Frankenstein: A Critical Analysis

Topics: Mary Shelley, Literary criticism, Percy Bysshe Shelley Pages: 6 (2138 words) Published: June 1, 2014
Frankenstein: A Critical Analysis
Author-Centred Reading
Early 19th century gothic novel, Frankenstein, has provided an excellent base for an author-centred analysis, given the prominence of Shelley’s circumstantial influence and strong symbolism. Born at the turn of the 18th century in London, Mary Shelley was exposed to venerated authors and their works from a young age. Showing her ability and promise early on in life, she went on to write a number of acclaimed novels, including Valperga and The Last Man. Shelley’s imagery compares to the best of 19th century Romantic literature and has helped establish her as one of the time’s greatest authors. (Academic, 2009) Through Frankenstein, I have implied Mary Shelley to be strongly opposed to the idea of ‘playing god’ and transgressing the human limitations. She has used strong juxtaposition to highlight the horror of the monster, contrasting it to the sporadic scenes of beautiful valleys and mountain ranges. Through her use of this technique, it is clear that Shelley herself is disgusted with the monster, though she has attempted to justify the actions and behaviours of it throughout. Her personal disgust and rejection of the wretch comes through in the behaviour of the characters, with only one, an old, blind man ever coming close to accepting him. As Victor says, “There can be no community between you and me; we are enemies”. (Shelley, 2000, p. 82) Though the monster had done no wrong, initially, and only desired to be loved, “I was benevolent and good; misery made me a fiend” (Shelley, 2000, p. 82), he was accepted by none. It seemed thus, that Shelley was trying to show that even if man successfully reached god-like achievements, he and his creation would not enjoy any form of acceptance as the heart of man opposes him to such ghastly and horrific actions. At the beginning of Chapter 5, it is seen that Frankenstein calls his creation ‘the wretch’ before it had even awoken, “How can I describe my emotions at this catastrophe, or how delineate the wretch whom with such infinite pains and care I had endeavoured to form?” (Shelley, 2000, p.41) Although these words were technically spoken after it occurred, in Frankenstein’s recount to Walton, Shelley could have chosen to refer to the monster in an objective manner at this point, instead in this subjective way. By doing this, however, the monster is portrayed as lesser than human, not worthy and is degraded in the eyes of the reader, without any actions of the monster being recounted. As said, Shelley juxtaposed the monster to the scenic landscapes. This is technique is evident here as well, though not in exactly the same manner. The next scene after Frankenstein creates the monster, has Frankenstein joyfully re-uniting with Clerval. Recounting the scene between Frankenstein and Clerval, Shelley uses exclamation marks to dramatise the situation in order to draw a starker comparison with the previous scene. Then, as quickly as the mood turned joyful, it became drastically solemn as the conversation turned to Victor’s exploits. Nature has also played a large part in the novel and is key to understanding certain elements. Set in the 18th century in Switzerland, the novel’s locale draws key inspiration from Shelley’s circumstance at the time, being that it was conceived in Switzerland, only a few years after it fictionally occurred. (A+E Networks, 2012) Nature, though not an established focus, came across strongly in the novel. “the moon gazed on my midnight labours, while, with unrelaxed and breathless eagerness, I pursued nature to her hiding places” (Shelley, 2000, p. 39) Shelley has personified nature quite strongly and through words like these, Shelley has established nature as an all-powerful, god-like being. This further enhances the view that she was bringing across the point that no one should attempt to breach nature’s omnipotence. In this way, she has likened nature to an all-powerful God. Shelley also re-enforced...

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