Mary Shelley’s Essay
Here we see how Victor’s changed. He used to be able to strive for his ambitious dreams and what he aimed to achieve and look forward to his unrealistic dreams in his sleep that in reality would never happen. Now, he has to rely on his dreams at night to get any sort of self-satisfaction. In chapter five there are themes that are again evident throughout the novel. As I mentioned previously, we see in chapter five that Victor creates the Monster to obtain glory. This glory disappears as Victor realises what he’s done. Here we see the danger of what a thirst for ambition can lead to.
Similarly, in Walton’s first letter we see that Walton too will risk everything for glory-he says, “I preferred glory to every enticement that wealth placed in my path”. He the goes on to say that he’s prepared to risk everything for success. Walton later had to turn back his ship, because he knew where to stop and didn’t want to put other peoples’ lives in danger. Victor, however, didn’t know where to stop, and his original ambition led to the deaths of many people. The theme of responsibility is seen in chapter five and later throughout the novel.
We see Victor’s complete lack of responsibility for the first time in chapter five. Victor abandons the Monster, and says that he “did not dare return to the apartment which I inhabited”-he’s running away. When Clerval arrives, Victor tells him that he’s better now that he’s, “length free”. He’s trying to forget about it, and therefore can’t face up to it, move on or even begin to take responsibility. We see this again in chapter eight. Here, Victor talks about his feelings of guilt when Justine is sent to prison, but does nothing about it.
In chapter twenty Victor begins to take responsibility when he describes the Monster’s creation as “selfish”. After Elizabeth’s death, however, Victor continues to blame anyone for himself for her death, and talks about how the events had been a “take of horrors”. What he doesn’t seem to realise that he’s brought all of these horrors on himself-after all, it was him who made the Monster. I think that this theme running through the novel is Mary Shelley’s way of saying that until you accept your mistakes and take responsibility for them, you can’t move on.
Therefore, not taking responsibility can have disastrous consequences, which is seen in this novel. Mary Shelley also shows us the importance of friends and family in chapter five. When the Monster first comes to life, Victor is obviously quite unstable and depressed. When Henry Clerval arrives, Victor says that, “Nothing could equal my delight on seeing Clerval”. He then goes on to say that Clerval brought back thoughts of his home and family, and that he now felt, “calm and serene joy”. As Victor recovers, he says that his father, “knew that I could not have a more kind and attentive nurse than himself” regarding Clerval.
I think that this shows that it was Henry who helped Victor recover, and without him Victor would probably have remained ill and mentally unstable. This was Mary Shelley’s way of showing what the effect of a good friend can be. We also see the themes of family and friendship throughout the novel. In chapter one, Victor talks about how his first recollections were his father’s smile and benevolent pleasure. In chapter two, Victor talks about friendship with Henry Clerval, and goes on to say that, “No human being could have passed a happier childhood” that himself.
His friends and family were the reason for this. Victor’s friends and family were always there for him when he needed it most; when Victor is held in Ireland, his father travels to see him. Victor says that, “Nothing could have given me greater pleasure” than his arrival. However, when the Monster needed Victor the most, Victor abandoned him completely. This has devastating effects. When the Monster sees the De Laceys smiling with, “such kindness and affection” at each other, he’s unable to cope. He withdraws to the window, “unable to bear these emotions”.
The Monster goes on to commit atrocious crimes as a result of this abandonment. I think that this is Mary Shelley’s way of saying how important friends and family really are. In chapter fifteen, De Lacey says that, “to be friendless is indeed to be unfortunate”. I think that Mary Shelley is trying to put this across throughout the novel. Without friends and family, a person won’t be able to get through the hard times in their life with sanity. This is what happened when the Monster took away Victor’s family and friends. Victor had nothing left.
Finally, the theme of knowledge is evident in chapter five and then throughout “Frankenstein”. In chapter five, Henry Clerval talks about his father’s view on knowledge. Henry viewed knowledge as good, but he talks about how his father had a “dislike” of learning. Henry goes on to say that his father believed learning stopped at bookkeeping, and therefore university and excessive knowledge was unnecessary. Henry and Victor, however, view knowledge as a good thing. Henry describes the quest for knowledge as a, “voyage of discovery” and Victor often talks about his thirst for knowledge.
Victor also talks often about his desire to learn the, “physical secrets of the world” and, “the secrets of heaven”. Similarly, the Monster also has a desire to learn. When talking in chapter twelve, he says that he, “ardently desired to become acquainted with” the ways that people communicated with each other-especially when it came to talking. This shows how similar he was to Victor himself. I think that Mary Shelley had similar views on knowledge to Henry Clerval’s father, and that she tries to get them across to readers in chapter five and then throughout the rest of the novel.
After all, it was ultimately Frankenstein’s thirst for knowledge that led to him creating the Monster, and as a result of his lack of responsibility that the Monster killed so many people. Therefore, I think Mary Shelley is trying to say that knowing everything is anything but good and that we need to be aware of that. I think that there were many hidden meanings in the novel “Frankenstein”, and that many of these seem to be apparent in chapter five. “Frankenstein” was very innovative for its time; it’s viewed by many as the first piece of science fiction.
It shocked people when it was published because at the time very few people spoke out about society in the way that Mary Shelley did. There were many scientific advances at the time the novel was written. People had begun to realise the potential of electricity. In 1802, scientist Galvani ran a current through a frog’s leg and made it move, and in 1803 scientist Aldani attached a battery to a corpse and claimed that it had moved. This caused some scientists to believe that eventually, with the power of electricity, man could be able to live forever. I think that Mary Shelley is trying to get this point across in”Frankenstein”.
She was trying to say that humans should not attempt to “play God”-who is, after all, the only thing that has the right to give or take life. I think that she is trying to say that as soon as man begins to give or take life, there could be disastrous consequences and it therefore should not be experimented with. Mary Shelley is also considered one of the first feminists. By putting across the point that only God can create life, she may also be trying to say that only women can give life. Men don’t have that ability, and should not try to change that.
Whilst she was writing “Frankenstein”, Mary Shelley was reading a book called Emile by Jean-Jacques Rousseau. He argued that when they were born, all men are harmless but it is in fact society that makes them evil. It was as a result of Victor’s initial rejection of the Monster in chapter five and other peoples’ rejection of him throughout the rest of the novel that the Monster turned evil-and that was all because of his appearance. I think that Mary Shelley was trying to say how wrong this was. Victor himself was extremely prejudiced towards the Monster in his narrative.
Right from after his creation, Victor referred to the Monster as “the Monster” and “daemon” as opposed to even just giving it a name. He rejected it because of the way it looked, and the rest of society went on to do the same. It was this prejudice that began in chapter five that Mary Shelley was trying to say was wrong throughout the rest of the novel.
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