Frankenstein: A Warning Against Masculine Individualistic Freedom Essay

Frankenstein: A Warning Against Masculine Individualistic Freedom Essay

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Frankenstein: A Warning Against Masculine Individualistic Freedom

In this commentary, I wanted to examine a little further the implications of a point brought up in the presentation on Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. They briefly suggested that Victor might occupy a space of idealised masculine freedom; given Victor's less than ideal fate and Mary Shelley's Feminism, such a masculine idealisation becomes highly problematic. Victor holds a privileged social position that allows him a financial and social freedom through which he can choose his occupations at will. In choosing Science, Victor's freedom to experiment holds potential benefit, both for him and for Others. However, I'd suggest that it's Victor's overdetermined sense of individualistic Self that results in a misuse of his freedom and the destruction of his social sphere. Victor's specific type of unfettered individualism results in the ultimate danger of individualism: he shakes off the shackles of social responsibility both literally, in his solitude, and metaphorically, in his failure to acknowledge the possibility that his actions might have some social impact. His ultimate and most dangerous freedom lies in that he is free to consider only his own ambition.

In creating the monster, Victor is, in both of these senses, outside the range of society. Quite literally, he moves away from his family (and his social background) to an unfamiliar space; he achieves an extra measure of freedom in his solitude in Ingolstadt. It is through this solitude that he is able to immerse himself in Science. Even as Victor leaves Geneva for Ingolstadt he believes himself "totally unfitted for the company of strangers" (38) but in Ingolstadt he becomes even more secluded, relating ...

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...108-110). Thus Lucifer's vow in favour of the forces of evil is based on a loss of hope, fear and -- most importantly -- remorse; Frankenstein's Monster does abandon both hope and fear but his remorse is intense. Paradoxically, it is the Monster who is torn by "the bitterest remorse" (170) while Victor refuses it. In the end, Victor's freedom to create in league with his believed freedom from social responsibility makes him not the 'ideal scientist' but a destructive force towards himself, his creation, and his society. Perhaps, as critics have suggested, it is Victor who is the real 'monster' in Mary Shelley's story.

Works cited

Milton, John. "Paradise Lost." John Milton: The Major Works. Ed. Stephen Orgel and Jonathan Goldberg. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2003. 355-618.

Shelley, Mary. Frankenstein. Chatham: Wordsworth Classics, 1999.

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