Archetypes in Frankenstien and the Birthmark

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The novel Frankenstein was written by Mary Shelly in 1818, since then the story has become a classic archetype. The Birthmark by Nathaniel Hawthorne, follows this archetype. Although The Birthmark and Frankenstein are not identical both stories have similar archetypal characters and share similar themes of abused power and redemption.

The Frankenstein archetype requires three types of characters: a obsessive, mad scientist, a pure kind feminine presents and a monster, both sympathetic and ruthless. Although the characters from the birthmark are not carbon copies of the characters in Frankenstein they share similar personality traits and experiences. Both works have at least one Madonna like woman who is pure and good through out her entire life. In The Birthmark this character is Aylmer’s wife, Georgiana, who is both beautiful and kind. Despite the distain and obsession her husband develops with the birthmark on her face Georgiana is unwavering in her love and loyalty for him. Even when Georgiana realizes that her husband’s experiment to remove her birthmark is more likely to fail then succeed, she lets him go ahead anyways. Her kindness is so profound that even seconds before she dies at his hands she shows nothing but devotion for Aylmer telling him, “you have aimed loftily; you have done nobly. Do not repent that with so high and pure a feeling, you have rejected the best the earth could offer…” Hawthrone,348. Georgiana is very similar to two women in Frankenstein, who, like her are young and beautiful, kind and loving. Justine Mortiz grew close to Victor Frankenstein’s mother, nursing her back to health when she was sick. After leaving briefly following the death of Victor’s mother, she rejoined the Frankenstein household as a servant and domestic for Victor and his wife. Justine, like Georgiana died as a result of an obsessed scientist and his creation. Justine was framed by the monster Victor created, she was found guilty and executed for the murder of Victor’s son, William. When sentenced to death Justin, like Georgiana was benevolent, this is can be seen in her last appearance before execution:

Justine assumed an air of cheerfulness, while she with difficulty repressed her bitter tears. She embraced Elizabeth, and said, in a voice of half-suppressed emotion, "Farewell, sweet lady, dearest Elizabeth, my beloved and only friend; may Heaven, in its bounty, bless and preserve you; may this be the last misfortune that you will ever suffer! Live, and be happy, and make others so. Shelley,88 Elizabeth Lavenza, was an orphan, adopted by the Frankenstein family when she was young. Victor considered it his job to care for Elizabeth like a sister. The two became inseparable from the moment they met. She and Victor are eventually married. On their honeymoon Elizabeth was murdered by the monster that her husband had created her last words to Victor were of concern for him. “Be happy dear Victor, there is, I hope, nothing to distress you; and be assured that if a lively joy is not painted on my face, my heart is content.” Shelley 208. All three Madonna archetypes were young, beautiful women who despite their good intentions and selfless behaviour died due to the actions of the men closest to them, in Elizabeth and Georgiana case- their husbands. All three leave the reader with kind and philosophical last words.

The men in these stories are an archetypical character of their own, both stories feature obsessed scientists as the main character. Both Victor Frankenstein and Aylmer from The Birthmark become obsessed with the idea of creating and manipulating human life. At the age of thirteen Victor Frankenstein became interested in the spark of life and studied theories of the creation of human life. While away at college in Ingolstadt, Victor creates a being from scavenged corpse parts and gives it life. Victor immediately rejects his creation because of it’s hideousness. The guilt Victor feels throughout the story...
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