Isolation and Resentment in Shelley’s Frankenstein
Mary Shelley’s novel, Frankenstein, deals with two very distinct individuals: the young-but-foolish Victor Frankenstein and his creation, the “Monster”. Victor is the main focus of the novel for the beginning chapters, while the rest of the work focuses more on the development and actions of the Monster. The characters of Victor and the Monster are first brought together during the Monster’s creation in Chapter 4 (34). It was Victor’s isolation from both his family and his peers that ultimately lead to his creation of the Monster, and it was the Monster’s feelings of isolation and resentment towards Victor that lead to his violent episodes. While these feelings are evident in both characters’ actions throughout the majority of the novel, it was during the Monster’s statements to Captain Robert Walton towards the end of the story that drives home the fact that the Monster’s actions were products of his repeated rejections when he attempted to be accepted by society and as such are not indicative of his inherent nature. It was these feelings of loneliness and resentment that drove both Victor and the Monster to their actions, and it is safe to assume that some of Shelley’s personal feelings of abandonment and resentment towards her mother bled through into her characters. These feelings are made evident by way of the diction of the characters, both elements of and deviations from the Gothic stereotype, the development of the characters throughout the story and the lack of any definite closure to the text. Shelley’s use of eloquent and elaborate language by the main characters could be construed as ironic, in that such well-spoken characters have sunken into committing the most terrible of sins, namely those of murder and hubris. It is this irony that makes the isolation and resentment that Victor and the Monster feel stand out in the reader’s mind; two characters that are so articulate in their speech are reviled for their differences from the rest of society. The sophisticated diction of the Monster in the final pages of the novel helps to lend a feeling of bitterness and remorse to the text. However, the Monster’s eloquent speech does not sway the Captain, as evidenced in the first line “I was at first touched…indignation was rekindled within me.” (154). This shows that no matter how well-spoken an individual is and how sympathetic that person might be, normal society tends to shun those that are viewed as different, whether these differences are physical or in the way that they communicate. Such eloquence, as evidenced in the Monster’s speech “Once I falsely hoped to meet…thoughts of honor and devotion” (154), is a direct product of how a person was raised; those that are raised in an environment where they are kept isolated, whether by choice or through the influence of society tend to develop such oratory skills as a way of hopefully being accepted by those around them. However, more often than not, such well-defined articulation of one’s thoughts leads to such a person being further isolated from society, and as such feeds feelings of isolation and resentment. It was due to realistic depictions of societal reactions like these that helped to solidify Frankenstein’s place as a Gothic novel. Shelley uses many common elements of the Gothic novel in Frankenstein, and the themes of resentment and isolation can be connected to the characters through these elements. Victor is depicted as a “weak hero”, whose isolation from the world in the development of his creation leads him from an otherwise successful career as a scientist. It could be inferred that Victor’s resentment towards his creation, whom he subsequently abandons, stems not only from his disgust with himself and what he has created, but also from the opportunities denied to him as a result of his irresponsible pursuit of bestowing life upon that which should remain lifeless. Although Victor knew that creating life...
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