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Frankenstein by Mary Shelley is a book about a boy named Victor Frankenstein who created a creature. The major conflict in Frankenstein revolves around Victor’s lack of ability to understand that his actions have consequences. Victor focuses exclusively on his own goals and fails to see how his actions might affect other individuals. The creature that Victor gave life to serves as a constant reminder of how he has failed to take responsibility for his actions in defying the laws of nature itself.
The first signs of the conflict appear when Victor throws himself into his studies at the University of Ingolstadt. When he throws himself into his studies, he ends up neglecting his family and fiancée. Victor becomes obsessed with creating a monster. He does not think about the consequences or impact that this creature might have on other people, nor is he disturbed by the fact that he ignores his family to continue his work. He is so determined that he does not consider anything else. The rising action of his quest to create life comes to a peak when, immediately after animating the monster, he reacts with horror and disgust and runs from the room. This incident illustrates the conflict between Victor and moral responsibility: he has been responsible for making the monster and bringing him to life, but when he doesn’t like the result, he simply rejects it.
After Victor rejects his creature, he learns about the death of his younger brother William and that Justine had been falsly accused for William’s murder. The murder of William creates another situation in which Victor can choose to act, or fail to take responsibility. He raises the conflict by allowing Justine to be executed, rather than revealing what he knows about the monster. The conflict is raised further when the monster meets up with Victor and tells him the story of all the suffering he has experienced, as well as his feelings of loneliness and isolation. The meeting between Victor and his creature is another moment where Victor could potentially turn away from his selfish path. The plot suggests potential resolution when Victor agrees to create a companion for his original creature in exchange for the two of them going somewhere remote.
However, the conflict is renewed when Victor is too disgusted to carry out this plan and destroys the female monster before completing it. Yet again, he doesn’t think about what this reckless choice will mean, even though the monster vows revenge if Victor doesn’t complete the task of creating the female companion. Victor is surprised when his friend Henry Clerval is killed, and then again when his fiancé Elizabeth is also murdered, despite the creature’s statements about how he is dedicated to making Victor’s life miserable by killing everyone he loves. The murder of Elizabeth shifts the conflict into its final stage, in which Victor vows to hunt down and kill the monster in revenge for all of the deaths. This vow partially resolves the conflict in that it gives the monster what he wants: he now has the total attention of his creator, and the fates of the two individuals are interlocked.
After Victor pursues the monster around the world, he arrives in the Arctic and encounters Walton, bringing the story full-circle back to the point at which the narration switched from Walton to Victor. Victor’s travels exhausted him so much that he died aboard the ship after relaying his tale, his role in the story fulfilled. The novel climaxes with Walton finding the creature gazing at Victor’s dead body and weeping. Victor never admits the role he played in creating the chaos and tragedy that resulted in the deaths of innocent people. Unlike Victor, the creature shows remorse, suggesting that he has become more “human” than his creator. Walton gets to see and hear the creature from his own perspective, and he is able to feel “a mixture of curiosity and compassion.” The falling action of the novel quickly concludes with the monster’s plan to kill himself, then setting off alone to carry out his plan.
In the novel Frankenstein, I noticed four main themes that I thought were important. The four themes that I recognized were family, sublime nature, monstrosity, and secrecy. I chose family because in its preface, Frankenstein claims to be a novel that gives a flattering illustration of ‘domestic affection.’ That seems a strange claim in a novel full of murder, tragedy, and despair. But, in fact, all that tragedy, murder, and despair occur because of Victor’s lack of connection with his family. Victor went to college and became so obsessed with his studies and creating his creature that he lost touch with his family. When Victor became lost in his studies he removed himself from society, and therefore lost sight of his responsibilities and the consequences of his actions.
