Frankenstein, Or, The Modern Prometheus by Mary Shelly

“Frankenstein Or, The Modern Prometheus” (1818) was written by an eighteen-year old Mary Shelley. The way it came into being is a tale as good as the novel itself. Once Lord Byron suggested his friends that each write a ghost story. Shelley’s attempt brought into the world of literature a true masterpiece indeed. It tells the story of a monster created by a scientist and explores the themes of death and man versus nature. Frankenstein’s monster is by instinct good, but the violent rejection by humans make him ruthless, carrying the message that it is through the upbringing and socialisation, humans become monstrous and full of prejudice towards others different to themselves. The theme of loneliness and struggle depicted in Shelly’s Frankenstein through the life of a monster may be on a personal level as her life was a tragedy. She lost her mother at a very young age and grew up under the constant pressure of making her father proud. Shelly was highly educated. She is best known for the widely acclaimed gothic novel “Frankenstein, Or The Modern Prometheus”(1818), which considered the first true science fiction story.

Shelley’s beautifully written novel begins at the bleak of North Pole on a ship, Captain Robert Walton writing to his sister Margaret Saville. He later meets Victor Frankenstein in an emaciated form. Then on Victor narrates the story of his life and his creation which forms the major crux of this novel. Victor Frankenstein was deep into science and philosophy and had created a monster out of the dead.

“I saw the dull yellow eye of the creature open; it breathed hard, and a convulsive motion agitated its limbs.”

Chapter 5, Frankenstein

There born the most important monster in all of literature. One with an amazing speed and strength and eight feet tall. As the story further takes pace, the monster takes over the narration and narrates his life to Victor. This novel is basically a story within a story. The monster was never even given a name. Victor called him from demon to ogre to wretch. He was shunned and despised by the society and was left alone. The loneliness in him built up anger for his creator, he was never to be blamed as he never wished to be born. Victor being the creator of the monster was a failure. He brought him into life but was incapable of taking care of him. He managed to somehow get literate through books. There’s a reference to the book ‘Paradise Lost’ through which he gains knowledge of what and who a creator is and realises how Victor Frankenstein had failed as a creator. He demands him of a female companion as a solution to his loneliness to which Victor initially agrees and later disagrees. The monster then starts to take revenge for all that he was suffering. Towards the end of the novel, the narration returns to where the novel had begun, to Walton writing to his sister. He mentions that Victor dis dead and for the one last time, the monster comes to see him.

The monster’s last visit to his creator.

“He is dead who called me into being; and when I shall be no more, the very remembrance of us both will speedily vanish.”

He bids farewell and was never seen again. There ends the tale of both the creator and the creation.

“He was soon borne away by the waves and lost in darkness and distance.”

Chapter 24, Frankenstein

Victor Frankenstein’s obsession with science and knowledge cost him the lives of his dear ones. Too much knowledge not always brings up good. Not everybody can become God, He is called so for a reason.

I like the way Shelley carries away her readers to sympathize with the monster. We indeed get carried away by her choice of words and style. Something that she nowhere clears out is that how far should we go with knowledge? This novel gained almost 200 years long victory. The world has shivered and quaked under the nightmares of an imaginative 18 years old. Mary Shelley’s monster just may be immortal. It is one among the best classics to be read.

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