‘Frankenstein’ addresses many important ideas which were controversial at the time, and which have remained controversial. Discuss these issues in relation to Chapter 5 in particular and in the novel as a whole. ‘Frankenstein’ is a Gothic Horror novel written by Mary Shelley. An ambitious scientist, Victor Frankenstein, creates a creature from Human body parts in secret. Instead of taking responsibility for the creature he abandons it. The creature spends its life learning about Humans, learning to read and trying to find Frankenstein. Finally, it takes revenge on Frankenstein and his family because he abandons it.
The controversial issues are: Scientific research-thinking about the consequences of a ‘breakthrough’ like creating life, Frankenstein’s obsession which shuts him off from friends and family, Frankenstein’s responsibility for what he has done and the dangers of knowledge which Frankenstein found out about , and so he warns Captain Walton about them. Shelley was a radical thinker, much like Victor Frankenstein in the novel. When she was 16 she met Percy Shelley, and in the summer of 1816 she was staying with him and Lord Byron on the shores of Lake Geneva. She would later on become the wife of Percy Shelley.
One evening Byron suggested that they should all write a ghost story to see whose was best. Much like her childhood, Mary Shelley had a dream about the story she should write. In chapter five in the novel, Victor Frankenstein has a dream which turns into a nightmare, like the dream Shelley had to write Frankenstein. Her husband encouraged her to further her ideas and in 1818 Frankenstein was first published. At the time that Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein, many scientists were experimenting with the idea of bringing dead humans and animals, back to life.
Many of these were performed by passing an electrical current through the dead tissue, and stimulating the muscles so they would move. At the time, the majority of people who were aware of these experiments, considered them to be unacceptable. They believed that the act of life should be left to God and the scientists were criticised for trying to interfere with God’s Work. These ideas influenced Mary Shelley and prompted her to write her novel ‘Frankenstein’. Another of the reasons that Mary Shelley wrote ‘Frankenstein’ was that her Mother died when she was a child. This is shown in the novel when Victor’s mother dies.
Her Mother dying led to her having a lack of emotional attention from her father and step mother and this made her feel isolated. This is reflected in the life of the creature, which has no one to comfort him. Because of her lack of attention during her younger years, she spent much of her childhood reading, writing stories and day dreaming. The first issue that I will discuss is obsession. Victor Frakenstein is obsessed with creating his monster, so obsessed in fact, that during Chapter 5, which takes place over a period of about two years, he ignores his friends and family.
“I had worked hard for nearly two years”. During this time, Frankenstein had been deeply involved in the making of the creature, “So deeply was I engrossed in my occupation”. His obsession also affected his health. “I had deprived myself of rest and health”. Obsession could be seen as controversial behaviour, as it was not seen as a good thing to be so obsessed with your work, like Frankenstein, that you ignored your family. Frankenstein is obsessed with the fact that the creature is haunting him, and where it will strike next.
He is also obsessed with following the creature to destroy it to the extent that he follows it to the Arctic but dies before he can track it down. He also becomes obsessed with warning Captain Walton to take his crew home and not carry on with his search for a new sea route. Frankenstein’s interest in controversial issues such as reincarnation, where life comes from, and whether man can, or should create life, is all part of Frankenstein’s “scientific” research. Even now, some scientific research is considered controversial, for example, cloning.
This is very similar to Frankenstein creating his creature. Therefore, another controversial issue in this novel is the scientific research that Frankenstein was doing. He talks about his work at the start of chapter five. “I behold the accomplishment of my toils. ” However, Mary Shelley shows that his research is not acceptable religiously because she calls him “The Pale Student of Unhallowed Arts” (unhallowed means cursed). Frankenstein knows that his work and research would not be accepted in his society. He also suspects that his work is wrong.
“Who shall conceive the horrors of my secret toils? ” But even after all the scientific research that he has done, his results are unsatisfactory to his needs. He calls his creation a “catastrophe” and a “monster”. Maybe it was fate that the project he had devoted two years of his life to, turned out to fail miserably. The effects of his scientific research carry on in the rest of the novel. The creature demands that Frankenstein should continue his research and create another creature, ”my companion must be of the same species and have the same defects. This being you must create.
