Like Dostoyevsky’s ‘Crime and Punishment’, ‘Frankenstein’ is one of those books whose storylines are quite simple,but whose beauty lies in the depth of the subjects they treat. Indeed,while Doestoyevsky was an eminent psychologist of literature, Shelley was a keen observer of humankind. Her book is filled with observations that remind us of the greatest spectator of human nature:Hamlet.They are profound,evoke pathos and most importantly,are truisms.These are the reasons why the proses in Frankenstein are among the best I have ever read.
During the 19th century, an era in which several prominent writers lived, chemistry was still a nascent science.Thus,it is no wonder it captured the fascination of many a person and was subject to various speculations.Indeed, it was a common view,at that time, that supernatural occurrences could take place in gloomy laboratories filled with unknown substances and ambitious apparatuses. While most authors used the failure of scientific experiments only as a catalyst to their plots, Mary Shelley used science not only to move hers,but also to spotlight a human flaw.Indeed,Dr Frankenstein’s application of his mastery of chemistry to bestow life on a corpse shows how power can degenerate into hubris.Moreover,despite his Christianity, his hubris draws him to the performance of a sinful act: ”A new species would bless me as its creator and source;many happy and excellent natures would owe their beings to me. No father could claim the gratitude of his child so completely as I deserve theirs.” In fact,Shelley touches a sensible subject here: when a power so great as science befalls the hands of man, he will aspire to become the omnipotent being Himself (God),by adopting the tasks hitherto held by Him.Besides,today’s medical concepts bear testimony to such a fact: euthanasia, abortion and genetic engineering have all become realities. In this regard, Shelley highlights a crude truth: hubris knows no limit and can lead the powerful man to act as God,but like Frankenstein failed in creating perfection,the hubristic man is bound to fail in his attempt to emulate God.
If ”Frankenstein” was all about the conflict between a monster and its creator, the book would not even be half as big as it is now. Apparently, Shelley only uses this conflict as a basis for her ‘macabre’ story (remember the challenge of Lord Byron) and incorporated in it her usual Shakespearean style. Just like the experiment of Dr Frankenstein spotlights a human flaw, so does the monster’s encounter with humans. We,humans,tend to alienate those who are different from us,out of insecurity,fear and hatred.But,why do we feel insecure?Why do we fear? Why do we hate? Such are the questions that Shelley subtly asks through the monster’s sad narration of his life. As a matter of fact, when taking into account the short story of the monster and the family, we find that the author’s stance on such an alienation couldn’t be any clearer.Indeed, Felix beats the monster,unaware that the latter helped him,yet he is victim of a great betrayal from the Turk.Likewise, the blind De Lacey acknowledges the creature’s goodness,yet Felix sees in him only a monster which deserves hatred. This ‘story-within-a story’-which so reminds us of Hamlet’s ‘play-within-a-play’-highlights an irony here: man hates the different ones on the grounds that they are apparently-because of their difference-harmful beings,yet it is man who is his own enemy.
In this respect, Mary Shelley’s ”Frankenstein” revolves around the respective themes of hubris and alienation,insofar as to drive us to think unlike Felix: despite all its murders, we shouldn’t be quick to deem the creature a villain. On the same line of thought, the frightening factor of the book does not emanate from the monster itself,but rather from the thought that such a monster was born from human flaws.Indeed,Victor Frankenstein created a creature,but it was his attitude, coupled with those of other people,that turned it into a monster. Herein lies the moral of ”Frankenstein”.