Therefore critics of the text have interpreted this apparently indefinite conclusion as having no real basis for definite moral extraction. The text, more specifically, has been interpreted to end rather openly with no definite conclusion as to the struggle between Victor and the monster, no real proof of the monster’s death and no clear evidence of what lessons exactly Walton was able to extract from Victor’s tale.
The novel can be seen to end rather ominously, where Mary Shelley can be seen to be hanging undecidedly between two states of opinion, in a territory of unanswered questions and difficult dilemmas.
The apparent failure of Shelley to pass judgement upon the fantastical themes disappointed some readers when they found they were not presented with a clear, set out conclusion, or indication as to the direction of Walton’s thinking after his experiences with Victor and the monster.
It is therefore questionable, that if no alterations as to Walton’s intense ambition was achieved through hearing of Victor’s experience, the very purpose of such a tale in the first place.
Throughout the novel, Shelley explored the theme of the struggle between good and evil in great depths. Upon reading the novel and the crimes of Victor Frankenstein, it is not perhaps difficult to be lulled into a sense of security that in the end, Victor Frankenstein will receive his comeuppance for the crimes he has committed.
Such obvious evils cannot possibly go unchecked, and the readers perhaps pursued the novel in order to witness the reprimand of Victor.
It is again possible to hope that in the end, the monster will receive what he so desires which is a sense of acceptance by his father, and that Victor will be reach an sense of understanding and upon receiving this insight gain forgiveness and peace. It is possible to hope that Walton, upon hearing Frankenstein’s tale, will recognise the dangerous traits of Victor’s character within himself and abandon his trip.
However, it is not obvious that any of these conclusions which have been hinted to the readers throughout the text actually materialise which leaves the readers doubting that they can obtain a sense of finality from such a conclusion. Victor maintains his inability to change and see the truth. He ignores and rejects any sense of opportunity to gain insight into his actions and motivations while re-telling his story to Walton, and his attitude to ward the monster remains completely unaltered. He continues to look upon the monster as a threat, vindictive and malicious and maintains his own justifications in his quest to annihilate him.
Therefore it is evident that if it is accepted that one of the fundamental messages of the novel is the reprimand of Viktor’s parental neglect for the creature which ultimately rendered it a monster, the novel closes with no sense that Viktor ever discovered the true reason why he was being punished. Until his dying moments, Viktor rather selfishly remained adamant that the creature was wholly evil, a devil, who delighted upon feasting on murder and misery. He does not subside in asking Walton to continue his quest after his death.
‘Swear to me Walton that he shall not escape, that you will seek him and satisfy my vengeance in his death. ‘ Yes, it is true that he reprimanded himself for creating the monster, taking his pursuit for knowledge a step too far, but never did Viktor accept or understand the perhaps ‘true’ reason for his punishment, in that it was his fault, not the maliciousness of the monster which was the true reason for his punishment. Never did he consider the possibility that it was in actual fact, his own shortcomings, this neglect as a parent which brought upon him the misery and pain he suffered.
Instead he remained rigidly adamant to his convictions. Before his death, the readers are given a glimmer of hope that Victor may have recognised some validity to the monster’s plight when he admits to Walton that he did have a certain ‘duty’ towards the monster, and that the monsters ‘happiness and wellbeing’ was bound towards him. Yet this new insight is swiftly overridden as Victor reverts to his previous egotistical thinking and insists upon his ‘paramount duty towards mankind,’ which is in fact ironic, as never does Victor consider his duty towards other people.
He continues to insist upon the crimes and the malignity of the creature and reaches the conclusion, alarmingly that he ‘ought to die. ‘ The fact that the novel closes with the protagonist never reaching this seemingly expected or righteous conclusion and realisation leads the readers to consider there is no firm moral message behind the events. Victor dies with no sense of wisdom, only that of bitterness and revenge. As Victor is so frequently alluded to The Ancient Mariner in Coleridge’s poem, one would perhaps expect a similar conclusion for Victor as that experienced by the mariner.
It seems that the Mariners salvation occurs when he spontaneously prays for and recognises the sacredness of all forms of life. Victor cannot make peace with the monster and does not ever realise his true crime, and from his deathbed, prays not for the creature’s forgiveness but for his destruction. Victor is guilty not only of this crime of parental failure, but in the actual creation of the monster which is a blasphemous act in itself. The dualism Shelley created here, by the production of the monster is that of the struggle between passion and reasoning.
Viktor is guilty in that by allowing his passion to overcome his reason, committed the ultimate crime, in that he overstepped into the boundaries forbidden to humanity in that he created life. In this procreation, he committed a terrible crime against humanity generally and God especially, in that he usurped the role of the divine creator. Essentially, Viktor unleashed upon society, a terrible and hideous monster, one which was, in actuality, the externalisation of the darker side of his own psyche.
