Shelley and Religion

In researching Mary Shelley, I came to the conclusion that she was most likely an unreligious person. After finishing Frankenstein, the counter religious attitude of Shelley seems to be present. It seems like Shelley is not simply ignoring religion and leaving it out, but instead arguing against it.
By the end of volume I, Frankenstein seems very similar to the creation story from Genesis. Just as Adam wishes for a companion, the creature wishes the same. And we think that just like God, Frankenstein will grant his creation’s wish. The creature “implores [Frankenstein’s] goodness and compassion,” yet Frankenstein ends up acting as a terrible father-figure (Shelley, 119). Frankenstein changes his mind and decides to deny the creatures wish. Thus, Frankenstein’s similarity to god and a father in general seems to diminish. What then is Shelley trying to say about the bible and religion? Is religion necessary for morally right decisions? The only way to answer this is to look at the similarities and difference between Shelley’s Frankenstein and the bible, and what Shelley does with them
I feel that each character has references to multiple biblical characters as the book progresses. There is no doubt that Frankenstein acts similar to God in the beginning of the book. However, his lack of respect for his “son” or creation seems to demote him to a father. This could almost be Shelley mocking the concept of a god, who supposedly creates you, and then just throws you out into the world to fend for yourself.

The decision Frankenstein makes to ignore the creatures wish seems to even label him as a bad father. Yet, interestingly the decision he makes whether to save humanity from a race of monsters, or save himself can be related to the decision Jesus made when he died on the cross. Jesus had the choice to save himself from extraordinary pain, or instead save humanity from sin. Yet Frankenstein’s decision is different from Jesus’ in one major way. What Frankenstein is saving the world from has the potential of being good, while sin is never good.

Although different characters in the story can be related to biblical figures, Frankenstein takes place in a world that seems to be lacking religion. Despite this at the conclusion of the story Frankenstein dies a morally sound man. For on his death beds, it was “my duty,” to act as a father (Shelley, 214). The creature leaves morally sound and forgiving as well. When the creature comes to ask forgiveness to Frankenstein he states “but it is true that I am a wretch. I have murdered the lovely and the helpless” (shelley 220). Frankenstein finally comes to the conclusion that he should have been a better father, while the monster regrets his actions. The fact that each of them reached these states without any evidence of religious beliefs seems as if Shelley is making a point. Moral decisions and people can be reached without religion. Thus, Shelley could be questioning the necessity of Christianity in general.

thirst for companionship

A major theme throughout the last volume of the novel is the importance of companionship in one’s life. By the end of the novel, it is apparent that Frankenstein’s life is meaningless without his loved ones, and the monster can never truly be happy without a companion. Since both Frankenstein and the monster are denied of companionship, their sole purpose in life becomes plotting revenge against each other.

The monster desperately longs for a companion because his life is miserable without the acceptance of humankind. Frankenstein explains that, as the monster sees the being that Frankenstein is creating, “a ghastly grin wrinkles [the monster’s] lips as he gazed on me, where I sat fulfilling the task which he had allotted to me” (Shelley 174). The monster looks upon the creature with a smile because he knows that this being will eventually become his companion. Once she is created, the monster will finally be able to achieve some degree of happiness and will no longer have to live in complete solitude. However, when Frankenstein destroys this half-finished creature, the monster exclaims, “you can blast my other passions; but revenge remains-revenge henceforth dearer than light or food!” (176). Frankenstein has extinguished the monster’s hope of companionship, so the monster vows to destroy Frankenstein’s life. He no longer has anything to live for, so the monster’s only motivation in life becomes revenge against his creator.

Similarly, Frankenstein feels that he has nothing left to live for when the monster kills his loved ones. He explains that while his companions are dead and he is still alive, “their murdered also lived, and to destroy him I must drag out my weary existence” (203). Frankenstein no longer wants to be alive, as his life is meaningless without his friends and family that were killed by the monster. However, he desperately seeks revenge against the monster so the monster will “drink deep of agony” and “feel the despair” that torments Frankenstein (203). The only way to destroy the monster is if Frankenstein stays alive himself.

Both Frankenstein and the monster are so dependant on companionship to find happiness that their lives are meaningless without it. Their only motivation to continue living is the prospect of destroying the person who deprived them of this companionship.

 

 

Wrong Judgement!

One of the main ideas I got from this novel is that as the saying states “we shouldn’t judge a book by its cover.” After reading the first two volumes of the novel, I felt like the main character Frankenstein was the true evil person for causing such misery in the monster’s life. At the beginning of the novel, we see how Frankenstein refers to his creation as devilish and malignant, but these assumptions were only made based off the monster’s appearance. How could Frankenstein know if the monster was indeed devilish if he had not taken the time to discover his personality? He automatically assumed the monster was bad because of his looks, but as we further read we get clues that he was not. The monster longed for a love and affection from someone like any other human being. After being rejected from society, he then began to feel negative emotions against humans for their bad treatment. He then searches for Frankenstein and demands a woman who will give him the love and affection he desires. He stated “You must create a female for me, with whom I can live in the interchange of those sympathies necessary for my being” (Shelley 156).  All the monster wanted was to have someone at his side whom he could be with.

