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FRANKENSTEIN By Mary Shelley
Mary Shelley • Mary Shelley was born Mary Wollstonecraft in 1797 to William Godwin and Mary Wollstonecraft, author of A Vindication on the Rights of Woman • Always loved writing; had a penchant for the odd • Met and fell in love with married Romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley and became pregnant at 16 on a European vacation. • Shelley’s first wife commits suicide; he marries Mary. • They lose 2 of 3 of their children (Clara and William); the only surviving child was Percy who lived to the age of 70. • Percy drowns in Italy. • By 24, she was an impoverished widow, and she supported herself with her writing. • Frankenstein was the product of a ghost story- writing contest on a rainy afternoon in Geneva. She challenged her husband Lord Byron; she won. • Published in 1818 when she was only 20 years old.
Romanticism Gothicism • Love of nature and its beauty • Heart over head • Individuality • The Supernatural • Complete abandonment of the rational; insanity • Isolation (physical or emotional)
Characters • Dynamic vs. Static • Foils • Round vs. Flat • Catalyst
Themes • The dangers of knowledge • It’s a debate today in medical ethics in subjects like cloning. The big question: just because we CAN, does that mean we SHOULD? • Nature vs. Nurture • The Creature was truly “tabula rasa” at “birth” • Isolation – leads to perversion / monstrosity/ suffering Victor learns in isolation, not as part of an academic community; the creature is forced to live in isolation • The sublimity of nature • Lots of nature imagery/description • Nature inspires both awe and terror • It is often reflective of Victor’s psyche or the action of the novel
Themes (continued) • The idea of monstrosity • What makes a “monster? ” Is there only one “monster” in this text? • And on the flip side, what makes something “human? ”
Motifs • Passive women • All of the women except maybe Safie? • Abortion • The idea of creating life and then not wanting it anymore • Light and dark – light reveals, illumination, seeing • The doppelganger- two halves of the same whole • The quest • Texts – letters, journals
The Doppelganger • The Doppelganger can be interpreted in a variety of ways • (1) simply as a double, an alternative version of the original • (2) a complement to the original, a version of the individual that possesses different qualities and , thus, completes the original • (3) an opposite, a being that possesses all of the qualities that the individual most abhors • Which version is most apparent in the relationship between Frankenstein and the creature? • The Doppelganger motif lends itself well to psychoanalytic reading of the text.
The Doppelganger • Most critics agree that Frankenstein comes closest to the third interpretation • The creature becomes a kind of external embodiment of Frankenstein’s increasingly divided and conflicted personality • He is living proof that Victor has become separated from the best in himself and the potential for using his intelligence and skill for beneficial purposes • As Victor obsessively pursue his studies, he divides his head from his heart; his intellect and desire for scientific knowledge separate from his emotions, affections, and responsibilities to others. • The creature becomes the product and thus the image of a purely intellectual, heartless Victor; therefore, the creature is the opposite of the original Victor, the young man who began his studies with hope and a desire to contribute to the advancement of humanity
Allusions Paradise Lost (epic by John Milton) the creature calls himself the “arch-fiend, ” the “Fallen Angel, ” Victor’s “Adam” – but who is really more Satanic – the creature or Victor, the neglectful creator who plays God? Did I request thee, Maker, from my clay To mould Me man? Did I solicit thee From darkness to promote me? Paradise Lost [X, 743 -5] (on the title page of Frankenstein)
Allusions (cont) • Prometheus is the Titan who steals fire to give it to humans against Zeus’s wishes. For this offense he is punished: he is chained to a rock, and an eagle eats his liver. The liver regrows and is consumed day after day in a perpetual cycle of agony. • How is Victor, then, the Modern Prometheus?
Allusions (cont) • Prometheus
Allusions (cont) • The Book of Genesis – Adam and Eve • In the creation story, God creates Adam, and then he creates woman, Eve, to be his companion. Victor refuses to create a companion for the creature.
