Frankenstein: Philosophizing on the Nature Human

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In her author’s note, Mary Shelley tells of the motivation that lit the spark for what would become one of the most famous novels of all time. Interestingly enough, Frankenstein was the result of a bet between four noted writers of the time: Mary (of course), her husband Percy Shelley, Lord Byron, and John Polidori. They all agreed to write a ghost story, and of the four Mary was the only one to finish. She writes that she wanted a story that would rival all other ghost stories. She said that she wanted to write a story that would, “…speak to the mysterious fears of our nature and awaken thrilling horror…” (Shelley, xxiii). In fact, if one were to take English author M. R. James’ points of what makes a true ghost story, then Frankenstein is a perfect ghost story. There are five points that he makes: 1. it has to have a pretense of truth, 2. No gratuitous bloodshed or sex, 3. No “explanation of the machinery”, 4. setting must be of the writer’s own day, and 5. “A pleasing terror”. It is this last point that James says is “the true aim of the ghost story.” Shelley, before she started writing, was set on making this her main purpose of the novel. The result of her toils is a novel that explores the argument of Nature vs. Nurture through her two main characters, Victor and the Monster, by creating them in the image of the two major arguments of the human condition in the 18th and 19th century.

On one side, there’s Victor. He is very easily described as an ambitious and bright young man, both that can be positive attributes of his character. However, both of these turn out to contribute to his hubris, in that after he discovers the “cause of generation and life” (Shelley, 37) he distances himself from society, locking himself in a “s...

... middle of paper ... scratch the surface in Frankenstein. We think about them all the time. We see a murderer on the evening news and we think to ourselves, “What if that was me?” These fears we have of our nature are forever present, and we always hope that we’re never presented a situation in which they could reveal themselves. It could be the fear that one is a coward and deciding to save ourselves, or being a hero to someone else if there ever is a horrible tragedy. Mary Shelley, no matter how good of a writer she is, would never be able to weave all of the fears we have of ourselves, or each other, in a single book. They are stacked upon one another, a leaning tower, threatening to crash upon us when a situation is most dire. Frankenstein’s creation is unable to hide these traits within himself, he accepts them for what they are, and has no qualms about causing pain in others.

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