Dr Mark’s The Meaning in a Nutshell
Mary Shelley, Frankenstein (1818)
Mary Shelley’s Gothic horror novel, Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus (1818) tells the tragic fictional story of a talented young scientist, Victor Frankenstein, whose arrogant and obsessive curiosity led him too far, tempting him to play God, a venture that produced a monster and ultimately destroyed its creator.
Bolstered by knowledge derived from modern science, the occult and alchemy, Victor Frankenstein was tempted to play God by creating a new human by reanimating an assemblage made from human body parts of the deceased. Rather than his science benefiting mankind, he created a monster that tormented him, destroyed Frankenstein’s friends and family and threatened mankind before Frankenstein was himself destroyed. Mary Shelley’s novel carries the message that not all science and knowledge produces progress.
The novel also carries the message that criminals are made rather than born. The horrific appearance of the monster generated fear and aggression in people, which is depicted as initially unfair. Victor Frankenstein, having created the monster, upon seeing its horrible appearance, rejected and neglected it, and therefore failed in his duties as a father. In addition, despite the monster’s initial benevolent attitudes towards people, this was not reciprocated when he sought companionship. Their fearful and violent responses produced a bitterness and vengeful resentment in the monster that was homicidal and destructive. Hostile to mankind, the monster reserved his cruellest revenge for his creator, Victor Frankenstein.
Importantly, the novel is steeped in the ideas and values of romanticism and its critical reaction to the Age of Enlightenment. This is evident in the way that the novel takes issue with the Enlightenment notion of humanity using reason and science to impose its will on nature and to reshape it in its own image. Instead, this novel encourages people to be in awe of nature, to appreciate it for its own sake, especially its grand vistas, and to see communion with nature as having enriching, reparative and healing qualities. In addition, the novel’s romanticism is evident in its celebration of other literature that is of interest to those who appreciate romanticism, or that promotes romanticism.
© Mark Lopez 2019 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
Student Resources by Dr Mark Lopez
Frankenstein meaning, Frankenstein themes, Frankenstein analysis, Frankenstein notes
The purpose of the concise notes of Dr Mark’s The Meaning in a Nutshell is to provide much needed help to students seeking to unlock the meaning of the texts with which they have to deal.
More elaborate notes are provided in lessons as part of my Melbourne private tutoring business.