Frankenstein is one of the most famous literary horror stories ever produced. The novel was published in 1818, when the author, Mary Shelley, was only 21. The story of the reanimated creature and his pained creator, Doctor Frankenstein, has been printed and reprinted by countless publishers, and has been turned into several films for the big screen. Frankenstein is a true tale of terror and has been used as a warning of the dangers of playing God. Despite being produced nearly 100 years ago, Frankenstein is a literary classic that has never lost its ability to terrify readers.
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Things you need
- Copy of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein
Analysing the Creature. The creature, or "Frankenstein's Monster," is a lonely, sympathetic and largely misunderstood character. Abandoned by his creator -- the closest thing to a father figure that the creature has -- the creature, shocked by the horrified reaction of society to its physical appearance, turns against its creator. The creature's experience is that all humanity equates his deformed physical appearance with evilness. "As I fixed my eyes on the child, I saw . . . divine benignity to one expressive of disgust and affright."
Analysing Doctor Frankenstein. Frankenstein is ambitious, preoccupied with his work, and obsessive. It is this drive to succeed that eventually pushes his experimentation too far. While it is often thought that the creature is the villain of the piece, in fact, upon reading Shelly's novel it becomes clear that Victor Frankenstein himself must take some degree of responsibility for the monster's crimes. Victor shows a selfish self-interest in his experimentation; he does not shoulder the monumental responsibility of his actions because he is driven only by ambition and not by a regard for others: "I had desired it with an ardour that far exceeded moderation; but now that I had finished, the beauty of the dream vanished, and breathless horror and disgust filled my heart."
Compare the two characters. Despite their obvious differences, there are certain distinct parallels between Dr. Frankenstein and his creation. Both creator and creation share a love of nature, a thirst for knowledge, and a desire for revenge. "The nearer I approached to your habitation, the more deeply did I feel the spirit of revenge enkindled in my heart."
Look for similarities. Both Frankenstein and his monster see themselves as wronged. Both have the desire and the inclination to love, but their loving intentions are swiftly transformed by hate and isolation. The novel focuses upon the redemptive power of love. Both admire beauty (Elizabeth's), and are repulsed by the physical appearance of Frankenstein's monster. "How can I describe my emotions at this catastrophe, or how delineate the wretch whom with such infinite pains and care I had endeavoured to form?"
Focus upon the notion of isolation. Both become isolated from main society: Victor is isolated by his obsession with work, and because the creature kills off those he loves. The creature is isolated because of his appearance. Both start out with good intentions: Victor's love of nature encourages him to study natural science but his ambition soon leads him astray. The creature's instinct is to love and be loved, but the reaction to his appearance is one of hatred and repulsion, so it reacts in kind. "This was then the reward of my benevolence! 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 . . . vowed eternal hatred and vengeance to all mankind."
Contrast the two. While Victor Frankenstein grew up in a loving family environment, surrounded by the love of Elizabeth and the friendship of Henry Clerval, the creature is abandoned almost immediately. Dr. Frankenstein fails to show his creation the same love and support that he himself experienced in his own upbringing. "No human being could have passed a happier childhood than myself."
Consider the character's upbringing. The story of Frankenstein plays with the themes of human nature, nurture and human needs. Essentially, Victor has a parental duty to nurture his creation, which he fails to do. The monster, on the other hand, is not bound by the usual bounds of humanity, since he has been born an unworldly being. The creature is made from fragments of human life, and as such his heart is similarly fragmented. "I looked upon them as superior beings who would be the arbiters of my future destiny."
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