Although at the beginning I felt like Frankenstein was evil, I changed my view after reading the third volume because of the huge sacrifice he made. After the request for a female, Frankenstein was torn between two consequences that could rise from his decision. On one end, he could make the woman and make the monster happy or he could choose not to and live in fear of the monster’s vengeance. If he would have chosen to make the woman, he would have sparked the reproduction of the monster’s kind in the world. He realized this when stating, “a race of devils would be propogated upon the earth” (Shelley 174).  In my opinion, Frankenstein chose to make the right decision because if he would’ve granted the monster his wish, he would have condemned the world to suffer from his mistake. Although innocent people suffered as a result of Frankenstein’s decision, he sacrificed them for the well-being of the rest of the human race. It was because of this that I began to feel compassion for him and no longer viewed him as evil.

From the reading, I understood that when we judge people based on first impressions, we can be wrong. I initially thought Frankenstein was evil, but after further analyzing his character I changed my mind because he sacrificed the people he loved the most for the well-being of the rest of the world.

False Hopes

The creature’s, (or Bill, as Emily calls him), life is filled with false hope…(I will also call him Bill throughout this blog post because I believe he is treated inhumanely and deserves a name.) Bill believes that humanity can be kind to him despite his physical appearance. This is false. He believes that the people he admires for so long will understand and accept him. Once again, this is false.

Bill is miserable after enduring countless disappointments. His last hope for contentment is Frankenstein’s promise to create a mate for him. He watches as Frankenstein “[destroys] the creature on whose future existence he depended for happiness” (175). He consciously knew he was going to destroy any hope Bill had to be happy, yet he did it anyway. This was the last false hope Bill would endure. He was set on revenge.

As human beings, we do not attain everything we hope for. We do, however, at least obtain some of our desires. Bill is unable to achieve anything. When he tries to help people it only backfires on him. He saves a girl from the lake and, as a result, almost gets shot. While he was doing this out of the goodness of his heart, he was also doin this to be appreciated. Bill is a benevolent creature, the “trait of kindness moved [him] sensibly” (128). He wants what any human wants: compassion and respect. While the malice of mankind is a part of what makes him the monster he is, I argue that disappointment is truly the cause. Bill tries so hard to obtain the compassion and respect that is universally desired, however, his efforts are futile. In the end, his fruitless attempts to be treated humanely are what discourage him from trying to gain respect through benevolence.

“Creature”

In Tuesday class, we discussed about the significance of the word “creature,” as it has a negative connotation and has been used in the story to describe the monster Frankenstein creates. However, according to Merriam-Webster, the word “creature” means, “something created either animate or inanimate.” Parents create their children, the king and queen of Geneva create Frankenstein, and Frankenstein creates the monster. Therefore, I believe that creature can be anything that is created, with or without a negative connotation, and this is proven by how the monster calls humans and how Elizabeth calls Williams.

While Frankenstein describes the monster as the “creature” throughout the story, the monster also describes humans as “creature” because they also are animate beings who are created by their creators, parents. When the monster narrates his story to Frankenstein about humans’ mistreatment to him, he refers human beings as “creature”. The monster says to Frankenstein, “You, my creator, abhor me; what hope can I gather from your fellow-creatures, who own me nothing? They spurn and hate me,” (Shelly 119). By using the word “fellow-creatures”, the monster agrees that humans are also creations, just are created in different ways. The word “creature” does not only apply to the monster that is created by Frankenstein, but also applies to humans who are created by their parents.

Yet some readers may challenge my view by insisting that the definition and my belief do not necessarily eliminate the negative connotation in the word. Indeed, when Frankenstein applies the word “creature” to the monster, there is definitely a negative and fearful meaning on the word. However, by examining how Elizabeth refers Williams as a “creature”, it is clear that creature can apply to anything, even without a negative connotation. Elizabeth says to Justine, “Oh! How I hate its shews and mockeries! When one creature is murdered, another is immediately deprived of life in a slow torturing manner,” (Shelly 108). The “one creature” is referring to Williams, who is a sweet and beautiful child. Because the word “creature” can be used to describe the monster, humans, and even Williams, it can be anything in the world that is created by someone and it can have no definite connotation behind it.

 

Baby, I Was Born This Way

When reading Volume II of Frankenstein, especially the creature’s monologue, I was reminded of a discussion topic that I have been confronted with multiple, multiple (yes, that many) times. I’m talking about the debate on nature versus nurture. You know, where they talk (primarily) about gender and sex and if gender is taught or born with? Like how girls grow up to play with dolls and boys play with mud and if that’s something that always happens or is pushed upon them by society.

