A'alaa AlMajnouni

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Victor Frankenstein Vs. The Created Monster: A Textual, a Structural, and a Psychological Study

In Uncategorized on December 1, 2011 at 2:25 am

The novel of Marry Shelley’s Frankenstein (1818) carries within itself a great mount of arguments and inclinations from the date of publication till the present day. There are aesthetic phases of this novel, yet some located within its mythological subtitle, its narrative structure, and its deep penetration to the characters’ psychology. Therefore, this paper aims to explore: at first, the interconnection between the novel’s subtitles with its contents. At second, provide a study of the novel narratology in both psychological and structural sides. At third, speculate selected extracts for the reason of explaining how Love and Hatred are treated relating to the character of Victor Frankenstein versus his created Monster.

 

Frankenstein’s tale of the 18th century got a subtitle as The Modern Prometheus. Although different features inspire both titles yet in a way they collaborate to foretell about the environment of the novel. The Prometheus myths according to The Concise Cambridge History of English Literature are two: [1] the Ancient Greek original legend, which the Prometheus challenged the power of gods to help humankind and later suffered horrific punishment. And the [2] Roman version of the myth recounted by Ovid[1], whose character was the Creator of life (Baxter 253).  The role of this subtitle noticeably deals with its first as Frankenstein, and specifically towards the character of Victor. For ‘Victor Frankenstein’ can be compared to the ‘Prometheus’ when he tried to play the role of God, as God is the only owner of power to give or take life, Victor stated: ‘when I found so astonishing a power placed within my hands…I possessed the capacity of bestowing animation’ (51;ch.4).  As the Prometheus stole fire from Zeus[2], Victor used the power of Hurricane to give life to fragmented limps of human. Victor implies: ‘like a hurricane, in the first enthusiasm of success. Life and death appeared to me ideal bounds, which I should first break through, and pour a torrent of light into our dark world’ (52;Ch. 4). As a result we can imply that the two versions of the myths are unified to portray ‘Victor’ as ‘Prometheus’ and specifically a Modern one. Where I personally, find the character of Victor is partially of both; a Greek version when he used the stolen fire imbedded in the Hurricane and partially Roman in the role of being the Creator of life.

 

What is more interesting! Is the extra subtitle Joseph Kestner in his essay “Narcissism as Symptoms and Structure” gave to Frankenstein as ‘The Modern Narcissus’ (70). This innovative title by Kestner deals with the novel psychologically and structurally. He provided an analysis regarding the characters’ interrelation of Captain Walton, Victor Frankenstein and the Monster, who are mainly the narrators of the story. Actually this essay is a critical study based on Richard Sennett’s analysis on Pathological Narcissism in literary works. And this term means as he explained: ‘the Narcissus myth; illustrates that there are rarely one type of individual involved in this pathology: in reality, there are two, one whose reaction evolves an hysterical ‘demon’, another whose symptoms induces a solipsistic, benumbed self-projection’ (69). It’s where Kestner makes Frankenstein as one of the greatest exploration of the pathological narcissism by his character. As I get from the definition: Victor is the rare individual, the person whose got himself into a situational reality where he got a doubled faces, the ‘demon’ and the ‘solipsistic’ – the view or the theory that the self is all that can be known to exist. Accordingly, as brief as Genette emphasizes this concept of Narcissism what noted by Sennett to make Frankenstein applicable to the myth is that: ‘the narcissist desire is to Flee ‘on the next person who is idealized as perfect until he or she begins to care’ (69). True, the novel implies the element to ‘Flight’ because as to Genette the flight is the result of the reflection. How? Is so clear as in (Walton to the pole, Victor from the creature, the creature in pursuit of Victor) and mainly Victor Frankenstein is longing for the other, then the fleeing from the other again; these all are outcomes of the narcissist’s reflection, or a Flight (70).

 

Consequently, and to a further discussion on this myth, Genette again notes: ‘the self is confirmed, but under the species of the other; the mirror image is a perfect symbol of alienation’ (70). To direct us to the question been raised in the essay of Kestner of How does this ‘Mirror image’ become functional as a literary structure? And this exactly what will lead us to the method of narration in Frankenstein. However, many essays had provided answers for the structural presentation of narcissism in literary works, but Jean Ricardou’s “The Story within the Story” is one example at this paper. Ricardou calls this system the mise en abyme when the story comes within another story, this technique; the narrative is ‘imposing on itself in a narcissistic manner’ (71) which makes the novel of Mary Shelley’s a perfect exemplar.

