The Modern Prometheus Essay
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Surprisingly, this moral aspect of the chapter is thought out by the character of Victor, as up to this point its only been considered by the reader. The chapter can also tell us a lot about 19th Century life and that society had concerns about where science and the advancements made were going. This also links to modern day matters such as with our debates over stem-cell research and where to draw the line. In this chapter we see Victor becoming increasingly ill through his lack of sleep and exhaustion.
He became so consumed with his creation that he unknowingly neglected his life, family and friends. The tolls of Victor’s labour however seem finally to be released when the creation is successfully given life. Yet when realisation finally dawns on him, Frankenstein attempts to abandon the creature. Victor’s enthusiasm for creating the monster seems dignified. His sorrowful experience with death on his mother’s behalf sprung the thought of creating life and bringing back those who had unjustly had life stolen from them.
With this in mind and considering the alternative title of this novel is “The Modern Prometheus” it would appear that the two share a connection. Prometheus was a Greek who, with naivety, believed that he was giving man a helping hand by bringing fire to civilisation. Fire did undeniably help humans in survival but with it, came destruction and death. In Victor’s arrogance, he firmly believes he can create life, a beautiful being, much like gods creation, of which results in quite the opposite and with a monstrosity.
He puts no thought into what consequences his investigation may bring and assumes he can take it. However, when life is successfully given to his creation he hastily flees, with no concern of what may happen to the monster he has created. In his escape attempt he stumbles upon Clerval and completely forgets the creature that he is morally responsible for. Now similarly, much like Prometheus, Victor has set free something he intentionally meant for good, but will consequentially bring devastating effects to himself, his family, and others.
In studying medical science it would seem Victor sought to prevent death and destruction, instead it results in quite the opposite. There are many reasons that could explain this, his family for instance, hold victor in high regard which builds the expectations he’s expected to live up to. This puts Victor under a lot of pressure to ‘achieve’ more. In chapter 5 the reader and the character of Victor both begin to consider the importance of his actions. It is in Victor’s feelings on the monster’s appearance when the first traces of uncertainty begin to show.
His creation is constantly on his conscience and the tolls are expressed through mental and physical exhaustion and dreams, all involving the monster, and remind him of the constant mental torment that he suffers and cannot escape. It is the moment in chapter 5 when Victor finally realises that there will be consequences for what he has done, a revelation he cannot alter nor flee from, which therefore impacts the rest of the novel in that his future from here onwards will only get worse. Chapter 5 reveals a lot about the character of Victor Frankenstein.
Up to this point in the plot Victor’s ambitions and dreams have remained just that, however it is at this moment in the novel that his aspirations are realised and the creation is brought to life. Victor’s character gains full attention at this point as the chapter focuses upon his reaction. We begin to notice qualities that were previously only shown in small quantities. We see his innocent fascination in natural philosophy progress into obsession, which further goes to reveal traits such as determination, impatience and agony.
“With an anxiety that almost amounted to agony, collected the instruments of life around me that I might infuse a spark of being into the lifeless thing that lay at my feet. ” This sentence contains two possible meanings firstly it suggests that Victor is in no healthy bodily state. Through his sheer determination he is feeling exhaustion, agony and has a sense of unease by the potential outcome that all his effort has been down to.
Another meaning is less literal, and the same traits could be applied to his mental state, which further goes to show that his mind is restless and not sound. “I thought I saw Elizabeth in the bloom of health, walking in the streets of Ingolstadt. Delighted and surprised, I embraced her; but as I imprinted the first kiss on her lips, they became livid with the hue of death; her features appeared to change, and I thought that I held the corpse of my dead mother in my arms; a shroud enveloped her form, and I saw the grave-worms crawling in the folds of the flannel.
” Again this disturbing dream tells us, the reader, that the continuance of his work is taking a toll on him causing his mind to feel restless it also serves as a revelation for the events that are to shortly follow which are to involve his beloved Elizabeth and all that Victor holds dearly as the creature seeks vengeance on his creator for being brought into the world without consent and then hastily deserting him leaving the creation to fend for himself with no guidance. At points in chapter 5 we see hints of insanity and madness.
Victor’s aspirations to be ‘god-like’ or to achieve a ‘hero-status’ is solely due to him gaining praise for his ability to create life. Though it seems that Victor is entirely responsible for his obsession to build his creation, his family could also be partly to blame for his insanity. They all favour Victor and often praise him on his achievements, however it is possible that through their high expectations that Victor aspires to achieve so much, all in order just to live up to their high expectations.
Shelley effectively uses language to both interest and engage her audience. Her greatest result appears to be the language used to depict the mood and atmosphere in chapter 5, as Victor is successful in his experiment. The impression of darkness and horror that surrounds this chapter is cleverly developed through Shelley’s use of various devices.
Two of these devices include imagery and repetition, language such as “dreary”, “dull”, “comfortless”, “disgust”, “miserable” and “demoniacal”, are used and repeated throughout and only continue to further add to the effectiveness of the visual image painted, creating feelings of repulsiveness and disgust. Another example which continues to emphasise the effectiveness of this is when Victor describes a disturbing dream he has. “I thought that I held the corpse of my dead mother in my arms; a shroud enveloped her form, and I saw the grave-worms crawling in the folds of the flannel. “