Book Report: Rights and Responsibilities-Frankenstein February 15, 1998 When you think of science you think of hypotheses and conclusions, applications and benefits, which are all for the good of humankind of course. And with each new discovery, the human race takes one step further away from all other species and one step closer to perfection because that is the quest. Right? The point is to take every proven law and “unprove it” or “add on”. Scientists invent and test for the sole purpose of education, but is an end ever discussed? Of course a glorious impact and immense gains for all, are what we want to happen, but that isn’t always the case. For every achievement there must be a failure and no one wants that on their plate. Just as in the case of Frankenstein and the monster, a mistake was made and the inventor had to acknowledge that, and correct what he had done. The only problem was that he didn’t. Victor Frankenstein used science to help him build a “monster”, but when his experiment failed, he wouldn’t take responsibility for his creation.
Science is about understanding nature. It incorporates all things around us and attempts to look at every hair, muscle and movement of an object to find out everything about it. Science is also about adding on to what already exists; this was a problem. When Dr. Frankenstein decided to introduce a new being into the world, he didn’t have to consult anyone, answer any questions or think into the future. With no monitoring, one scientist not only caused four unwarranted deaths, he endangered the lives of many more. “The death of William, the execution of Justine, the murder of Clerval, and lastly of my wife; even at that moment I knew not my only remaining friends were safe from the malignity of the fiend; my father even now might be writhing under his grasp, and Ernest might be dead at his feet.” Although Frankenstein was disgusted by his creation, he was still obligated to make sure that it was not running loose to cause harm and violence on the general public. In many cases, the general public is the biggest concern during an experiment.
They are the ones you are doing it for after all. If any chemical or other substances should escape the first regard is them, but that is because a chemical doesn’t have feelings. That was the difference in the case of Frankenstein and the monster. Like the general public, the monster did have feelings and emotions, the only difference was that he didn’t look like them. He felt love for the cottagers, whom he helped. “I remember, the first time that I did this, the young woman, when she opened the door in the morning, appeared greatly astonished on seeing a great pile of wood for the family fire, and during the night I often took his tools, the use of which I quickly discovered, and brought home firing sufficient for the consumption of several days.” The monster also felt pain brought on by the desertion of his creator, “But it was all a dream; no Eve soothed my sorrows nor shared my thought; I was alone. I remembered Adam’s supplication to his Creator.
But where was mine? He had abandoned me, and in the bitterness of my heart I cursed him.” Dr. Frankenstein had a responsibility to be his creation’s parental figure. It was molded and worked on solely by him and when “born”, it should have been looked after as well. Dr. Frankenstein was unhappy with the results of his experiment and he treated the monster in a way that displayed that disgust. If this was the way he dealt with all failures, he should have stuck with chemicals. With every task that we take on in life, a certain responsibility comes with. For some efforts the duty may be large and others quite small, but in each situation safety should be the number one concern. Dr. Frankenstein not only caused four unwarranted deaths by his carelessness, he also hurt the monster. By caring only for the science aspect of his experiment a valuable soul was hurt and eventually lost. Frankenstein should have hypothesized from the beginning that his “child” would need a parent. A romantic life full of pain and abandonment could only be given the monstrous form of “Frankenstein.”
Mary Shelley’s life gave birth to an imaginary victim full of misery and loneliness and placed him as the protagonist of one of her most famous and greatest work of art. As most people would assume he is not just a fictional character but in fact a creature who desperately demonstrates Shelley’s tragedies and loss during the age of “spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings.” Since Mary Shelley’s birth there have been numerous loss’s in her life. One extremely dominating event in Shelley’s life was the death of her mother. Only ten days after Shelley’s birth, Mary Wollstonecraft, died of an acute fever. Soon after her father Charles Godwin remarried and Shelley entered a battle as the victim of a fight for love. In her novel the emphasis of isolation and rejection are demonstrated in her “deformed child.” Victor Frankenstein’s mother dies of a fever but this is a mere representation of her life. What is most significant is the abandonment the monster feels throughout the story.
He expresses it by telling Walton “…I, the miserable and the abandoned, am an abortion, to be spurned at, and kicked, and trampled on.” He claims he is the victim of his wrongdoing and affirms: “You, who call Frankenstein your friend, seem to have a knowledge of my crimes and his misfortunes. But in detail which he gave you of them, he could not sum up the hours and months of misery which I endured, wasting in impotent passions.” He then goes on to express his feelings of guilt and hideousness because after all the beast is supersensitive. “But it is true that I am a wretch, I have murdered the lovely and the helpless; I have strangled the innocent as they slept, and grasped to death his throat who never injured me or any other living thing. I have devoted my creator, the select specimen of all that is worthy of love and admiration among men, to misery; I have pursued him even to that irremediable ruin.
