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Frankenstein by Mary Shelley Essay

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Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is widely hailed as literature’s greatest gothic novel, as well as its first science fiction work. Written by a young woman in answer to a challenge from a circle of male authors (which included her husband, Percy Bysshe Shelley), the tale is drawn from her personal experiences as well as from the writings of other authors. The monster in the story is a multifaceted symbol for humanity’s fears, representing unchecked technology and the un-mothered child, among other things. As a representative of these fears, the monster itself may be described as a doppleganger.

The word doppleganger is taken from the German dopplegänger, meaning “double goer.” It appears as a reflection of a person, an apparition resembling a living being. When it appears, it is often taken as a portent of death, as it was by Elizabeth I when she saw a pale vision of herself lying still upon her deathbed soon before she died (Encyclopedia Mythica, 1). On a larger scale, Frankenstein’s monster could be described as a doppleganger of humanity, personifying our fear of ourselves and of our capabilities. One classic example of a doppleganger is the reflected image seen in a window at night, sometimes mistaken for a prowler. Frankenstein’s monster acts the part of this apparition when he appears to Frankenstein in his new bride’s window on her wedding night after killing her.

The doppleganger that is the monster takes on many forms in terms of what it represents. One of these is the fear of science and its role in relation to God. As scientific advancements were made in the field of medicine, questions arose as to whether or not man should try to perform acts that only God was previously capable of performing. This moral issue is initially ignored by Frankenstein, overshadowed by his zeal for accomplishing his impossible feat of reanimation. After he animates the creature and shuns it for its horrible appearance, it acts on its impulses for revenge. As the story progresses, Frankenstein realizes that he should have thought more carefully before acting, and the repercussions of his dark deed eventually lead him on a self-destructive quest to ultimately attempt to annihilate his own creation. By trying to ascend past his place in God’s universe, Frankenstein, in the end, destroys himself and all that he ever loved....


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...etheus, Adam) and destructor (Satan) of life. (Desert Aine 2, 1-2)

Frankenstein and his abominable creation are two characters inexorably linked with eachother, as father and son, as inventor and invention, and even as reflections of eachother. Their conflict deals with themes of the morality of science and the fears of child birth, and their characters are drawn from a wealth of experience and reading. Shelley’s doppleganger of mankind is like a twisted vision of reality; based in some sense on reality but wildly taken out of proportion, the monster is so inhuman that it cannot reconcile itself with its master or the world of humanity. Its tragic story serves as a warning of what mankind could become as well as a reflection of Shelley’s own personal demons, and her creation has changed the face of literature.

Bibliography:

Desert Aine 1. 3/13/1999. 3/14/1999. http://www.desert-fairy.com/birth.shtml

Desert Aine 2. 3/13/1999. 3/14/1999. http://www.desert-fairy.com/franken.shtml

Encyclopedia Mythica. 3/14/1999. http://pantheon.org/mythica/articles/d/doppleganger.html

Mellor, Anne K. Mary Shelley, her Life, her Fiction, her Monsters. New York: Routledge. 1988.


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