Consciousness is the gateway to information, but can too much information truly be harmful? Harold Bloom’s idea, “All romantic horrors are diseases of excessive consciousness, of the self-unable to bear thy self” (Bloom), perfectly exhibits the Monster’s situation in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein as the Monster created by Victor Frankenstein becomes more aware of himself and the world around him. This situation is similar to Milton’s Paradise Lost when Satan becomes more aware of himself and his surroundings.
This awareness and other components of consciousness cause the Monster great pain and anguish because he develops to learn and become too self-aware.
Harold Bloom’s idea about self-consciousness is represented in both Frankenstein and Paradise Lost because of the pain and anguish caused by self-awareness for the Monster, the need for vengeance caused by memory, and the hopelessness and envy that Satan and the Monster felt caused by foresight. As the Monster watches the people around him, he learns and becomes more aware of the world and himself.
After creating the Monster, Victor left, never expecting to see his creation again, but when he finally meets up with him, the Monster angrily asked, “Why did you form a Monster so hideous that even you turned from me in disgust? God in pity made man beautiful and alluring, after his own image; but my form is a filthy type of yours, more horrid from its very resemblance” (Shelley 91).
As the Monster learns, he becomes more aware of the world and himself. With the help of others, the Monster starts to realize that he looks different and is an outcast. When alone with only his thoughts, the Monster thinks, “When I looked around, I saw and heard of none like me. Was I then a Monster, a blot upon the earth, from which all men fled, and whom all men disowned” (83). He starts paying attention to his surroundings, increasing his awareness. One of the families that the Monster observes is the DeLacys.
The Monster eventually learns to talk from watching them through a hole in the wall, but asks himself, “Where were my friends and relations? No father had watched my infant days, no mother had blessed me with smiles and caresses; or if they had, all of my past life was now a blot a blind vacancy in which I distinguish nothing” (84). His awareness of the world from watching Felix and his family increased. Humans have someone to love, and as he starts to follow Victor, he becomes more aware of not only his own life but also Victor and what the Monster does not have. This awareness leads the Monster to pain and anguish with himself. When having a conversation with Victor, the Monster said, “Increase of knowledge only discovered to me more clearly what a wretched outcast I was” (91).
When walking into a village, the Monster notices “The vegetables in the gardens, the milk and cheese that I saw placed at the windows of some of the cottages, allured my appetite. One of the best of these I entered; but I hardly placed my foot within the door, before the children shrieked, and one of the women fainted” (73). Any contact with humans receives the same fearful reaction from his wretched and ugly look. All of this fear brings him pain caused by the rejection and the alienation of humans because it brings his attention to himself. When the Monster reads Paradise Lost, he becomes more self-aware and thinks, “[Adam] had come forth from the hands of God a perfect creature, happy and prosperous […] but I was wretched, helpless, and alone” (90). When comparing himself to Adam, the Monster realizes that he is a helpless wretch and this realization brings him lots of anguish.
This anguish, which the Monster felt, caused him to pursue vengeance on Victor because of the memory of his creator which brings him remorse, envy, and regret. After reading Paradise Lost, the Monster said, “Like Adam, I was created apparently united by no link to any other being in existence; but his state was far different than mine in every other respect” (90). He wants revenge on Victor because of the way he was neglected by Victor. He compares himself to Adam, but sees that Adam was loved by his creator, while he was disowned and abandoned.
When Victor finds love in marrying his cousin, Elizabeth, the Monster thinks to himself, “Man, you may hate; but beware! Your hours will pass in dread and misery, and soon the bolt will fall which must ravish from you your happiness for ever. Are you to be happy, while I grovel in the intensity of my wretchedness?” (120). The Monster feels pain because he does not have a lover, but Victor finds love, so the monster gets revenge on Victor by killing Elizabeth. The killing of Elizabeth eventually brings the Monster remorse. Victor meets a new friend to tell his story to named Robert Walton, and after Victor dies, the Monster says to Walton, “That is also my victim!” he exclaimed; “in his murder my crimes are consummated; the miserable series of my being is wound to its close!” (159).
