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Analysis of Poetry Referencing in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein

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Words: 2300 |

Pages: 5|

12 min read

Published: Jan 28, 2021

Words: 2300|Pages: 5|12 min read

Published: Jan 28, 2021

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Table of contents

  1. Theological Parallels: "The Modern Prometheus"
  2. Challenging the Creator-creation Dynamic
  3. The Role of Women in "Frankenstein"
  4. Conclusion

Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein," considered a groundbreaking work of the 19th century, stands as a classic in modern horror literature. Within the narrative's intricate tapestry, numerous themes emerge, but the two that most prominently dominate the novel are feminism and religion. This essay aims to delve deeper into the exploration of these themes, examining how Mary Shelley skillfully intertwines them throughout her work.

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Theological Parallels: "The Modern Prometheus"

The alternative title of the novel, "The Modern Prometheus," holds significant relevance to the religious aspect of "Frankenstein." Drawing inspiration from Greek mythology, Shelley likens her protagonist, Victor Frankenstein, to the Titan Prometheus, who stole fire from the gods to bestow it upon humanity. This parallel becomes evident as Victor delves into the creation of life, essentially challenging God's divine authority.

Victor's audacious endeavor to construct life from disparate human limbs raises profound questions about God's power and status. By emulating the act of creation, Victor elevates himself to a level akin to God's omnipotence. Throughout the narrative, Victor's actions continually question the divine authority, emphasizing the presence of religious undertones. Biblical references, ranging from direct quotes to symbolic imagery, punctuate the novel, underscoring Mary Shelley's inclination towards exploring the intersection of science and religion.

Moreover, Shelley's deep affinity for the natural world and its intrinsic beauty shines through in "Frankenstein." The Romantic era, in which the novel was written, celebrated the allure of nature. While nature's beauty is portrayed throughout the book, it serves a more profound purpose, hinting at the inherent beauty within humanity itself, juxtaposed with mankind's propensity to overlook or despoil it. This theme of nature's duality, both captivating and vulnerable, resonates with other poets of the Romantic era, such as Robert Browning in "My Last Duchess."

In Browning's poem, the protagonist shares striking similarities with Victor Frankenstein, both harboring a belief in their superiority over God or life itself. This is evident in Browning's line, "The dropping of daylight in the west," where the character asserts his own centrality, akin to Victor's desire to reshape the laws of nature. Both characters manipulate life, with Victor creating the Creature and the Duke deciding the fate of his Duchess. These parallels shed light on their shared delusions of grandeur and hint at their potential mental instability.

In essence, the religious imagery in "Frankenstein" extends to the very character of the Creature. While Victor perceives himself as a God-like creator, the Creature inadvertently assumes the role of Lucifer, the fallen angel who rebelled against God. This parallel underscores Victor's portrayal of the Creature as a malevolent figure, akin to Satan's defiance of divine authority. However, an alternative perspective suggests that the Creature's actions resemble those of Lucifer's rebellion against God—understanding the complexities of his creator's role and seeking retribution.

This biblical allusion gains further depth from John Milton's "Paradise Lost," which served as a significant source of inspiration for Shelley. When the Creature ventures into the world, he becomes captivated by the poem, identifying with characters, especially Satan (formerly Lucifer). This connection strengthens the comparison between the Creature and the fallen angel, highlighting the novel's intricate layering of religious motifs.

Challenging the Creator-creation Dynamic

Another compelling biblical allusion within "Frankenstein" is the Creature's reference to Adam from the story of Adam and Eve. After his creation, the Creature yearns for a companion, akin to how God created Eve for Adam. He feels isolated, disconnected, and incomplete, similar to Adam's initial state of solitude. The quote, "Like Adam I was apparently united by no link to any other being in existence," underscores his desire for companionship and a sense of belonging, paralleling Adam's yearning for Eve. The Creature, in his own eyes, perceives Victor as his God, the one who brought him into existence, and thus, he expects the fulfillment of his desire for a female companion, his "Eve."

This thematic exploration of creation and companionship extends to Victor Frankenstein himself. Victor, initially driven by intellectual curiosity and ambition, assumes the role of a creator when he brings the Creature to life. He becomes the arbiter of the Creature's fate, similar to how God shaped Adam's destiny. This power dynamic between creator and creation is a central theme, and Shelley invites readers to contemplate the ethical implications of wielding such power over another being.

