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Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, a detailed study and analysis

Updated on August 24, 2012

Detailed study of major themes in Frankenstein

Click the link below for a detailed analysis of the novel Frankenstein

Frankenstein: how science, technology and new way of learning kills humanity

Frankenstein monster, the child of technology
Frankenstein monster, the child of technology

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein

Frankenstein study

Frankenstein is a scintillating novel that speaks about the oppressive forces in the society. We can see oppressive forces operating in the novel that ultimately made it a tragedy. These opposing forces damaged the entire show as no good things happened in the entire story. Growth of science and technology is portrayed as an oppressive force that oppresses the gentle humanity. This dangerous growth of technology is found to be enslaving the aspects of humanity in this novel. Technology acts as an autonomous force that enchains the natural humane forces. The characters of the novel include Victor Frankenstein, Robert Walton, Victor Frankenstein, The monster, Alphonse Frankenstein, Elizabeth Lavenza, Henry Clerval, William Frankenstein, Justine Moritz, Caroline Beaufort, Beaufort, Peasants, M. Waldman, M. Krempe, Mr. Kirwin (Shelley, 1816–1817).

Frankenstein summary

In the novel Frankenstein, the main character Victor Frankenstein (the doomed protagonist who is the narrator of the major portion of the story) attempted to go beyond the accepted human limit. Victor’s strange quest for knowledge made him give birth to a dangerous ugly-looking monster that took away from him everything he loved. A similar endeavor was done by Robert Walton (the Arctic seafarer whose letters open and close the novel) who tried to surpass all previous human explorations and discoveries by attempting to reach the North Pole. The forces of innovation ignore the established theories of tradition and propagate widely. The scientific innovations in Frankenstein constitute a new way of understanding. The dangerous pursuit of knowledge is the central theme of the novel Frankenstein. Victor tried to go beyond accepted human limits. He tried to access the secret of life. This ruthless pursuit of knowledge and its dangerous consequences is the core of the novel. The careless application of knowledge resulted in the destruction of everyone that is close to him. The moral of the novel Frankenstein isthat the crazy thirst of knowledge is destructive.

Frankenstein analysis

Frankenstein new way of learning

The new way of knowing or the innovations in Frankenstein was the result of Victor’s desire to access the secret of life. The result was expected to be advantageous as Victor only had good intentions while making the monster Frankenstein. Innovations or the new way of learning is advantageous in most cases even though it contradicts with the element of tradition. The new way of leaning has equipped the society with various useful elements. Innovations give life to the society. A world without innovations cannot be dreamt even. Here in the novel Victor is employing this new way of learning to understand the secret of life.

Frankenstein and technology

The new way of leaning, at the same time, is destructive in several cases as it happens in the novel. In the novel we find that Victor’s chase for knowledge created the monster that brought nothing but destruction. The innovative force in the novel destroyed the cultural elements completely. The innovative force gives birth to a perilous oppressive power that disguises as a new technological element. The monster Frankenstein represents the technological force that was constantly attempting to trample the traditional or cultural elements. During those days the European view of technology (during the time of the novel Frankenstein) was more or less like a monster or gigantic force that harms the culture, tradition and nature in every possible way. The human made technology also has turned out to be curse for humanity like this monster made by Victor. The technology that was supposed to be a liberating force turned out to be a curse for humanity as it crushes the forces of culture and tradition.

Frankenstein quotes

Human beings make tools and techniques that do not work well for them. Technology fails human beings. They try to answer with technology, problems above problems. Man uses technology to conquer world. Technology in turn makes man fail before it. Man is not controlling technology. It is technology that controls man. In Frankenstein we see the monster assuming the shape of a giant, comparing himself to Satan and Adam. Here we read a quote from John Milton’s Paradise Lost “Did I request thee, Maker, from my clay to mould me Man, did I solicit thee from darkness to promote me? (Shelley, 1816–1817, p. 743–745).” Here also his creator Victor rejects the monster, like Adam. This question shows the monster’s ill will towards its monster for forsaking him in a world that is hostile towards him. He considers victor responsible for his ugliness and becomes hostile towards him. Wee see Walton remembering the words of the monster “I, the miserable and the abandoned, am an abortion, to be spurned at, and kicked, and trampled on (Shelley, 1816–1817).” These words indicate that monster is an unwanted life being abandoned by its creator. Many of the novel technological innovations have a similar end. They are also unwanted things that can bring nothing but destruction and disaster.