He got revenge on Victor by killing all of his loved ones and bringing Victor the same loneliness that the Monster felt. His first victim, William, was killed in spite of Victor similar to many of his other victims. Justine was indirectly the second victim of the Monster because she died after being charged for William’s death. The Monster planted a picture on Justine that William had in his pocket before he died causing her to be accused of the murder. The pain of the hate that she received caused her to die tragically. Clerval, the friend of Victor was then killed by the Monster when travelling the world. Then the Monster killed Elizabeth because she married Victor, which indirectly caused Victor’s father to die because of his sadness.
Finally, Victor was indirectly killed. All of this killing led the Monster to be unable to bear himself causing Victor to be his “final victim”, vowing to never kill again. After Victor dies, the Monster goes North to commit suicide by fire to get away from the remorse and regret that he feels for Victor and his loved ones and his own memory. This remorse and regret was too much to handle so suicide was the only way of escape. A lot of this regret and remorse starts with envy because the Monster kills because he is envious of Victor. Envy, however, is also one of the main connections between foresight in Paradise Lost and Frankenstein. In Paradise Lost, Satan’s hubris causes foresight which leads to hopelessness and envy. After rising from the lake of fire, Satan tries to motivate his fellow angels by saying, “We may with more successful hope resolve to wage by force or guile eternal Warr irreconcileable” (Milton 1.120-122).
Satan and his fellow angels failed after testing God and being too ambitious, but instead of licking their wounds, they are getting ready to wage a second war. His hubris causes him see a future where he plays the hand of God. This foresight gives him the idea to try to physically beat God in a battle and become more powerful. This hubris leads Satan to not only attempt to overthrow God the first time, but also get revenge by waging this eternal war. Satan loses many things as a result of this hubris including a spot in heaven, leading to a sense of envy for what he does not have. After going to the Garden of Eden to get revenge on God, Satan says, “For only in destroying I find ease to my relentless thoughts” (9.33-34). “Satan is trying to find relief from his envy by destroying what he can’t have, The Garden of Eden.
He believes that corrupting Adam and Eve will cause God to destroy Earth, which would suppress his envy” (Hunt). While he was in the Garden of Eden, Satan also says, “To me shall be the glory sole among the infernal powers, in one day to have marred what he almighty styled, six nights and days continued making” (Milton 9.39-42). Satan will destroy God’s perfect creation, which took six days to create, by using a gorilla tactic and tempting Adam and Eve to eat the forbidden fruit. He does this to get back at God and fuel his pride to boost his confidence. His confidence was boosted because he believed he outsmarted and beat God even though he actually gave God the upper hand. This hopelessness, envy, and hubris can also be seen with the characters of Frankenstein as a result of foresight. The Monster followed Victor and finally talked to him about his first victim.
During this conversation, the Monster said, “I remembered that I was for ever deprived of the delights that such beautiful creatures could bestow; and that [Justine] whose resemblance I contemplated would, in regarding me, have changed that air devine benignity to one expressive of disgust and affright” (Shelley 100). The Monster’s foresight caused him to be envious and hopeless because he realized that he will always be alone. He was envious of humans because they have companions, similar to the way Satan is envious of his former self and for what he lost. This hopelessness was also seen later in a conversation between Walton and the Monster: “[Monster] I seek not a fellow-feeling in my misery. No sympathy may I ever find. When I first sought it, it was the love of virtue, the feelings of happiness and affection with which my whole being overflowed, that I wished to be participated” (159). The remorse and absence of love brings the Monster hopelessness.
He knows that he will always feel hopeless and eventually commits suicide as a result. The hopelessness the Monster felt was all caused by Victor, his creator. After creating his Monster, Victor thought, “Unable to endure the aspect of the being I had created, I rushed out of the room, and continued a long time traversing my bed chamber, unable to compose my mind to sleep” (36). Similar to Satan, Victor tried to play the hand of God and create life. His ambition and hubris drove him to create his Monster. The different components of consciousness when too excessive can truly be harmful.
In both Frankenstein and Paradise Lost the emotions of consciousness cause characters to negatively reflect on themselves and others. These emotions show the idea that ignorance is bliss. But is it true that the opposite of consciousness, ignorance, is bliss? The idea of knowing less about your own situation or the situation of others is helpful in a mental state. If characters in both of these stories had not reflected on their own situation, many of these painful emotions would not have resulted. For Satan, he would not have tried to play the hand of God and fight back, and the Monster would not have fought back against Victor and been happy with life. This consciousness shows that ignorance truly is bliss both in these stories and today.