Moral and myth in Frankenstein


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Moral and myth in Frankenstein

  1. 1. Moral and Myth in Frankenstein - Mary Shelley By Heenaba Zala Dept. of English MKB university Bhavnagar.
  2. 2. • 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 sad and pensive near the creature to listen to his painful story. • It seems that at this point he conscious of his duty for the creature. • Victor’s blighted being has developed from Tabula Rasa.
  3. 3. • • • • Tabula Rasa: Epistemological theory The theory of knowledge It questions what knowledge is and how it can be acquired. • Individuals are born without built-in mental content and that their knowledge comes from experience and perception. • Nurture v/s Nature • An individual’s personality, emotional behavior and psychological development, everything is counted here.
  4. 4. • The creature was first confused, then develops distinct sensation and then developing in turn in social affection and then moral and intellectual judgment. • 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…
  5. 5. • 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.”
  6. 6. • 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.
  7. 7. • Captain Walton writes letters to his sister which cover Victor’s life by covering the misery of the monster. • 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.
  8. 8. • 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.
  9. 9. • 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.
  10. 10. • "Learn from me, if not from my precepts, at least by my example, how dangerous is the acquirement of knowledge." • 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.
  11. 11. • "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”.
  12. 12. • Captain Walton appears to be following the footsteps of Victor. • Frankenstein can be compared with Coleridge’s guilt ridden Mariner. • He desires to avoid society and fly to solitude. • Preface to Prometheus Unbound: "the only imaginary being resembling in any degree Prometheus, is Satan." • 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 mind."
  13. 13. • Frankenstein and Walton both sin, not against the self or the God, but against the moral and social order. • For them knowledge is higher good than love and it’s just self-glory. • 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.
  14. 14. • 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 with knowledge“. • "Increase of knowledge only discovered to me more clearly what a wretched outcast I was," he announces.
  15. 15. • "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 abhorred“. • 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)
  16. 16. • 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.
  17. 17. • The argument of monster make Frankenstein recognize for the first time the selfishness of his labour. • "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.