Right off the bat, I would like to preface this blog post by saying that Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is the best novel out of the literary canon that I have read. Frankenstein’s reflection on the morally ambiguous aspects of nature, family, justice, and the human condition is what sets this book apart from the other pieces of literature I have read in terms of engagement.
In the narrative, the creature explains the crux of his earthly dilemma after reading Victor Frankenstein’s journal. “I sickened as I read. ‘Hateful day when I received life!’ I exclaimed in agony. ‘Accursed creator! Why did you form a monster so hideous that even you turned from me in disgust? God, in pity, made man beautiful and alluring, after his own image; but my form is a filthy type of yours, more horrid even from the very resemblance. Satan had his companions, fellow devils, to admire and encourage him, but I am solitary and abhorred.’” The creature is puzzled at Victor’s intentions in creating life, questioning how Victor could be so cruel as to thrust him into an existence that is arguably worse than that of the most scorned entity in history. On an even broader level, the creature is calling into question the ethics behind bringing another soul into being without their consent. These topics, such as the rights of the unborn and the duties parents should be upheld to, are still hotly debated to this day.
In relation to John Milton’s Paradise Lost, (which is the way the creature discovers the histories of God and Satan) the creature first sees himself as an abandoned Adam, who was created inherently flawed. As he experiences the hell of isolation over the course of months and is rejected by the Delacy’s, he comes to know himself instead as an allegory of Satan. Not so coincidentally, Satan is the best speaker/narrator within the book Paradise Lost itself, which parallels the creatures elegance of narration and solidifies the reference. Milton also frames Satan as reasonable and attractive, but we know as readers that we shouldn’t interpret him this way. In the same way, Shelley frames the creature in much the same way, even though we know as readers that the creature is a murderer, as well as (arguably) a sadist.
In all the ways stated above, the creature’s existence always reminds me of a passage from Macbeth. To quote Shakespeare, the creature’s life is but a walking shadow, dwelling in obscurity and isolation. He is a poor player who struts and frets, pondering the meaning of his hour of existence in relation to the greater stage of humanity that he fears he will never get to experience. The fate of his life has been dealt to him without care. In response, he vows to use his fury to inflict on Victor the same type of meaningless existence of isolation he so idiotically inflicted upon him.
As a text, I enjoy Frankenstein because of the way the tragic character of the creature is so three dimensional. He is in all ways fated to be tragic, tragic out of his own volition, and tragic at the hands of others.