for her novel includes The Modern Prometheus showing Shelley was clearly influenced and took her influence from earlier literature. Prometheus was said to be the wisest of all Titans who stole fire from the gods, so Mary Shelley has taken this aspect of Prometheus and used it within Frankenstein to add to her gothic style of writing. She has done this to replicate Victor as the incarnation of Prometheus. Like Prometheus, Victor is fascinated with electricity and lightening and this links with the ‘birth’ of the monster. “I might infuse a spark of being into this lifeless thing that lay at my feet.” The indication that ‘infusing’ electricity into a ‘lifeless’ object is just inhumane; although the body is ‘lifeless’ the overall thought is repulsive and wrong. This is because it is morally wrong and against the true nature of god as he is the only one who can create life. Using the force of the electricity to power a dead body seems impossible, but this just shows that Victor’s work is pushed past the breaking point because he wants to excel at what he does.

Victor craves power therefore has to earn it. “Wealth was an inferior object, but what glory would attend the discovery, ifIcould banish disease from the human frame.” “An inferior object” this implies that Money to Victor is worthless, recognition means much more than money every will.The dream he has is creating the prospect of new life, the fact he wants to manipulate something as precious as life proves he is willing to stop at nothing to have the fame and the recognition that he thinks he deserves. “Mary Shelley has done this perhaps to prove a point, because in 1818 there were great changes in British society, and there was a significant change in science and technology so writing a book that contains what it does is going against society so she is like the Frankenstein of her era”. This could be a reflection of her life but as a powerful male. I believe that she wrote this book to satisfy her own cravings of power. (YORK NOTES PAGE 92BACKGROUND) He has gained theKnowledge he has from the intense research that he has developed over the years. “I had retrod the steps of knowledge along the paths of time.” This is an example that Victor will continue to better his knowledge to purse and better his achievements.

In the novel 1984 Winston works for the Ministry of Truth, meaning under no circumstance can he betray the Thought Police. All of the people in London are living like robots following commandsand because of thisWinston wants to do something about it.At first he begins to use his power for good helping the people in London, then suddenly it all becomes too much and the power he has earned goes to his head. “Big brother is watching you!” This is the higher power within the novel in which Winston wants to become. To be at a higher status and a leader, he wants answers therefore has to gain power to find the answers. This drive for answers is mirrored. The ideas in 1984 are reflected in Frankenstein.

In Frankenstein as power is almost like a goal for Victor. He wants to achieve a powerful status. The influence of power comes from the people that surround him at university. For example M.Waldman is what Victor wants to become; his sense of power and knowledge is just inspiring.“In a thousand ways he smoothed me for the path of knowledge.” The emphasis on the phrase “he smoothed me” clarifies that M.Walman focused on Victors ability to allow him to progress at a higher level of science. This demonstrates that he looks up to M.Walmanas he has what Frankenstein craves the most. Power within the characters reverses throughout the novel, this could be to show that you’re not just born into power you can earn it with the correct information. The monster learns everything on his own with the help of a few books” I can hardly describe to you the effects of these books.” He is like a child learning for the first time although he chooses to use the power within him to destroy Frankenstein and the loved ones that surround him.Thesufferings that isolate the monster not only come from Victor but from society, this could be because the monster longs for love and companionship, however he realises he can never experience the love he sees around him so this results in the violent crimes he commits.”I am malicious because I am miserable.” The word “malicious” highlights the fact the monster knows he is evil yet it’s the only way he is going to get attention from Victor. He is just longing for a friend or to be accepted within society he knows that he does not look ‘normal’ but he just wants to be accepted. When he realises that he will never fit in, power takes over and he wants to destroy everything and everyone in his path. Making a deal with Victor almost as if making a deal with the devil, the monster asks for a bride saying he is willing to spare Victor’s loved ones if he agrees to his demands. “For Shelley, body is fate. If it is ugliness that fuels the monsters social exclusion, it is beauty that drives his revenge: he destroys what he cannot possess.”


In contrast in 1984 power is much more subtle, and doesn’t come across as influential as in Frankenstein. This is because Winston is very elusive meaning he trusts no one but himself. “If you want to keep a secret you must hide it from yourself.” This shows that even your own secrets should be kept quiet and you shouldn’t even think of them because your thoughts are powerful and you never know who is listening.‘The main power is within the party because they are at a higher status than the low ranking members of the ruling party; therefore use their stronger forces of power to dictate the rules of big brother’. It can be argued that George Orwell has done this to show that everyone has the right to speak or feel however they want without a higher force being able to tell them how they should act within society.Power within both novels seems to be the main key to success but it all ends in disaster as power goes to their heads.

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In conclusion, without the right power, being able to succeed is limited. Both novels show unless you have the right power and the right knowledge you are not as important as those who have it. Both novels portray power in different ways, some of which contrast. One major link between the two is the one main character craving power and perhaps love, but both novels show that you can only have one or the other and worst comes to worst when they both eventually die, leaving but only their mistakes to live with the world forever.


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