Other allusions – (the books the creature reads when he finds them in Victor’s jacket pocket in the woods --- in addition to Victor’s scientific notebooks/journals) • Milton's Paradise Lost (1667) About Satan’s fall and the story of Adam and Eve • Makes the creature question his own creation (Adam was loved by his creator, while the creature is not) and his place in the world; most importantly, he begins to wonder about the existence of his own “Eve” • • Plutarch's Lives of Illustrious Greeks and Romans (2 nd century AD? ) Stories of Greek and Roman soldiers and statesmen • History lessons; stories of bravery and conscience and triumph of goodness; human society • • Goethe's Sorrows of Werter (1774) • The epistolary novel about a young man who commits suicide because of his overwhelming sensitivity and inability to compromise his idealism; love triangle with Charlotte and her husband Albert
Narrative Structure • How it impacts point of view • Frame story / epistolary novel = epistolary frame story • Technically a flashback within a flashback; nothing is being narrated in real time
And, finally. . . just other random issues to consider: • What about this work could precipitate its label as a “feminist feat? ” • Victor as tragic hero
Mary Shelley’s Intro • On the night the idea for Frankenstein was conceived: “O! if I could only contrive one [story] which would frighten my reader as I myself had been frightened that night!” • On her husband Percy’s assistance with writing the novel: “I certainly did not owe the suggestion of one incident, nor scarcely of one train of feeling, to my husband, and yet but for his incitement, it would never have taken the form in which it was presented to the world. ”
Mary Shelley is known as the Mother of Science Fiction • Good science fiction must: • Have a degree of authenticity --- it must have a premise that, even if seemingly outlandish, is well-supported enough with what appears to be legitimate science that it allow readers to suspend their disbelief
OUTSIDE FRAME PREFACE – LETTERS 1 – 4 narrative method – similar to Wuthering Heights characterize Walton – how is like / not like Victor?
Analysis: - sets up frame Darwin is grandfather of Charles – Erasmus Darwin, biologist Walton’s story parallels Victor’s – Walton’s desire for friend parallels creature’s desire later epistolary narrative method – calls attention to the telling of the story, adding layers of complexity to intricate relationship between author / reader. As reader listens, Walton listens; as Walton listens, his sister listens links novel to oral tradition of ghost stories Victor breaks out to address Walton, and Walton signs off to sister if reader believes Walton who SAW the creature, he believes the story ship’s master – unrequited love and unselfish generosity focuses on Romantic concern for lowly/rustic (later creature and De. Lacey) Walton feels sympathy and compassion for Victor – should we by the end?
The Letters Letter 1 – tells of preparations leading up to his departure and of the burning desire to accomplish “some great purpose” - northern passage to Pacific, source of Earth’s magnetism, seeing undiscovered territory Letters 2 – 3 – is lonely, wants someone educated with whom to share thoughts and dreams (Romantic); is confident will achieve goal Letter 4 – stalled in ice and see creature in distance; rescues Victor and nurses; become friends and Victor agrees to tell story
Analysis of letters: - Walton’s search for friendship parallels creature’s search intro of theme of destructive knowledge – Walton’s search and Victor – they both want to know what no one else knows FRAMING Narrative ends and Victor’s story begins
CHAPTERS 1 – 2 p. 35 /37 – Robert Walton is enamored of Victor – isn’t this a man who is obsessed? what does Walton see in him? How has Victor changed so much? p. 47/44 – Cornelius Agrippa – Paracelsus – Albertus Magnus – blames father who poo-pooed his studying these; Victor questioned if his father knew what he was talking about, so he ignored him; if father had explained, PERHAPS all would have been different p. 49/46 – lightning strike of tree – electricity and galvanism; abandons alchemy – Victor thinks some angel is giving him a final opportunity Analysis: typical 19 th-centry fashion - many details of birth / early years foreshadowing throughout – Victor talks about his doom
CHAPTERS 3 p. 52/47 – Elizabeth and scarlet fever – mother nurses and dies first death in novel - mother’s p. 56/49 - Krempe tells Victor he has studied the wrong things and gives him new titles p. 58 /51 – Waldman – chemistry – “They PENETRATE into the recesses of nature, and show she works in her hiding places. ” Victor vows to “unfold to the world the deepest mysteries of creation. ”
CHAPTER 4 Quest –search for knowledge to conquer death - relates to Prometheus p. 62/55 – anatomy – examines the dead can now “bestow animation upon lifeless matter” p. 65 /55 – “Learn from me. . . how dangerous is the acquirement of knowledge. . . ” p. 65/55 – PRIDE “I doubted not that I should ultimately succeed” – plans to make being bigger p. 66/55 – Freudian – mother – “I might in process of time. . . renew life where earth had apparently devoted the body to corruption” p. 66 /56 – “moon gazed on efforts” – lunacy? p. 67 / 68 – cautionary to Walton – “If the study to which you apply yourself has a tendency to weaken your affections, and to destroy your taste for those simple pleasures in which no alloy can possibly mix, then that study is certainly unlawful. . . not befitting the human mind. ”
CHAPTER 5 – actually the initial beginning of the story creation – where thought was beautiful, now horror in rejecting the creature, the reader rejects Victor creature not originally evil – learns evil p. 71/58 – Freudian – Elizabeth turning into dead mother when Victor flees as seeing creature foreshadowing – Elizabeth “livid with the hue of death” p. 72 /59 – allusions to Dante’s Inferno and Rime of the Ancient Mariner p. 73 /60 – Henry arrives; is he a foil for Victor? He nurses Victor.
