Frankenstein, was written in 1817 by Mary Shelley. Mary Shelley has been “described as a modern pagan. She rejected the God of the Bible. ” Shelley wrote this book from the view of tabula rasa, or, in English, “the blank slate.” Tabula rasa is the idea that human beings are born without any form of knowledge, and therefore everything we know, comes from perception or experience. This idea was very popular at the time and was supported by Shelley, Stevenson, Thoreau and other romantic writers.
Tabula rasa says that man is inherently good. When God is taken out of the picture, this is what we are left with. Something must determine good, and if it isn’t God, it is man. Tabula rasa falls under humanism, the idea that man is supreme and is basically good. This idea is extremely obvious in Frankenstein. Frankenstein’s monster makes this clear when he says, “For a long time I could not conceive how one man could go forth to murder his fellow or even why there were laws and governments but when I heard details of vice and bloodshed, my wonder ceased and I turned away with disgust and loathing.” The monster is saying that he has no concept of evil and only understands good. This is evident by the monsters inclination to want to help people, by chopping fire wood for the family he observed, and by saving the child from drowning.
The monster was “born” good. He only wanted to do well, and help others. In his mind and heart there was no desire to hurt another living thing. He had no understanding or concept of evil, until he was introduced to it by first his creator and by the world. The monster became a monster by seeing the worlds actions and responding to them in a negative way: murder. “Remember, the monster of Frankenstein was basically a good monster. He couldn’t understand why men behaved badly…he behaved altruistically. And then finally as a result of bad environmental influences, the good monster went bad- but his behavior was not his fault. The world that shunned him was responsible.”
If man is so good, why do people murder, steal and lie? The answer is not, according to the humanist, “Inherent sinfulness,” but, “its societies fault.” When you have a world of basically good people, how do you get evil? The answer is humans are basically good but are also motivated by self-interest. From the time that we are born, we are learning this principle of wanting what we do not have and doing anything to get it. This is how we get a society full of evil. From childhood, society is changing and molding us and our environment is causing us to make wrong choices and hurt people. The monster claims that he is “malicious because I am miserable.” This ignores the concept of personal responsibility and taking responsibility for our own choices and instead shifts them onto our environment.
This idea of personal responsibility or the lack thereof comes up quite a bit in Frankenstein. Victor’s monster goes on a murder spree and kills several people all because first, his creator rejected him and didn’t nurture and love him, and secondly because the society he was forced into rejected him and hated him. This eliminates the monsters personal choice to murder and instead shifts the responsibility onto Victor and the world.
A question arises; does the monster have a soul? Mary Shelley was a humanist. Humanists deny the existence of a God, eternity, or a soul. With this background, we can assert that from the author’s point of view, the monster had no soul. What we have right now is all we get; when we die we cease to exist. This is a huge motivation to behave however you want. Because there is no afterlife, your actions today don’t matter.
Contrary to the beliefs of Christian-Judeo thought, the humanist believes that you can make yourself good once again. Although society has already corrupted your blank slate, by improving environmental factors and limiting stressful situations and cutting “toxic “people out of your life, you can put yourself back on the path to becoming good. There is no need for a savior. The monster shows this when he requests Victor to make him a mate, someone who would show him love in the way he wished to be loved. His maliciousness would cease and he would do no more wrong if he could just be loved. By being loved and nurtured as he wished, his evil nature would cease to exist and he would become good once again.
As Christians, we have many objections to the worldview of Frankenstein. First off, we know that God exists, a loving, personal, knowable, all powerful God that created all, and instilled his nature into his greatest creation: man. Man is created in the image of God. This is what separates us from the beasts. We are born, not with a blank slate but with an understanding of right and wrong. We are not born basically good, but instead we are born sinful, we need no exposure to evil to become ourselves evil. It is part of our nature to do wrong.
As Christians we know that our choices are our own, and we cannot blame our environment or our parents for our own choices that we make to lie, steal and kill. As part of the image of God, we have an eternal soul, one that will be judged for the choices that we make. Because of our sinful nature, we cannot make ourselves good, no matter how hard we try to improve our circumstances or environment. Finding the perfect mate, being loved, or hiding away in the jungles of south America or the snowy expanse of the northern or southern pole cannot change your sinful, broken corrupt nature. No amount of good deeds can make up for your sin. Only through the saving blood of Jesus Christ can we be made sinless, and spotless: perfect.
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