On reading the last two paragraphs of Frankenstein, I was struck by the number of different views on the path to happiness, peace and tranquility that were explored in this novel. The Creature’s thoughts on this changed drastically over the course of the novel, and they seemed to culminate in these ending passages. It is this theme that serves to resolve the curious paradoxes, tensions and ambiguity in these passages and provides the organic unity necessary for the new critical method.

The Creature initially believes that he can achieve bliss by finding somebody who will accept him regardless of his appearance. When this fails, he turns to revenge as a means of alleviating some of his rage and loneliness. However, in the end his experiences make him seek only death as his way to bliss, as his misery and isolation are too excruciating to live with. This is observed in the paradox of “sad and solemn enthusiasm” and the tension in “exult in the agony”, and it seems strange that he looks forward to his painful death, but not if you see that he does so because it is his path to contentment.

The motif of fire is very predominant here with words like “burning”, “flames” and “conflagration”. I think this is because fire is associated with peace. The passage brings us back in a circle to the beginning of the monster’s life, when the fire he finds in the wood is his most precious possession and he “was in the greatest fear lest my fire should be extinguished”. The fire gave him life and contentment, by providing warmth, comfort, and cooked food, while now he implores it to give him death, and so peace and rest.

These paragraphs seem to suggest that the Creature believes that, after his death, everything that he experienced and and everything that he was, will be as if it never existed. This is seen in the usage of words and phrases such as “extinct”, “fade away”, “lost” and “my ashes will be swept into the sea by the winds”. He desires this oblivion and believes that it will allow “his spirit to sleep in peace”. However he does not really achieve this as the Creature and the tale of his life have been immortalized in Robert Walton’s records, which is ironically how we are learning of it. We see that Shelley purposely leaves the ending vague saying that he was “lost in the darkness and distance”, making it ambiguous as to whether the Creature actually died and if, whatever the answer to the previous question, he truly obtained his peace. The lack of this certain conclusion in the ending forces us to question death’s role as the only final path to peace and bliss.

 

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