‘… Often did my human nature turn with loathing from my occupation, whilst, still urged on by an eagerness which perpetually increased, I brought my work near to a conclusion. ‘ The opening of chapter 5, the climax of the story where the monster is brought to life, is a clear example of the use of the literary device of pathetic fallacy, where, in this case, the weather matches the emotion of the circumstance. There are also several more examples of this throughout the chapter. ‘It was on a dreary night of November that I beheld the accomplishment of my toils..
‘ ‘Morning, miserable and wet, at length dawned,’ ‘… although drenched by the rain which poured from a black and comfortless sky.. ‘ The ‘moment of creation’ is the most detailed of all, and excites the reader with the rich descriptive content. It also gives the reader a chance to compare their idea of what the monster looks like (having been influenced by film versions, comic versions or other forms of media) to how the monster is set out in the book. The description given by the book is as follows:
‘His yellow skin scarcely covered the work of muscles and arteries beneath; his hair was of a lustrous black, and flowing; his teeth of a pearly whiteness; but these luxuriances only formed a more horrid contrast with his watery eyes, that seemed almost of the same colour as the dun white sockets in which they were set, his shrivelled complexion and straight black lips. ‘ In comparison to modern literature, there is a lot of description within this novel, the above quote is an example of this. To a modern audience, the fact that there is lots of detail makes the story seem slow moving, yet it provides a good build up right up until the end.
Also, at Mary Shelley’s time, when the book was published, reading was an engaging form of entertainment, so the vast array of detail would have been enjoyed and appreciated a lot more and would have enhanced the experience for readers of the time. The story is structured well throughout, and the narrative structure, in particular from the different characters (Captain Walton, Frankenstein, the monster), is unexpected and adds to the tension, as well as allowing the reader to see the story from all points of view, and to enable the reader to empathise with the monster in his situation where he would otherwise be treated as the villain.
Merely the fact that Frankenstein has been adapted many times into films, long detailed descriptive books, plays, radio, comic books, cartoons and the like is evidence that we, today, are still interested in it. All of the things I have mentioned beforehand all work together to continue to draw people to the book. Interfering with nature One of the main ‘lessons’ within the story itself is undoubtedly to respect God as the supreme creator- there are lots of examples in the text that warn against interfering with nature;
Victor himself warns Captain Walton, a young ambitious explorer who has set foot into the unknown (an area of the north pole, which, at that time had remained undiscovered) ‘You may easily perceive, Captain Walton that I have suffered great and unparalleled misfortunes…. You seek knowledge and wisdom, as I once did; and I ardently hope that the gratification of your wishes may not be a serpent to sting you, as mine has been… when I reflect that you are pursuing the same course, exposing yourself to the same dangers which have rendered me what I am…
‘ Also when telling his story to Capt. Walton he constantly reflects on what has happened, thinking about the consequences of his actions, and the consequences and implications that have resulted from his taking science too far. ‘Learn from me…. at least by my example, how dangerous is the acquirement of knowledge, and how much happier that man is who believes his native town to be the world, than he who aspires to become greater than his nature will allow. ‘ Whilst telling his story to Capt.
Walton, Victor talks of how his excitement and exhilaration at the prospect of reanimating the dead took over, and how he viewed himself as almost God-like: ‘A new species would bless me as its creator and source; many happy and excellent natures would owe their being to me. ‘ Shelley plays around with the idea that Victor is ‘playing God’ in the title; ‘Frankenstein- A modern Prometheus,’ referring to the mythological Greek tale of Prometheus, son of Zeus, whose job it was to create life.
Prometheus felt sorry for the primitive mortals on the earth, so he stole fire from Zeus to give to them. As a consequence he was punished by Zeus, who had him shackled to the side of a mountain. Each day, Prometheus would be tormented by Zeus’ eagle as it tore at his immortal flesh and tried to devour his liver. Each night the torn flesh would mend so the eagle could begin anew at the first touch of dawn. This myth relates to Frankenstein, although loosely, it carries the same warning that Frankenstein also carries: if you interfere with the path of nature, bad things will happen to you.
Whilst he is telling his story, Victor tells us that he had his doubts beforehand, however his ambition and thirst for knowledge quickly took over. ‘.. I doubted at first whether I should attempt the creation of a being like myself… but my imagination was too much exalted… to permit me to doubt of my ability to give life to an animal as complex and as wonderful as man. ‘ In Chapter 4, Victor toys with the idea that he is a ‘creator’ and ponders the idea that the monster should view him as his father, and he his son; ‘No father could claim the gratitude of his child so completely as I should deserve theirs. ‘
Victor becomes excited at the prospect of this and it drives him on, yet he does not pause to think about the possibility that things will go horribly wrong, as we know they do later on in the story. Nevertheless, Victor prepares himself to ‘reanimate’ his creation, but he panics when he has brought it to life, and, realising how repulsive it is, flees in terror, abandoning his creation, along with the idea that he could have had a meaningful father-son relationship with it. One could argue that the monster, despite having carried out the murders of Justine, William and Elizabeth later on in the story, is not at fault.
Had Frankenstein accepted his creation from the very beginning, events might have been different, therefore, Frankenstein, although indirectly, is to blame for the evil deeds the monster has carried out. The monster does not come into the world as an evil being- it is full of love and kindness for mankind, yet is eventually turned against humans, who judge him by his appearance rather than his character. They taunt him, hurt him and reject him in the same way that Victor had. Therefore it is not surprising that, having been left alone, he acts on his instincts and reacts in the way he does.
The main idea within the context of Frankenstein relates to modern day science in many ways: Science and technology are progressing at an astonishing rate. Many ethical and moral issues are frequently being brought up concerning these developments. The current controversy surrounding the cloning debate is one such example, as is the first successful ‘face transplant’ that has recently taken place -this scientific reality is very similar to Dr. Frankenstein’s frightening discovery that Mary Shelly imagined 200 years ago.