THE MONSTER IN ALL OF US



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Frankenstein by Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin


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Biography

Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin (later Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley) was born in London, England on August 30, 1797. Mary belonged to a prominent and wealthy family and throughout her life was surrounded by intellectuals. Her father was a well known novelist, William Godwin, and her mother an author as well as a feminist (Mary Wollstonecraft). Mary was self educated and at the mere age of ten she published her first poem. When she turned sixteen she ran away and had an affair with a poet by the name of Percy Shelley. Percy was married at that time, but this mattered little. Any troubles that they may have had were over when Percy's wife drowned herself. Mary and Percy married shortly after.

On a holiday in Geneva while faced with dismal weather, the Shelley’s and their companion, Lord Byron, decided to stay indoors and find other methods of amusement. Lord Byron suggested that they all write horror stories and then choose the best one. Mary’s story got the prize and thus Frankenstein was born. Mary Shelley started when she was 18 and finished writing Frankenstein when she turned 19 (1818). The novel became a success, albeit with mixed reviews from the critics.

Mary's success as an author no doubt can be contributed to her parents who were radical thinkers of the time. The fact that a female in those days could write such a well written work of fiction was a great achievement and unheard of. Frankenstein has been credited as the first real work of science fiction. It is thought that she obtained some of her ideas from a professor at Eton College who was conducting experiments on frogs. By giving dead frogs an electrical shock he was able to make their muscles twitch.

Things took a turn for the worst when three of the four children she gave birth to died in their infancy and her husband Percy drowned in a storm. Mary Shelley later died of an illness in London on February 1851. Other works of hers include: The Last Man, The Fortunes of Perkin Warbeck, and Falkner.

Synopsis

The story of Frankenstein by Mary Wollstonecraft begins with Robert Walton, an explorer heading for the North Pole. Throughout his journey he makes every effort to mail letters to his beloved sister and it is through these letters that the story is told. On his expedition Walton comes across Victor Frankenstein who is in bad shape on an ice sheet. Walton takes him on board and cares for him, while Victor tells the explorer a wondrous and frightful story about the creation of a human monster.

Victor Frankenstein starts explaining about his early life in Geneva. Victor lives a tranquil childhood, completely satisfied with loving parents and an abundance of books to feed his natural curiosity of the sciences. There was much to learn, and Victor spends most of his childhood reading and understanding the various scientific books his father kept. He grows up with an orphan sister named Elizabeth, whom his parents had adopted. Besides his sister, his only other companion was his best friend, Henry Clerval. His mother dies of scarlet fever when he is 17, but nether less Victor is sent to university as planned. At university he takes natural philosophy and chemistry, and as he advances his knowledge thoroughly in these two subjects he takes an interest in anatomy and dreams of making new life. Frankenstein finds the secret to life, a secret that he is unfortunately unwilling to share to Walton. For days on end Frankenstein tirelessly works on creating a human being from old body parts, and eventually he succeeds - but succeeds only in creating a monster. Terrified of his new creation Victor runs away and finds Clerval, but when they arrive at Victor’s workspace the monster has long since gone. At this point Victor falls terribly ill.

On return to Geneva, Victor Frankenstein learns that his younger brother has been murdered, and upon seeing the monster in the area concludes that it was the monster who did it. The death of the boy however was pinned on one of Victor’s sisters, and she was put on trial and convicted. Victor could not bring himself to acknowledge the existence of his creation and save his sister. His sister is executed as a consequence of Victor’s inaction. Overcome with grief Frankenstein escapes to the mountains in the hopes of leaving his troubles behind.

The monster manages to find Victor and explains himself. He pleads for understanding and tells of the extreme loneliness he feels. No one accepts him because he is a hideous creature. He tells of how he has tried to find acceptance with the humans but they only push him away. The monster blames Victor for creating him and explains that to seek vengeance he had to kill Victor’s younger brother. He persuades Victor to create a wife for him so that he can have a companion. Victor relents but while in the process he cannot bear the thought of letting loose another monster. He aborts, and finds later that his best friend has been murdered.

