Shelly’s Frankenstein Essay, Research Paper

In the world we live in, it is nothing new to hear of young men fathering

children and then disappearing, leaving the child to be raised without a father.

A term for these filial flunkies has even become a part of our vernacular; the

?deadbeat dad.? Mary Shelley?s Frankenstein is a novel concerning the

creation of life by a man, and his refusal to take responsibility for the life

he has created. Victor Frankenstein, in his abandonment of his own creation at

its ?birth? and in his rejection of that creation when it seeks him out, is

that parent who is not there for his child. Shelley?s Frankenstein, in those

passages of the creation of the monster and the monster?s confrontation of

Frankenstein, contain ample proof that Victor Frankenstein was indeed a

?deadbeat dad.? Shelley shows that Frankenstein rejects his creation, is

disgusted by it and doesn?t offer the parental guidance, love and compassion

the creature so badly needs. Frankenstein?s abandonment of a being of his own

creation directly leads to his personal downfall. When the reader reaches the

creation of the monster in the novel, it is known that Frankenstein has not

previously fathered a child. Frankenstein is actively engaged in this task of

creating a living being out of inanimate flesh, he wants to bring life forth, it

doesn?t happen as an accidental occurrence. This is important to note in that

Shelley sets up Frankenstein as one who willingly brings life into the world.

Chapter Five begins with Frankenstein?s account of the night he created the

monster, or as he says: ? It was on a dreary night of November that I beheld

the accomplishment of my toils? (p.42). Right off, Shelley gives us two ideas

about Frankenstein as a father figure. First of all, we know that Frankenstein

looks back on that night he brought life into the world, and he remembers it as

?dreary.? This immediately sets the scene as an unpleasant one, a tone that

will last throughout this passage. Secondly, we know that Frankenstein has been

indeed working for this end in that he calls it the ?accomplishment of his

toils.? Frankenstein then recalls how he felt about what he had accomplished:

?How can I describe my emotions at this catastrophe, or how delineate the

wretch whom with such infinite pains and care I had endeavoured to

form??(p.42). It would be an understatement to say he is disappointed.

Frankenstein calls his creation of a new life a ?catastrophe.? He describes

the being he has willingly, even wantonly created as a ?wretch.? It is

interesting that Frankenstein describes the physical appearance only, and that

is what is so horrific to him. Shelley uses this idea that Frankenstein sees his

creation as a ?wretch? and ?catastrophe? to show that he is already, at

the moment of creation, forgetting his parental responsibilities. The saying

goes all children are beautiful to their parents?not so for Frankenstein.

After this description of how visually disgusting Frankenstein finds his own

creation, he then talks about how hard he worked to bring it to life: ?I had

worked hard for nearly two years, for the sole purpose of infusing life into an

inanimate body. For this I had deprived myself of rest and health. I had desired

it with an ardour that far exceeded moderation? (p. 42). Once again we are

told that Frankenstein wanted to accomplish this, he wanted to bring life into

the world and now that it is here, staring him in the face, he doesn?t like

how it looks. Furthermore, we get the feeling that he is resentful of the

creature, because he has worked so hard, and the creature is such a

disappointment to him. This feeling is increased in the continuation of that

same line: ??now that I had finished, the beauty of the dream had vanished,

and breathless horror and disgust filled my heart? (p.42). It is as if an

exchange has taken place, the life, the ?breath,? that Frankenstein gave his

creature has been replaced with ?horror.? With this passage, Shelley

parallels the idea of expectation versus reality that occurs with new parents.

Frankenstein?s dream of creating new life has in reality, become his

nightmare. Shelley shows Frankenstein to be a father who is not at all happy

with his child, and here based solely on its appearance. Frankenstein starts out

as not only a bad father, but also quite a shallow one. And how does

Frankenstein now deal with the situation? He runs away and goes to sleep as he

is ? unable to endure the aspect of the being I created? (p.42). This is not

exactly the zenith of fatherhood. Frankenstein is visited by nightmares during

this sleep, in one of which he sees his dead and rotting mother. Shelley may be

telling us here that the nurturing abilities of Frankenstein himself as a father

and parent are dead as well. The female, and especially, the mother, is seen as

the wellspring of compassion even today, but the feeling was much stronger when

Shelley was writing, as male/female roles were more rigidly defined in the 19th

century. Shelley was raised without her own mother (she died giving birth to

Mary), so she had first hand experience of the loss of a parent. Frankenstein

wakes to find his new creation standing over his bed and the newborn tries to

speak and even smiles at his creator. Frankenstein, in recounting the tale,

doesn?t see this as an act of a new being looking for the guidance and

protection of his parent and the joy of finding him. Through his language we can

tell that Shelley tries to convey the disgust and contempt Frankenstein has for

his creation: ?His jaws opened, he muttered some inarticulate sounds, while a

grin wrinkled his cheeks? (p.43). Frankenstein does not see a newborn trying

to gurgle words to its father, he hears muttering. Frankenstein does not see a

smile, but instead a wrinkled grin. The fact that the creature is full-grown and

somewhat more of a science project than a newborn baby does lower the parental

expectations the reader has of Frankenstein. However, Shelley does convey the

idea that Frankenstein is not living up to his responsibility to his creation.

Through the language he uses, we can tell what Frankenstein feels for his

creation. Shelley chooses the harsher words to convey the contempt that is

there. Frankenstein wants no part of this creature and he runs from it, in his

final flee from fatherhood: ?I escaped and rushed downstairs? (p.43). It is

interesting that Shelley has Frankenstein use the word ?escaped.? This

further shows his desire to be free of the responsibilities of fatherhood, to

?escape? the duties he willingly brought upon himself. Frankenstein?s

answer to the realization of fatherhood is to ?escape.? In Frankenstein,

Mary Shelley has given us a picture of a father who is so shocked by the

horrible appearance of the being that he has created, he wishes to ?escape?

the responsibilities that creating that life entail. We know that Victor

Frankenstein became the creator of life willingly, but when he was faced with

his ?offspring,? he treated it with disgust and contempt. The passage

Shelley uses to illustrate this is the creation of the monster episode. Through

Frankenstein?s actions and language we see that he is indeed remiss in his

duties as a father. The consequences of this abdication of duties are the deaths

of Frankenstein?s friends and family members, and ultimately his own personal

ruin. Mary Shelley graphically demonstrates the price of being a ?deadbeat


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