Themes in Frankenstein Seen in Contemporary Society

Essay add: 29-03-2016, 20:44   /   Views: 14
Themes in Frankenstein Seen in Contemporary Society

In Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, many themes that are present are also present in contemporary society. Many of these themes are universal. The term universal pertains to the "relating to, extending to, or affecting the entire world or all within the world; worldwide; all time periods" (American Heritage Dictionary pg. 1401). These universal themes are seen everyday in life; the theme of playing God, the theme of having control, parenting, and the theme of seeing the perpetrator as the victim or visa versa. These themes reflect the way in which people live today. In Frankenstein, both Victor and the monster are seen as playing God. The monster is a victim, who is seen as a perpetrator, and Victor is seen here as a parent, a neglectful parent.

To start off, the first theme that is present in Frankenstein that is also seen in modern everyday life is the theme of playing God. Victor here plays the role of God. He has stolen the power to create life from God, just as Prometheus had stolen the power to create fire from the Gods. Although Victor possesses the knowledge to put life into an inanimate creature, he doesn't possess the wisdom to use it wisely. The scene where he creates the monster is a biblical allusion to creation. "It was already one in the morning; the rain pattered dismally against the panes, and my candle was nearly burnt out, when, by the glimmer of the half-extinguished light, I saw the dull yellow eye of the creature open; it breathed hard, and a convulsive motion agitated its limbs" (Pg. 56). At this moment in time the monster is playing Adam, and Victor, his creator, God. Victor creates the monster as an innocent being without sin. The monster is not born evil, nor is his corruption his fault. The monster becomes a violent creature after he learns of humanity, and what a cold, cruel thing it can be. The monster was shunned, beaten, chased, and persecuted. His reward for saving a girl was being shot. He was like Adam, in that Adam was also born innocent by God, until "he tasted of the Tree of Knowledge and opened his eyes to his world, and was then cast from the blissful paradise of innocence" (The Forbidden Fruit). This relationship between Adam and the monster is very important because from this another theme can be seen; a victim being seen as a perpetrator.

One constant theme that is seen everyday in contemporary society is the theme of perpetrator as victim. In Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, the monster is a victim, however he is cast out as a perpetrator. When one looks superficially at the monster, he sees a cruel and heartless being. But when one looks closely and deeper he sees a poor soul that is trying to fit into society but is being shunned, beaten, and chased. "I am alone and miserable; man will not associate with me; but one as deformed and horrible as myself would not deny herself to me" (Pg. 137). When the monster is first created, Victor is horrified at the way he looks. ""His limbs were in proportion, and I had selected his features as beautiful. Beautiful! Great G-d! His yellow skin scarcely covered the work of muscles and arteries beneath; his hair was of a lustrous black, and flowing; his teeth of a pearly whiteness; but these luxuriances only formed a more horrid contrast with his watery eyes, that seemed almost of the same colour as the dun-white sockets in which they were set, his shrivelled complexion and straight black lips" (Pg. 56). Because of this he wants nothing to do with the monster. The monster leaves and Victor falls very ill. The monster then goes to a town and is chased out by its inhabitants. This is the first scenario in which man was cruel to the monster. The monster, being a smart one, realizes that man wants nothing to do with him, so when he goes to the next cottage he makes sure he is out of sight. For the next few months, the monster lives by the cottage of the De Laceys. Felix, the man of the house, teaches his love, Sophia to read and write. From this, the monster masters the language. Inside the pocket of the pants he had taken from Victor he finds Victor's journal, telling of the creation of the monster. Now being able to read, he learns how he was created. The monster understands he is different, and understands the humans do not want to associate with him. This has angered him that Victor would create him and would then not take care of him. From this moment on the monster wants revenge and whenever he hears the name Frankenstein, he becomes infuriated.