CHAPTER 6 chronology vague – creature gone, but how old is William? how long has Victor been away? letter from Elizabeth narrative structure: written letters in framework – adds realism, but is unlikely – how can Victor remember word for word? how can Walton then record accurately? p. 80/63 – story of Justine parallel to that of Elizabeth – gave her education
CHAPTER 7 p. 87/68 – letter from dad – William is dead and Justine accused p. 88 / 69 – miniature portrait of mom in pocket p. 89 / 70 – Freudian – response of father very feminine p. 92 / 72 – Mont Blanc – upon return, IN STORM, sees creature lightning – old tree as a child; create creature – the lightning illuminates the creature Romantic – Victor feels in his heart (intuition, not rational thought) that the creature is the murderer p. 94 / 73 – Victor rationalizes not telling others that creature murdered William p. 94 / 74 – why the description of portrait of mother in despair?
CHAPTER EIGHT Justine’s story p. 99 - 108/ 76 -82 – circumstantial evidence against Justine – play on “Justice” – is the first victim of gross injustice
CHAPTER NINE/ Vol. Two, Chapter One p. 109 – 116 – Victor goes walking – ends up in Chamounix/Mont Blanc Romantic – take to nature, yet nature is unsettled instances of sublime nature
CHAPTER TEN / Vol. Two, Chapter Two Victor wanders the mountain – icy p. 119 / 89 – allusion / lines from Shelley’s “Immutability” (see handout) p. 121 - meets creature and consents to listen creature becomes verbal, emotional, sensitive; Victor starts to realize his creature is beyond scientific animation – creature has needs and wants reader does sympathize with creature – after all, have only Victor’s description allusions to Paradise Lost Victor has played God but does not nurture creature is blank slate – man is innately good / virtuous noble savage archetype
CHAPTER 11/Volume II, Chapter 3 creature: masters his senses first in forest (Romantic) p. 127 / 94 – discovers remnants of a fire (symbolic – Prometheus? ) – mountains – find roots and nuts to roast p. 129 – 95 – hut – scares off old man / shepherd allusion – Pandaemonium and daemons of hell after suffering in lake of fire (Paradise Lost) beaten out of a small village; finds hovel next to cottage p. 130 / 97 – watches life in cottage
CHAPTER 12 / Volume II, Chapter 4 All about the creature. Idea of tabula rasa. He watches blind elder -- father; young man – Felix; woman – Agatha Understands social significance of family – contrasts with solitude; cottagers’ devotion contrasts with Victor’s abandonment; he lacks social identity – no name, no connections p. 135 / 99 - family suffers from poverty; creature leaves them wood p. 136 - discovers speech – parallels infant observing and learning speech p. 137 – 101 - creature realizes cottagers are reading p. 138 / 101 - creature realizes his ugliness in water has thoughts to help these people – is very innocent p. 140/ 102 - appreciates nature instinctually (Romantic)
knowledge becomes dangerous - creature realizes what he is missing; before ignorance was bliss growing list of similarities between Victor and creature suggest they may not be so different after all The cause of change in the creature is society’s rejection and scorn; could that in any way parallel Victor?
