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About Frankenstein

150 views 8 pages ~ 2007 words

Mary Shelley's Frankenstein is a sad story about a development that caused its creator anguish, terror, and anxiety. After a long and tedious pursuit of Frankenstein, his undesired invention, Victor Frankenstein becomes frail and on the brink of death. Victor recaptures his entire life memories to his rescuer Robert Walton, who in turn reports the story to Margaret, his sister in England, through a series of letters. Victor's story is ambitious, sad, and full of despair as he lost many people that were close to him because of the monster that he created. Mary Shelley is deliberate in explaining the context of the narration and its relation to the society in which she lived in at the time. In Frankenstein, Mary Shelley discusses the representation of the body, gender, and sexuality and explains how their use either confirm or contest to the norm.

Victor Frankenstein who is the main protagonist of the story grows up in Switzerland and becomes fascinated and obsessed with the creation of life from an early age. When he pursues his dreams at the University of Ingolstadt, he is an exceptional student who grasps all that he is taught and impresses both his peers and his teachers at the institution (Shelley 2004, p.210). Victor Frankenstein's zeal and fascination of the “secrets of life” bring to light the power and relevance of the human body in relation to life and death. Through the intense study of chemistry, alchemy, and electricity, Victor manages to realize his dreams of creating life. In relation to the core components that facilitated Victor's creations were the process of galvanism, anatomy, and phrenology.

Galvanism is a mixture of belief and facts that Mary Shelley implies Victor used to reincarnate the body of Frankenstein. Galvanism in Mary Shelley's context refers to the act of bringing back to life through the use of electric currents. Through the anatomical perception of “the body”, Mary Shelley further explains that the body parts that Victor used were from the slaughterhouses. Mary Shelley further asserts that the body parts were from either animals or criminals which was a common practice during her time. Mary relates the behavior of the monster to that of the criminals and animals that were killed. Hence, through the material used to make the body of Frankenstein, his character is shaped which is that of hostility and inhumanity as evidenced by the inhumane killings and pain that he inflicted on Victor who was his creator. Phrenology, on the other hand, was a study of people's behavior through the use of the shape of their heads and their facial expressions. Phrenology emphasized that the human body has a divine function and hence it is only through facial expression that people tend to express their inner desires and needs. Phrenology relates human physical characteristics to those of animals. In Frankenstein, for instance, Robert Walton describes Victor as "the lineaments of his face are irradiated by the soul within" (Shelley & Robinson, 2008 p.310) which clearly describes the condition of Victor at the time. Victor further emphasizes the rationality of the use of the body when he states that his dislike for M. Krempe "repulsive physiognomy."

Mary Shelley describes the body as the major element that brings to light the inner feelings, emotions, thoughts, and character of the various characters in Frankenstein. From a wider scope, the body is the sole source of happiness and satisfaction. The monster acknowledges that the body meant a lot to Victor his creator. Through brutally mutilating the bodies of William and Elizabeth which in turn caused the deaths of Justine Moritz and Victor's father, the monster knows that it has hurt Victor’s emotions and hence he strives to win its creator’s heart for him to create a companion for him. Victor's obsession with human bodies makes him look at people with a contempt as just a combination of functioning organs and not in terms of their spiritual realm. In Frankenstein, the body is the custodian of all the pain, suffering and happiness which define the true nature of the characters and the occurrences in Frankenstein. The overall usage of the body in the story is a violation of the human norms and conscience. According to (Shelley, Macdonald & Scherf 2012, p.272), the bodies in the context are mainly used for experimentation and are mutilated which is a violation of the human norms and guiding the principles of existence. The fact that Victor created a monster out of the remnants of other human beings is an implication that he cared more about his research and findings as opposed to the dignity of the human body.

The author uses the concept of gender representation to bring to light certain societal elements and themes that affect the personality traits of the various characters in Frankenstein. The question of gender inequality and the portrayal of the different genders in the novel Frankenstein plays a pivotal role in that, it demarcates and explores the representation of gender and its relations in the themes that relate to the female characters and the portrayal of the human body. The author is thoughtful and calculative in the strategic inclusion of the characters of different genders and their specific roles so as to paint a vivid picture of the perceptions and stereotyping that was channeled to different gender groups (Shelley, Macdonald & Scherf 2012, p.271).

Mary Shelly held staunch feminist beliefs and ideologies and hence understood the essentiality and necessity to represent the plight of women. Although the novel Frankenstein is not feminist, it tackles the problems and stereotypes that people of the female gender at the time faced. The author of Frankenstein intentionally paints the characters of the feminine gender in the story as loyal, selfless, tranquil and obedient so as to bring out the societal expectations and perception of the ladies at the time of the novel's conception. According to Shelley, Hindle, & Kostova (2007, p.24) affirm that there is a lot of stereotype in the portrayal of ladies in Frankenstein so as to give the true experience and undervalued nature that the women in her society had to endure. The female characters are described and labeled as objects who have very little influence and effects in relation to the men. Two examples of women whose characters are serene are Caroline Beaufort and Elizabeth Lavenza. Beaufort thanks, Alphonse severally in the novel for the good life that he gave her in addition to rescuing her from the jaws of poverty and frustrations and hence she feels indebted to him.

