Discuss to what extent the monster in Frankenstein is portrayed as a tragic hero?
Aristotelian defined tragedy as "the imitation of an action that is serious and also, as having magnitude, complete in itself." It incorporates "incidents arousing pity and fear, wherewith to accomplish the catharsis of such emotions."
The tragic hero will most effectively evoke both our pity and terror if he is neither thoroughly good nor evil but indeed a combination of both. A tragic hero has the potential for greatness but is doomed to fail. He is trapped in a situation where he cannot win. He makes some sort of tragic flaw, and this causes his fall from greatness. Even though he is a fallen hero, he still wins a moral victory and his spirit lives on. Most tragic heroes if not all are born into a state of nobility, are responsible for their own fate and are doomed to make a serious error in judgement.
It is unfortunate what the films using the name Frankenstein have done to prejudice readers against this novel. Frankenstein is a remarkable book for its insights into human nature and human needs, especially as they are felt and amplified in the form of a gigantic creature from outside humanity. The novel touches several powerful themes: love and hate, beauty and ugliness, innocence and guilt, and compassion and hard-heartedness. As a product of the Romantic era, the book clearly focuses more on feelings and sensibilities than on thought or reason. Yet there is an underlying sense that many of the disasters in the book can be laid to reason: people losing their mind, feelings overindulged, and a loss of balance between head and heart. The tonal qualities of the novel are worth attending to because, in addition to the dominant tone of darkness or gloom, there are moments of light and beauty, joy and enchantment, and love and pleasure quite irrepressibly glowing into various passages of the book. The monster is Victor Frankenstein's creation, assembled from old body parts and strange chemicals, animated by a mysterious spark. He enters life eight feet tall and enormously strong but with the mind of a newborn. Abandoned by his creator and confused, he tries to integrate himself into society, only to be shunned universally. Looking in the mirror, he realizes his physical grotesqueness, an aspect of his persona that blinds society to his initially gentle, kind nature. Seeking revenge on his creator, he kills Victor's younger brother. After Victor destroys his work on the female monster meant to ease the monster's solitude, the monster murders Victor's best friend and then his new wife.
While Victor feels unmitigated hatred for his creation, the monster shows that he is not a purely evil being. The monster's eloquent narration of events, as provided by Victor, reveals his remarkable sensitivity and benevolence. He assists a group of poor peasants and saves a girl from drowning, but because of his outward appearance, he is rewarded only with beatings and disgust. Torn between vengefulness and compassion, the monster ends up lonely and tormented by remorse. Even the death of his creator-turned-would-be-destroyer offers only bittersweet relief: joy because Victor has caused him so much suffering, sadness because Victor is the only person with whom he has had any sort of relationship.
The Romantic Movement is one of the most important literary periods in history; affecting the literature, music, and art of the period. It encouraged spontaneity, and acting with emotions, not common sense. In the more classical style of writing, writers addressed their books to the upper class, but now writers addressed the common man and his problems. There was a new feeling of spirituality. People were seeking eastern concepts of nirvana, transcendentalism and being one with nature. People wanted to experience life, not study it. Whether they were good or bad, people sought extreme emotions. Marry Shelly used all of these philosophies of the...
Bibliography: • The Gothic Tradition, David Stevens, Cambridge University Press, 2000
• Frankenstein, Mary Shelly
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