Gaining a passionate, yet unguided knowledge for science, young Victor Frankenstein arrives at university with an unquenchable thirst for learning and advancement. When he involves himself in an isolated solitary experiment to create life, the resulting creature so appalls and revolts him, that he cannot contain his revulsion. The consequent rejection of his creation culminates in a series of tragedies that could not even have entered Frankenstein's imagination.
|Theodor von Holst|
from 1831 edition
In fact, the first sentence of the book, the beginning of a letter from Robert Walton to his sister, gives the reader a clue as to the lack of awareness the scientist can develop to the world around him: "You will rejoice to hear that that no disaster has accompanied the commencement of an enterprise which you have regarded with such evil forebodings." In a frenzied quest for new discovery, the scientist can often lose any objectivity and will marginalize the prudent advice given by others, who have perhaps more objective insight.
In Frankenstein's story, we get a cautionary tale of the consequences of unexamined and incautious actions based on a deification of science, yet therein also lies a theme of abandoned responsibility. If Frankenstein had attempted to communicate with the creature and valiantly hid his disgust of it, would the outcome have been different? Could he have humanized his creation with sympathy and nurturing? I have my doubts. Upon the creature's flight and escape to the woods, he discovers a family living there and, by observing them, he learns to read and write and is exposed to profound literature, which reveals both goodness and evil to him. The creature learns what it means to be human and, in fact, admires the goodness of the family. However he ultimately chooses evil, using his rejection by humans as an excuse for his deviant actions. Victor Frankenstein was another unsympathetic character. Numerous times he had a chance to attempt to stop the evil he had created, yet each time he did nothing, often at the expense of a human life. I was actually quite disgusted with him. His inaction was almost on a level with the creature's atrocities.
as Frankenstein's monster
The story of Frankenstein was birthed during a trip to Geneva in 1816. Together with her husband, the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, Mary Shelley spent the summer there with their companion, Lord Byron. After Byron proposed that they each write a ghost story, Shelley found herself at a loss for inspiration. It was only after a conversation about the "re-animation of a corpse," that Shelley had a waking dream:
"I saw the pale student of unhallowed arts kneeling beside the thing he had put together. I saw the hideous phantasm of a man stretched out, and then, on the working of some powerful engine, show signs of life, and stir with an uneasy, half vital motion. Frightful must it be; for supremely frightful would be the effect of any human endeavour to mock the stupendous mechanism of the Creator of the world."
And so Frankenstein was born.
|Portrait of Mary Shelley (1840)|
Here, also, are two other excellent reviews of Frankenstein by M. Landers and Majoring in Literature for your reading pleasure! Enjoy!