The sublime natural world theme, embraced by Romanticism as a source of unrestrained emotional experience for the individual, initially offers characters the possibility of spiritual renewal. Consumed by depression and remorse after the deaths of William and Justine, for which he feels responsible, Victor heads to the mountains to lift his spirits. Similarly, after a winter of cold and abandonment, the creature feels his heart lighten as spring arrives. The influence of nature on mood is noticeable throughout the novel, but for Victor, the natural world’s power to console him wanes when he realizes that the creature will haunt him no matter where he goes. By the end, as Victor chases the creature obsessively, nature, in the form of the Arctic desert, functions simply as the symbolic backdrop for his primal struggle against the creature.
The theme of monstrosity pervades the entire novel, as the creature is the center of the action. Eight feet tall and hideously ugly, the creature is rejected by his creator and society. However, his monstrosity results not only from his deformed appearance but also from the unnatural manner of his creation, which involves a mix of stolen body parts and strange chemicals. The creature is only the most literal of a number of monstrous entities in the novel, including the knowledge that Victor used to create the monster. One can argue that Victor himself is a kind of monster, as his ambition, secrecy, and selfishness alienate him from human society. Ordinary on the outside, he may be the true “monster” inside, as he is eventually consumed by an obsessive hatred of his creation.
Victor thinks of science as a mystery to be explored. He considers M. Krempe, the natural philosopher he meets at the University of Ingolstadt, a model scientist: “an uncouth man, but deeply imbued in the secrets of his science.” Victor’s entire obsession with creating life is confined to secrecy, and his obsession with destroying the monster remains equally secret until Walton hears his tale. Whereas Victor continues in his secrecy out of shame and guilt, the creature is forced into seclusion by his deformed appearance. Walton serves as the final confessor for both, and their tragic relationship becomes immortalized in Walton’s letters. In confessing all just before he dies, Victor escapes the secrecy that has ruined his life; likewise, the creature takes advantage of Walton’s presence to forge a human connection, hoping desperately that at last someone will understand, and empathize with, his miserable existence.
The first symbolism I wanted to include is light and fire. “What could not be expected in the country of eternal light?” asks Walton, displaying faith and optimism about science. In Frankenstein, light symbolizes knowledge, discovery, and enlightenment. The natural world is a place of darkness, secrets, and hidden passages; the goal of the Victor the scientist is to reach light. The creature’s first experience of fire was with a burning flame reveals the dual nature of fire: he discovers excitedly that it creates light in the darkness of the night, but also that it hurts him when he touches it. The presence of fire in the text also brings to mind the full title of Shelley’s novel, Frankenstein: or, The Modern Prometheus. The Greek god Prometheus gave the knowledge of fire to humanity and was then severely punished for it. Victor, attempting to become a modern Prometheus, is certainly punished, but unlike fire, his “gift” to humanity remains a secret.
The second symbolism I noticed was Victor Frankenstein referring to his creature as Adam, which symbolizes the creation and duality in nature of man. Victor refers to his creature as Adam because in the bible, Adam represents God’s creation of man. Victor had made his own creation which horrified him and caused him to reject the creature that he created. God created man from his own image and perspective and Victor did the same with his creature. The creature tried to convince Victor to create a female companion for him, as did Adam in order to suppress his loneliness and sadness.
There are many three types of irony within this novel: verbal, situational, and dramatic. Situational irony occurs when inconsistency appears between what the audience expects to happen, and what happens instead. An example of situational irony appears in the beginning of the novel when Victor spends years determined and absolutely obsessed over a creation he ends up despising when it is brought to life, ‘the beauty of the dream vanished, and breathless horror and disgust filled my heart” (Frankenstein page 70). Victor has put his life and health on pause to create life and as if to mock him he succeeds in creating a murderous creature. This brings up another example of irony because the creature was created to help humanity but instead it ends up killing the four closest people to Victor to make him suffer and possibly to help him understand the misfortune the creature has experienced.
Verbal irony is when words express something similar to truth or someone says the opposite of what they really feel or mean, this type of irony is usually sarcastic. An example of verbal irony is after Victor refuses to create a female companion for his creature, it exclaims ‘You are my creator, but I am your master; obey!’’ (Frankenstein page 154). This is ironic because Victor was thought of as very noble in the beginning of the novel for his attempt to save humanity from death but his creation strips away Victor’s godliness from him by torturing and providing him with true suffering and demanding Victor to obey his demands.
