Moral and myth in FrankensteinPresentation Transcript
- Mary Shelley
Dept. of English
• In the novel some of the
chapters are personal narrative
of the monster.
• It’s for the first time the monster
approaches his maker who sits
and pensive near the
creature to listen to his painful
• It seems that at this point he
conscious of his duty for the
• Victor’s blighted being has
developed from Tabula Rasa.
The theory of knowledge
It questions what knowledge is and how it can be
• Individuals are born without built-in mental content
and that their knowledge comes from experience
• Nurture v/s Nature
• An individual’s personality, emotional behavior and
psychological development, everything is counted
• The creature was first confused, then develops
distinct sensation and then developing in turn in
social affection and then moral and intellectual
• The monster says that he read Paradise Lost.
• “I read it [Paradise Lost], as I had read the other
volumes which had fallen into my hands, as a true
history .... I often referred the several situations, as
their similarity struck me, to my own. Like Adam, I
was apparently united by no link to any other being
in existence; but his state was far different from mine
in every other respect…
• He had come forth from the hands of God a perfect
creature, happy and prosperous, guarded by the
especial care of his Creator; he was allowed to
converse with, and acquire knowledge from, beings
of a superior nature: but I was wretched, helpless,
and alone. Many times I considered Satan as the
fitter emblem of my condition; for often, like him,
when I viewed the bliss of my protectors, the bitter
gall of envy rose within me.”
• This isn’t an ideal image. The creature is confused
about his own self – whether he is an Adam,
destined ultimately for eternal grace, or a Satan,
doomed to eternal darkness. This is also a crucial
point in the novel.
• “Frankenstein is merely a ghost story.” This is not the
right understanding of the novel.
• Mary Shelley spun a moral web. First it’s the
relationship of the characters. The creature
convinces readers to believe that he is the centre of
the novel. Victor unfolds his narrative in which
encircles the monster’s tale.
• Captain Walton writes letters to his sister which
cover Victor’s life by covering the misery of the
• There are three circles.
• Shelley’s appeal to the world of horror and terror is
not a new approach. This was and age old practice.
• She excites terror and pain and produces the
strongest emotion man is capable of feeling. Pleasure
in terror bears ethical and social implication.
• The first implication of moral context is Captain
Walton’s letters. Walton enjoys the glory of his
knowledge and lives in his own paradise.
• He is searching for the ‘eternal light’.
• A clash between his thrust for the knowledge
which carries him away from his society and
his thrust for social love which is frustrated by
the pursuit of knowledge. The conflicts are
happily reconciled when he meets Victor.
• His newly-found friend reminds him…?
• "You seek for knowledge and wisdom, as I
once did," and hopes that Walton's
temptation "may not be a serpent to sting
you, as mine has been.“
• In order that Walton might "deduce an apt
moral" from his own experience, Frankenstein
consents to disclose the secret of his life.
• "Learn from me, if not from my
precepts, at least by my example,
how dangerous is the acquirement of
• Frankenstein’s narrative reveals
temptation of knowledge and
punishment. The fruit of knowledge
is a bitter apple and it bears within it
the seeds of acrid punishment.
• Frankenstein also was tempted by
the fruit of knowledge and was
curious to know the hidden laws of
nature, the secrets of the world
between the heaven and the earth.
• He was convinced that new species
would bless him as its creator.
• "I shunned my fellow-creatures as if I had been guilty
of a crime" (pages 48-50).
• Intellectual pursuits isolate man from mankind.
• Frankenstein discovers that "study . . . secluded me
from the intercourse of my fellow-creatures, and
rendered me unsocial" (page 66).
• Satan: wanted the position in the heaven and finds
himself in the hell.
• Frankenstein’s dream became hell for him. He curses
his creation but realizes that those who have died
were “hapless victims to my unhallowed arts” and
“the result of my curiosity and lawless devices”.
• Captain Walton appears to be following the footsteps
• Frankenstein can be compared with Coleridge’s guilt
• He desires to avoid society and fly to solitude.
• Preface to Prometheus Unbound: "the only imaginary
being resembling in any degree Prometheus, is
• Jung suggests that "every step towards greater
consciousness is a kind of Promethean guilt: through
knowledge, the gods are as it were robbed of their
fire, that is, something that was the property of the
unconscious powers is torn out of its natural context
and subordinated to the whims of the conscious
• Frankenstein and Walton both sin, not against the
self or the God, but against the moral and social
• For them knowledge is higher good than love and it’s
• In Byron's Manfred, for example, an analogous
"quest of hidden knowledge" leads the hero
increasingly toward a "solitude... peopled with the
Furies." Manfred's avowed flaw ("though I wore the
form, / I had no sympathy with breathing flesh") rises
from the same ethical assumptions implicit in the
guilt-ridden consciousness of Victor Frankenstein.
• The creature views "crime as a distant evil;
benevolence and generosity were ever present“.
• "My heart yearned to be known and loved by these
amiable creatures: to see their sweet looks directed
towards me with affection was the utmost limit of
my ambition," he confesses.
• Like his maker, and like Captain Walton, the creature
soon comes to realize that "sorrow only increased
• "Increase of knowledge only discovered to me more
clearly what a wretched outcast I was," he
• "it was all a dream; no Eve soothed my
sorrows, nor shared my thoughts; I was
alone." Aware that even "Satan had his
companions, fellow-devils, to admire
and encourage him; but I am solitary and
• Rejected by DeLaceys the Creature
decides, "From that moment I declared
everlasting war against the species,“.
• The monster begs for his happiness
which is his right. He says, “I am
malicious because I am miserable.”
• "Let me feel gratitude towards you for
one benefit! Let me see that I excite the
sympathy of some existing thing; do not
deny me my request" (153-54)
• Monster describes his moral state:
• “If I have no ties and no affections, hatred and vice
must be my portion; the love of another will destroy
the cause of my crimes, and I shall become a thing of
whose existence every one will be ignorant. My vices
are the children of a forced solitude that I abhor; and
my virtues will necessarily arise when I live in
communion with an equal. I shall feel the affections
of a sensitive being, and become linked to the chain
of existence and events, from which I am now
excluded.” (page 156)
• Monster develops his own sense of justice.
• The argument of monster make Frankenstein
recognize for the first time the selfishness of his
• "When I run over the frightful catalogue of my sins, I
cannot believe that I am the same creature whose
thoughts were once filled with sublime and
transcendent visions of the beauty and the majesty
of goodness…I am alone.” The monster cries out.
• External social forces isolate an individual. Direct
moral of the book.