The Creature's demand for a female partner reveals his yearning for a sense of community and belonging, mirroring Adam's initial desire for companionship. Both beings are thrust into a world they do not fully understand, desperately seeking connection. This yearning for companionship serves as a poignant commentary on the human condition, highlighting the universal desire for connection and belonging.

The Role of Women in "Frankenstein"

Apart from exploring the creator-creation dynamic through religious themes, "Frankenstein" also offers a thought-provoking commentary on the role of women in the 19th-century society. Mary Shelley's own experiences as a female writer in a male-dominated literary world likely influenced her portrayal of women in the novel. During this era, women faced limited opportunities and often lived within the confines of a male-dominated society.

Shelley subtly critiques the societal perception of women as possessions rather than equal partners. This notion becomes evident when the Creature, in his quest for companionship, imposes a subjective and objectifying role upon the female creature he desires to be created. He envisions her existence solely for his possession and control, defining her fate before she even comes into being. This portrayal serves as a poignant commentary on how women were often viewed as objects or tools to fulfill the desires and expectations of men during the 19th century.

Moreover, the novel's narrative structure itself reflects the limited role of women in society at that time. The story is narrated exclusively by male characters, illustrating the absence of women's voices and perspectives. This narrative choice reflects the reality of Mary Shelley's own position, living in the shadow of her more famous male contemporaries like Lord Byron and her husband, Percy Shelley, whose works received more recognition and respect.

In "Frankenstein," Elizabeth, Victor's beloved, embodies the idealized female character of the era. She is portrayed as the perfect woman, mirroring the traditional roles of women in the domestic sphere. Her character primarily revolves around caring for children and awaiting Victor's return for marriage. Despite her importance to Victor and the narrative, Elizabeth's character does not receive as much depth or attention as the male characters in the story. This reflects the societal limitations placed on women during the 19th century, where their roles were primarily defined by their relationships with men.

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Conclusion

In conclusion, Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein" offers a rich tapestry of themes, including religious allusions that explore the creator-creation dynamic and the quest for companionship. Additionally, the novel provides a thought-provoking commentary on the limited roles and societal perceptions of women during the 19th century. Shelley's nuanced exploration of these themes elevates "Frankenstein" beyond a mere horror tale, making it a timeless work that continues to resonate with readers, inviting them to ponder the complex interplay of religion, power, and gender in society.

References:

  1. Shelley, M. (1818). Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus. Lackington, Hughes, Harding, Mavor & Jones.
  2. Mellor, A. K. (1988). “Possessing Nature: The Female in Frankenstein.” In Romanticism and Feminism (pp. 90-104). Indiana University Press.
  3. Gilbert, S. M., & Gubar, S. (1979). The Madwoman in the Attic: The Woman Writer and the Nineteenth-Century Literary Imagination. Yale University Press.
  4. Forry, S. L. (1990). “’Unclosing’ Frankenstein: Mary Shelley’s Critical View of the Scientist’s Role.” In The Endurance of Frankenstein: Essays on Mary Shelley’s Novel (pp. 143-166). University of California Press.
  5. Botting, F. (1996). “Gothic Feminism: The Professionalization of Gender from Charlotte Smith to the Brontës.” In The Cambridge Companion to Gothic Fiction (pp. 117-139). Cambridge University Press.
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Dr. Charlotte Jacobson

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Analysis Of Poetry Referencing In Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. (2021, January 25). GradesFixer. Retrieved June 23, 2024, from https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/analysis-of-poetry-referencing-in-mary-shelleys-frankenstein/
“Analysis Of Poetry Referencing In Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.” GradesFixer, 25 Jan. 2021, gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/analysis-of-poetry-referencing-in-mary-shelleys-frankenstein/
Analysis Of Poetry Referencing In Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. [online]. Available at: <https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/analysis-of-poetry-referencing-in-mary-shelleys-frankenstein/> [Accessed 23 Jun. 2024].
Analysis Of Poetry Referencing In Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2021 Jan 25 [cited 2024 Jun 23]. Available from: https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/analysis-of-poetry-referencing-in-mary-shelleys-frankenstein/
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