 

More details on the novel’s narrating strategy are by Pitter Brooks’ “What is the Monster?” The essay encloses an understanding around Frankenstein’s narrators. Brook stated his method on Frame narrative structure, it’s a narrative, which involves framed or imbedded tales, then a tale within a tale: at first, in the outer frame, we have Captain Walton writes to his sister Mrs. Seville, and tells us about the meeting of Frankenstein as the Arctic. The second is Victor Frankenstein narrates his story to Walton, yet in the innermost tale is the Monster’s tale to Victor. Then third, the frames resume backside from the Monster, to Victor, then back to Walton writes to his sister (81). To shorten the idea of Frame narrative is as Beth Newman’s visualizes it as ‘receiving a Chinese-box of stories-within-stories’ (168). As a result the narratology in Mary’s novel takes the form of frames structured narrations in order to harmonize the contents of Frankenstein’s events with the novel writing form- or -in other way; the plot with the style. However, this method of narration serves the novel Frankenstein to a next further aspect at this research paper.

 

On the third aspect of this paper, the previous method of telling the story helps a study on the content of Frankenstein tale, which focuses upon the theme of humanity’s deepest feelings! The novel revolves on a redemptive power of Love and Hate, and this interrelation is evidently explained throughout the interconnection between the structure form together with the character of Victor Frankenstein verses his created Monster. By comparing and contrasting the narrators of each frame; the two characters despite the differences, there lays distinct parallelism between Frankenstein and this Monster. They all are exposed in the novel by sharing the love of nature, thirst for knowledge, along with the desire of vengeance. In addition to personal beliefs, where both are find himself victimized, and secluded from society.

 

Hence, we can absorb the love of Nature described in Frankenstein by two; level one is colorfully bright, peaceful and fruitful, while, level two is depressing, monochromic and miserable. In the monster’s request to Victor regard creating a female companion the first level is clearly used: ‘“I swear,” he cried, “by the sun, and by the blue sky of heaven, and by the fire of love that burns my heart, that if you grant my prayer, while they exist you shell never behold me again’ (168; Ch.17) The abandoned Monster used the beauty of nature magnificently and with sensitivity. Given that his dislikable looking, the Monster used the action of fierce love in ‘fire’ and ‘burns’, and promised peacefulness ‘that if you grant my prayer…shell never behold me again’ all by nature to prove his monstrous figure is never harming but appreciable to Nature around him.

Nevertheless this appreciation turned to play level two of melancholy miserable ending stated by the Monster speech: ‘I looked upon them as superior beings who would be the arbiters of my future destiny.’ (127;ch.12) once more hatefully and inhumanity the monster declares after Victor rejected his request and broke his promise: ‘I vowed eternal hatred and vengeance to all mankind’ (159;ch.16) and ‘I cannot believe that I am the same creature whose thoughts. But it is even so; the fallen angel becomes a malignant devil’ (258;ch. 24).

 

On a comparison to the other usage of nature expressed by the character of Victor Frankenstein, we can absorb a combined two levels in one of his speech, stated at the extract below:

The birds sang in more cheerful notes, and the leaves began to bud forth on the trees. Happy, happy earth! Fit habitation for gods, which, so short a time before, was bleak, damp, and unwholesome. My spirits were elevated by the enchanting appearance of nature; the past was plotted from my memory, the present was tranquil, and the future glided by bright rays of hope and anticipations of joy.  (127; Ch. 13)

Victor used at first ‘the birds sang in more cheerful notes, and the leaves began to bud forth on the trees. Happy, happy earth!’ to drive us to wonder, what a pleasant content speech at first! What misery accrued to make Victor ends up his speech with ‘bleak, damp, and unwholesome’. 

 

However, and despite the agreed love of Nature, both of Victor and the Monster himself repulsed and despised the Monster’s physical appearance, clearly shown by the lonesome Monster’s lament “hateful day when I received life!” I exclaimed in agony. “Accursed creator” why did you form a monster so hideous that even YOU turned from me in disgust? (145;Ch.15).  At this point, we can absorb the concept of beauty to Victor and his Monster! The nature for both is more a physical existence, and thus will always be admiralty beautiful. Contrarily to the Monster’s character, the concept of inner beauty crosses to show negligence from the side of Victor and the other, as the cottagers, Victor’s brother William and the rest. They all failed to witness the benevolent within the monster, only the hideous outside of him.

 

Up till now both of them, Victor and the Monster started out with good intentions, which ends up with misfortune! Canonically, begins with the intention of knowledge; Victor’s thirst of knowledge encourages him to study natural science ‘I have described myself as always having been imbued with a fervent longing to penetrate the secrets of nature…I always came from my studies discontent and unsatisfied’ (34;Ch. 2) but his thirsty ambition soon led him astray and desperate, which is clearly described after the creation of his own abhorred creation. Victor Frankenstein at first was megalomaniac by this ecstasy of knowledge, unaware of the outcome where he stated: ‘a new species would bless me as its creator and source; many happy and excellent natures would owe their being to me’ (52;Ch.4). