Frankenstein as a Cultural Artefact

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1. Frankenstein is a cultural artefact; it reproduces particular ways of thinking. In what ways are certain ideologies foregrounded?

Any novel from a different period of time than our own acts as a cultural artefact, in the sense that they reproduce particular ways of thinking that were evident in the period in which they were created. Mary Shelley's Frankenstein is used in this way to present certain ideologies from the 19th century to the modern reader. Frankenstein tells the story of a creature that is disowned by his creator and in turn wreaks havoc in the creator's life as a means of revenge. There are certain central ideologies that were relevant to Shelley and her society at the time of writing this text which are foregrounded by certain events and circumstances within the novel. Shelley was influenced by many philosophers and littérateures, these influences and the society surrounding her led her to adopt the certain ideologies and beliefs which are presented in her work. The idea of the Lockean theory and the Rousseau-inspired ideals are derived from their namesake philosophers, John Locke and Jean-Jacques Rousseau. In the same way, ideas such as Romanticism and aestheticism were derived from Shelley's surroundings, as she grew up in a world fascinated with both nature and beautiful things. These ideologies are pertinent to the text as they allow for the reader to catch a glimpse of what society was experiencing at the time in which it was written.

By analysing Frankenstein it is obvious to note society's obsession with aestheticism, the main ideas of aestheticism are foregrounded by the characters themselves and their reactions to certain objects and beings. Through the use of minor characters Shelley successfully portrays the ‘beautiful' people in society. It can be argued that these characters such as Elizabeth and Justine Moritz are only perceived to be beautiful by the reader because their underlying characters are not revealed, if their true inner selves were revealed then perhaps we would also see their unpleasant side. These minor characters are used to portray people's aesthetic views on society and how the only important factor is for people to simply look beautiful on the outside. Frankenstein describes Elizabeth as "a being heaven-sent, and bearing a celestial stamp in all her features" and Justine as "exquisitely beautiful", these two descriptions show that they are both innocent and attractive and that no other description seems necessary. Shelley also uses the character of the Creature to portray the other side of aestheticism; of what happens to the unattractive things in society. The Creature is shunned from society simply because he looks different from the norm. Even his creator Frankenstein is horrified at his creation:

"His limbs were in proportion, and I had selected his features as beautiful. Beautiful! – Great God! His yellow skin scarcely covered the work of muscles and arteries beneath; his hair was of a lustrous black, and flowing; his teeth of pearly whiteness; but these luxuries only formed a more horrid contrast with his watery eyes" (pg. 58)

This description shows that the appearance of something or someone had a profound effect on people, so much so that a creator cannot love his creation simply due to appearances. The Creature went so far as to speak to blind, old De Lacey alone so that he could possibly be accepted for his personality rather than be immediately ousted due to his appearance. This plan of his backfired; however, when his children returned home unexpectedly as "Felix darted forward, and with supernatural force tore me from his father, to whose knees I clung". The same reaction was received by the Creature when he rescued a little girl from drowning, "when the man saw me draw near, he aimed a gun". This reaction shows that no matter what you do, if you do not look a certain way then you will not be accepted into society.

Another idea that...
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