The novel has three narrators. What impression does the reader get of the monster from each of the three narrators?
Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein about two hundred years ago, when writers were first starting to use a writing style called Romanticism. Romanticism uses irrational and emotional ideas, and more imagination than Classical writing. Romanticism also emphasises emotions such as trepidation, horror and awe; this makes a much more interesting read than most Classical novels. Some of the ideas in the book are weird, monstrous and almost satanic, which is bound to shock the majority of readers. Shelley also uses the idea of Byronic heroes in this book. A Byronic hero is a character that is idealised but flawed: often intelligent, cunning and charismatic, however, also dark and arrogant with a degree of cynicism. These qualities could be used to describe any of the three narrators of this book
Mary Shelley was married to famous writer and poet, Percy Shelley, and they are both rather famous. The idea for Frankenstein was originally conceived during a ghost story competition Mary had with her friends. She later wrote it up and got it published; it was one of the most famous novels of the nineteenth century. Frankenstein is typically classed as a gothic novel as it encompasses aspects such as terror, death, decay, madness and the supernatural. However, it is also a work of science fiction as it includes scientific principles that contradict known laws of nature. The book is a fascinating amalgamation of different genres; Shelley mixes up Romantic, Gothic and Science Fiction ideas to create a novel that appeals to a wide audience.
The first of the three narrators is sea captain Robert Walton, trying to reach the North Pole. His part is in the form of letters he writes to his sister about the events that unfold. He is an impartial witness to some of the story. The second narrator is Dr Victor Frankenstein, the creator of the monster. Victor’s part of the story is from the diary he keeps, noting everything that happens when he is creating the monster. The third narrator is the monster itself, who writes how he feels about what’s going on. Obviously, each writer gives a very different impression of the monster, which is what makes the book so interesting.
The first impression of the monster is from Victor as he is bringing it to life in chapter 5. He sets the scene using pathetic fallacy. A “dreary night of November” gives a dark image of the scene, which gives the impression that something bad is about to happen. Also, the weather is used to give a hint to the terrors of the story. “The rain pattered dismally” sets a dark, depressive mood for the story. Before he brings it to life, Victor feels good about his creation, but that soon changes. When the creature opens its “dull, yellow eye” Victor realises that he has made a mistake. He cries “Beautiful! Great God!” because he realises that the monster he has created is hideous, and not the beauty he had hoped to create. He describes the monster as having a “shrivelled complexion and straight black lips.”
These are features that one would think of as ugly, giving a bad impression of the monster. Victor talks about feeling disgust towards the monster, even though he is its creator. He makes the reader think of the monster as stupid by saying, “he muttered some inarticulate sounds.” Victor is saying that the monster cannot speak properly and is just making nonsensical noises. He also gives the impression that the monster is evil by describing at as a “demoniacal corpse.” Victor is trying to tell the reader that it is capable of doing evil things, so they expect it to actually do evil deeds. So far the reader feels unsure about the monster, but in this chapter the monster is portrayed as an evil character. Victor shows many Byronic qualities including arrogance and intelligence; he creates a being to prove his intelligence, but creates a ‘monster’.
In chapter 11 the monster is narrating, so we will undoubtedly get a very different view of it. The monster states that it felt “confused” by a “multiplicity of sensations.” He says it took a long tome to figure out how to “distinguish between the operations of my various senses.” This explains why he was unable to speak in his earlier encounter with Dr Frankenstein; already he seems a lot more intelligible than he did when being described by Victor. The monster also describes how he was “tormented by hunger and thirst.” Making the reader feel sorry for him, as he is suffering and he hasn’t actually done anything wrong yet. The monster goes on to describe how he felt “cold,” “helpless,” “frightened” and “miserable.” These are all negative feelings that would make a reader pity the monster.
It becomes apparent in chapter 15 that the monster can read, which makes him seem even more intellectual. He talks about some of the books he has read in an extremely intelligent way. He says that he “sympathised and partly understood” the character he read about. This makes him seem more human, as sympathising with others is a very human quality. He also started asking questions about his own being. “Who was I? What was I? Whence did I come?” He wants to know who he is, where he comes from and why he is there, but he was “unable to solve” these puzzles. This is why the monster sets out to find his creator, Victor.