There he lies, white and cold in death. You hate me; but your abhorrence cannot equal that with which I regard myself. I look on the hands which executed the deed; I think on the heart in which the imagination of it was conceived, and long for the moment when these hands will meet my eyes, when that imagination will haunt my thoughts no more.”(page 239) The deprivation of her mother is not the only loss in Shelley’s life. Shelley, like the monster also hoped for a partner or a sense of a mundane life with a loving family. Shelley did indeed find her love but Percy Shelley drowned at sea in 1822 after the publication of her book. The novel was written in a time in her life when Shelley was without a worry and “her imagination was free to explore and articulate the profound ambivalences in her relationship with Percy Shelley.” Since it is believed that most of the characters are a reflection of her intimate relationships, it is assumed that her husband played the role of Victor the romantic hero in her novel. This theory is opposed when it is also presumed that “Victor” is Lord Byron.
Both these men had the habit of continual posing although one won her love and the other irritated her yet captivated her. With her husband, Shelley shared the tragic losses of their children, leaving them only with one child, Percy Florence. The losses didn’t end here, they endured the suffering of the deaths of Mary’s half- sister Fanny Imlay and the endless hunger and struggle with money is concluded from the monsters struggle to find food. The novel Frankenstein is also defined as a feminist rather radical metaphor. The most fascinating concept in the story is the developing intention to form life. Victor takes the maternal role of a woman in producing life. He failed to create his dream but instead he made “a fiend whose unparalleled barbarity had desolated my heart and filled it forever with the bitterest remorse.” Pregnancy at most times was tabooed to be discussed in the presence of a man but Shelley overpassed this fear and actually made the man the bearer of the child. The desire to conceive life in her story can also be the desire to bring back to life what is dead.
Frankenstein is also seen as the perfect example of the Romantic era and gothic style of writing. This may be due to the romantic life Shelley led. Because Mary is so involved with some of the most outstanding philosophers of her time it is only logical that her work naturally reflected the Romantic movement. Radical and exhibiting knowledge beyond their time, Shelley’s parents were considered social monsters or even “one of the greatest monsters exhibited in history.” Her book is filled with new ideas generating a time of strong emotion and intuition where misery and passion are explored throughout the story. These are vibrant characteristics for the time along with it the mysterious. An example of mystery in Shelley’s life is the censored parts of her mothers life when “…the civilized woman of the present century,…are only anxious to inspire love, when they ought to cherish a nobler ambition, and by their abilities and virtues exact respect.” The romantic age had an attachment to nature and unknown foreign countries. In Frankenstein the setting is placed in an obscure world different to that of the audience.
This focuses the theme and makes it more alluring as a horror story. Scotland was an important place to most romantic writers. This is where Mary Shelley felt freedom and Dr. Frankenstein also feels a sense of liberty. Mary Shelley identified herself with her characters and even the events forming her work. The monster felt he was the exile, but he actually surpassed the boundary between a demon and a human when most people lead a life searching and failing to fulfill this. The monster is the beautiful form of life here sensing pain and love for those who questioned him but gaining a sense of accomplishment proving himself to be able to “incorporate human passion with the beautiful and permanent forms of nature.” Frankenstein Society is inevitable. It will always be there as a pleasure and a burden.
Society puts labels on everything as good or bad, rich or poor, normal or aberrant. Although some of these stamps are accurate, most of them are misconceptions. In the novel Frankenstein by Mary Shelley this act of erring by society is extremely evident. One example of this judgment is the way the family is looked upon. They are seen by society as the lower-class. They work every day on their garden to make food for meals because they do not have enough money to be able to buy food. They are viewed as poor and unfortunate, but are actually rich… in spirit. They are good people. They do not complain with the status quo but enjoy what they have, which is an admirable trait for people in any standing. The old blind man sings songs to the others, plays a musical instrument, and adds a sense of experience and content to the family. The children do their daily work without griping as well. Just because they are looked down upon by society that still does not stop them from enjoying what has been provided for them. Society itself which is supposed to be good is actually ignorant.
