Mary Shelley wrote the novel Frankenstein. The novel is also known as the modern Prometheus. Mary Shelley, her husband Percy and Lord Byron went to Lake Geneva. Lord Byron challenged the group to a ghost story. After that Mary Shelley had a dream which then made her start writing her ghost story. Her dream was of a boy which made a machine, a man, which showed signs of life. Mary then had the basis of her story and went on to complete the novel in 1817 and published it in 1818, in London when she was 18 years old.
Another thing which influenced Mary in writing Frankenstein was Jean Jacques Rousseau, a French philosopher, writer and composer in the 18th century. She was deeply motivated by his thoughts and dreams. Her description in Frankenstein closely resembles her documentations of Rousseau’s wanderings throughout his days of exile. This probably gave her an idea of making the monster alone after her idea of a man made human machine.
Also Mary knew that Rousseau abandoned his children to an orphanage which Mary disapproved of, but I think this gave her the idea of Victor abandoning his creation, this also happened to Mary when she was young and it also happened to Rousseau when he was young. They were both dreamers, yet outcasts and both found inspiration in loneliness and isolation. The novel Frankenstein is also called the modern Prometheus. The reason why the novels subtitle is called the modern Prometheus is because in Greek mythology, Prometheus was the titan who stole fire from god and gave it to man.
Victor stole the secret of creation of life from god in a way because he created a being in the likeness of a man. He stole this ‘fire’ or power and bought it to man just like Prometheus did. Mary Shelley evokes a sense of horror when Victor Frankenstein says in (chapter 5): “It was on a dreary night of November that I beheld the accomplishment of my toils. ” This was when Victor creates life, a being in the likeness of a man.
‘Dreary’ could be dull, gloomy and evil. She included the month of November to show that it is near the end of the year and it creates a dark setting. November’ is also a cold, dreary month. It is before December (the last month of the year) so it could mean before death. ‘Beheld’ is carrying out or something which you have already carried out. It can create a sense of dread because the thing being carried out could be an evil thing which was carried out. The word ‘accomplishment’ can be victory, creation or achievement. It could be victory or achievement of the creation of something evil which creates the dread. In this case it was the achievement of creating life. ‘Toils’ is the hard work and hard work is work which is done over a long time.
So if it is work done over a long period of time, than it gives you the feeling that something wicked is being created behind all the hard work. The second link is that Prometheus was the one who made humans, just like Victor did from scratch. This had lot in common with the classic Prometheus; the dream and the creation of a new species; the disregard of limits. “I saw the dull yellow eye of the creature open; it breathed hard, and a convulsive motion agitated its limbs. ” The point where the new being had started its life also creates a sense of fear.
‘Dull’ is gloomy, dreary, evil and deadly. Yellow’ is a colour most commonly used in dangerous and dreadful creatures for the eyes and body so it makes the monster look bloodcurdling. The words ‘open’ and ‘breathed hard’ give the feeling of something is going to happen, a feeling of tension and suspense because it is the first breath of another human created and we do not know what is going to happen. ’Convulsive’ is the jerky muscular contractions resembling a spasm. It can also be the sudden violent movement of rage. It gives us a sense of terror because of the sudden violent movement; you do not know what the monster will do because he is a new creation.
Agitated’ is disturbed or trouble. His limbs were troubled and agitated. You can also see it as being in a state of anxiety and not being calm, vigorously shaking back and forth and being restless. It can mean that the monster was impatient and keen to do something. Shelley creates this sense of horror in chapter 5 by making us feel that the monster is an evil person by describing him ‘dull’ and ‘yellow’. Also it creates horror because the monster has sudden violent movements as soon as he is born and is vigorously shaking because of his distressed state. There are 10 elements of a gothic novel.
These are: set in castle, which often contains secret passages and hidden parts. Some of Frankenstein is set in darkness and horror for example when before Victor created the monster; he spent nights in churchyards and charnel houses collecting remains of dead bodies in places of dark and ghostly atmosphere. Here Shelley creates the horror. “As I dabbled among the unhallowed damps of the grave” ‘Dabbled’ can be when you dip your hand or foot into a liquid. But it can also be when someone plays around with their work and experiment things. ’Unhallowed’ is the opposite of hollow, so it is something which is not empty inside.
