Shelley’sMessage to Her Audience: Frankenstein
Frankensteinis a novel that was drafted by Mary Shelley, an English author, andfirst published in the year 1818. The book tells a story of a youngscience student who puts his creativity and efforts together todevise a bizarre yet living creature through a scientific experimentthat was quite unconventional. The novel revolves around this monsterdescribed through a raft of different words. The description makesthe story be regarded as a scientific fiction. Shelley uses differentcharacters to give life to the story and makes it more relevant. Inher novel, Shelley infuses various diverse elements ranging fromGothic novel to Romantic Movement to relay her message to theaudience.
Shelleyexplores a number of fundamental and often universal ideas in thisliterary piece to pass a strongly worded message to her audience.Through the use of different thematic concerns, the author succeedsin making her message known to reach and impact her audience.However, some critiques have argued that the author fell short ofgetting her message through to her audience by not conclusivelydeveloping the story and some characters. In spite of thesecriticisms, some scholars subscribe to the success recorded in thenovel by tackling a number of thematic concerns.
Severalthemes run through Shelley’s novel entitled,"Frankenstein,"which relays her message, some apparent and others elusive. Theextensively heralded message in her novel is the proposition thatignorance is bliss. During her time, the author notes that thecustomary perceptions regarding the world as well as the relationshipbetween man and his creator were often confronted through the humanreasoning power using science and technology. Nonetheless,individuals continued to question the notions of humans emphasizingon the limitations of their capacity. To assert her positioncountering this humanist idea Victor warns Walton in chapter fouragainst following in his footsteps but rather advises him to learnfrom him either by his examples or his precepts.
Tosupport the idea that ignorance is bliss, the author presumesknowledge to be dangerous. “……How dangerous is the acquisitionof knowledge?’ poses Victor (Mellor14).According to Victor, the happier man is the one who believes that hisnative town is the world, and the world is his native town. This manis happier that the one whose aspiration is to become greater thannature permits. This is regarded as delusional and that is whyShelley’s message to her audience is about the pleasure ofignorance. The notion of creating the grotesque sentient creatureusing unorthodox scientific process, by Victor, is seen as a stolenidea from creation God used for wrong reasons. Therefore, Shelley isconvinced that knowledge is dangerous, and ignorance is bliss. In anutshell, the knowledge that drives one to attempt to surge beyondthat which human limits allows is a dangerous knowledge.
Anothermessage that Shelley offers in her work is the aspect of humaninjustice towards the outsiders. This is brought about by thelamentation of the monster over man’s cruelty to other creaturesdifferent from them. It is a fact that the monster in theFrankenstein is considered an outcast that should not be niched inthe human society. Intriguingly the challenges the monster is facedwith in this human society are apparently shared by his creator. Themonster is alleviated from the society and his desires for acompanion or someone to share a life with hits a snag. There is anongoing struggle for revenge for which he shares with his master. Theisolation of this monster is the fate that brings him together withhis creator, and as the story progresses, they both find themselvesin a miserable life they both hate. This forms the theme thatShelley explores in communicating to his audience on the bleakportrait of a man in relation to his interactions with the outsiders.The cruelty of the human society coupled with revenge is wellcaptured in the story (Mellor16).
Arather subtle and ironical theme regards the manner in which Shelleyattempts to indict society for its sexist viewpoint. In the novel,Victor describes women from a weak point of view and perceives themas weak characters, a suffering population, and downtrodden withtheir lives revolving around others for survival. The irony in thisis the fact that Shelley herself is a feminist born of a feminist. Itpaints a picture of someone who understands the problems andchallenges that bedeviled the female population for which she is partof. These are issues she has perhaps experienced but still has theoption to either accept or deny it. The monster, on the other hand,contradicts the views expressed by his owner and represents such aprogressive view of the opposite sex. His conviction is that both menand women are equal, an idea that is not embraced in Frankenstein’sculture of pre-feminists. The monsters desire for a female companionis purely for the very companion itself and not to rule over her, afriend with whom to share his sufferings. This forms the ultimatemessage that Shelley relays to her audience, which is essentially theequality of men and women.
Shelleypresents her message to her readers in near perfect way usingrelatable symbols and characters. However, this is not devoid ofcertain shortfalls upon which their corrections would have given themessage more insights than what is presented. The story is ademonstration of human failure to assume the responsibility ofbringing up their offspring’s in such a fashion that would see thembe active in the participation of family affairs, as opposed toretreating into themselves. Statements from the perspective of anumber of characters support this view. However, this falls short ofhow Victor as a character is presented. His relationship is portrayedas one which is warm and nurturing yet in real sense Victor is anobject of love and a bauble of his parents. To relay the messagemore instinctively, the author ought to have reviewed this characterto reflect his real picture.
Anotherstrong criticism that captures the delivery shortfall of achievingits target in relaying the message regards the question of feminism.This has been linked directly to Shelley’s life and what inspiredher authorship. The emergence of feminist’s theory shifts the focusto the storyline and the respective characters, which is largely areflection of the author herself. The point here is the deliberateexclusion of female characters in passing a message that should bringboth the sexes into the picture. From the lens of gender,Frankenstein fails to live to its purpose in the delivery of themessage. The feminine characters are not central to the novel, andthe masculine characters overshadow their place. This is somethingthat would have taken a different twist in telling the story had thefemale characters been brought to the central play at this point.
VictorFrankenstein created a feature that can neither be classified asneither human nor animal. The figure is a unique one and has neverbeen seen before. No one understands its characters including hiscreator. Interestingly, the characters in the novel already dub itevil. How judgmental is this? It does not appear as a surprise giventhat this is the nature of the human being. However, this can betraced to the traditional Christian belief that views every creatureas evil from birth. The creature feels that humans are innately good,a perception that he deems right for himself. However, it is until hesees himself that this reality illuminates in his mind, and henotices the reason why humans perceive him the way they do.
Fromthis point, the monster then develops into a character that is rudeand violent. This is a complete diversion from the message that themonster represented when it was seen as a progressive character inthe question of feminism where his creator called it a barbarian. Inessence, this paints a picture of an inconsistent character. It rulesout any slight possibility of using this character to championprogress and consistency. The outward appearance is also amanifestation of the character. It is an assertion that anincongruent character could not possibly be the best representationof the holder of the right morals and progress.
Mellor,Anne K.: “Makinga Monster.” I n: TheCambridge Companion to Mary Shelley. Cambridge, England: CambridgeUniversity Press, 2003, p. 9-24