This is a course blog for the members of EH236 at the University of South Alabama, Spring 2006.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Frankenstein, literal or figurative?

Although Frankenstein can be read as a griping horror novel, it can also be read with a figurative outlook. For instance, one could state that the monster which Frankenstein created illustrates how a creation can become the master of its creator. However, the question arises as to how figuratively Mary Shelly intended for her work to be? Did she merely write Frankenstein so that she could win a bet, or did she compile the characters with the purpose of bringing a particular issue to the public’s attention? While no one can know beyond a doubt the answer to these questions, Mary Shelly herself says that she wrote Frankenstein to “make the reader dread to look round, to curdle the blood, and quicken the beating of the heart”.

If Shelly did intend to give her story a purpose beyond that of pleasure reading, then what might have been the message that she was trying to communicate? A host of possibilities can be found, however, one may be more predominate than the others, namely, the European industrial revolution. As this event came about, there were undoubtedly many fears which arose from the modernization of Europe. These fears can be justified as rational much in the same way as one rationalizes fears regarding new technology which is constantly being developed today.

However, when Shelly wrote Frankenstein, her intent could have been to draw public support to her and her ideas because of the way in which she ended her story. If she had concluded her novel with Frankenstein mastering his creation and being able to bend it to his will, then the story’s morals would have been totally changed. An ending of this nature would imply that issues, such as the industrialization of Europe, can be conquered and used for beneficial purposes. Nevertheless, Shelly’s ending implies the exact opposite of what was stated above. The fact that everything which Frankenstein held dear to him was destroyed by the monster implies that once something is started and established, it can, and possibly will, dominate the creator’s life and dictate their outcome.

Nevertheless, one can certainly ascertain other tropes which Mary Shelly used in her work. One of these is the lack of responsibility on the part of Frankenstein. Once he realized that he had created a horrible monster, he should have rectified the situation with all possible speed instead of as he puts it, “I rushed out of the room, and continued a long time traversing my bed-chamber, unable to compose my mind for sleep”. This by itself shows how aware Frankenstein was of his creation and its terribleness and so he should have sought to undo its existence immediately. Because he made the choice to ignore it hoping that his creation would somehow undo itself, he suffered the rest of his life and it cost him all the happiness that he once possessed.

Spencer Oswald


Blogger LS said...

Spencer, this is a good question to ask. How are Mary Shelley's themes at once literary, philosophical, and political? I hope you'll keep asking these kinds of questions of the texts we're reading.

3:03 PM  

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