It can also be seen as someone treating something with disrespect or violating the sacredness of something, to remove something from the grave. ‘Damp’ is something which has moisture, a slight wetness on an object. This is related to the gothic element of a setting in darkness or castle. So here, Victor is playing around with the bodies, trying to get a perfect body for his creation when he is dabbling. You can tell it is a body he wants because unhallowed is when it is not empty, and the graves are not empty because they have dead bodies which could be slight wet because they are in the ground.
He is raising a body from a grave in a dark graveyard to create a new life. This is how Shelley creates the dread in this gothic element in chapter 4. An atmosphere of mystery and suspense, were fear is often enhanced by the unknown. The terrible, gloomy weather creates suspense and are also metaphors for sorrow and distress. Some gothic novels also contain ancient prophecies which could be obscure, profound or confusing. It could be omens, portents, visions or disturbing dreams like when Victor had a horrifying dream foreshadowing Elizabeth’s death.
He was dreaming of Elizabeth who was healthy, but it turned out to be his mum corpse who he was kissing. Shelley creates the sense of horror here when Victor tells of his dream after he created his creation. “I slept indeed, but I was disturbed by the wildest dreams. I thought I saw Elizabeth, in the bloom of health, walking in the streets of Ingolstadt. Delighted and surprised, I embraced her, but as soon as I imprinted the first kiss on her lips, they became livid with the hue of death; her features appeared to change, and I thought
I held the corpse of my dead mother in my arms, a shroud enveloped her form, and I saw the grave-worms crawling in the folds of the flannel. ” This was the horrifying dream which Victor had in chapter 5. He thought he saw Elizabeth in the ‘bloom’ of health. A bloom can be a blossom or a flower or a seed starting to grow into a bud or flower. The dream starts off in a cheerful manner, but the fear starts to occur after he ‘embraces’ her. Embrace is when you meet someone, shake their hands, hug them or kiss them.
But when he went to ‘imprint’ the kiss on her lips the delightfulness was blown away. Imprinted’ is when you stick, print, dent, mark or impress something or someone. Here it is used as printing a kiss on her lips. ‘Livid’ is something becoming discoloured, purple, bruised, enraged or unusual. ‘Hue’ is colour, a shade or tinge of colour. The lips became discoloured and unusual; they had the shade and colour of death on them. Shelley starts to create the sense of horror here. ‘Features’ are the characteristics of something. It is something which makes up an object or thing. Elizabeth’s features are the limbs and all parts of her body like the nose and eyes.
They all started to change. ‘Corpse’ is a dead body. ‘Shroud’ is a covering, blanket, veil or cloak. ‘Enveloped’ is when something encloses on an object or when something surrounds it, an attacking force. ‘Flannel’ is a soft light piece of woollen fabric. I think Shelley used this dream to show that Victor regretted making his creation. As soon as he made it, he abandoned it. The dream was probably trying to tell Victor that he had done something very awful. Also, as soon as the dream had finished and he woke up, the monster was standing over him.
The corpse in his dream could be the monster and it could be a vision telling him that your creation will do the same to you; he will be pleasant to you at first like the ‘bloom of health’ but then turn horrific like the corpse and hate you if you turn away from him. It can also mean that Victor is Elizabeth, a lovely, determined man, but after creating the monster he turned heart-less and deadly like the corpse and it comes to hunt him. Supernatural inexplicable events, dramatic, amazing events occur. In Frankenstein, the monster is the supernatural being when he is created.
High emotion, characters are often overcome by anger, sorrow, surprise and most often, terror like in Frankenstein the monster is very heart-broken as he finds out no one loves him, even though he loves many humans, so he becomes angry, distraught and lonely. Some gothic novels also have women in distress, threatened by a powerful, tyrannical male. They also have metonymy of gloom and horrors e. g. wind, rain, moans and howls. Terrible weather used by Mary Shelley for dread and horror in Frankenstein is an example of this.
