Frankenstein: Mary Shelley's Ability to Create Sympathy for the Monster

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Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is ‘one of the pioneering works of modern science fiction’, and is also a frightening story that speaks to the ‘mysterious fears of our nature’. Mary Shelley mocks the idea of “playing God”, the idea that came from the Greek myth of Prometheus, of the Greek titan who stole Zeus’ gift of life. Both the story of Frankenstein and Prometheus reveal the dark side of human nature and the dangerous effects of creating artificial life. Frankenstein reveals the shocking reality of the consequences to prejudging someone. The creature’s first-person narration reveals to us his humanity, and his want to be accepted by others even though he is different. We are shown that this ‘monster’ is a ‘creature’ and more of a human than we think.

It is in the complex structure of the novel that Mary Shelley creates sympathy. We shift from Robert Walton to Victor Frankenstein to the monster and finally back to Walton. With each shift of perspective, the reader gains new information about both the facts of the story and the reliability of the narrator. Each perspective adds pieces of information that only they knows: Walton explains the circumstances of Victor’s last days, Victor explains his creation of the monster, the monster explains his turn to evil. This impact of the change of narration gives us a better understanding of each person, and we see that the monster is not such a monster at all.

We begin with Victor’s story, firstly of his past family life and then the build up to his immoral creation, his scientific motives. We see what drove him to this terrible crime, and we are given an insight into his ‘dangerous’ passion. He wanted to create life, to make a human being, and increase his knowledge of science. These am...

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...h him, because we do not truly know how he felt. We know that he felt unloved and that he cannot even face to love himself, whereas we have always received love from our parents and the creature never received this. He was always alone, he never even had a companion of his own species which had ‘the same defects’ .The creature does not want to be alive any more, as he does not love the world he lives in any more, and this is the world we live in.

I think this is how Mary Shelley wanted to achieve ‘thrilling horror’, she created a monster that was so different to us on the outside but on the inside was very much alike, and it is frightening that we never really notice what he is like on the inside until the end. We now realise that from judging someone, it can have long lasting and damaging effects on them, and this is something that we can learn from Mary Shelley.

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