“Discuss Shelley’s presentation of Victor and the Monster in Frankenstein. What effect does the presentation have on your understanding of and sympathy towards each character? ” The novel ‘Frankenstein’ explores a wide variety of themes; many of which were germane during the early 19th Century and are to this day significant in our day-to-day life. ‘Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley’ was responsible for the creation of a book which paved the future steps for science fiction-horror genre based novels and films.
Furthermore, Mary Shelley’s exploration of religious versus rationalist views and gothic themes spurned both controversy and admiration. Two centuries later, we are able to appreciate the intentions of the story, not to forget the female novelist’s effort to emerge in the male dominated society of the early 19th century. In the premature years of the 19th century, Mary Shelley was a budding youth in conflict with her troubled childhood. Tragically, her mother had died shortly after Shelley’s birth due to a puerperal fever in 1797.
William Godwin, her father, remarried only to give birth to the rage-inflicted childhood that Shelley endured until 1814, when Mary Shelley eloped to France. The latest Mrs Godwin’s strict manner repelled that of Mary Shelley’s – a growing youth with a rebellious nature. Typically, Shelley retaliated and in 1814 eloped to France; consequently she forged strong links with the most publicised theme at that time. Towards the close of the 18th century and the beginning of the 19th, a particular movement known as ‘Romanticism’ voiced people’s fears, hopes and aspirations.
Evidently, Romanticism encouraged romantics of the era or amorous-writing poets and novelists. It encouraged people to express their emotions by any means including the appreciation of the natural landscape and weather. At this moment in time, many of the famous British romantics were: William Godwin, William Blake, Mary Shelley, James Hogg and lastly Percy Bysshe Shelley, to whom Mary Shelley married in 1816. Throughout this novel, features of Romanticism surface frequently which would appear to be representative of its significance during that time.
Another decisive aspect of this novel was the influence of ‘Rationalism’. This theme is important, as it renders a just case for Victor Frankenstein’s creation of the ‘Monster’ or the ‘Creation’, which is what I prefer to entitle Frankenstein’s ‘spawn’ as. While a huge number of civilians opposed it, others chose to support the implications of Rationalism; it insisted that traditional beliefs should be examined in the light of reason and science rather than ‘mere’ religious beliefs and miracles.
The wide spread hysteria about Frankenstein (Creator) playing the role of God was dismissed by rationalists who deemed it to be a scientific investigation that had gone wrong. Finally, this novel gave light to the ‘Gothic Romance’ genre. Rejecting the idealistic concepts of balance and rationalism, readers then eagerly sought for the old, hysterical, mystical and passionate adventures of heroes against evil forces. Charlotte Bronte’s ‘Jane Eyre’ was based on this genre. Of course ‘Frankenstein’ was the most famous of its kind.
Other literary influences on this novel were those from ‘Paradise Lost’ by John Milton (tells the tale of Satan descending from heaven to hell and the cause for the creation of mankind – it draws links to the tale of ‘Prometheus’ the creator of Man) and the ‘Rime of the Ancient Mariner’ by Samuel Tailor Coleridge in 1798 (the importance of superstition is portrayed by the killing of an albatross, an act which is believed to have sealed the Mariner’s fate, as his ship was cursed and his fellow ship members died).
Later on I will discuss the relevance of each influence to a greater extent. The plot of the story was cleverly arranged in order to fulfil the proposed effects. Firstly, the story is introduced by a series of letters from Captain Walton to sister, informing his sister of the events that have taken place since he commenced his journey to the North Arctic. This structure of writing is noteworthy as it is in the ‘epistolary’ form; an alternative method of making the reader aware of the story.