How does Mary Shelley present Frankenstein’s monster and what is her message to readers? In this essay I shall be answering the question on how Mary Shelley present Frankenstein’s monster and what is her message to readers? ‘ I will also explore the irrational fears that existed, about the progress of science and scientific technology, in the 1800s and how they are addressed in the novel. I will conclude with a personal comment on Shelley’s portrayal of the creature and scientific progress. ‘Frankenstein or the Modern Prometheus’ was written by Mary Shelley in the early 19th century.
At that time it was very unusual for women to write and even more so because she was only 19 years of age. At this time there were many ambitious scientists. These new scientists were eager to research things they had not researched before. She first published the book anonymously in 1818 when critics hailed it as the work of a genius and were very much surprised when they found out that a woman had written it. This was also how initially reacted. Many scientific advances took place in the 18th and 19th centuries such as the invention of the lightning conductor, and the creation of the first prototype electric battery.
In some ways, the creation of the creature by Frankenstein shows the dangers of humans trying to overreach their potential with scientific research and knowledge. Victor Frankenstein, an ambitious Swiss university student, dedicates his entire life to trying to create life. Nonetheless, when he succeeds, the ugliness and repulsiveness of the creature forces Frankenstein to reject it. The creature faces a life of solitude and loneliness and society rejects him even when it tries to help.
This leads to the death of Frankenstein’s brother, William, whom the creature kills, and the servant, Justine, is hung after being found guilty of the crime. Frankenstein then incurs the wrath of the creature by making a mate for it and then destroying it. This leads to the death of Henry Clerval, his best friend, and Elizabeth, his wife. In the end both the creature and Frankenstein die. The death of so many people can be a way of showing that scientific advance is not always the best way to go and that it can be dangerous at times.
Themes which are, explored in Frankenstein; are madness, dreams and nightmares. During Shelley’s time there was a fear of new technology because of the dread that machines would replace humans as workers; this would leave many of the peasants, and working class is out of a job. This led to riots and revolutions such as the Luddite riots of 1811, which saw machines smashed in violent reaction. This can be linked to riots and demonstrations today against abortion and test-tube babies that one sees in the media everyday. The novel begins with the expedition of an explorer named Walton.
Walton is about to fulfill his ambition and go on his expedition to the North Pole. He wants to go to the North Pole because he wants to be remembered by discovering a place where ‘no man has ever gone’. Walton writes a letter to his sister from St. Petersburg. In his letter Walton says that he knows that ordinary people are worried about his ambitions. He says his sister regards it as an ‘evil forbidding’. Walton prepares for the expedition by being hard and very tough on himself as if he enjoys torturing himself. He states in the letter that he:
“Endured cold, famine, thirst, and want of sleep” Victor Frankenstein wants to push back the boundaries of science. He wants to create life so that people would live longer. The reason he desires to bring back life is that no one else had accomplished this before. He is also a scientist and wants to be remembered like all scientists. Victor Frankenstein is also very excited because he not only thinks he can bring back life but he also thinks he could create life. He says: “A new species would bless me as its creator and source”
He thinks he’s going to be thanked and thought of like a god by the new species he is about to create. Frankenstein prepares for this by attending lectures, reading books, not sleeping and putting himself wholly into his work: “Stars often disappeared into the light of the morning whilst I was yet engaged in my laboratory”, meaning that Frankenstein spent so much time in the laboratory the nights passed quickly. This also shows the devotion to his work. His work appears to be dangerous because he went to places like ‘charnel houses’ and ‘vaults’, which are considered to be very creepy.
He spent days inside these places to collect ‘raw materials’, that is, body parts for his creation. This indicates that he is prepared to do anything to accomplish his ambition, to bring back life. When the creature is in the process of being created, Frankenstein is portrayed as a fanatic and maniac about what he is doing. He neglected his health due to his commitment to his work. I can discern this because he says: “My cheek had grown pale with study, and my person had become emaciated with confinement. ”
This tells me that he has become very ill because of his steadfastness on his mission to create artificial life. This can mean that he is too committed to reaching an objective that is out of any human’s reach. In a way Mary Shelley also shows how Frankenstein is breaking society’s taboos by: “[collecting] bones from charnel houses; and disturbing, with profane fingers, the tremendous secrets of the human frame. ” This is shown as going against nature and as evil. He also describes his aim as filthy, with the use of the words: “… my workshop of filthy creation… “