The Monster’s Birth in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein

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In the Romantic novel Frankenstein by Mary Shelly, the selection in chapter five recounting the birth of Dr. Frankenstein’s monster plays a vital role in explaining the relationship between the doctor and his creation. Shelley’s use of literary contrast and Gothic diction eloquently set the scene of Frankenstein’s hard work and ambition coming to life, only to transform his way of thinking about the world forever with its first breath.

In this specific chapter, Victor's scientific obsession appears to be a kind of dream, one that ends with the creature's birth. Up until this point in the novel, Frankenstein has been playing god; he cannot-- or will not-- recognize that his obsession with “infusing life” into an inanimate body is fundamentally wrong. Shelley’s implement of stark contrast between the beauty of life and the ugliness of death (and thus his creature) plays an important role in illuminating Frankenstein’s reaction to the birth of his creation. The contrast used in this section words as a literary tool to describe Frankenstein’s descent from science into madness. The beauty that he saw in nature represents his love for science, while the wretchedness of his creation represents his immense fear of death. This contrast is necessary to understand Frankenstein’s personality in this scene. Frankenstein ironically describes his monster as “beautiful”, as was his intention during his previous work, while invoking an image of true horror in his description of a patchwork corpse that he himself is disgusted by (Shelley 60). The contrast between the creature’s features, from his proportionate limbs and “pearly” white teeth to his “watery” eyes and “straight black” lips, shows the attractive human qualities Frankenstein saw i...

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...paranoid state (61). As “horror and disgust” replace Frankenstein’s ambitions, his experience with his creation becomes his version of hell (61).

At the moment of his birth, the creature is entirely innocent; he affectionately reaches out to Frankenstein, which is interpreted as a hostile movement, only to have the latter violently abandon him. Despite his appalling appearance, his “wrinkled” grin is as guiltless as a newly-born child which, in a sense, is precisely what he is to Frankenstein (61). With the rejection of his monster based solely on a personal appearance that epitomizes everything Frankenstein fears in his life, the reader begins to recognize the profoundly unethical character of Frankenstein's experiment and of Frankenstein himself.

Works Cited

Shelley, Mary. Frankenstein. Johanna M. Smith. 2nd Ed. New York: Bedford/St. Martin’s. 2000. Print.