‘A terrible wretch,’ ‘fiend,’ a ‘demonical corpse’, an ‘abhorred monster’, This externalisation in turn proved capable of murdering the innocent, reeking havoc wherever it may tread. Such a horrific tale, such a demonstration of extreme blasphemy would perhaps be expected to result in some sort of sense of justice for the deaths of the innocent. It can be said that upon reading the novel, the reader would undoubtedly expect in the end to receive a sense of closure, and be presented unquestionably with a definite moral lesson. This would be expected particularly in the conservative society on the nineteenth century.
Instead the reader is left uncertain as to Mary Shelley’s true message. Instead, Victor does not ever wholly recognise the dangers of unbound passion that one fails to see reason. Upon the crews request to return home in the face of possible death, while Walton, disheartened as he is, is still able to recognise their justification, Victor dismisses their argument entirely where he cannot comprehend the thought of turning back when they are so close to their captain’s goal. ‘Do not return to your families with the stigma of disgrace marked on your brows.
‘ Even after everything he has experienced, Victor continues to live in his own dreams and refuses to face reality. Viktor cannot complete his ‘pilgrimage,’ what can be seen as his only sort of reverence, his only real sense peace of mind. He is tortured by guilt only for the deaths of his friends and family. ‘They were dead, and I lived, their murderer also lived, and to destroy him I must drag out my weary existence;’ This quote refers to Victor’s quest, whereby he is convinced that only through completion of this task of annihilating the monster can he avenge the deaths of the innocent and rectify his disastrous sin.
However, Victor dies before he can fulfil the quest of destroying the monster which he ‘so thoughtlessly bestowed upon mankind. ‘ Victor does not ever avenge the deaths of the innocent, gain insight or peace of mind. In fact, Victor dies in complete ignorance and hostility. It is questionable as to Shelley’s purpose behind the tale of Victor in the first place. In his seemingly untimely death of ignorance, and ultimately the failure of his task, there is arguably, no sense of wholesome satisfaction offered to the reader from such a conclusion described.
No sense of justice for the deaths of those innocent and good people who lost their lives at the hands of Viktor and his monster has been obtained. The conclusion of Walton is yet again one of doubt, and the readers are left with a sense of uncertainty as to whether Walton has recognised the similarities between his own personality and that of Victors, and in doing so obtained a warning or a sense of insight. Walton’s situation is similar to that of Victors, one of passion overcoming reason.
It is arguable that although Walton does return home, he does not do so because he has gained wisdom of the dangers of his single minded obsession, but because he simply has no choice. Shelley leaves Walton’s position in such a way in that it is difficult to discern whether Walton is sincerely interested in his crew’s safety or if he is simply afraid of a mutiny on the ship. Walton perceives the crew’s request to abort the voyage as unjust, blaming the crew for disappointing him.
Although he recognises the validity to their argument and continues to see them as ‘brave’ and correct in their assessment of the dangerous of the situation, his words lead us to believe he sees the cowardice and indecisiveness of their actions. While they wish to return to England in the face of possible death, Walton maintains his Promethean tendencies, noting in one of his letters ‘I had rather die than return shamefully- my purpose unfulfilled.’
Walton also alarmingly maintains a sense of deep admiration for Victor until his dying moments, noting that he is ‘noble and godlike in ruin’ He has listened to Victor’s story, yet it does not enlighten him nor warn him of his character, and it is apparent that he has learned very little. The qualities which we have recognised within Walton which linked him inextricably to Victor in the opening letters continue to exist in the final letters. Significantly, the absence of Walton’s signature at the end of the last letter prohibits the novel from completing its Chinese box structure narrative.
It leaves the ending open and forces the reader to accept the uncertainties created from this rejection of closure. By leaving out Walton’s signature from the last letter, Shelley leaves us pondering the possibility of the monster having the last say, and that the tale is not in fact complete. It is possible to suggest, that no sense of closure for the reader comes about from the conclusion of the Monster. The monster, upon his cruel desire to prolong and extend the sufferance of Viktor, ruthlessly leads him upon such a harsh and difficult journey, ‘Follow me, I seek the everlasting ices of the north.
You will feel the misery of cold and frost to which I am impassive,’ and upon his unquenchable desire and even embracement of causing Viktor great pain and misery upon the murder of his family, however, during the journey, the monster, rather maternally, leaves provisions for Victor to assist his comfort and he persists to keep Victor alive. These actions are questionable and can lead us to consider the monster’s true intentions. This idea is maintained when viewing the death of Viktor, the monster is in fact moved and solemn, full of grief, horror and self reproach, demonstrating a definite sense of admiration and esteem for his creator.
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