Anyway, what I’m getting at, is how evil Frankenstein’s monster actually is, and if it’s really his fault.

Now, before I get into this, I just want to say that it drives me absolutely nuts that the monster does not have a name, so to make my life easier, I’m naming him Bill. Just for the purpose of blogging, of course.

In our reading for Tuesday, we went over the scene in the novel where Frankenstein brings Bill to life and how he’s immediately frightened and terrified of Bill. This was because of his appearance; Bill’s looks scared him but he really didn’t give Bill a chance at all. Granted, if I saw an eight-foot-tall, yellow-skinned, basically glow-in-the-dark-white toothed being, I’d run for the hills, too. But come on, Mr. Frankenstein, you made him, at the very least you could’ve given him a chance. This, right off the bat, gives us the impression that Bill is an evil being.

However, then we’re finally really introduced to Bill, and he tells Frankenstein his story. We learn that Bill isn’t evil at all. He greatly admires and cares for the family that he finds in the woods. After finding out they need firewood, he even goes as far as “[taking their] tools… and [bringing] home firing sufficient for the consumption of several days.” (Shelley 128) Basically, he’s going out to do hard labor to make the Felix and his family’s life easier. Bill also has a will to learn, and manages to learn the French language by studying the family and the books he finds. All of this, he does so he can eventually befriend them, which he tries to do eventually (on page 146).

This attempt at befriending the family does not go as well as he hoped, to put it lightly. While De Lacey is kind to Bill, because he cannot see him, the rest of the family is not. Bill tells Frankenstein: “Who can describe their horror and consternation on beholding me? Agatha fainted; and Safie, unable to attend to her friend, rushed out of the cottage. Felix darted forward, and with supernatural force tore me from his father.” (Shelley 148) Immediately upon seeing Bill, the younger family members freak out and run, just like Frankenstein did upon seeing him for the first time.

Now, by nature, in my opinion, Bill is a kind “person,” and I use that word loosely. He has no intention of harming anyone, all he wants to do is be accepted. However, that’s not a possibility for him, due to his appearance (once again, don’t judge a book by its cover, right?). This realization makes him so angry, that he “declared everlasting war against the species.” (Shelley 149) While that is a rash decision, I can see where he’s coming from; you try being so kind and caring to a person, just to have them scream when they see you and run away. Can’t be a fun feeling.

And even after Bill declares war against humans, when he sees a woman fall into the stream, he still rescues her. Bill says, “I had saved a human being from destruction, and, as a recompense, I now writhed under the miserable pain of a wound, which shattered the flesh and bone.” (Shelley 153) After his kindness, he gets shot by a man who only sees his appearance, immediately assuming he’s a cruel monster. Even the little boy, William, instantly accuses Bill of being terribly evil without knowing him. After which, admittedly, Bill does kill him.

What I’m getting at, is that Bill was a kind being by nature, but he was forced to see himself differently. If someone continuously tells you that you’re something, even though you’re not, you’re going to eventually believe them, and act that way. To throw in an example; if someone repeatedly tells me that I’m angry, even though I’m perfectly fine, eventually I am going to get angry. This is what happened to Bill, as well. The fact that everyone saw him as a terrible monster, turned him into one. It’s almost as if he didn’t have another choice.

Who’s the Real Monster?

In most people’s mind today, there seems to be no question who the monster is in Frankenstein. It is the creature that Frankenstein has created, that has already murdered an innocent kid. However, looking beyond the outer appearance of the monster, it seems evident that what he began as was not a monster. Instead it was the extreme misconceptions of humans, resulting in extreme isolation of the creature, that caused him to become a monster. The creature had no “relation or friend upon earth,” hence he, in a way, is linked to humans (Shelley, 147). The health and survival of a human baby is dependent on social interactions. Likewise the creature that Frankenstein has created lives a torturous and depressing life without companionship. He strives for friends, yet his disturbing appearance causes him to fail and be shunned by humans.