CHAPTER 13 / Volume 2, Chapter 5 CREATURE: Victor seeks solace in cold Alps, while creature seeks forest p. 141 / - “events. . . have made me what I am. ” p. 141/103 – spring passes strange woman visits Felix – “sweet Arabian” – can’t speak language subplot – layering of stories – reworks sense of “otherness” – creature is isolated, Victor is isolated; Safie’s father is Turk in Paris and Safie is seeking to escape Islam’s gender roles for Christianity Safie rejects role of passive women in novel
creature hopes Victor will save him like Felix did Safie’s father p. 143 / 104 – Safie – learns language as creature does; speech in creature underscores his inability to communicate with society p. 144 / 105 - learns letters allusion – Felix reads Volney’s “Ruins of Empires” – learns history political statement – “. . . and wept with Sophia over the hapless fate of it [America’s] original inhabitants” p. 145 / 106 - realizes there is good and bad in men - learns of class system p. 146 / - learns of death, difference between sexes, and birth of children p. 147 / - creature realizes he is a singular being – has no family
Chapter 14, Volume II, Chapter 6 p. 148 / 107 – De. Lacey family in Paris had been ruined by Safie’s father p. 149 – Felix moved at trial and decides is unjust sentence – vows to free father p. 149 / 108 - father promises Safie to Felix when father is free p. 150 – creature copies letters of thanks Safie wrote Felix Safie’s mother is a Christian Arab, but she taught Safie her Christian culture p. 151 / 109 – father escapes with Safie’s help; father is really against their union but couldn’t say so because Felix is helping them p. 152 / 110 – after trial of Felix, father, Agatha impoverished, exiled, moved to Germany Safie’s father takes her and sends small sum to Felix and then must flee p. 153 / 111 – Italy; Safie finds father’s letter and sets off to find Felix
Chapter Fifteen, Vol, II, Chapter 7 p. 155 / - creature stays throughout the summer p. 155 / 111 – wandering in woods finds Milton’s Paradise Lost, Plutarch’s Lives, and “Sorrows of Werter” – refer to handout p. 115/ 112 - creature reads them; allusions in reading: Numa, Solon, Lycurgas, Romulus, and Theseus – likes the first three ****p. 157 / 113 – reads Paradise Lost as true history; likens self to Adam and Satan; Paradise Lost – creature says is both human and demonic; is cursed and scolded by creator p. 158 / 113 – in comparison to Paradise Lost, had pages from Victor’s journal in his clothes – creature reads and realizes how he was created p. 15 8 / 114 – decides to reveal self to cottagers p. 159 / - Biblical allusions to Paradise / Eve
p. 160 / - his creator had abandoned him, unlike Adam p. 161 / 115 – winter – decides to approach blind man when he is alone so no one sees him p. 164 / 117 – just as creature is about to reveal himself after a kind reception by blind man, and tell that the cottagers are the ones who have helped him, others return and Felix hits him – creature flees
Chapter 16; Vol. II, Chapter 8 p. 165 / 118 – creature goes to forest and howls like beast allusion – Paradise Lost – “I, like the arch-fiend, bore a hell within me; and, finding myself unsympathized with, wished to tear up the trees, spread havoc and destruction around me, and then to have sat down and enjoyed the ruin. ” p. 165 / - declares war against man p. 167 / 119 – De. Laceys have left p. 168 / 120 – creature sets fire to cottage p. 169 / - decides to seek out Victor – is autumn p. 170 / - winter – wanders looking for Victor – is bitter p. 170 / 121 – flees: Romantic – “. . . I felt emotions of gentleness and pleasure, that had long appeared dead, revive within me. ” p. 171 / - saves drowning girl and is shot; recovers for several weeks
p. 172 / 122 – meets William – wants William as a friend – will teach William to be his friend because he is small p. 173 / - kills William p. 174 / 124 - frames Justine p. 175 / - wants a mate
Chapter 17; Vol. II, Chapter 9 p. 179 / 125 - creature promises he will go to South America with mate p. / 126 - “I had no right to withhold from him the small portion of happiness which was yet in my power to bestow. ” female creature – Victor is going to commit another crime against humanity and nature; to creature, this is a chance for a companion p. 180 / 127 - Victor agrees
Chapter 18; Vol. III, Chapter 1 VICTOR: p. 184 / 131 – decides to go to England – at most, will be gone a year p. 186 / - Clerval will accompany p. 187 / - Frankenstein is better – father suggests marriage, but Victor knows that he can’t marry because of his promise to the creature p. 189 / 133 – Clerval – “He was a being formed in the very poetry of nature” (Romantic –compare to creature) p. 190 / - allusion – lines from Tintern Abbey (Wordsworth) Henry and Victor have slightly different reactions to nature Henry enthusiastic about natural world foreshadowing of Henry’s death in Victor’s comments
Chapter 19; Vol. III, Chapter 2 p. 192 / - October – arrives in London p. 193 / 135 - Feb. – invited to Scotland – leave Mar. 27 and arrive in July – take walking tour to get there p. 194 / 136 – allusion – Charles I – why this allusion? why this figure? allusion to Hampden – “and the field on which the patriot fell” p. 195 / - “But I am a blasted tree; the bolt has entered my soul” p. 197 / 138 – visits Arthur’s Seat - St. Bernard’s Well - Pentland Hills Victor decides to go Scotland alone p. 198 / - goes to Orkney Islands
