Good versus Evil At first, it appears that the definitions of good and evil are straightforward. According to the New Oxford American Dictionary, good is defined as “that which is morally right; righteousness”; evil is defined as “profoundly immoral and malevolent. ” For centuries there has been an argument among many philosophers on the belief of “good versus evil” and whether it really exists. Some argue that human beings are the perpetrators of evil. Others argue that the world is not a bad place and that evil and suffering is, in fact, necessary.
Throughout the novel, Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, there is a clear struggle involving good and evil. The reader is introduced to the protagonist and narrator, Victor Frankenstein, at the beginning of the novel. Victor, a family oriented man, becomes very interested in the modern science world and later on believes that he has discovered the “secret of life. ” With this discovery he goes on to create a monster, who remains without a name throughout the whole novel.
At first glance it appears that the monster did everything in his power to prevent Victor from having the happy life that he longed for. Mary Shelley purposely chose Victor Frankenstein to be the narrator of this story. Readers only get the story from his point of view. Frankenstein plays on the emotions of the readers, therefore anything he is feeling, readers feel the same way. He is seen as this helpless man who has been through so much in such a short life, and all because he was being terrorized by this heinous creature.
“I entered the room where the corpse lay, and was led up to the coffin… The trial, the presence of the magistrate and witnesses, passed like a dream from my memory, when I saw the lifeless form of Henry Clerval stretched before me. I gasped for breath; and, throwing myself on the body I exclaimed, ‘Have my murderous machinations deprived you also, my dearest Henry, of life? Two I have already destroyed; other victims await their destiny: but you, Clerval, my friend, my benefactor’” (122). However, readers do get a glimpse in to how the monster feels and the struggles that he comes across.
“… She continued her course along the precipitous sides of the river, when suddenly her foot slipped; and she fell into the rapid stream. I rushed from my hiding place, and, with extreme labour from the force of the current, saved her, and dragged her to shore… I was suddenly interrupted by the approach of a rustic… On seeing me, he darted towards me, and, tearing the girl from my arms, hastened towards the deeper parts of the wood… he aimed a gun, which he carried, at my body, and fired. I sunk to the ground, and my injurer, with increased swiftness, escaped into the wood” (95).
Mary Shelley’s anecdote of a struggle between good versus evil makes the reader constantly redefine who is truly the good one, and who is evil. At the end of the novel, the reader discovers that it is really Victor Frankenstein that is the evil one. He manipulated the readers thoughts and feelings by leading them to believe that he was the good one, that he was being tormented by this evil beast. In reality, this is how the story really goes: Frankenstein was the creator of this “beast. ” Frankenstein abandoned the beast and treated it as if it were too wretched to be loved.
Frankenstein, knowing how the beast felt and what he was capable of, continued to ignore the monster’s requests for a companion. Frankenstein knew that the beast would take away all of his loved ones until he got what he wanted. Victor manipulated this monster in to doing his dirty work for him. Mary Shelley displays this battle between good and evil very well. Candide, written by Voltaire, is a satire which pokes fun at a number of Enlightenment philosophies. The protagonist, Candide, is a good-hearted but naive young man.
His mentor, Pangloss, is described as a teacher of “metaphysico-theologo-cosmolonigology” who believes that this is “the best of all possible worlds. ” This belief, which is argued by Leibniz, is the main reason why Voltaire is satirizing his play. Pangloss is an optimist, and believes that no matter what happens, this is the greatest life anyone can live because the good will always be the case. Voltaire mocks the idea that good prevails over evil because he believes that human beings perpetrate evil. He believes that evil does, in fact, exist and ignoring that existence is wrong and dangerous.
Other philosophers such as Leibniz believe that the existence of any evil in the world would have to mean that God is either not good or not omnipotent, and that idea could not possibly be true. With this reasoning, philosophers such as Leibniz believe that since God is indeed perfect, then the world that he has created can be viewed as no less than perfect as well. All the “evil” or “bad” that people claim exists in the world is only because they do not understand what God’s ultimate plan is. Voltaire strongly disagrees with this idea, as it is evident in his novel.
He does not accept the idea that a perfect God exists, maybe a God does not even exist. To prove his point, Voltaire uses a great deal of exaggeration; the biggest optimists in the world, Candide and Pangloss, go through a series of hardships and horrors. These woes do not serve any apparent purpose but to attack this belief that this is “the best of all possible worlds. ” A perfect example is when Pangloss tells Candide that he is dying because of syphilis. In chapter four, Candide cries, “O sage Pangloss what a strange genealogy is this!
Is not the devil the root of it? ” Pangloss simply replies, “Not at all, it was a thing unavoidable, a necessary ingredient in the best of worlds; for if Columbus had not caught in an island in America this disease, which contaminates the source of generation, and frequently impedes propagation itself, and is evidently opposed to the great end of nature, we should have neither chocolate nor cochineal. ” This part of the novel makes the reader laugh because chocolate is not the result of syphilis; they are in, no way, related.
Voltaire then adds more intelligent and rational characters into the story, such as the old woman, who have more pessimistic views about how the world works. By the end of the novel, Pangloss finally admits that maybe this is not “the best of all possible worlds. ” Shelley, Voltaire, and Leibniz all touched on the subject of good versus evil. Voltaire and Leibniz had opposing views on how the world really works. Maybe there is a bigger plan, but evil does exist and evil is created by all of us. Shelley definitely showed how humans can truly be evil. No matter what, there will always be a battle between good versus evil.
Courtney from Study Moose
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