The author presents a form of irony and satire when she narrates the case of Beaufort. It is ironical that Beaufort feels indebted to Alphonse yet initially she was taking care of herself on her own. Beaufort further stresses that perception that women could not be independent and support themselves without the aid of men. Elizabeth, on the other hand, is offered as a gift to Victor from an early age. Elizabeth is described as comforting and generous. The character of Elizabeth makes her put the interests of others before hers and hence she is seen as strong and selfless. Despite the potential and abilities that Elizabeth has, the author decided to place her as a mere object of pleasure for Victor (Shelley 2004, p.189). Elizabeth's open-heartedness and decision to put the interests of the other people before her own could also be against her will and just a mere act of publicity to be in line with societal needs.

Robert Walton and Victor Stein are typical examples of the perceptions of men to the women in the society at the time of their existence. Robert Walton, for instance, is not sensitive to his sister's pleas and anxieties and hence treats them as mere comments. In response to his sister's worries and curiosity of Robert's quest, he states that "An enterprise which you have regarded with such evil forebodings" an indication that her uneasiness held little weight to Victor. Walton does not show apprehension for his sister's life other than just mentioning that she lived in London and had kids. Victor Frankenstein and Robert Walton are typical examples of the men in their society who gave little thought about the whereabouts of the other people (Shelley, 2004 p.248). Robert, for instance, is determined to pursue his quest to attain knowledge and reach heights that no man has ever done and hence is blind to the pleas and the concerns of his crew members.

In the novel, gender representations are illustrated and differentiated through the depiction of the male and female standards and illustrations. Frankenstein explains the differences in gender representation through the incidence of Justin who was accused of the murder of William and later killed for the perceived crime. Victor, on the other hand, had a similar case against his friend Henry Clerval. However, unlike Justine, Victor was declared innocent and was let free. Through the depictions of two scenarios, the author gives a vivid portrayal of the female characters and their perceptions in the male-dominated world. The two scenarios reinforce the perception that the men are much more superior to the women. Victor is portrayed as self-centered and arrogant and an indication of the temperament of men in comparison to the soft, tolerant personality of the women. The author, however, manages to elevate the character traits of the women and balances it to that of the men in an attempt to create a form of reconciliation and equilibrium (Shelley & Robisnon 2008, p.266).

Mary Shelley states that, in pursuit for knowledge and greatness, one is likely to encounter sex along the way. Victor Frankenstein is engaged to Elizabeth his childhood foster sister and hence it is apparent that they have never had sex. Shelley explains that the relationship between Victor and Elizabeth has a close bond and ties which makes them more of siblings as opposed to lovers. Shelley completely omits the aspect of sexual encounters between Victor and Elizabeth so as to elaborate Victor’s perception and lack of interest in matters pertaining to sex. Additionally, the author describes the monster as being inhuman, but he equally has sexual desires which are stronger as opposed to those of Victor. Shelley uses a lot of secret and discretion in matters pertaining to sex in the novel which makes the issue even much more pronounced (Shelley 2004, p.272). The reader’s curiosity and creativity, however, allows them to view the story from a different dimension and understanding. Frankenstein on the other hand also evokes feelings of love, lust and sexuality when he desires a mate to idolize and share with his love and life. The author uses sexuality and sex as a strong force that unites an individual to the ideals of society like in the case of Frankenstein.

The author intentionally uses the body to give a deeper insight into the thematic progression of the story. It is through the body that life begins and ends and all emotions like grief, despair and happiness are projected. The creation of the body of the monster brought life, death, craving, sorrow, anguish, and grief among other emotions that drive the characters and shape their actions. Through Victor, the author further elaborates that the body is the root cause of all happiness and evils in the society. The author additionally uses the representations of the different gender groups to show their status and positions in the society. The women are held in a low regard and are painted with their traditional character traits like loyal, dutiful and generous. The men, on the other hand, are arrogant, adventurous and inconsiderate. Through the incorporation of the body and the use of gender, the author managed to explore the cultural, social and religious inclinations of the different genders in the society.


Shelley, M. W., 2004. Frankenstein. London, Collector's Library

Shelley, M. W., Hindle, M., & Kostova, E., 2007. Frankenstein, or, the modern Prometheus. New York, Penguin Books.

Shelley, M. W., Macdonald, D. L., & Scherf, K. D., 2012. Frankenstein, or, the modern Prometheus. Peterborough, N, Broadview Editions.

Shelley, M. W., & Robinson, C. E., 2008. Frankenstein, or, the modern Prometheus. Oxford, Bodleian Library.

July 24, 2021
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