” But before he finishes the other being, Frankenstein realises what he is doing is wrong so he destroys it, ”she might become ten thousand times more malignant than her mate and delight, for its own sake, in murder and wretchedness. ” He also considers the prospect of the two monsters having children, ”a race of devils would be propagated upon the earth who might make the very existence of the species of man a condition precarious and full of terror. ” He decides to make another create because if he did so, the original creature would leave him alone.
However, he changes his mind at the thought of what the offspring might do to mankind. Frankenstein’s breakthrough in scientific research seemed a good thing to him in chapter five. The rest of the novel shows that he should not have taken it too far. At the end of the novel Frankenstein advises Walton not to go any further with his exploring. Walton’s exploring is like Frankenstein’s scientific research, it is a way of getting more knowledge. Mary Shelley shows the dangers of taking scientific research too far.
The next issue I will look at is the loneliness that Frankenstein suffered while he was conducting his experiment. Also, Frankenstein was not the only one who was isolated. In the story, the creature also suffers isolation, as its deformed looks lead to it’s rejection from society. Frankenstein’s loneliness from society is shown in chapter five, when after he has completed his experiment, his excitement of coming into contact with Clerval is clear. “I was unable to contain myself. It was not joy only that possessed me; I felt my flesh tingle with excess of sensitiveness, and my pulse beat rapidly.
I was unable to remain for a single instant in the same place; I jumped over the chairs, clapped my hands, and laughed aloud. ” This over the top reaction that Frankenstein shows when coming back into contact with the ‘real’ world shows how lonely he was and also shows that he is starting to realise the consequences of what he has done. You can see this because he was trying to separate himself from the work he had been doing for two years, and from the ‘being’ he had created. He was simply trying to get away from the creature and not take responsibility for it.
In the rest of the novel Frankenstein continues to be lonely. He loses his relatives one by one as the creature continues to haunt him. It murders William, Clerval and Elizabeth. Justine and Frankenstein’s Father die as a consequence of the creatures actions, the creature causes Frankenstein’s loneliness. The last thing that Frankenstein does is on his own, and the last thing he does is to track down the monster. While he is looking for the monster Captain Walton rescues him. Because Captain Walton has been like Frankenstein and only thought about his ambitions, he is lonely like Frankenstein.
”I bitterly feel the want of a friend. I have no one near me” Mary Shelley has tried to show loneliness as a result of over ambition. Another issue that I will examine is the relationship between God and man, and the controversy over what should be left to God in Mary Shelley’s time. This is related to the scientific research that Frankenstein was doing, because at that time, trying to create life was considered unacceptable as these kinds of things were left to God. Frankensteins work was terribly controversial.
This shows that it is possible to think of Mary Shelly’s novel as a warning of what can happen if man oversteps the boundaries of knowledge and starts interfering with things he should leave to God. In Mary Shelly’s time people believed that only God should create life; therefore if a man did so, like Frankenstein, this would lead to bad consequences. Frankenstein shows that his work is unholy by calling his creation a “filthy daemon” in chapter seven. This shows that he knows his work is wrong and that he has overstepped the mark and interfered with God’s work.
By the end of the novel when he is talking to Captain Walton, Frankenstein compares himself to Adam who did something that God had forbidden; he ate the apple from the tree of knowledge. Frankenstein says to Walton, ”I fell, never, never again to rise. ” Walton is so moved by his story that he takes notice of Frankenstein’s warning and turns his ship home. This part of the plot shows that Mary Shelley wanted to get across the idea that if you disturb the relationship between God and Man, bad things will happen.
In Frankenstein’s case, the catastrophic consequences of his work are that the people he is close to are killed by the ‘monster’ he created. This links with the death and suffering that Frankenstein has experienced during the novel. Frankenstein has had to suffer the deaths of so many people who are close to him. As I have already explained, these deaths include Clerval his best friend, Elizabeth his wife and William his son. His servant Justine also died as a consequence of William’s murder, through the means of Frankenstein’s creature framing her as the murderess and her being executed for it.
There is one more death. The creature promises to kill itself so that ”no curious and unhallowed wretch” can create ”such another that I have been” But there is an open ending so the reader is left in suspense and there is no idea what has happened to the creature, so it still haunts. The only clue that you are given about the creatures whereabouts is the last sentence in the novel, ”He was soon borne away by the waves and lost in distance and darkness. ” The ending of the novel is controversial because it makes you think that the creature can come back and haunt again.