Level English Literature Frankenstein Coursework, January 2006, Lyndsay Scott ‘Our taste and our judgement alike revolt at this kind of writing… it urges no lesson of conduct, manners or morality. ‘ ‘The novel is a powerful examination of, challenge to, what is good and evil in man and therefore society. ‘ From your understanding of Frankenstein, discuss your response to the above opinions. From my understanding of the novel, I can see that Frankenstein is a text which evidently deals with concerns about good and evil in man and society.
Therefore my interpretation is that yes, very much so is Frankenstein a text which deals with fundamental moral issues about what is essentially good and evil in man and society. Therefore I feel it is possible to obtain not one but arguably numerous moral lessons from the themes explored in the text. This opinion has been recognised and many are in agreement that Mary Shelley, through Frankenstein does offer and voice a definite sense of morality. However, over the years, the text has been interpreted in a different light, in that Frankenstein does not, in fact offer any sort of lesson of conduct, manners or morality.
There is the opinion that Mary Shelley, rather than offering to society a sense of morality, fails to clarify a final meaning behind the text or a definite moral message through her refusal to voice her own opinions and judgement upon the fantastic themes explored. Some argue that there is no definite sense of closure and the reader is left in a state of confusion as to the authors intended message. Throughout this essay, I plan to provide an argument in favour of my own interpretations and opinions upon the text that Frankenstein does in fact offer a lesson of morality to society.
In order to provide a successful argument this essay will address and deal firstly with the issues which support the counter argument, the opinion that Frankenstein does not offer a sense of morality to society, which contradicts my own opinion. By doing so, I will effectively seek to undermine and disprove such issues by providing my own argument, by analysing the evidence in support of my opinions and therefore disprove the contradictory opinions effectively.
Throughout this essay, in order to demonstrate the extent to which my own interpretation is true, I will explore and analyse Shelley’s use of contrasting themes within the text. I will primarily explore the main theme that the text offers; the juxtaposition and constant conflict between the themes of good and evil. This dualism, I can see, has been explored in a number of different lights, and so it can be said to be sub-categorised into many explorations of the main theme of good and evil.
I will take various sub-themes which relate to my argument, providing my own analysis and evidence of how the presentation of such subcategories offers a sense of morality to the reader. Such dualisms present include light and dark, monstrous and human, passion and reason, ignorance and knowledge, reality and imagination, innocence and guilt. Through the exploration of the theme and the subcategories mentioned, this essay will examine how the main theme of good and evil, is explored and addressed within the novel.
Through my analysis of the presentation and exploration of this theme, I will present clearly the evidence of the advice and moral exemplars the text as a whole suggests and offers to mankind individually and generally. Many Critics over the years, and particularly those of the original reception of the novel, are in agreement that there is not a definite sense of morality offered to the readers from the text. It has been argued that Mary Shelley can be seen to be avoiding passing moral judgement upon the events discussed. Some critics maintain this view, and voice their disappointment upon being unable to obtain a moral lesson.
The Quarterly Review, January 1818 points out that beyond the horror there is little moral substance. ‘But when we have thus admitted that Frankenstein has passages which appal the mind and make the flesh creep, we have given it all the praise which we dare to bestow. ‘ The report of a reviewer in The Edinburgh Magazine and Literary Miscellany: A New Series of ‘The Scots Magazine’, March 1818 struggles to see a clear purpose of the novel ‘It is one of those works, however, which, when we have read, we do not well see why it should have been written…
Some of our highest and most reverential feelings receive a shock from the conception on which it turns, so as to produce a painful and bewildered state of mind while we peruse it’. It is apparent that the text concludes rather disappointingly, in that the events of the final chapter fail to reach offer a definite sense of finality and therefore offer a moral interpretation to the readers. The climax of the whole struggle of wills can be seen to disintegrate into a series of not only confusing and indefinite conclusions, but also unexpected and perhaps questionable.