Frankenstein - explore the relationship between creator and creation (Victor & monster, God and Adam). What are the responsibilities of each? How are they fulfilled?
With the birth of a monster reflecting a huge human form, Victor Frankenstein could perhaps call himself the ‘God’ for a new species! The monster in Mary Shelley’s novel ‘Frankenstein’ is a scientific creation and a brainchild of Victor Frankenstein, a student of chemistry and alchemy. After being created the monster roams about, lost and disarrayed in his objectives and searches for a partner. The monster frightens Victor. The appearance of the monster is described as a creature of eight feet height and a translucent yellowish skin which somehow fails to hide the vessels and muscles underneath. He has glowing eyes, dark hair and lips with white teeth. The monster is in need of a mate which Victor is not ready to create. However, as one reads through the novel, the human characteristics of the monster become so prominent that one might think that he really deserved a female companion to love and share his life with. Despite being a creator, Victor Frankenstein falls far short of God’s approach towards His creation (Adams) as he fails to see the humane aspect of his creation.
After making the creature out of fragments of corpses, Victor is himself frightened by his creation – “When Victor views the monster, pieced together from fragments of dead corpses, standing before him in the illusion of a unified whole, it is more than his psyche can tolerate” (D’Amato, 125). Here he differs from the ultimate creator of human race, God, who created Adam and then granted him a female partner, Eve. Victor could not think of making a female counterpart for his creation lest it might lead to the extinction of human race. He brings out a selfish self in doing so and shies from his responsibility towards his creation. He fails to see the human qualities of the monster and like many others is guided by the external ugliness. The human face of the monster is brought out through several instances. The monster learns speech and manners from a peasant’s family while hiding in the wood shed. He learns about their behaviors and lives and thinks of them as his protector. The monster hides for sometime but then one day he gathers the courage to come before the public. He begins by introducing himself to the head of the family, the blind father. Initially the father is kind to him and polite in attitude, but since he could not see the ugliness he was unaware of the monstrous aspect of the creature. When the other members of the family return, they drive away the creature. Yet, the monster does not give up hope and rescues a peasant girl from a river. However he gets nothing in return. Even after the rescue, a man arrives and shoots the creation in the shoulder. Hence, he vows to avenge his birth and searches for his creator. He even describes his frustration to his creator, while pleading with him to grant a female partner so that he could move away form humanity and resolve his loneliness. He says out of his agony, “Cursed, cursed creator! Why did I live? Why, in that instant, did I not extinguish the spark of existence which you had so wantonly bestowed?” (Shelley, 52) He finally manages to discover the creator’s room and he also finds out the origin of his birth. He later tries to befriend a boy who happens to be the son of his creator. The boy gets frightened and instead of responding to his gesture, the boy threatens to call his father. The monster gets angry and kills the boy and in order to take out his wrath on humanity, he fixes up the blame of the murder on a girl who is sleeping close by. This girl is the family’s maid and is finally hanged because Frankenstein decides to keep his creation hidden from public. This cannot be referred as a responsible act where he defers form admitting his own blunder by giving birth to such scientific creation that could be a threat now to the human race.
The monster calls himself the fallen angel instead of Adam as he ought to be, since he envies the lives of other human beings and finds his creator unjust – “Remember that I am thy creature; I ought to be thy Adam, but I am rather the fallen angel, whom thou drivest from joy for no misdeed” (Shelley, 207). Here Wolf observes that Victor could be both (Adam and Satan). Initially he was the ‘Adam’ of God but he “rebelled against God and against nature when he started to create an Adam himself, thus he turned into Satan” (Wolf, 18). The creation and the mortal creator have different reasons for being the Satan. The monster is unjustly or unkindly treated but the latter creates the Satan out of a desire to equal God, his own creator. Yet he finally does not yield to the monster’s demands even though he destroys Victor’s life by killing his near and dear ones. Victor sets out to search the creature vowing to kill him.
As Victor reaches the Arctic Circle, he catches pneumonia and is rescued by a nearby ship, which was exploring the area. He relates the tragic story to the Captain of the ship. Meanwhile the beast also boards the ship and searches for Frankenstein to kill him. However, when he finds him dead, he breaks in grief for losing the only family he ever had. He then promises himself to commit suicide and then leaps from the boat. Thereafter, he is never seen any more. Therefore, the story of the monster and his decision to commit suicide in the end, reflect the grief for the loss of a friend or a relative. Also, the fact that he was intelligent and educated shows his rationally and intellect comparable to that of a human. Overall, the life and actions of the monster are guided mainly by his feelings and emotions, which merely craved for a suitable company. Just like human beings, he also learns from past experiences and reacts likewise. All these help in establishing the anger or rage felt by the monster. However the monster does not kill his creator and finally carries out the will of his mortal ‘God’ by killing himself just like human beings face the obligation of carrying out God’s will through different actions of action, benevolence and finally accepting mortality under different circumstances. Victor also fulfills his obligation to God (his Creator) by accepting death. The monster kills himself with a heavy heart as he knows that his wish could never be fulfilled and his own acts of destruction have brought his isolation as he loses the only relation he had.
Coming under pressure, the creator could have yielded to the demands of the monster and hence gifted him with a female companion. However, he was afraid that this might endanger the human race itself. From the viewpoint of psychoanalysis the monster presented in this Gothic novel could represent the inner monster within Victor himself – “The creature represents that which Victor denies—his own fragmented, alienated, and monstrous self.” (D’Amato, 126) In this context Levine and Knoepflmacher remarks, “The uncontrolled technological creation is particularly frightening and obsessively attractive to modern consciousness because it forces a confrontation with our buried selves” (Levine and Knoepflmacher, 17). The duality of the association between the creator and the creation represents the association to science that is nearly destroying us despite our appreciation of the same. Hence it is justified if Victor wants to keep it (or his own monstrous self) away from the human race and also not helping it to breed further. Thus Frankenstein at this point acts responsibly, but he has already made the blunder through his scientific experiment in trying to surpass his Creator. The story could have taken a different turn if Victor yielded to the monster’s request.
D’Amato, Barbara, “Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein: an orphaned author’s dream and journey toward integration”, Modern Psychoanalysis, (2009) 34.1, 117-135
Levine, George and U.C. Knoepflmacher, The endurance of Frankenstein, University of California Press, 1982
Shelley, Mary, Frankenstein, G. and W.B. Whittaker, 1823
Wolf, Nadine, Nature and Civilisation in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, GRIN Verlag, 2007