Dramatic irony is when an audience watching a play understands what’s going on in a situation while the characters are not aware of what is happening. An example of dramatic irony within this novel is when Victor found out about the murder of his younger brother William. Mostly everyone in Geneva blamed Justine for this tragedy, but Victor knew it was his creation because they crossed paths the night before upon Victor’s arrival in Geneva. Justine was falsely accused and found guilty because Victor was selfish to admit the truth about what he had done. Victor would rather protect himself like a coward rather than protect his loved ones.
Characterization in a novel helps the reader and/or audience understand more about the characters in the book. The whole point of the author’s use of characterization is to create images of the characters for the audience. Characterization also helps readers understand the character’s personality, morals, and beliefs. Knowing a character’s personality helps readers understand what effect they might have on other characters as well. You can learn about characters from the narrator’s description or from other characters describing them. Reading this novel was also interesting because you get to see some of the characters change throughout the story from the people they were in the beginning. I really enjoyed reading about each and every character whether it was described by the narrator or another character. The us of characterization in this novel is absolutely astonishing to me because of the use of vivid details and very specific descriptions to provide a sense of imagery in the reader’s mind. With the use of vivid details and specific descriptions, it was like I could picture each and every character as if they were standing right in front of me.
For each character in the novel, the author went above and beyond in creating a vivid image for the audience. One example is the way he describes Victor Frankenstein as this boy who grew up in a loving and accepting home who was amazed by science. Victor was a very caring person and he was filled with compassion for others, especially his dear Elizabeth. However, when Victor went off to college, he changed and I don’t think it was for the best. He became self-centered and put his studies before his family and friends. He became so obsessed with creating his creature, that nothing else seemed to matter to him. His selfishness turned into karma and by the end of the book, the four closest people to him were dead.
Another example of vivid characterization is how the author described the creature that was created by Victor. The creature was not at all perfect, he was deformed and because of this he experienced many hardships during the novel. His own creator rejected him because of his hideousness as did many other people. The creature was described as eight-feet tall, somewhat proportional limbs, and skin that was pale blue. The creature tells about his loneliness and how he is unwanted. The creature gets his revenge on Victor by killing his closest loved ones. However, the creature has a change of heart when Victor dies realizing that he has no one else left and is filled with regret.
Frankenstein is narrated in the first-person point of view, which uses the combination of “I”, “my”, etc, by different characters at different points in the novel. The shifts in narrator and the alternating points of view are crucial to the novel’s theme of looking past appearances to reflect on what lies beneath. The novel begins with narration from Walton, who is writing a series of letters to his sister Margaret. The point of view then switches to Victor Frankenstein, who tells Walton about his life and how he came to be traveling in the Arctic. When Walton first encounters Victor, he wonders if the stranger is insane, due to his wild appearance and sense of desperation. By listening to Victor’s story Walton comes to appreciate his experiences. When Victor reaches the point in his story where he describes meeting with the creature, the point of view switches yet again, this time to the creature, who narrates in the first-person point of view, describing his experiences. Both Victor and the reader are set up to expect the creature to be vulgar, brutal, violent, and inhuman, but his narrative shows him to be intelligent, sensitive, and capable of feeling human emotions such as empathy and love. After that, the point of view returns to Victor, who continues his story. The novel ends with a return to Walton’s point of view and first person narration.
In conclusion, this novel represents a boy who becomes obsessed with creating his creature. He becomes so determined and obsessed that his creation is his main priority, pushing his family and friends aside. The creature is rejected by many people and expresses how lonely and cruel society can be. Despite the novel being filled with tragedy and misfortune, the creature finally realizes the regret he feels for all of the murders. Even though Victor still despised the creature in the end, the creature learned to love Victor because he was his creator. Overall, I feel as if this novel serves as a harsh revealing truth about the world and the cruelty that comes along with it. However, watching the characters trying to overcome it was inspirational.
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