Analysis of the Classic Novel, "Frankenstein"

Analysis of the Classic Novel, "Frankenstein"

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"Ignorance is bliss" and "knowledge is power" are two proverbs that are both supported and rejected in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. Frankenstein is a romantic ghost story classic written in the 19th century. There are many symbolic actions and themes throughout the book that represent humans and their interactions. The danger of knowledge and the insatiable desire for perfection and discovery almost ruin the lives of three men. Dr. Frankenstein is a student with a strong desire for science and the supernatural. His goals begin to consume him with his wild want to make this creation of Frankenstein. His creation is then a hideous monster that only wants to live as a normal human, but in turn is shunned by society and eventually himself falls into the evil perils of humanity. Shelley uses symbolism and the supernatural to bring out the ignorance that existed in society even in a time of extreme knowledge and learning.

Very often in her book Shelley points out facts about property, the families witnessed by Frankenstein and the doctor are both prominent and wealthy, but also seem to share the fact that a dear friend lost their fortune and were then shunned from society and miserable. This seems to reflect how important wealth and status was to people in Europe in the 19th century. Frankenstein the monster was an outcast and he noted it as not only his grotesque appearance, but also by the fact that he had no property or money to show for and that in itself made him an outsider. The people that were on the inside of society shunned him and did not show any emotion or affection for someone that had nothing. Even the sweet, giving family that he witnessed for over a year shunned his awkwardness and differences. The countrymen were unforgiving of his appearance. Shelley was very active in making you feel sympathetic for the monster and the unfair treatment he encountered. This may, at the time, shown society the deep unfairness of economic status. Also, how harmful a rude and closed off society can be to children, as Frankenstein the monster had to learn everything like a child.

Another underlying issue may be the fact that although many of the women characters in this book were weak and passive, they were also the glue that held these families together.

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Many may argue that all of her women characters were just beautiful, tender, feeble creatures waiting for a man to rescue them. I personally see these women as a modern day housewife. I think Shelley may have even been poking fun at the male characters. They may have all been intelligent, but they were also very stupid in the fact that they lacked common sense and let their mad emotions rule their lives. The men may have had money, but they were always whimsical with an insatiable desire for more and in the end created their own demise. The women always saved the family during loss whether it was loss financially or emotionally. They cared for the men who did not know how to care for themselves. Many times throughout the book the men admitted that it was Elizabeth or Caroline who supported them through the rough times and would get them through the next one.

Some argue that Justine was weak, but I feel she presented herself with dignity and self assurance through the whole trial and being executed does not make her weak, but instead stronger than her male counterpart Dr. Frankenstein who was later released of his charges. Caroline's love and strength to care for her sick daughter does not make her unintelligent or unimportant. She risked her life to save another and though ultimately she lost, her actions can only be seen as honorable and heroic.

The role of gender concerning Frankenstein I believe also supports this theory. It says that yes men can make human life and creation can exist without women, but look at how the creature turned out. He knew not of love, compassion, or tolerance. He was built by men and shunned by men. The monster had no proper education or training; although he tried to be a decent person and belong to the human world it back fired on him. Frankenstein wanted a woman or motherly figure in his life so badly that it too drove him to bouts of insanity. He learned the irrational and violent ways from the books he read and the physical pain he himself experienced. Without a woman to tend to him, instead of a gentle human he was a dangerous, angry monster that killed a child. In Frankenstein, it is the men who go mad, who make foolish decisions and are exiled, the men who do not learn tolerance and patience of others. Perhaps Shelley was very smart, being in 19th century Europe, letting the men imagine they were the stronger characters in her book, but secretly telling women that their efforts and work in the household were no less important or undignified then the men running all through Europe to study.

Shelley brought many issues that may have been disturbing her in those days to light in her book. In a time of Enlightenment and education for men she was able to show that just because you were educated or rich did not mean that you were a wonderful stand up person. That although you may appear perfect it is truly your character and values that makes you of worth in society. Perhaps she was a religious woman who opposed to new scientific discoveries in education. The advancement of science and technology are what created such misery. Many people were both excited and scared about the possibilities of a new technical age or industrial era, most likely it reflected the fears that many had about how it would affect their simple and happy lives. After all, Dr. Frankenstein lived a wonderfully happy and beautiful life before he became enthralled by natural science and new inventions. For a short novel Shelly was able to approach many topics and criticize many issues facing Europe at that time.

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