How does Mary Shelley create sympathy for the monster whilst he attempts to persuade Frankenstein to create a companion for him? Mary Shelley uses various effective techniques and devices to create a feeling of sympathy for the monster, whilst he desperately attempts to persuade Frankenstein to create a controversial companion for him. These persuasive techniques include use of imagery, changes in narrative, as well as the arguments put forward by the monster during his lengthy plea.
Frankenstein is one of the best known novels in the world, written by a young Mary Shelley, and inspired by, in particular, a harrowing dream she had experienced one night. Mary was an unconventional woman of her time, with an equally unconventional upbringing. Educated at home, Shelley was the daughter of William Godwin, a philosopher, journalist and radical thinker, and Mary Wollstonecraft, a famed feminist writer and educator.
Having two respected but undoubtedly controversial parents most definitely influenced her opinions and works- this is especially evident in Frankenstein, in which both Victor and his creation are controversial and do not lead conventional lives. Sadly, Mary’s mother died just ten days after her birth, leaving Mary lonely for a lot of her childhood, which she spent just in the company of her father and his scientific friends- this early death of her mother draws parallels with Frankenstein’s own childhood, where his mother died from an illness whilst he was still young.
This unconventional and lonesome youth obviously affected Mary’s writing of Frankenstein in that the themes of loneliness and rejection are very apparent throughout the book; the creation of the character of Frankenstein can be seen as allegorical, and the fact that the monster feels “spurned and deserted” serves as one of the main arguments used to create sympathy for him. This is because the reader is implored to emphasis with the monster’s plight. The story opens with the arctic explorer, Walton. This in itself refers to the fact that of Mary Shelley’s era was an age of great exploration and discovery.
Walton finds Victor Frankenstein, apparently delirious, ill and alone on the ice caps. After being nursed back to health, Victor then relates his tale to Walton for the majority of the book, firstly recounting how he left for university after a youth spent in awe and fascination of the earth’s sciences, including the death of his mother- there are plenty of similarities between Victor and Mary Shelley’s husband, Percy Shelley’s, lives at this point. Victor then goes on to explain how he was fascinated by the idea of life and creating life, and how during his studies at university he discovered the secret of life.
The fact that one of the books many prominent themes is the creation of life was almost certainly determined by the fact that at the time of Mary Shelley there was a great debate about the origins of life. Galvani passed an electric current through a frog, making its muscles kick, which he interpreted as a return to life. Mary Shelley witnessed experiments Galvani then performed on the corpses of criminals, using electric currents. She was greatly affected by what she saw, and used many aspects of Galvani’s work in her book.
The impact his work had on her also led her to attempt to convey the idea of the quest for the secret of creation, and the dangers of becoming obsessed with an idea, in her book. Victor proceeded to collect human body parts, before assembling them to create the monster. Once it was created, however, Victor shunned the monster, and it ‘disappeared’. Later Victor discovers that the monster murdered his younger brother, William, and so indirectly caused the execution of a young woman called Justine, who the monster framed for the murder, and was given the death penalty.
Racked by guilt, rage and grief, Victor escapes into the mountains, where he comes face to face with his creation once more. The monster then relates his tale, full of sorrow and destruction, in an effort to persuade Victor to create a companion for him. Chapters sixteen and seventeen consist of both the monster’s persuasive arguments, and Victor’s own opinions. Throughout these two chapters Mary Shelley tries to generate sympathy for the monster using a range of different devices and techniques.
During chapters 16 and 17, the story changes from the narrative perspective of the monster, relating his experiences and expressing his feelings and points of view, to the perspective of Victor. This change, cleverly manoeuvred by Mary Shelley, creates the perfect opportunity for both sides of the argument to be put forward. This means the author can perfectly tailor the monster’s side of the story so that it incites sympathy and pity, as well as using Victor’s raw emotions to, in some cases, strengthen the monster’s arguments- such as when Frankenstein says that he felt that there was “…
Some justice in his [the monster’s] argument” and that the monsters tale “… proved him to be a creature of fine sensations… ” On top of this, Mary Shelley uses chapter seventeen to convey Victor’s changing emotions, from rage to sympathy, in a hope the reader will feel the same pity for the monster, and travel with Victor’s dramatic change of emotions. Mary Shelley makes the monster relate his various experiences to Victor, in his effort to persuade his creator to make a companion for him.
To begin with, he recounts how, when the De Laceys left him alone after fearfully driving him out of their lives, his “… protectors had departed, and had broken the only link that held me to the world. ” This incites sympathy in both the reader and Victor, for it is a terrible thing to be discarded as an object of horror without seemingly just cause, and left alone in the world. In this notion Shelley brings up her own opinion on how it is wrong to be judged not on your actions but on you appearance.
Victor also feels guilty as he himself drove away the monster, like the De Laceys, with a cold heart. By relating back to events that have already occurred in the book, Mary Shelley also reminds the readers of any feelings of sympathy or pity they felt whilst reading of that particular event. The monster also relates his feelings after being shot in the shoulder by a man, as a result of rescuing a young girl from drowning. The monster tells of the “miserable pain” of the wound he suffered for the sake of his kindness, and how he felt anguish at the “injustice and ingratitude” he had received.
This incites sympathy as it shows that the monster is not just a criminal, but indeed a victim as well, rewarded for his benevolence by cruelty on the part of those around him. It also conveys the monster has being not evil or naturally full of malice, but simply misunderstood, which further increases the amount empathy shown towards him. The murder of William is also shown in a different light as the monster recalls how William, as he was seized, called the monster an “ugly wretch…
The monster tells of his intentions to befriend and educate the child, until he was shunned and rebuffed by William, and heard of the child’s connection with Victor. This shows that the murder was not completely in cold blood and unprovoked, and gives an alternative perspective from the assumptions the reader, and Victor, may have formed earlier- again demonstrating the benefits of the way Shelley changed the perspective of the book from Victor to the monster, back to Victor again.