Frankenstein or the Modern Prometheus was written by Mary Shelly in 1818 when she was 18 years old. It is one of the most well-known gothic novels of the 19th Century. It can be called a novel that was far ahead of its time and probably the first “science fiction novel”. However, limiting the novel only within scientific boundaries would mean to undermine Mary’s immaculate vision.
“You will rejoice to hear that no disaster has accompanied the commencement of an enterprise which you have regarded with such evil forebodings.”
Mary Shelly’s classic, gothic novel Frankenstein opens with these lines from the American Captain Robert Walton to his sister, who had no idea of the horrors that were yet to come. When Walter’s ship is stuck in the sea on his expedition to the North Pole, he meets Victor. There begins the story of Victor Frankenstein, a young and gifted scientist who destroys his own life in the pursuit of creating another. The narrative begins with the early life of Victor which was spent in tranquility. Eventually, he moves away from his family for his further studies and gets into a university wherein his obsession for science grows. As time passed, his preoccupation led him into creating another life. When he finished his experiment he was filled with nervous excitement but when the creature took his first breath all his exhilaration turned into utter repulsion.
Victor found himself bursting with immediate regret and dread when he realized that he led an abomination into this world. So he bolted away from the scene immediately, leaving the creature all on its own. Gradually Victor’s greatest fears are realized when everyone he has ever loved gets slaughtered one by one by the outrage of his own creation and yet, there was nothing he could have done or he did to stop him. His creation eventually becomes his death sentence and the lines said by the monster in the end, “I desired love and fellowship, and I was spurned. I, the miserable and the abandoned, am an abortion, to be spurned at, and kicked, and trampled on” also indicates the end of the creation with the creator.
“I ought to be thy Adam, but I am rather the fallen angel…”
This was the line that changed the entire plot of the novel for me. Mary Shelly uses the element of pathos in the speech of the monster when he decides to tell his tale to his creator. When he describes his hardships, for a moment, I literally forgot that indeed he was a monster and I pitied him. Maybe, Victor was wrong in defying God and making his own creation but that was not his biggest fault. It was the way he countered the monster’s begging when all he asked was for love and sympathy. It was probably the complete lack of emotion on Victor’s side that unbridled the worst side of the monster leading to a series of unfortunate events. The novel evokes several emotions including fear, anguish, agony, pity, and terror, depending on how the reader conceives it.
I had been meaning to read this novel for the longest time but I always considered it as a scientific experiment gone wrong, but it was not until I read it that I realized it was far more than that. It is indeed a classic novel packed with an intense allegory. I would, unquestionably, recommend everyone to read this novel notwithstanding their age because this novel goes beyond its “gothic” genre. Mary Shelly gives an obvious and pressing message about the consequences of ‘playing with God’, which gives a kind of religious trace to the narrative. With the end of Victor, she also restores the reader’s belief in the inviolability of human life that can be given or taken only by God.
One of the deepest and most meaningful messages that I found in this novel is that people are not born monsters, but they are made one under the given circumstances. It was Victor’s insensitiveness that unleashed the worst side of the monster. It is funny how the novels written centuries ago can still be relevant in contemporary society. Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein, whether intentionally or not, was a dig at the increase in scientific trials and the growing human expertise and how it can cause hostile effects to human society.
Sidra Zaidi is a student pursuing English Literature from Jamia Millia Islamia.
Edited by: Samra Ejaz
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this publication are those of the author. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of The Jamia Review or its members.