Commentary on a Passage from Shelley's Frankenstein

Commentary on a Passage from Shelley's Frankenstein

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The passage begins in first person, whom we presume is Frankenstein, where he is reminiscing on some of the consequences of his meddling with nature. He informs us that three years ago, he was engaged in an activity which created a monster whom he describes as a ‘fiend whose unparalleled barbarity has desolated my heart, and filled it for ever with the bitterest remorse.’ He then goes on to talk about how he is about to create a ‘mate’ for the previous monster and is frightened about the effects it will have on both his creation and society. The mood of the passage is very glum as the narrator is contemplating the unforeseen horrors arising from this strange experiment. He questions the result of this ‘mate’, thinking ‘she also might turn with disgust from him to the superior beauty of man, she might quit him, and he be again alone’.

Through his voice, it assists our understanding of the material as through the narrator’s bleak heart, we are made to experience very strongly the extent of his guilt. The tone of this passage is somewhat personal in the sense that he seems like he is arguing and deliberating to himself about the events which either have happened or are about to, ‘ …Had I the a right, for my own benefit, to inflict this curse upon everlasting generations?’. He questions his own significance in society at the time when the passage is written and for the future generations and thinks himself as a ‘curse upon everlasting generations’. Having heard his reasons and seen his desolation and feeling the despair of desolation we, as readers are more able to sympathise with his actions.

The overall ‘meaning’ of the passage is to tell a story about a character in which they are in deep unease and melancholy and read their views on the surroundings around them. The key themes that are conveyed to us the readers are that of madness. The author manipulates our sympathy for the monster Frankenstein by seeing it from his point of view and listening to his thoughts about himself being a ‘curse’. The piece does have a clear point of view, as his thoughts are straight-forward. This will have an effect on the reader by pointing in the direction the author maneuvers our sympathies by showing us different perspectives of situations.

The setting plays an important part in reflecting the shifting moods and emotions of characters by giving us a sense of loneliness ‘ I sat one evening in my laboratory….

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I remained idle, in a pause of consideration’. It reflects his isolation, he retreats from humanity and suggesting ‘if they were to leave Europe’ he would still not be accepted. This reference suggests he feels guilty for his work, and this is why he seeks seclusion from society.

Mary Wollstonecraft Shelly uses very melodramatic language and this is a strong representation of a Gothic element. Beautiful/ugly and misery/joy, both these contrasts reinforce the differences. The creature is rather much aware of between his own ugliness and a human’s beauty (stated in line 15 ‘...might turn with disgust from him to the superior beauty of man’). They also convey the conflicting emotions he experiences in this passage.

Frankenstein's female creation may have possessed wretchedness, being ‘ten thousand times more malignant than her mate, and being a murderer just for its own sake. This is all suggested by Frankenstein in the lines (8-10).


Shelley, Mary. Frankenstein or the Modern Prometheus. Edited with an Introduction and notes by Maurice Hindle. Penguin books, 2009
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