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Mary Shelley's Sympathy For Frankenstein

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Literature
Wordcount: 1808 words Published: 10th May 2017

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Mary Shelley’s gothic novel, ‘Frankenstein’, was first published in 1818. This was at a point in time, throughout the world, there were advanced changes. Towards the end of the 18th century, the Declaration of Independence was passed in the United States and the French Revolution was taking place. These events impacted society by raising people’s morals and their value of life itself.

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In addition, there were many scientific revolutions as well as Dr James Lind’s experiments where he used electricity to animate dead frogs. Attitudes were changing towards people’s belief in creating life as a result scientific developments. This started a new era of philosophers such as Erasmus Darwin. Shelly might have been influenced by these new ideas because she mentioned galvanism was used by Victor to create the monster.

Gothic horror was a popular genre of use in the time ‘Frankenstein’ was composed. This was also the period when great novels such as ‘Dracula’ and ‘Hound of the Baskervilles’ was published. People allowed themselves to ponder the unimaginable.

Since its anonymous publication in 1818, Frankenstein has been both well-received and groused. It was published anonymously because at the time she published her book, it was inappropriate for women to be writers. She would have been ridiculed if the novel had published it under her name. Her gender was revealed in a later edition in 1831.

Shelley wrote ‘Frankenstein’ while on holiday along with two other writes, Lord Byron and her husband, Percy Shelly, at Villa Diolati by Lake Geneva in Switzerland. She might have been inspired by the location because Victor was raised in Geneva. She might have used this landscape to portray his innocent and joyful childhood.

I think Shelly wrote this book to warn us against transcending the limits of human knowledge in the pursuit of scientific knowledge. The book serves both as a reflection of present times and a warning for the future. However, I do not think Shelley attempts to condemn science itself, but in reality, the misuse and abuse of it. Either way, the novel alerts us to advance with prudence as we continue to explore and create.

Shelly might be trying to convey men are not born evil. In reality, it is the precondition of the world which makes people evil. She shows us this through the monster. In this novel, evil stops being evil; instead, the monster is somebody with whom we can sympathize and understand. In addition, she tells us that creations have fee will, and that the extent of that free will exceed the limits of the inventor’s imagination. As expected, this makes the act of creation a risky and even dangerous- not just for the inventor but also the entire human race. So when we consider the monster in relation to Victor, we are obliged to question who the real hero is and who the villain is.

Her novel is structured so that at first, she writes the story from Victor’s point of view, explaining how was the monster destroyed his family and its entire evil doings. Secondly, she tells the story from the monsters point of view so the reader can see things from the monster’s perception in order to gain sympathy for it. This implicates the reader to learn how he was rejected and deserted by Victor, also how he tried helping people but didn’t acquire anything except for more rejection and misery. Furthermore, the readers sympathise with the monster since he is innocent; he endured suffering as a result of Victor’s fatal ambition. And when the impulsive experiment failed, he turned a blind eye on the monster and failed to take responsibility for his actions.

I will now state how Shelly tries to gain sympathy for the monster in Frankenstein.

Firstly, Shelly tries to create sympathy for the monster through his appearance. Shelly says he is ‘gigantic’, ‘about eight feet’, ‘deformed’ and has ‘black lips’. These words form a hideous and almost unnatural image of the monster in the mind’s eye. This creates sympathy for the monster by making him abhorrent to typical humans. Usually when someone is different in society they are pitied, oppressed or threatened by the majority. Shelley’s use of derogatory descriptions generated sympathy for the monster. Although a part of these terms make the monster sympathetic, I equally feel that if I were to meet the monster, I too would be afraid of him. This is because we were taught to steer clear of ominous looking people since we were young. However, with hindsight, I know the monster isn’t dire but is a person who is compassionate and gentle. On the contrary, instead of creating sympathy, Shelly could be using these terms to deliberately direct the reader to perceive the monster’s appearance reflects its personality- he is malicious and repulsive.