Frankenstein characters, Monster in Frankenstein

There are various monstrous entities in the novel, Frankenstein that is more dangerous than the real monster. Perilous knowledge is an example. We can also say that Victor himself is a monster. His selfishness, secrecy, and strange ambition separated him from the human society and made him engage in activities that harmed him to death. He is indeed a monster inside. He finally created his own creation and tried to escape from its consequences. He recognized the fault only because the monster turned against him. He would have never minded if the monster created problems for strangers (and not to him). Victor does not seem to have any good intention in the creation of the monster. He was just behind the cruel thrill of dangerous inventions. He is also a monster, may be more dangerous than the real one. He represents another oppressive force that negatively influences the value, peace and prosperity of the human race. According to the novel the cruel longing for knowledge, of the light (Light and Fire) is obviously unsafe. Abnormal knowledge track or abuse of technology makes mankind deprived of everything they have. Victor gained nothing and lost everything he had. He was out of a decent family and had every means to be happy. Similar is the fate of human beings. Nature has bestowed them with everything that they need to be happy. Still there originates ruthless quest for knowledge in the mind of few who father the oppressive forces that disturbs the peace, prosperity and well-being of human beings in earth.

Frankenstein story, the story of oppressive forces in the society

In the novel Frankenstein several innocent people are oppressed, literally as well as allegorically. The oppressive force, the monster, kills Victor brother William. Victor’s new wife Elizabeth, the gentle one is also killed by the monster. Both these characters (William and Elizabeth) represent gentle humanity in the novel. Victor himself is afflicted. The novel altogether became oppressed. Frankenstein is a novel about oppressive forces. Dangerous pursuit of knowledge and cursed human inventions are the oppressive forces operating in the novel. Humanity or human beings are oppressed (literally and allegorically) in the novel. The oppressive force, the monster stands at the center of the action. He was rejected by the society. He starts dangerous activities because of his grotesque appearance and because of his perverted or abnormal manner of the creation. He is out of strange chemicals and stolen body parts. Monster is the result of dark, supernatural workings and is not the pure result of collaborative scientific efforts. This dark supernatural working is another oppressive force that troubles human beings and leads them to destruction and death.

Frankenstein novel, the clash between tradition and innovation

Traditions or cultural forces prepare the background for literary inheritance. Tradition or a sequence of traditions interweave and develop a setting that gives birth to literary works that are exhibitions of the complex blend of cultures, beliefs and practices. It is nothing but this cultural mix that has influenced the cultural inheritance of poets, authors and playwrights. The celebrated protagonists in novels and the unforgettable figures in plays and short stories are the readymade products of this cultural synthesis. Even though it is true that various contemporary forces have influenced the literature figures, the strong cultural forces are the real parents of the literary figures. As the cultural forces constitute the core force in a literary work any innovative move taken in the theme would be interesting. A clash between tradition and innovation is sure to be found in such a setting. Such a setting is found in the novel Frankenstein. The theme of the novel is nothing but a fierce battle between the traditional force and the innovative force of science and technology. The innovative force is portrayed in the novel as an oppressive force that attempt to destroy the force of tradition or culture. We can see oppressive forces operating in the novel that ultimately made it a tragedy. The oppressive force of innovation clashes with the cultural force in the novel. Growth of science and technology is always threatening to the cultural force that operates at the lower or foundational levels of all societies. This dangerous growth of technology is found to be enslaving the aspects of culture and tradition in this novel Frankenstein. Technology acts as an autonomous force that enchains the natural humane forces.

Frankenstein criticism

Critiques accuse Frankenstein as a feministic novel

Anne K. Mellor's Mary Shelley: Her Life, Her Fiction, Her Monsters, published in 1988 critiques the work Frankenstein. She says that Frankenstein is rapidly becoming an essential text for our exploration of female consciousness and literary technique. She again says that the novel is a warning that it is the responsibility of man to control the developments in technological field. Mellor criticizes Mary Shelly and says that "Mary Shelley was aware of the damaging consequences of scientific, objective, alienated view of both nature and human labor" (114).

Mellor's criticism do not appear to be valid. The arguments of Mary Shelley do not appear to have any gender touch. None of the arguments of Mellor about Frankenstein seems to be genuine. Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar in Horrors Twin: Mary Shelley's Monstrous Eve says that Mary Shelley's "waking dream accompanied her precipitious entrance into teenage motherhood" (116) and therefore attempts to prove that Frankenstein is a feministic novel. All these criticisms are blind, uncivilized and wrong. The argument that Frankenstein is feministic is neither academic nor constructive. Mary Shelley is trying to prove a non-feministic concept in Frankenstein. She is trying to prove that the rapid technological growth and the corresponding inventions have restricted man to be ‘mere cogs in the social machine’. The arguments of Shelly have nothing to do with feminism. It is impossible for a genuine criticizer to find a feministic cause in Frankenstein. I would like to disagree with any criticism that says that Frankenstein is a feministic novel.


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    • dhannyya profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago

      thanks tillsontitan for your encouraging comment

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 

      6 years ago from New York

      I am a big fan of Frankenstein and still amazed at the tender age Mary Shelley wrote this novel.

      I think Victor is the evil character in this novel. He tries to play God without worrying about the consequences then tries to run and hide when things go wrong.

      I found your hub and hypothesis very interesting and voted it up and interesting.


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