Is Frankenstein the true creator of the monster or is it society that shapes him? The 1818 Gothic novel ‘The Modern Prometheus’ or more famously renowned as ‘Frankenstein’ was written by the British novelist, Mary Shelly (born Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin), on the 30th August 1797. Her parents were political philosopher, William Godwin and feminist, Mary Wollstonecraft. Mary’s mother died 11 days after her birth which left her father in charge of her upbringing for the next four years until he remarried his neighbour, Mary Jane Clairmont. In 1814 Mary had fallen in love with the married Percy Bysshe Shelly, one of her father’s political followers, and together with Mary’s stepsister, Claire Clairmont, they left for France and travelled through Europe. Their return to England brought with it the pregnancy of Mary and Shelly’s child and two years of hardship as they had to deal with ostracism, constant debt, and the death of their prematurely born daughter. The suicidal death of Percy’s wife allowed the couple to marry in 1816. The couple famously spent that summer with Lord Byron, John William Polidori, and Claire Clairmont near Geneva, Switzerland, where Mary conceived the idea for her novel ‘Frankenstein’.
Mary’s second and third child died before she gave birth to her last and only surviving child in 1819. In 1822 her husband also died when his boat was struck during a storm. Mary returned to Britain a year later upon which she devoted herself to the upbringing of her son and being a professional author. On 1st February 1851, at the age of 53, Mary died from Brain tumour. The novel ‘Frankenstein’ is said to be written when Mary was just 19 years old and took two years to complete. The novel opens with letters from Robert Walton, who is writing to his sister about his expedition. These letters form the framework of the story in which Walton tells his sister the story of Victor Frankenstein and his monster as Frankenstein told him. Victor is a student of medicine who unlocks the secrets of creating life and creates a being in the likeness of man, but larger than average and more powerful.
After giving life to the creature, Frankenstein, disgusted by and fearful of the monsters appearance, flees. Victor falls ill and in nursed back to health by his friend. Meanwhile the monster is left to fend for itself and is rejected by society. Isolated by loneliness, the monster seeks refuge in spying on a family, for up to a year. Through these observations he becomes educated and self-aware and realises that he is very different, in physical appearance, from the humans he watches. This loneliness gets the best of him as tries to befriend the family of cottagers (the De Laceys), but they are afraid of him, and this rejection makes him seek vengeance against his creator. His first act of vengeance is committed when he murders Frankenstein’s brother, William, and frames the family’s trusted servant who is then found guilty and is executed. On hearing of his brother’s death Victor returns home and is at the scene of the crime when he catches a glimpse of the monster in the woods.
After this, Victor is certain that the family’s servant is innocent but does nothing to prove her innocence. In a run in with Victor, the monster narrates his short story to Victor and pleads with him to create it a companion to love, and in turn, will love him. Victor agrees and is half way through creating the monster when he shreds it apart. The monster, on witnessing this, vows revenge on his upcoming wedding night. The monster then goes on to murder Clerval, Frankenstein’s best friend, and then his wife, as promised, on his wedding night. Victor’s father is the next to die from all the deaths in his family. With no one left in his life, Victor vows to pursue the monster until one destroys the other. The pursuit leads the two to the arctic circle, near the North Pole. This is where Walton discovers Frankenstein and a few days after telling the story, Victor dies, leaving Walton with the promise of if he runs into the monster; he will kill it for him. After his death Walton walks in on the monster crying over Frankenstein’s dead body and asking it for forgiveness.
The monster promises Walton he will kill himself and thus concluding the book with the monster sailing into the distance. In this essay i will be exploring the book to find the true creator of the monster as to see if it was truly Frankenstein who shaped him or society. I will be weighing up each acts of Victor, Frankenstein and society to see it was these acts which caused the monster to become what it was. At the start of the novel, Victor Frankenstein is rescued by Robert Walton, who tells him of his great ambitions to discover and go where no man had gone before. Victor, in seeing a lot of his old self in Robert, cautions him and tells him his tale to teach him a lesson of what ambitions and glory can do. Victor is defined by his acts in the novel. The reader can see that Victor is driven by self glory and is selfish. We are first shown this when a week before he is to leave for university, his mother dies. Although he is greatly pained by this, victor still leaves even though his cousin, Elizabeth, is really ill too.
When he gets to university, he is driven by a thirst of knowledge and excels in his sciences, he wants knowledge but he doesn’t care where from, he’s only bothered about his accomplishments. It is while he is dissecting dead bodies and experimenting with electricity he finds the answer to life. He plays god and conducts experiments until he is left with a creature. A creature in which he thinks is a ‘catastrophe’, even though he ‘had selected his features as beautiful. Beautiful!’, to make this creature. This shows Victor wanted the best for his creature. He wanted him to be beautiful but the best dead body parts he had chosen had changed colour and only when the ‘dull yellow eye’ opened did he realise how ugly in actual fact it was.
Victor’s disappointment with his creation is shown in the lines ‘the beauty of the dream vanished and the breathless horror and disgust filled my heart.’ He voices his feelings of failure, defeat and frustration through this line after all his ‘toils’ for month on end, in which he went as far as to make himself ill because, he was so driven by ambition. ‘He was ugly’ , is how Victor pronounces the creature. The creature, in which he has spent all his time and effort on, has just become the biggest letdown for Victor. From fear and disgust, he deserts his creation and thus leaves the monster without even a name, in hope that it will disappear. The abandonment of the monster leaves Frankenstein living in fear of the monster but leaves the monster to fend, grow and nurture itself.