‘Frankenstein’ was written by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley in 1816, after a frightful and horrific nightmare of a man conceiving outside the womb. Shelley had been staying with her husband and Lord Byron on the banks of Lake Geneva. She used the influences of her own personal experiences, Milton’s ‘Paradise Lost’, Luigi Galvanni’s electrical experiments and the nightmare which occurred only a few nights before. I think that her experiences of losing her mother and having a negligent father were fundamental in developing the core of the story.
When the novel was first published in 1818, it was the first example of Gothic fiction. It also got mixed reviews as society at the time was extremely religious however, the Age Of Enlightenment was just coming to an end and so science was also highly important. ‘Frankenstein’ is a novel about a scientist, determined to push back the boundaries of what is humanly possible, blinded by a hubristic desire for human omnipotence. Victor Frankenstein, the protagonist, artificially creates being by reanimating lifeless body parts.
The being is then rejected by his creator and society, resulting in disastrous consequences including the death of Victor’s closest friends and family. ‘Frankenstein’ is definitely a novel about the absence of a nurturing parent and the effects which it can cause. I believe that it is a parent’s responsibility and duty to love and care for their child, making sure to raise them sufficiently. Parents should teach their children morals and should set a good example for them to follow. However, in the novel, none of this is observed as Victor abandons his creation almost immediately and only serves to be an awful role model to his child.
On numerous occasions, he calls the creation, ‘wretched thing’, ‘demoniacal being’ and ‘monster’. This is due to the fact that Victor never gives his creation a name which is a basic responsibility of a parent as without a name, a person lacks identity. This is the foundation of all the monster’s crimes and the mayhem he created as the monster says, ‘misery made me a fiend, make me happy, and I shall be virtuous’. This suggests that due to Victor’s absence and the disregard he had for his creation, the creation was miserable and wreaked havoc.
In chapter five, Victor animates his creation. Immediately after the monster awakes, Shelley utilises a horrifying lexis to create a semantic field of horror thus giving the readers the image of a truly disgusting being. Shelley writes, ‘I beheld the wretch-the miserable monster whom I had created’ and, ‘his shrivelled complexion and straight back lips’. These give a sense of the disgust which Victor straight away has for his creation and creates pathos for the monster as we see that even his father does not love or respect him.
Also in this chapter, Victor says, ‘his arm stretched out seemingly to detain me’. Victor sees this as an act of aggression however, it is most likely a sign to connote the being’s need and love for his creator. In chapter ten, Victor faces up to his monster however, his feelings and the perspective in which he views his creation have not altered as he ‘trembled with rage and horror’ and was ready to engage in ‘mortal combat’. He also describes his monster as, ‘unearthly ugly’, ‘too horrible for human eyes’, ‘devil’ and ‘vile insect’.
The monster however reacts in an extremely mature fashion, and in a more reasonable and rational approach than Victor himself. The monster says, ‘be calm, I entreat you to hear me, before you give vent to your hatred on my devoted head’. This shows the harsh and enormously diverse duality between the monster and Victor. However, the monster is acting like the mature and reasonable parent in this situation and Victor is acting like the immature and selfish child who isn’t getting his way and therefore has to throw a tantrum.
This constant rejection by his creator creates severe pathos for the monster as we feel sorry for his misfortune and the fact that he is unloved. In chapter seventeen, the monster asks his father to create a female companion for him as he sees this as an opportunity to escape from the hatred and rejection which he faces from society. Shelley’s lexis creates pathos by writing the monster as portraying himself as lonely and desperate. He sees the prospect of a companion ‘as hideous as [himself]’ to be a way to mitigate the contempt shown towards him.
In chapter twenty-four, Victor dies on Captain Walton’s ship in the Arctic. Shelley writes the monster mourning over his creator’s death. He takes full responsibility for his Victor’s demise, saying, ‘this is also my victim’. He is saddened and livid with himself for his actions, saying, ‘I, the miserable and the abandoned, am an abortion, to be spurned and, and kicked, and trampled on’. This shows that the monster loved Victor even though Victor never felt the same way.
This shows that the monster has good inside him and always had the potential to be good however, the absence of his father and the lack of any form of nurturing parent. Pathos is created here as the monster wants forgiveness for the death of Victor and all his other misdeeds. Shelley uses a broad variety of lexis in her novel to create pathos for example, Victor calls the monster ‘devil’, ‘vile insect’, ‘wretched thing’ and ‘demoniacal being’. Some of these words are religious which is a recurring theme throughout the novel.
Shelley contrasts the pro and antagonists, especially during belligerent scenes by portraying the monster as a calm, relaxed and modest being whereas Victor is a haughty, out-spoken and agitated. This is shown through numerous exclamation marks during Victor’s dialogue and often the mention of the phrase, ‘be calm’ during the monster’s. This shows the monster’s superior maturity and wisdom which is also shown through the contrast in sentence structure of each character’s discourse.
Victor uses short, sharp sentences whereas the monster’s vocabulary is extremely fluent, articulate and expressive. I believe that ‘Frankenstein’ is indeed a novel about the absence of a nurturing parent. Although it confronts many other issues for example: the consequences of the lack of a maternal figure, reciprocity and also the penalties of man rivalling God, the fact that the monster had no real parents to raise him sufficiently, is the most prominent theme of the novel and the main reason of all of his transgressions.