Tag Archive: Dr. Frankenstein


Sabrina Vazquez

Frankenstein, among many of the misconceptions of Mary Shelley’s novel, the most common would have to be the name of the creature. Who people often refer to as Frankenstein, the “monster”, is not his actual name, because well, he is not named. His creator, Victor Frankenstein, a person of great intelligence but of some malevolence as well, was who they confused him with. All throughout my years of schooling “Frankenstein the monster” was what I heard, when referencing Shelley’s popular book. The phrasing is wrong, the creature was not named Frankenstein; however, after reading the novel, can in not be said that Frankenstein is a monster? He in his journey to prove himself, created someone who was not at fault for his existence; yet was attacked for existing.

Frankenstein rejects his creation, and neglects the creature, not providing it with food, guidance, or any affection. This creation who for all intents and purposes is a monster to the society they live in, is a victim of his creator’s ambition. The overall conclusion, is that the “monster” is not named Frankenstein. The misconception here is that when people say, “Frankenstein is not the monster”, they are not correct. Dr. Frankenstein’s creation was not a monster, but the Dr. himself was and that is the greatest misconception there is; he to his creation was a monster.

  

The initial thing that a lot of people, including myself, seem to notice when they read Frankenstein, is that the novel is named after the scientist rather than his monstrous creation. The identity of Frankenstein seems to be the first preconception that is vanquished when one actually reads the book.

Our culture is inundated with references to the hideous abomination that is called Frankenstein, from it being used as an argument against any controversial scientific advances, or as a potential Halloween costume. This is what comes to mind when we think of Frankenstein, this green, sub-human, destructive creature, very different from the eloquent, intelligent, deeply emotional being that is depicted in Shelley’s novel. Not only have we gotten the identity of Frankenstein wrong, we have completely changed his character too.  This is a very odd and huge misconception for an entire society to have, and after reading the book it seems incredible that it hasn’t been corrected.

I think its because we have forgotten, or maybe would like to forget, that this story is not about the Creature but about its creator. If it was simply about the Creature the novel could be passed off as a horror story and warning to think on the repercussions of an act before going through with it, and this is indeed how I thought of it before reading it. The depiction of Frankenstein as a lumbering, dim monster also makes the horror story more convincing than having the more disconcerting, very human, reality. However, the novel is truly about Frankenstein the creator, and is much darker, as it is a discussion of the arrogance of a man who brings himself to the same level as ‘God’ by bestowing life, and finds only loneliness and a burdened soul in that ultimate power. The arrogance may be subconscious but it raises questions as to the arrogance residing in each one of us. The picture below is of the Dr. Frankenstein from a modern TV show called Once Upon A Time. In this show magic and the like is very common, but even in that environment Dr. Frankenstein’s power to bring people back to life is treated as extraordinary and God-like. I chose this picture because you can see Frankenstein’s complete confidence in his abilities and his arrogance in his almost disdainful expression, and also see the supernatural power that is held in his hand.

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Before we can apply Edmund Burke’s ideas on sympathy to Mary Shelley’s gothic classic Frankenstein, we  must first dissect Burkes complex writing on the subject. Burke’s complicated theories on sympathy far exceed the definition on the back of a 5th grader’s flash card. Burke identifies sympathy as mode of human connection. According to Burke, it is through sympathy that “we enter into the concerns of others; that we are moved as they are moved, and are never suffered to be indifferent spectators of almost anything which men can do or suffer” (A Philosophical Enquiry 41).

When Frankenstein re-encounters the creature for the first time since the creation scene, both Frankenstein and the creature must demonstrate sympathy in order to create a fragile bond between creation and creator. First, the creature expresses his sympathy through his attitude of self-loathing. The creature explains, “remember, that I am thy creature: I ought to be thy Adam; but I am rather the fallen angel, whom thou drivest from joy for no misdeed. Everywhere I see bliss, from which I alone am irrevocably excluded” (Frankenstein 93-94). The creature identifies himself as Satan rather than Adam to show his negative feeling about his own being.   This shared idea of the creature’s wretchedness is one of the only conneections that Frankenstein and the creture share. Here the creature is, as Burke explains, “enter[ing] into concerns” of his creator. Essentially, the creature has sympathized with Frankenstein through the realization of his own horrid nature.

The sympathy shown in this scene however is not exclusive to the creature, Dr. Frankenstein also exhibits sympathy during this scene. Frankenstein has the choice to ignore completely the requests of the creature and banish him to live in solitude in the ice caves, but he instead engages the creature. What allows Frankenstein to listen to the creature’s story is the sympathy and compassion he feels for his creation:

“I was partly urged by curiosity, and compassion confirmed my resolution. I had hitherto supposed him to be the murderer of my brother, and I eagerly sought a confirmation or denial of this opinion. For the first time, also, I felt what the duties of a creator towards his creature were, and that I ought to render him happy before I complained of his wickedness” (Frankenstein 95)

Sitting down to hear the story of the creature is the first real connection between Frankenstein and his creation. The diction in the passage provides evidence for the feelings of sympathy that Frankenstein feels for the creature.  The use of the words “urge,” “duties,” and “ought” shows that Frankenstein felt some sort of obligation to his creature. As Burkes idea’s of sympathy explain, Frankenstein refuses to be an “indifferent spectator” while the creature suffers.

In this scene, the creature and Frankenstein must sympathize with each other in order to make a not-so-human connection. The creature shows sympathy through his self-deprecating attitude, while Frankenstein shows sympathy by feeling obligated to sit down and listen to the creature’s story.

Frankenstein: The Novel & The Myth

Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein”, the story of a scientist and the creation that results in his downfall, has endured in Western culture for nearly two decades and created a lasting impact on stage and screen. There are several aspects of the Frankenstein story that have modified in these adaptations and differ from the tale that Shelley originally created, such as the intelligence and capability of Dr. Frankenstein’s monster, but to me the most interesting change is the representation of the doctor himself.

Before I read the novel, the image I had of Dr. Frankenstein was through the film versions of the novel, and the references made in popular culture to those versions. The modern Frankenstein is portrayed as the quintessential “mad scientist”, a person bent on proving societies misconceptions about his work wrong at any cost. Films such as 1931’s Frankenstein, a picture from which is shown here, enforce this image of madness through the creation of a new character, Igor, the deformed henchman that assists Victor Frankenstein in giving the monster life. No such image is given in the Shelley novel, and the doctor is presented not as an insane, vengeful lunatic, but as a deeply rational and selfless scientist that attempts to conquer death in order to cure disease and pave the way to immortality. The film Frankenstein is also oblivious to the horror he created until killings start to occur by the creature’s hands, while the literary Frankenstein regrets his endeavor almost instantaneously upon animating it.

Perhaps Frankenstein has been transformed into a relatively one-dimensional character in order to give more attention to the creature he creates, a figure that is undoubtedly both enthralling and repulsing. Between the intended and the modern stories of Frankenstein a great degree of change has taken place. Despite being a 19th century tale of fear, one might proclaim that “It’s Alive!”

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