Victor Frankenstein marries his adopted sister Elizabeth but soon tragedy strikes and his wife is murdered by the monster. Upon hearing the news, Victor’s father dies a few days after. At this point in time Victory is overcome with grief and vows to hunt down the monster until either he or the monster is dead. That is when the story returns to Robert Walton and his ship located in the north seas. Victor dies on the boat and the monster appears weeping beside Victor’s death bed. The monster tells Walton that now that his creator is dead there is no need for more suffering. The monster takes off somewhere towards the North to rid himself of the world.

Review

Frankenstein by Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin is a novel about an over ambitious scientist bent on advancing the sciences. Such is the scientists’ desire for advancement that he even goes as far as playing god. I can safely say that Frankenstein is a good science fiction novel and the first of its kind. But like all good literature, Frankenstein is more than it appears to be.

To fully appreciate Frankenstein we must look past the obvious and analyze the underlining symbology in the novel. First let’s take a look at the time period that Frankenstein was written in, the 1800s. Like The Time Machine, Frankenstein incorporates the Industrial Revolution into the novel. The Industrial revolution in England was a period of supercharged advancement in technology and the sciences. A mere hundred or so years previous, the English were but mere sheep herders and they never would have expected to have seen iron ships in their wildest of dreams. Everything was moving so fast that many felt as if things were going a tad bit too fast and perhaps maybe it would be better if everyone would just slow down a little.

Victor Frankenstein, the protagonist, has a keen brain and is able to assimilate knowledge like no other. He soon learns everything his university professors have to offer and begins work on a new project. Working day in and day out, Victor scraps together old body parts and works on his little experiment. He is completely cut off from the outside world and has only one thought, the thought of creating life. Alas he succeeds, but instead of a human he has created a hideous monster. Frankenstein decides not to confront his problems but flees. Unable to fully realize what he has done he can think of nothing other than to run his life as it was and try to forget his awful creation. Even when his younger brother has been murdered by the beast and his sister put on death row, Victor is unwilling to act. His ego is too great for him to admit defeat and in turn save his sister. Mary Godwin used Victor, the mad scientist as a warning to all that the hurried advancement of science and technology without the realization of its full consequences can only cause trouble. I believe that such a statement of caution is still applicable to this world today. There is much debate about how the advancement of science, especially in the field of genetics can create unthought of effects. Will genetically modified foods prove harmful to both the environment and to humans? Are we diving too fast into the study of stem cell research? Arguments rage from both ends of the spectrum and I am not here to pose my opinions on these matters but rather just to bring to ones attention that the ideas in Frankenstein still apply.

This is also an example of the corrupt man who is unwilling to accept defeat even when faced with the betterment of all those involved. The monster came to Victor in the mountains asking for forgiveness, it was as if a truth and reconciliation hearing had been set up. The monster had told the truth - the truth about the murders and the never ceasing loneliness - but the reconciliation never came from Victor. All the monster wanted was to be accepted and Victor, his creator, would not even budge to accept and consol the monster, to act in a fatherly manner.
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There are many people in all the corners of the globe who will not accept that they have done something wrong, and will go on living their lives like nothing ever happened. People such as these may be positioned high up in the political arena, or they may be situated right here in our daily lives. One must also realize that this is a natural occurrence that takes place in all of us. It is only human to run away from ones problems instead of facing them head-on. It may be because one is frightened or by running away we can take a shortcut to our intended goal. Victor in a way is a representation of this. Even while living with shame and remorse Victor still chooses to run away from his problems and not admit and confront them until the very end, and even then he does so with complete secrecy.

Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin uses the Captain, Robert Walton to help solidify this idea. Walton is much like Frankenstein, an overachiever. Walton is a man without any friends but with the desire to seek more knowledge as well as fame and glory. "The world was to me a secret witch I desired to divine." Walton, like Frankenstein, represents someone who is willing to accomplish his goals without fully realizing the full danger and consequences involved. Unlike Frankenstein however, Walton is able to take the advice given and stop his voyage into the unknown, "Learn from my miseries and do not seek to increase your own".

