The next aspect that of the book that is important to my paper is the relationship between Victor and Frankenstein. To understand this, we first must understand each character. Victor is obsessed with the idea of recreating life.
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After he fills this obsession, he falls into depression and fear due to how monstrous his creation turned out to be: I took refuge in the courtyard belonging to the house which I inhabited; where I remained during the rest of the night, walking up and down in the greatest agitation, listening attentively, catching and fearing each sound as of it were to announce the approach of the demoniacal corpse to which I had so miserably given life(Shelley, 36). He returns home after leaving school, only to find that tragedy had followed him home.
He then dedicates the rest of his life to destroying his creation, the very thing that fueled his curiosity and love for alchemy. Victor’s character reveals his internal romanticism, despite his obsession with the unnatural and synthetic life. Victor’s ambitions and desires emphasize aspects of romanticism. Victor’s dream to discover are shown in his childhood ideals: The world was to be a secret which I desired to divine. Curiosity, earnest research to learn the hidden laws of nature are among the earliest sensations I can remember(Shelley, 18). The Romantic viewpoint of innocent childhood dreams and thoughts before corruption can be seen throughout Victor’s tale, as well as his regret and horror at his ambition’s corruption. Victor’s interest in alchemy and his goals to alter nature itself forecasts his godlike opinion of himself and his abilities.
In the novel, Victor proclaims, By one of those caprices of the hand, which we are perhaps most subject to in early youth, I at once set down natural history which could never even step within the threshold of real knowledge(Shelley, 22), which can be connected back to the corruption of youth, as well as Victor’s elevated sense of his social superiority. Shelley emphasizes the dangers of alchemy and going against nature and by using Victor’s character as a symbol of the horrors and dangers of the unnatural and all views considered unromantic. With this being said, we cannot ignore the other aspects of Victor’s character that relate to a Gothic background, seeing as this paper is not dismissing of either genre.
Key aspects of a Gothic protagonist that can be seen in Victor are: an absolute goal or aim, links to the supernatural, and a tragic flaw. The first two are relating back to his love and curiosity of alchemy and his drive to create life. His tragic flaw, which is his ambition and God-complex, create his downfall and depressive state. Victor is his own downfall. Though the two genres work hand in hand for some of Victor’s character traits, Romantic ideals and characteristics more heavily impact his structure and roots. As for Frankenstein, he is chased and feared by society and denied by his creator, Victor.
This denial causes the monster to commit murder on Victor’s family, causing the chase between the two. Frankenstein can be seen as a Romantic hero because of the rejection he faces from society. Wherever he goes, he is chased away because of his hideous appearance and his huge size. Shelley uses this to show readers how many people in conventional society reject the less than average who live on the borders of our society. Shelley uses her writing to get a sympathetic response for a creature so misunderstood from the reader: The human senses are insurmountable barriers to our union. If I cannot inspire love, I will cause fear.” (Shelley 173).
The monster tries to fit into a regular community, but because he is hideous to look at and does not know the social standards, he can never become part of mainstream society. Frankenstein tries to overcompensate for his lack of knowledge and isolates himself, except for when contact is necessary. Shelley also connects Frankenstein and The Rime of the Ancient Mariner several times in her novel to relate her misguided monster with Coleridge’s ancient Mariner, like in chapter 5 where Victor quotes, Like one, on a lonesome road who, Doth walk in fear and dread, And, having once turned round, walks on, And turns no more his head; Because he knows a frightful fiend Doth close behind him tread(Shelley, 36).
Shelley intentionally relates her novel to one of the most genuine Romantic works and uses references all throughout her novel. Moving forward to examine the relationship between monster and creator, the characters seem to bridge the mortal world and the supernatural world. The Frankenstein monster seems to have a form of communication between himself and his creator, because the monster appears wherever Victor goes. The monster also moves with amazing speed, matching Victor in speed in the chase towards the North Pole. Thus, this aspect of relationship is gothic. Another important aspect of this relationship which falls under Romantic is the God-Adam roles they have. Religion is something that will be more heavily focused on later. Frankenstein is the Adam of this story and Victor is God. In the novel, Frankenstein comes across the Bible, reads the story in Genesis and compares himself to Adam. He is created by his master as a fulfillment of purpose and dream, only to be cast aside.
The temptations of the real world overcome him. For Victor, it is not satisfying enough to study philosophy and science and follow a respectable profession, he must perfect the role of the scientist by attempting to accomplish the impossible, a process which is inevitably flawed due to the fact that overstepping human boundaries has significant consequences. Shelley’s Frankenstein is not a mad scientist but a scientist who is passionate about the first questions of his time. In his Romantic search for scientific ideal, the perfect human, he creates a monster, who is held in check by systems that humans have created.
While these systems are more concrete and based in reality than the creation of the monster, they are equally imperfect. In a twist on the typical romantic text, which, ends on a thoughtful, meditative note, this novel ends with the characters having effected no significant resolution amongst themselves. They have all realized the impossibility of striving against the roles which they have been given in life, and they do not seem to be able to identify any other options for themselves. While this novel is a good example of the romantic period in that it uses a highly stylized and dramatized frame, more focused on the ideas of the fantastic and mystical than those of the real, the story becomes an allegory for very real emotions and struggles with which romantic writers were deeply preoccupied.
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