When the monster learns of his creation, it takes us back to the original theme, playing God. Now the roles have shifted and it is not Victor that is playing God, but the monster. Unlike before where Victor played the role in creating life, the monster plays the part of God in choosing who lives and who dies. And it is because of the way he is treated and being a victim of society that he becomes violent and kills. The first person that the monster kills is William, Victor's brother. The next one killed was Henry. Henry is killed because once again, humanity turns on the monster. The monster had asked Victor to create him another monster, a female mate. "How inconsistent are your feelings! But a moment ago you were move by my representations, and why do you again harden yourself to my complaints? I swear to you, by the earth which I inhabit, and by you that made me, that with the companion you bestow I will quit the neighborhood of man and dwell, as it may chance, in the most savage of places. My evil passion will have fled, for I shall meet with sympathy! My life will flow quietly away, and in my dying moments I shall not curse my maker" (Pg. 140). But when Victor is almost done creating the female, he decides he doesn't want to finish the project and discards it in the ocean. This infuriates the monster and he kills Henry. When Victor finds out what has happened he says to Clerval, "Have my murderous machinations deprived you also, my dearest Henry, of life? Two I have already destroyed; other victims await their destiny; but you, Clerval, my friend, my benefactor-" (Pg. 169). The monster vows to be there on Victor's wedding night. Well just as he said, the night Victor got married, the monster was there and he killed Elizabeth.

This act of playing God by both Victor and the monster is clearly seen in modern society. One area where this is seen is in the cloning industry. The idea of cloning, especially humans recently, has raised many ethical questions and there have been many debates over it. The one main ethical question is whether or not people have the right to create life, or should that job lie solely in the hands of God. Many people feel that even though people possess the knowledge and ability to create life, as Victor did, that they don't possess the wisdom to use it wisely. People who are in the cloning industry basically play the same role that Victor did. They are creating life. But with the knowledge that they have, just like Victor, they don't have the wisdom to use it. "To ensure that genetic advances are used for good rather than evil" the UK has banned human cloning.

This whole idea of playing God, and perpetrator-as-victim, can all be traced back to the central theme of parenting. Victor acts as God when creating the monster, but as soon as life is put into that creature, Victor is playing the role of a parent. However he does not act like a parent and does not treat the monster as if he were a son. He is neglectful, fears it, and does not want anything to do with it. He is horrified by the way the monster looks, and treats it with disrespect. He is neglectful and does not take care of the monster when it is the most crucial point in its life. If Victor had been a good parent, if he hadn't been neglectful, if he had taken care of the monster like a good parent should then maybe none of what happened would have happened. Victor didn't look at the long term consequences of creating a living being. He didn't fully understand that once he created the monster, it was a living creature and killing it would be like killing any other human being. The theme of "am I my brother's keeper" comes into play here. "Am I my brother's keeper" was said by Cain to God. What Cain meant by this was he wanted to know if it was his responsibility to look after Abel, and in looking at that in a broader sense, was it his responsibility to look out for others. Cain did not think he had the responsibility of watching his brother and neither does Victor think he has the responsibility for the monster. It is not until the monster kills the ones close to Victor that he realizes it is his responsibility.

This theme of parenting and looking out for others is clearly seen in contemporary society. Who is blamed when a child commits a crime? The parent is. These days, everything is the parents fault. Well just the same, everything that the monster did was in fact Victors fault. Parenting is a very important part of modern culture. It is up to the parents to make sure their children are brought up well, and society is always pressuring them to do that. If parents bring up their children to be respectful and honorable, and to be good citizens, then it won't be those children who end up jail or who end up committing crimes. That is why when children do end up committing crimes; it is not their fault, but their parents'. People need to look out for one another and realize that they need to take on the responsibility to look out for others around them. They need to be their "brother's keeper."

In conclusion, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, although being fairly old, portrays many universal themes that are seen in contemporary society. The themes of playing God, looking out for one another, parenting, and perpetrator-as-victim have been around for a long time. All these themes have helped people and hurt people in modern society. These themes are seen everywhere, and for the most part will be here to stay with us for many years to come.

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