It was already one in the morning; the rain pattered dismally against the panes, and my candle was nearly burnt out. ” This was at the beginning of chapter 5 when Victor finishes creating his creation. Shelley used dreadful weather (a gothic element) and the completion of Victor’s creation at the same time to create the sense of horror. The monster opened his eyes just after the heavy rain started to beating against the panes. ’Pattered dismally’ is when the rain patters on your window in a dreadful and cheerless manner. ‘My candle was nearly burnt out’.
It tells you how dreadful the weather was. The candle was almost burnt out inside a room, and as soon as the candle was almost burnt out, the monster opened his eyes. Shelley used this in an obvious way to create tension and that dread of the horrendous weather and light being gone out from the room combined with the yellow eyes of the monster opening. The monster in Frankenstein is symbolic of many things. Misogyny is one of them. Victor left Elizabeth for his determination of learning new ideas and to feed his craving for knowledge and learning. We sat late. We could not tear ourselves away from each other, nor persuade ourselves to say the word ‘farewell! ’ It was said; and we retired under the pretence of seeking repose, each fancying that the other was deceived. ” It is symbolic of Frankenstein (the monster) because the monster stopped the doctor from being with Elizabeth. It may be a symbol of science because it is repeatedly shown in the novel as an alternative way of understanding the world to that offered by religion. The monster is a warning against scientific progress.
The creature represents this in both its power and its deformities (both physical and moral). The warning against scientific progress is shown when Victor creates a new being and all the casualties which occur after for going advance in science, like the death of Victors brother and Elizabeth, and the loneliness, isolation and being neglected causes the creature rage and sorrow, which after causes him to become evil. It may be symbolic of the parent child relationship. The monster grows up unloved, nameless and untutored-it is a moral lesson to parents about their obligations to their children.
Shelly’s tragedy is similar. She lost her mother 10 days after she was born and grew up alone most of the time, so she could be making the monster symbolic of her. It symbolises destructive nature of dangerous ambition in psychological tale. It also considers the question of whether man is born evil or made evil by society, as we see in Frankenstein, the monster is born loving and caring, but the rejection of Victor and other humans made him loose his love and was made evil by society. Shelley uses the monster to symbolise those who have lost their freedom. His purpose is political.
Frankenstein contains romanticism. The romantic period had an influence on Mary Shelley. This novel contains many elements of romance, but there are three main ones. These are powerful love, unreturned love and uncertainty of reciprocation. The monster had powerful love when he was born, he was not born evil. He loved Victor very much and begged him for the redeeming power of love. But Victor disliked the monster and abandoned him and his duty to look after his creation.
This was unreturned love, the second element, where the monster loved Victor, but he did not give the love back. He held up the curtain of the bed; and his eyes, if eyes they may be called, were fixed on me. His jaws opened, and he muttered some inarticulate sounds, while a grin wrinkled his cheeks. He might have spoken, but I did not hear; one hand was stretched out, seemingly to detain me, but I escaped, and rushed downstairs”. ‘Inarticulate’ is someone who is speechless, who is not speaking clearly, and hesitating and mumbling. ’grin’ is a smile, smirk or a pleasant beam. ‘Detain’ is to hold someone, arrest or capture someone. You can see this as a non-evil side and an evil side.
The negative way you can see this is the monster opening the bed curtain and fixing his eyes on Victor, as if he was going to do something to him. This is where Shelley starts to create the fear. His mouth opened to say something, he may have wanted to curse Victor or say something unpleasant towards him for creating him and then running away from him. His hand was probably stretched out to capture Victor and hold him a prisoner, before Victor runs away. I think that this is unreturned love. This is where the monster wanted to be loved, and he loved Victor.
I see this as a non-evil side. The monster opened the bed curtains to wake up Victor from his horrific dream which the monster could see because of Victor’s convulsive limbs, he wanted to help Victor. His eyes were fixed on Victor because it was the first time he ever saw him properly and wanted to be loved by him. When he opened his mouth to say something, he probably wanted to say some compassionate words and then when he stretched his hands out, he probably wanted to hold Victor and hug him for creating him; for giving him life again.
But Victor probably thought he was trying to attack him so he escaped, but I think that the monster wanted love which was not returned to him. An example of the third element is when the monster watched and studied a family of cottagers, he felt as if he was part of their family without even meeting them. Even after the cottager’s rejection, he still had hope that they would accept him. This shows the uncertainty of reciprocation, where someone is uncertain if something is going to be returned. In Frankenstein, the monster is the example of this, he is unsure if he is ever going to be loved.