Secondly, Shelley creates sympathy for the monster by the remarks made behind his back. Victor says he has a ‘ghastly grin’ and is a ‘miserable monster’. Victor is essentially saying that since the monster’s appearance seems ugly, the monster itself is evil and must be hated. This makes us sympathise with the monster because his creator, his father, despises him. Shelly expresses sympathy for the monster by using alliteration and powerful adjectives. These words make me feel empathy and sorrow for the monster because it has no one to look out for him. But if the reader could also interpret these quotes differently and take it to imply that the monster is evil and that victor is a pitiable man whose dreams have been shattered.

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Thirdly, she tries to create sympathy through comments said to the monster’s face. Frankenstein exclaims he’s a ‘Devil’, and adds he’s a ‘vile insect’. The reader knows that these are false accusations because the monster has yet done no harm to him. This build sympathy as Victor is prejudice towards the monster. Shelly uses metaphors to create sympathy for the monster. Personally, it makes me want to comfort and help him; he is lonely. All he wants is someone to like him, someone who will treat him like he’s a person, not a thing or an insect. Because Victor does not try to understand the monster, Shelly might be trying to advice us not to judge a book by its cover.

Fourthly, other characters’ actions towards the monster create sympathy for us, Victor ‘sprang on him’ and he ‘flung his hands from his eyes with violence’. This treatment towards the monster makes the reader distressed because the monster was tormented and oppressed since the day it was born. Sympathy is created by Shelly’s use of poignant verbs. This action makes me pity him because we know he is innocent and all he wants is a friend who will acknowledge him as a person instead of a monster. Shelly tries to makes us realise how greatly people can be blinded by appearance.

Fifthly, Characters’ thoughts and reactions to the monster create sympathy for him. The monster says, ‘Who can describe [Felix’s and Safie’s] horror and consternation on beholding me?’.This creates sympathy for the monster because people start to dramatise their fear instead of trying to comprehend him. A rhetorical question is used to create sympathy for the monster here. I believe this reaction effectively gets across the society’s hatred towards him. I feel sorry for the monster as he sounds helpless and unwanted. They did not even give him a chance to utter his reason for being in the cottage and immediately presumed he was doing something terrible.

Sixthly, the monster’s actions create sympathy. He ‘turned away, upset, from a window when he saw a girl lovingly lifted by her father’. We feel sorry for the monster because we see how loving the father was to his child while Frankenstein loathes the monster. Shelly uses alliteration to create sympathy here, ‘window when’, ‘lovingly lifted’. This action makes me realise how human the monster is- he’s vulnerable and desperately needs someone to comfort him. I too would feel the same if people for being myself. He even wept when the family were upset, showing he has feelings for others- not just for himself.

Seventhly, the monster creates sympathy by his speech. He says ‘I was benevolent and good: misery made me a friend’. This create sympathy for the monster because he knows that no matter how good he tries to be, he will always be discarded by society for the way he looks. Shelly uses personification to create sympathy for the monster. In my opinion, this sentence builds tremendous sympathy because he tries very hard to please people. It isn’t his fault the way he looks. People should have given him a chance and judged him on his personality rather than his face. Shelly’s expression of language is compelling as it makes the reader realise how much a person can be affected by other people.

Finally, Shelly creates sympathy for the monster through the way the monster speaks. She say’s his voice is ‘uncouth’. The word explains that the monster has a rough voice and it’s competent of speaking clearly (maybe due to his lack of experience).This create sympathy for the monster because it means that he was not able to receive good education which many take for granted. So here, Shelly uses adjective to get across sympathy for the monster. I feel painful for the monster since he could not express himself properly. However, people could interpret this as the monster being frightening because people generally associate a deep voice as being creepy.

In conclusion, Mary Shelley makes us sympathise for the monster through his abnormal appearance, his child-like behaviour and emotion, his speech and how others react violently towards him. She gets across this by her choice of words and how she expresses each of the characters dynamically. She uses emotive and descriptive language brilliantly. Plus, you’re inclined to feel sympathy for the monster because he constantly receives chances to plead his defence.

In my opinion, Shelley manipulates the reader’s sympathy back and forth between the monster and Victor. It extremely effortless to sympathise with whomever is writing and forget the context of the previous narrator. But overall, I too feel sorry for the monster; there wasn’t one person who could see behind his mask. All he grew to learn was loneliness and to fear humans-it makes us ask, who is the real monster?


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