Frankenstein Analytical Essay: Blurring the Lines Between Human and Monster

Topics: Mary Shelley, Human, Allusion Pages: 6 (2158 words) Published: March 14, 2011
In Frankenstein, Mary Shelley, explores the concept of humanity through distinguishing it from that of a demonic nature. This is done through a constant doubling between her two superficially opposing characters throughout the novel. Through the thematic use of nature, knowledge, wretchedness, and vengeance, sometimes as direct comparisons other times as striking contrasts, Shelley blurs the lines between human and demon within her own characters. Holding true to the romantic style, Shelley’s characters display strong emotions when experiencing or confronting the sublimity of an untamed nature and its picturesque qualities. This theme is complexly utilized in blurring the differences between human and monster. The demonstrated emotional sensibility from the daemon ties him as a foil to Victor and to humanity in general. “The pleasant sunshine, and the pure air of day restored me to some degree of tranquility;” (139). Previously characterized solely by frightful appearance and allegations of monstrous violence, the daemon’s own narrative, replete with the restorative quality of nature to his own miseries, are synonymous to Victor’s experiences: “These sublime and magnificent scenes….although they did not remove my grief, they subdued and tranquillized it” (99). However, the natural wonders that inspire these emotions in the daemon and Victor suggest a role reversal. Victor’s obsession with scenes of magnificent desolation and destructive power directly contrast the socially oriented humanity that celebrated characters, such as Clerval and Elizabeth, share. “The immense mountains and precipices that overhung me on every side – the sound of the river raging….spoke of a power mighty as Omnipotence….Ruined castles hanging on the precipices of piny mountains…” (97) The image here that reinvigorates Victor’s melancholy sensitivities is not one of celebration of life and happiness but rather of destructive power. Victor is lifted by the perceived omnipotence of the scene; Shelley capitalizes the word as a reference to god, however, Victor is not a pronouncedly religious character and ironically it is the daemon who believes in religion with his dogmatic study of Paradise Lost. The passage has a destructive tone: the mention of a raging as opposed to serene river and the image of the castles, surely once shining beacons of civilization and humanity, are homages to the destructive power. Later on within this same scene Victor emphasizes this appreciation with a contradictory diction: “It is a scene terrifically desolate….the trees lie broken strewed to the ground….in awful majesty” (100-101). On the other hand the daemon is consoled by conventional natural beauties: “The pleasant sunshine, and the pure air of day, restored me to some degree of tranquility.” In clear contrast, the scene that alleviates the daemon, undeservedly wretched and miserable, is one of serenity and thus reverses which character is suggested to be more monstrous in this aspect. Human sensitivities are not the only area where the daemon and Victor are doubled; on their shared and deeply intertwined paths to personal destruction, the human faculty of knowledge is a marked factor. It is this human faculty that becomes a shared source of misery and can be characterized as such by the characters’ laments: “Alas! Why does man boast of sensibilities superior to those apparent in the brute; it only renders them more necessary beings. If our impulses were confined to hunger, thirst, and desire, we might be nearly free;” (100). Victor alludes to the daemon as a brute compelled only by hunger, thirst, and simple desire. This allusion is utilized to further paint the daemon as inhumane now not only in monstrous form but in character. This allusion is important as it serves to directly contrast the daemon’s surprising rational and sympathetic nature. Furthermore, Victor alludes to Godwin’s Doctrine of Necessity by describing humans as necessary beings and not nearly free....
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