Another significant idea in Frankenstein is the desire to be accepted and loved, something which the monster so clearly needs. As far as the readers can tell, Victor’s creation is wholly human with the exception of its hideous appearance. While talking to the monster in the mountains, Victor learns that his creation is a highly intelligent and sensitive being. The monster learns the language by observing a group of peasants and helps them survive by chopping wood every night and placing it by their doorstep. The monster only turns to violence when he fails to become accepted and is overcome by severe loneliness. The monster needed a father or another companion, but Victor failed to provide on both fronts, and so the monster saw violence as the only alternative.

Frankenstein by Mary Godwin is a classic novel that is more than just a science fiction novel. It is a story that makes one think about our sense of belonging and the world in which we live in. Frankenstein goes to show that there is a monster in all of us. Firstly everyone one of us is capable of being driven by an unchecked fierily passion like the monster in Victor (who inadvertently created a monster). And secondly like the monster, all of us have the need to be loved and accepted. Do not be concerned that Frankenstein was written nearly two hundred years ago, the same ideas and principles of the novel still apply today. I do not hesitate to say that Frankenstein is a book that everyone should pick up read sometime during their life.

Sign of the Times

Frankenstein was written during both the Industrial Revolution and the Romantic era. As explained above in my review, Mary Godwin took what was happening around her during the Industrial revolution and incorporated it as one of her main ideas in her book. Everything in England was advancing at a breathtaking pace and Mary used Victor Frankenstein as an example of people not fully realizing the consequences of the unknown. Since Frankenstein was written during the Romantic era, the novel deals more deeply with emotions and feelings rather than with rational thought and reason. Frankenstein is a story about a monster who kills people yet whose objective is only to feel accepted and loved. Not very logical, but very emotional. Frankenstein is a prime example of Romantic literature.

Connection Corner

Shrek

An ugly Ogre who prefers to live his live in solitude and confinement only ventures out of his habitat when evicted. With no friends and only one objective in mind - to regain his land - Shrek goes out and finds that he can indeed be loved. A striking resemblance to that of Frankenstein, both contain monsters that are hideous and lacking acceptance.
Not the most beautiful of creatures
Not the most beautiful of creatures


The official movie site is available here.
Haven’t seen the movie yet? Here’s the trailer.

The Ugly Duckling

Same concept as the above - ugly and lonely. The Ugly Duckling is a well known fairy tale written by the Danish poet and writer Hans Christian Andersen in 1843. The tale starts off with a a mother duck and her offspring. Most of her ducklings are normal and perfectly white but one is quite different from all the rest. He is grey and too large to fit in. After being ostracized by the other ducklings the tale follows his hardships as he is constantly rejected from society. The story ends when the duckling realizes that he has become a fully grown swan and the most beautiful of them all. Finally accepted, the ugly duckling enjoys life much more due all the suffering he has been through. The Ugly Duckling is carries the same underlining theme as Frankenstein concerning the need of love and acceptance.

Read the The Ugly Duckling online!


Or watch the 1939 Disney version. A bit different from the origional story, but the same concept.

Moby Dick

Moby Dick is a novel by Herman Melville written in 1851. The novel is about Captain Ahab whose sole purpose is to hunt down the legendary whale named Moby Dick who he lost a leg to. Even when faced with heaps of warnings from other whalers advising Ahab to stay clear of Moby Dick, the Captain does not budge but instead continues to search for Moby Dick to seek vengeance. Captain Ahabs ship the Pequod and crew is plagued by a series of misfortunes, but nevertheless Ahab continues steadfast. After finally sighting Moby Dick and going after it one of the crew dies in an accident involving a harpoon. This is of no concern to Ahab who continues to chase the large whale. The story ends when Moby Dick rams the Pequod sinking it and killing all those onboard including Ahab. Only one of the origional crew survive the encounter.

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Captain Ahab is very much like Victor Frankenstein. Both are bent on acheiving their goals no matter what it takes and are both oblivious to what will really happen. The only main difference between Victor and Ahab is that Victor succeeds in his goal but then regrets it while the Captain dies trying.

Buy Moby Dick right here at Amazon.co.jp, only 525!
If you just cant wait for it to get here, or youd rather spend that 500 yen or so somewhere else you can always read it online for free!
A movie was made in 1956. Here is the imdb site.


By
L.V.