Free Essays on Frankenstein: No Hero iin Mary Shelley's Frankenstein


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No Hero in Shelley's Frankenstein  


Victor Frankenstein may be the leading character in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, but a hero he is not. He is self-centered and loveless, and there is nothing heroic about him. There is a scene in Chapter twenty-four where Captain Walton is confronted by his crew to turn southwards and return home should the ice break apart and allow them the way. Frankenstein rouses himself and finds the strength to argue to the Captain that they should continue northwards, or suffer returning home "with the stigma of disgrace marked on your brows." He quite obviously has alterior motives and if he were not the eloquent, manipulative creature he so egotistically accuses his creature of being, he might not have moved the Captain and the men so much that they are blind to the true source of his passion. Unfortunately for Frankenstein, the crew, (however "moved") stand firm in their position. Yet the things he says in his motivational speech are prime examples of the extent to which Frankenstein is blind to his own faults and yet will jump at the chance to harangue others. He is so self-centered that his lack of interaction and love for others after his experiment has been completed, would barely qualify him as a person, if the difference between being human and being a person lies in the ability to have relationships with others.

One week later Frankenstein, maybe in an attempt to strum Walton's heartstrings by seeming the virtuous sufferer his melodramatic presence might falsely suggest him to be, declares, "When actuated by selfish and vicious motives, I asked you to underatake my unfinished work...," and then, "Yet I cannot ask you to renounce your country and friends to fulfil this task." It is as if he is some sort of premature proponent of reverse psychology. It seems a bit of a stretch to interpret his indecisive nature at this moment as an illumination of the conflict brewing deep within, when you consider that he has never truly demonstrated genuine concern for anyone close to him, let alone a man he only just met and befriended to further his cause. He says, "...and I renew this request now, when I am only induced by reason and virtue," and then almost in the same dying breath, "I dare not ask you to do what I think right, for I may still be misled by passion.

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" He contradicts himself, and it lends to the meaningless of his words - words so meaningless one would find it miraculous that Walton recalls and records them in his letters with such clarity (or fervent imagination: perhaps a steady diet of seawater has driven him mad).

The expedition could be seen as metaphorical for the daring journey Frankenstein himself has so haphazardly set upon. The breaking up of the ice, and the passage that is consequently produces that allows for the ship and its crew to head home to safety, marks the only inconsistency in this metaphor. Frankenstein is never given any such "break", nor does he deserve it. Once his journey had begun his only way to turn back was to destroy the being he had created, but he realizes this too late and it results in the deaths of those closest to him. When he hears that the crew wants to turn back he says, "Did you not call this a glorious expedition? And wherefore was it glorious? Not because the way was smooth and placid as a southern sea, but because it was full of dangers and terror, because at every new incident your fortitude was to be called forth and your courage exhibited..." The words could almost be spoken to himself, if only to fall upon deaf ears. He likes the sound of his voice, or rather the voice in his head, but he is not the most receptive person. This inability to listen, to open himself up to the ideas and ways of the surrounding world, is one undeniable characteristic of a self-centered person.

In his dying moments Frankenstein wishes death upon his creature. He believes that the natural world (the very world he betrayed) is on his side, that he is somehow the victim and that revenge must be had for his grievances, even though he is ultimately to blame for them. With a renewed burst of energy he says, "I am weak, but surely the spirits who assist my vengeance will endow me with sufficient strength," and then he springs from the bed, falls back, and faints. The spirits do not assist his vengeance, and he is endowed with nothing more than his own miserable undoings. Just as he had sentenced his creature to a life of loneliness, void of love, so may he sentence himself to a lonely death.


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