In contrast, Victor Frankenstein seems to be quite content in isolation. His passion for his work causes him to revert to isolation. Frankenstein mentions that “no youth could have passed more happily than mine” (Shelley, 67). Furthermore, his parents emphasize to him that it will cause them great distress if he doesn’t stay in touch with them. Despite their pleading and past kindness to him, Frankenstein selfishly still chooses to remain isolated, despite the great pain he is causing in the ones he loves most. It is his choice to remain isolated that contributes to his monster-like attributes. In addition, Frankenstein even sees himself similar to a monster. He thinks to himself, “can you wonder, that sometimes a kind of insanity possessed me, or that I saw continually about me a multitude of filthy animals inflicting on me incessant torture, that often extorted screams and bitter groans” (Shelley, 160). It seems that in this instance, Frankenstein is seeing himself from the perspective of an isolated monster. For one, he refers to humans as a “multitude of filthy animals.” He also mentions “screams and bitter groans,” which could also relate to human’s perception of him as a monster. Frankenstein’s extreme ignorance towards fixing the problem he has created also contributes to his monster side. As shown by his actions and his thoughts, Frankenstein is often a hypocrite. For instance, Frankenstein asks himself “why does the man boast of sensibilities superior to those apparent in the brute”(Shelley, 116). Through this statement, Frankenstein seems to be asserting that humans are in fact equal to beasts, for there is a sense of equality that exists between the two. Yet despite this statement, in his interactions with the creature, he seems to show little respect for the creature’s very logical request. In the end of volume 2, Frankenstein decides to accept the offer, however with a great amount of regret and contempt.

Victor’s Frankenstein’s chosen isolation and his ignorance for those who care for him as well as his own creation make him the true monster. In contrast, the creatures wish to attain to achieve friends and social interactions almost make him more of a human, so far, than Victor Frankenstein.

It seems as if through the character of Frankenstein, Shelley could be hinting at the monster-like attributes that at times can plague the human race.

Nature Vs. Nurture

Are individuals born malicious or do they become that way? In answering this question, you must consider the “nature vs. nurture” argument. Does one enter the world evil or does he become malicious gradually because of his life experiences?

My answer to this controversial question is that nurture is mainly the cause for either one’s goodwill or one’s malice. This notion is proven throughout “Frankenstein.” The wretch was originally “benevolent and good; misery made [him] a fiend” (119). The creature is born kind. It is nurture, or lack thereof, that made him malicious.

The creature did good deeds. He collected wood for the needy family he admired and he saved a child that fell into a river. However, he is not praised for his kind actions. He is, instead, rebuked and harmed. After revealing himself to the family that he aided, the creature was “struck…violently with a stick” (148). Since this is the way humans treat him, it makes sense that the creature is not fond of mankind. Upon saving the little girl, the creature is not shown any gratitude; he is instead greeted by horror and is shot. How could he be benevolent when he is treated so poorly?

The wretch is an “unfortunate and deserted creature”(147). He longs for friends and family, just as any other being does. Nobody gives the poor creature the benefit of the doubt. When he approached a cottage in a village, upon seeing him, “the whole village was roused; some fled, some attacked [him], until, grievously bruised by stones and many other kinds of missile weapons, [he] escaped to the open country” (124). The creature is viewed as the bad guy, however, he is not. He has nobody and is treated badly. He is not raised by his creator. Victor deserts him. Why should he want be kind to mankind, when he is treated so maliciously?

Think about it. If you were in his place, would you be benevolent? Most likely not. He is initially compassionate, but mankind made him the way he is. Despite his good nature, lack of nurture and the cruelty of human beings have made him the way he is.

The Chronicles of Life and Death

Life and death go hand-in-hand and are both inevitable. In Frankenstein, the theme of live versus death is prevalent in both Victor’s studies and life. Victor succeeds in generating life from death. He finds that, “Life and death appeared to me ideal bounds, which I should first break though, and pour torrent of light into our dark world” (Shelley 80). He creates the man with the hopeful intentions of ridding the world of grief over death and instead shining “light” on life (80). Victor distorts the natural human life cycle, thus affecting the life and death of the other characters.

It seems as though each time Victor Frankenstein is able to find a sliver of life, death spoils it. As he prepares to leave home for boarding school to explore the one subject he finds joy in, his mother passes away. His departure date, and consequently his happiness, is prolonged.

Once at the school for about four years, much of that time spent engrossed in his work, Victor finally completes his project. As he works towards breathing life into this deceased human parts puzzle piece, Victor’s own life deflates. He has no time to concentrate on anything other than science – not even sleep.

He looks forward to once again connecting with nature and regaining his life that has been absorbed in his studies. But, just as Victor finds excitement in something other than work, his creation comes alive, causing him more stress than before. Victor encounters more bad luck when he reunites with Clerval – a joyous moment for all! But, the ‘monster’ once again frightens him, this time into a severe illness. Clerval asks Victor, “Are you always to be unhappy?” when it seems that the issues with life and death take a toll on Victor (Shelley 96).

Finally, when he regains his health, begins to enjoy nature, and arranges to return home, he is shocked by the news that his brother has been murdered. Victor soon realizes that his own brother has probably died by the hand of his own creation, transitively making Victor the murder.

While he once had the intention to breathe life back into a society encumbered by death, he instead builds a murdering-machine which drives the burdens of death into Victor’s life worse than before. The life cycle is not to be messed with and life and death are to remain inevitable, which is something Victor regretfully questions.