Frankenstien Essay, Research Paper
Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein
The book opens with a scene of a ship in the Arctic Ocean. The ship is stuck in the ice and unable to move. Robert Walton, the ship’s captain, is writing letters to his sister back home. The letters tell of his explorations and the events that occur on the ship. Walton’s crew pulls aboard a lifeless body and revive the man back to life. This man is Victor Frankenstein. Walton and Frankenstein talk about why Victor is in the Arctic and Victor explains the horrible and tragic story of the past few years of his life.
Victor was born to a very wealthy and popular family. While he was still young his parents adopted a young girl with whom Victor would grow up with and eventually fall in love with her. Victor goes through medical school and becomes very good friends with a classmate, Henry Clerval. Even though Victors young life seams perfect it is all about to change.
Victor’s mother died when he was still young and her death would change him for the rest of his life. After Victor’s mother’s death Victor swore he would conquer the mortality of humans. Victor, once he was out of medical school, he began to work on his theory of conquering death. He collected numerous body parts and put them together and used a special technique to bring the corpse to life. At first Victor thought he had failed, but the creature sat up and was alive. Victor was horrified by his own creation and fled his laboratory. The monster then disappeared into the city.
Two years pasted and the monster wasn’t heard from, until something terrible happened. Victor’s younger brother William was strangled to death. It was believed that William’s nanny and close friend of the family, Justine, had murdered him. A lynch mob gathered and took her off and hanged her. Later on Victor saw his creature and realized that the monster murdered his brother not Justine. Victor still in shock after his brother’s death went to the mountains. The monster followed him there. When Victor stopped the monster confronted him. The monster explained to Victor how he survived while in hiding. He told Victor of the family he watched through a crack in the wall of the abandoned shack he stayed in and how he learned to read, write, and talk from these people.
After a long and detailed conversation the monster told Victor of his deal. The monster wanted Victor to create another being similar to himself. The monster realized that he was hideous and that no normal human could or would ever love him. The creature that Victor would create for him would be his lifelong partner and they would flee civilization never to return. The other side of the deal was if Victor did not agree the monster would haunt Victor the rest of his life. Since the monster would not have anyone to love neither would Victor because the monster would torture Victor by killing all the people that he loved.
At first Victor agreed to the deal. Days went by and Victor began his project. Half way through he realized that he regretted the first time he did this and he swore to himself that he would not repeat the same mistake again.
Victor destroyed the remains of the project and as he was doing this the monster came in the room. Once the monster saw Victor wreaking his laboratory, he became furious. The monster promised Victor he would regret his actions and threatened that Victor should be careful because the monster would be with him on his wedding night.
The monster’s threat did not stop Victor from his plans of marrying Elizabeth, his childhood love. After the wedding Victor hired the best men to guard him and his wife that night. As Victor was checking the guards he heard his wife scream. They rushed into the room, saw the monster fleeing the room, and saw his wife strangled on the bed. Victor then swore that he would track the monster to the ends of the Earth and kill him. The monster leads Victor to the Arctic where he was pulled aboard by Capt. Walton and his crew.
After Victor finished telling his story to Walton and his crew he fell asleep and died. Sometime later a rather large and hideous man came aboard the ship and asked if they had seen his “father.” The men pointed toward Victor’s body and the man/monster wept. The monster built a raft and placed Victor’s body on it and floated out to sea on it. As the crew watched the monster set fire to the raft burning the raft, Victor’s body, and himself to death.
I feel that the author, Mary Shelley wrote this story because she was trying to show the value of life. I think she was trying to get the message across that as much as science can prove to be helpful, humans cannot overstep their boundaries and try to play God.
Victor’s actions regarding the creature raise questions related to the theme of autonomy and responsibility. Victor acted on a definition of autonomy that includes very little responsibility for the outcomes of his actions. In the name of science, he felt free to turn his knowledge and labor into a living creature, yet he abandoned his creation when he saw what it had become, rather than taking responsibility to nurture the creature and teach him how to live in society. On several occasions Shelley wrote about how Victor felt responsible for the creature’s crimes, yet he does not take responsibility. For example, when Justine is convicted of murdering William, Victor, in anguish, thinks himself the true murderer, but does nothing to intervene. His silence helps condemn Justine to death.
Immanuel Kant (1724-1804), a German enlightenment philosopher, defined autonomy, not in terms of doing what one wanted to do, but in terms of acting on principles that you would be willing for everyone in the world to follow. Autonomy is defined in the Websters Dictionary as the quality or condition of being self-governing.
The question then arises, did Victor act autonomously in creating and then abandoning the creature? My answer to this is yes because the minute Victor gave life to the creature he was setting his own rules, he decided that it was ok to create life and then do with it as he pleased. Taking responsibility for the consequences of one’s actions is part of autonomy.
Overall I thought that this was a very impressive book. I do not feel that Victor had any right to create life and to do with it as he pleased. However, the lessons that could be learned from this book, such as the importance of life, are valuable and worthwhile.