The Enlightenment was a very optimistic, yet realistic, era in history. It found people rallying for major changes to take place. The attitude of the Enlightenment was to question everything and think deeply about its meaning, challenging the importance and validity of tradition. In Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Shelley portrays ideas about progress, optimism, liberty, fate, happiness, nature, and the physical world in a manner that supports Enlightenment attitudes. The enlightenment age encouraged everyone to use reason and science in order to rid the world of barbarism and superstition.
In Frankenstein, Shelley argues that Frankenstein’s role as an enlightenment hero, not only pulled him out of nature, but made him a slave to his creation, and that Frankenstein’s role as a revolting romantic failed, because he did not take responsibility for his creation and mankind must find a balance between the enlightenment and romantic ideologies. When Victor takes a moment to ponder upon a story from his youth, we get a glimpse at the Enlightenment view of fate. Victor recalls a time when he was fifteen and lightning not just split, but splintered, a tree near his house.
A well researched natural philosopher just happened to be with him at the time, and when he explained the scientific concepts that had destroyed the tree, Victor immersed himself in the study of mathematics and the sciences related to mathematics. “As I stood at the door, on a sudden I beheld a stream of fire issue from an old and beautiful oak which stood about twenty yards issue from our house; and so soon as the dazzling light vanished, the oak had disappeared, and nothing remained but a blasted stump. When we visited it the next morning, we found the tree shattered in a singular manner.
It was not splintered by the shock, but entirely reduced to thin ribands of wood. I never beheld anything so utterly destroyed. ” ‘Behold’ is to see, to hold, to think or be felt. ‘Stream’ is the smaller part of a river. It is also used for something wavy or floating. ‘Issue’ is a subject, concern, problem, number or copy. I think in this quote it means rising. The ‘oak’ is a type of wood and also a tree name. ‘Dazzling’ is something shining or glimmering in your eyes, and lighting is the dazzling here.
‘Blasted stump’ is a blown and horrible base or remain. Shattered’ is something broken, devastated, crushed or traumatized. A ‘singular manner’ is a shocking, extraordinary way. ‘Ribands’ is pieces of material. So in chapter 2 Victor says about how he saw a wave of fire rise from an old tree outside his house. The tree had disappeared as soon as the lightning had struck it and all that remained was the base of the tree. When he visited it the next morning, the tree was crushed in an astonishing way. It was reduced to strips of woods and he had never seen anything like this before.
The enlightenment encouraged people to use science and reason to rid of false ideas and beliefs. After Victor had seen this, a man of great research of natural philosophy was with him and he explained to Victor about electricity and galvanism (electricity produced by chemical action and in biology, galvanism is the contraction of a muscle that is stimulated by an electric current). Victor had never heard of these theories or ideas before about electricity. This was new to him and in future when he made his monster he used electricity from lightning to stimulate the body of movement.
There is a small amount of dread and horror which Shelley has created in this quote. Words like vanishing, disappearing, shattered and splintered give you negative feelings of something happening. This can be the story of Victor when he just finished creating the monster. “As I stood at the door, on a sudden I beheld a stream of fire issue from an old and beautiful oak which stood about twenty yards issue from our house”. This can be Victor standing at the door when his creation is about to be finished and he saw a new body rising from an old body which stood about 20 yards from him.
And as soon as the dazzling light vanished, the oak had disappeared, and nothing remained but a blasted stump. When we visited it the next morning, we found the tree shattered in a singular manner”. And as soon as the creature was born, Victor disappeared, the tree could be Victor, and nothing remained but the monster. When Victor visited it the next morning, the monster was traumatized and devastated in a shocking way because he was left alone at his birth. It was not splintered by the shock, but entirely reduced to thin ribands of wood.
I never beheld anything so utterly destroyed” He was not devastated by being created again, but because Victor abandoned him and Victor could not believe he created a new being. This vision which he saw of the lightning could have been a warning to him not to go ahead with his ideas; otherwise there would be danger and consequences. The dream which he had in Chapter 5 after creating the monster, could have been telling him that he is now in danger and he has consequences for creating the monster.