Discuss the Significance of Father Figures in Frankenstein

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Discuss the significance of father-figures in Frankenstein

Frankenstein is a story of science gone dreadfully amiss. Shelley offers depth and meaning to Frankenstein by presenting (sometimes covertly so) insinuations of failed father and son relationships littered throughout the story. The most obvious relationship in this story is that between Victor Frankenstein and his monster, however, there are other characters in the story that present themselves as father-figures. In this essay, I will endeavour to discuss not only the significance of the familial relationship between Victor Frankenstein and his creature, but that of Victor and Alphonso Frankenstein, Henry Clerval and his father amongst others.

As Allen notes, the most obvious parallel between creator and creature in Shelley's Frankenstein is that of God and Adam in the opening chapters of Genesis in the Bible (Reading Frankenstein, 2006, p.71). The creature himself actually compares himself more to Satan however saying, "I ought to be thy Adam; but I am rather the fallen angel"(p.77). However as Thompson points out, there are veiled references to the Biblical Adam's eldest son Cain (Thompson, Shelley‘s Frankenstein, 2006) who was seen as a misfit, rebelliously so and more importantly the first murderer, sentenced to wander the earth, without his father or family and outcast until the end of days (in the same manner as the monster, it wasn't until he had taken the life of William Frankenstein, that his fate was sealed).

As Victor was in the laboratory in process of creating this monster, he envisioned himself to be the creator and source of a new species. Enthusing in his role of creature-creator, a fertile parent (Bentley, Family, Humanity, Polity: Theorizing the Basis and Boundaries of Political Community in Frankenstein, 2005 p.338) to innumerable progeny (not shying away from the benefits of parental responsibility) he meaningfully says, "No father could claim the gratitude of his child so completely as I should deserve theirs." (p.36). However, after bringing the creature to life after months upon months of hard restless work, Victor immediately bemoans the catastrophic being he had created, abandoning him and his responsibility to father and generate in his ‘son' a conscience and a responsible manhood. Frankenstein's creation is thus forsaken at ‘birth' and suffers a solitary existence as he is left to mature, without the care, concern and guidance of an interested, involved father.

Bentley (Family, Humanity, Polity: Theorizing the Basis and Boundaries of Political Community in Frankenstein, 2005, P.337) argues that the creature seeks out Victor specifically, and sees him as a father figure when they meet (at least on the surface). The creature repeatedly identifies himself to Frankenstein as "thy creature", "thy Adam" and he more significantly says "Oh Frankenstein, be not equitable to every other, and trample upon me alone, to whom thy justice, and even thy clemency and affection, is most due." It's very observable that the creature believes that Frankenstein owes him what a father should naturally give his child; the most affection, the most mercy and compassion (Although it is worth noting that the monster is under no illusion that he is loved in any respect by Victor, saying "Yet you, my creator, detest and spurn me…to who thou art bound by ties…" (p.77)). Also as Allen observes in the last chapter the creature displays a childlike sense of rejection from a parent who "accumulated wretchedness and despair upon me" whilst seeking out "his own enjoyment in feelings and passions from the indulgence of which I was for ever barred" (p.188) (Reading Frankenstein, 2006, p.91).

Victor recoiled in horror as the inanimate monster (notably never given a name) came to life; in fact, Claridge (p.20) argues that the ugliness of the creature permits him to escape from parental responsibilities; in actuality justifying his immediate departure. However, as...
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