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Mary Shelley’s novel, Frankenstein, is a story with many clear and hidden messages. Throughout the book, we see the Creature from the time he is created to the time Victor dies. We see what the Creature does and what causes him to do this. It is clear that Shelley is sending us messages like: science can go too far, men shouldn’t play God, and monsters are not born, they are created. But if we were to examine between the lines, we would note that her more prominent messages are: we should be observant about certain goals, and we have to be suspicious of forbidden knowledge.
Throughout Frankenstein, there are many examples of the messages mentioned above. The novel explains to us the process of how Victor creates the ‘monster’ and how Victor abandons him and leaves him to fend for himself. Because he was left all alone, the Creature is angered and leaves Victor’s apartment. He enters society and is rejected because of the way he looks. The Creature is infuriated and starts to murder people close to Victor so that Victor will notice him and treat the him better. Even after the Creature kills everyone close to Victor, Victor still doesn’t learn from his mistakes.
In Frankenstein, one of the more clear messages that Shelley discusses is that man shouldn’t play God. After the Creature reads Paradise Lost, he compares himself to the character of Adam. Then he gets mad at Victor and says, ‘Accursed creator! Why did you form a monster so hideous that even you turned from me in disgust? God, in pity, made man beautiful and alluring, after his own image; but my form is a filthy type of yours, more horrid even from the very resemblance.’ (Shelley 93). There can be many interpretations of ‘playing God.’ For example, when a patient at a hospital needs to be put on life support to remain alive no one sees this as ‘playing God.’ The article ‘The Problem With ‘Playing God’, brings up the point that we, as humans, play God through the process of organ transplantation. This is due to the fact that there is an organ transplant list that allows certain people’s survival over others. But in terms of Frankenstein, playing God is interpreted as creating life. Victor was playing God through the process of making the Creature. He fused dead body parts together and was horrified by his own creation.
Another message in Frankenstein is that monsters are not born, they are created. After the Creature was made, he was unable to receive love and compassion. He was an outcast in society and was enraged. The article ‘Monsters are Created, Not Born’ states that the monster, in the beginning, was basically a child. The only reason he looked like a man was that he was made from the body parts of grown men. After he was created, all he wanted was to fit into society and be accepted. ‘Inflamed by pain, I vowed eternal hatred and vengeance to all mankind.’ (Shelley 101). This is just one of many examples of how a monster is created and not born. It’s all about nature vs. nurture.
One message is also the fact that science can sometimes go too far. When Victor is creating the monster, as readers we can see that Victor needs to have some sort of restraint on his scientific capabilities. He succeeds in creating life which should raise some red flags. When reading the novel, we can see that Victor was rapidly becoming a mad scientist. When he is talking to Elizabeth about his work in the movie, this is shown. ‘You must have faith in me, Elizabeth. Wait, my work must come first, even before you.’ (Whale, Frankenstein). He is putting his work before people he loves, which raises red flags. He doesn’t stop to think about the potential results of his experiments. Because of this, by the end of the novel, he is miserable because his experiment and creation lead to the death of everyone he loved.
There are some clear messages like the ones above, but some you have to read between the lines to see. Throughout the creation of the Creature, we see that Victor’s goal ultimately started his downfall. Because of this, one message Shelley is trying to help us understand that we must approach our ambitions vigilantly. Victor was so caught up in everyone seeing him as a God that he basically threw away any ethics he should have considered. Victor also never took the blame for the Creature’s actions in the novel. One of the only times he communicates his blame over the Creature’s actions is when he states that he feels he is ‘the true murderer, felt the never-dying worm alive in [his] bosom, which allowed of no hope or consolation.’ (Shelley, 59). His constant disregard for ethics serves to teach us that we must take responsibility for our actions and that we must approach certain knowledge with caution.
One final message in Frankenstein is that we should be cautious of forbidden knowledge and the pursuit of that knowledge. Examples of forbidden knowledge in Frankenstein is Victor trying to reanimate a corpse or create life. Victor isn’t the only character we see someone searching for forbidden knowledge. Victor’s interest in science turns into an unhealthy obsession. He becomes driven by his desire to be seen as a god-like figure. The article ‘Science and Forbidden Knowledge’ states that Victor’s creation is a terrifying attempt at creating some type of life. We see in history as well, the danger of pursuing forbidden knowledge. When the Nazis were performing experiments on prisoners, they were trying to create an army of super-soldiers. When their experiments turned out badly, they killed many prisoners in the process. Albeit, they probably didn’t care that they killed prisoners. But the pursuit of knowledge leads to some unforeseen consequences.
Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is a novel that follows Victor Frankenstein in his pursuit of trying to reanimate the dead. After he made the Creature, Victor abandons it, and this enrages the Creature. This causes the Creature to flee Victor’s apartment and try to get Victor to notice him. When he enters society, he is shunned because of the way he looks and this enrages the Creature which causes him to hate Victor. He goes on a downfall which makes him murder everyone close to Victor. The Creature murdering people close to Victor leads into the discussion of many of the messages Shelley hid in the book. Shelley put many messages in her novel, Frankenstein. Some of the obvious ones are that science can go too far, a man shouldn’t play God, and monsters are not born, they are created. Shelley had some that you had to read in between the lines to see. They are: we should be wary of forbidden knowledge and the pursuit of it, and we should have ambition but should approach that ambition with vigilance. The majority of these messages are shown to us through the actions of the Creature and what causes him to do these actions. But some of the messages are shown to us through Victor and his pursuit of creating the Creature.
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