They wrongly treat the monster on the assumption that he actually is a monster. They scorn, attack, and shun the monster just because of his outward appearance. This is not justified by anything except his demeanor. They are also afraid of it because they are afraid of things about which they no nothing. Society also unjustly kills Justine because she is the only person that could have possibly have done such an evil act. They again wrongly label Justine as the killer. They do not look into the facts but instead find a quick and easy answer to the problem. This again shows the ignorance of society in this novel. Two of the most inaccurate assumptions of society revolve around the central characters of Dr. Frankenstein and the monster. Society’s labels for these two extremely different characters are on the exact opposite side of the scale from where they are supposed to be. Dr. Frankenstein is more of a monster while the monster is the more decent of the characters.
Dr. Frankenstein, the so labeled decent, no-fault man, is actually irresponsible, stubborn, and extreme in his actions throughout the novel’s plot. His irresponsibility shows through many times in his feelings toward his creation. While he was in the process of shaping his creation, Frankenstein is so caught up in his work and his yearning to be remembered for all time that he does not ponder about what will happen after life is breathed into this being. He is so consumed by his work he does not sleep for days on end, go outside, eat meals, or write to his family with such frequency as he had before he commenced. After his creation comes to life, he refuses to accept his obligation as the creator to his creation. He does not care for it, shelter it, provide it with food or love, nor teaches the creation. Eventually all the monster wants from the doctor is a companion like himself. Frankenstein even refuses to accept the responsibility of providing a source of companionship for the creation since he does not allow for any connection between himself and the monster.
The doctor is intensely set in his ways. Even after the monster kills his son and frames Justine, Frankenstein still will not change his attitude toward the monster. He still does not want any association between himself and the monster even after what has happened. Frankenstein is so convinced that he monster will kill him next, he does not stop and think about what else the monster could have meant by, “I will be with you on your wedding night.” The thought does not enter his head that the monster is foreshadowing the death of his bride. Then after the monster has taken this action, Frankenstein is wrathful towards his creation for not killing him. Frankenstein again shows his persistence when he tries to kill the creation. The monster leads his creator through all kinds of rough terrain, and then into the snow covered arctic. Frankenstein does not care that the monster is vastly superior in physique compared to himself, and that he will never be able to seize the monster unless the creation allows the doctor to catch him. His thick skull does not let any of this affect his thirst for revenge.
The doctor has opinions at different points in this novel that are the exact opposite of his opinions later in the story. At the beginning, Dr. Frankenstein lives for the monster. He cares about only that. He forgets everybody and everything that he had before his infatuation with creating began. He puts so much time and effort into making this thing live that he gets only the best of each part, and makes him anatomically correct to every finger, toe, and nerve. This concentration in making the monster live is direct contrast to his later wish to kill the beast. He travels to all extents to hunt and destroy this monster, going through forests, mountains, and glaciers, and depriving himself of people, food, and sleep. There is no gray area in Dr. Frankenstein’s head. There is only black and white. He either loves the monster totally or wants to slay it. He has to fully devote himself or not do his task. There is no just liking the monster, or doing a task half-heartedly.
The monster on the other hand has gotten the worse end of the deal. The creation, or as society has labeled the monster, is actually one of the only characters in the novel that actually has rationale behind his thinking. Society has mislabeled this creature as dumb, savage, and brutal, whereas he is actually intelligent, kind, and humane. This creation knows absolutely nothing when he first begins to exist and yet in a very short amount of time (compared to human learning) can walk, talk, read, write, and think logically. He learns to read, write, and talk from the family. Proof to his logical thinking is throughout the novel but especially in his plan to make Frankenstein feel his solitude and misery. Also in the creation’s flashback, the reader sees the organized thought process of his mind. The creation does not skip from one time to another randomly but narrates his story in chronological fashion. Anyone who can remember such a long story with as vivid details would be labeled a prodigy.
The creation’s supplying of wood and helping in the familial chores indicates the kindness of this being. He feels obligated to help the family in some way considering he is using their house as shelter. He even stops taking their food because he sees that it causes them to suffer. The creation is also humane despite the fact the he actually kills in the book. He saves a girl from drowning in a river while in the forest. This concern for human life in addition to his feelings of love toward the family is evidence to his kindheartedness. He does not even mean to kill the boy at first. If any character in this tale should be labeled as a monster it is not this one. Society has the most influence in a person’s point of view on a given point. Mostly society causes misconceptions about people based on appearance and the unknown. This is especially evident in the novel Frankenstein, where labels placed on the main characters by society are skewed.