Chapter 20; Vol. 3, Chapter 3 p. 202 / 140 – if creature had children – could propagate and destroy human race p. 202 / 141 – creature at window destroys female definitely anti-feminist? ? (I don’t buy this) Gothic – forgets how he got the parts p. 205 / 142 – creature threatens – creature now has the power to destroy “I shall be with you on your wedding night. ” (appropriate seeing creature’s mate is destroyed) p. 205 /143 - Victor believes he will die when he gets married
p. 206 / 144 – Victor wanders the island for a day gets letters from home and Clerval who is planning to go to India p. 207 / - Victor puts remains of female in basket with stones p. 208 / 145 – dumps basket in sea - falls asleep in boat p. 209 / - gets lost at sea p. 211 / 146 – makes land – Ireland 147 – must account for self with Kirwin, the magistrate – man killed last night
Chapter 21; Vol. III, Chapter 4 p. 212 / 147 – body found by fisherman the night before – strangled 148 - Dan Nugent – found body – said same boat as Victor’s had seen the night before others also claim to have witnessed Victor p. 214 / - Kirwin: go see body 149 - is Henry (how did he get there? ) Victor falls into fever for two months (notice physical health always mirrors mental health with Victor) p. 215 / - awakens in jail sick two months Kirwin hired old woman to tend – notice class insult
p. 218 / - Kirwin arranged for care, found papers on Victor and sent letter to father p. 219 / 151 – fathere! p. 221 – 153 – Victor found innocent of Henry’s murder p. 222 / 154 – Victor realizes he needs to watch over his family in Geneva – starts home with father p. 223 / 155 – takes laudanum to sleep
Chapter 22; Vol. III, Chapter 5 VICTOR: p. 224 / 155 – health is shaky so has to stop in Paris to recover p. 225 / 156 – Victor keeps saying that he killed William, Justine, and Henry – did he? p. 226 / 157 – in Paris – letter from Elizabeth – she wants to know if really loves her – do you love another? p. 228 / 158 – Victor recalls creature’s threat p. 229 / 159 - Victor writes to Elizabeth that will marry and has a secret he will reveal the day after they are married p. 231 / 160 – arrives home wedding in 10 days foreshadowing – “If only I had known!” p. 232 / 161 – Victor plans a honeymoon on Lake Como at villa restored to Elizabeth; Victor carries a pistol now p. 233 / - sail off after wedding – land at inn for the night
Chapter 23; Vol. III, Chapter 6 VICTOR: p. 236 / 162 – weather worsens p. 237 / 163 – tells Elizabeth to retire – Victor looks for creature CLIMAX!!!! (or is it? ) ELIZABETH IS MURDERED Elizabeth’s murder – destroys Victor’s social world – Victor now dehumanized and seeks only revenge, similar to the creature p. 238 / 164 – creature grins at him from window Victor shoots at him p. 239 / 165 – insists return to Geneva p. 240 / 166 – father dies from grief in three days (is this another death to blame on Victor? )
p. 241 / - Victor vows revenge Victor tells whole story to magistrate who doesn’t believe him p. 243 / 167 – magistrate informs that he believes he won’t ever catch the creature; Victor now dedicates his life to finding creature
Chapter 24; Vol. III, Chapter 7 p. 245 – 168 – Victor vows at graveyard to get creature p. 247 / - creature hears him and laughs – “I am satisfied” Victor pursues creature for months p. 249 / 171 – creature leaves food, messages to continue north – gets sledge and dogs p. 251 / 172 - creature leading Victor to certain death, but Victor pursues p. 253 / 173 – Victor closes to within a mile and ice breaks up – Victor is stranded p. / 174 – Victor wants Walton to carry on revenge for him
WALTON p. 254 / - believes Victor because he shared letters of Felix and Safie and saw creature p. 255 / - Victor refuses to tell Walton how he brought the creature to life p. 255 / 175 – Victor corrects the notes Walton has made of conversations (WHY? ) Victor believes that those who have died actually come and speak to him in his dreams p. 256 / 176 – Victor likens himself to Lucifer in an eternal hell if tragic hero, here is his acknowledgement Is Victor as inhuman as creature? like the creature, Victor is also completely alone p. 259 / 178 - Victor weakens group of sailors want promise from Walton that, if they escape the ice, they will sail south
p. 261 / 179 – Walton agrees to return home p. 262 - ice breaks – the path to the south is open Victor says he will not return p. 263 / 180 – Victor admits that he owed creature well-being and care again Victor asks Walton to take his revenge p. 264 / 181 – before Victor dies he tells Walton to live in tranquility and avoid ambition (cautionary tale) p. 265 / - creature visits Victor’s corpse --- he’s crying and apologetic “You hate me; but your abhorrence cannot that with which I regard myself. ” p. 265 / 182 – creature claims Victor as a victim
p. 267 / 183 – acknowledgement from creature that he deserves no pity – could he be a tragic hero also? p. 269 / 184 – plans to head north, build pyre, and die p. 270 / - creature leaves Walton completes the frame: Walton sees Victor as noble, tragic If Victor is noble and tragic, isn’t the creature also?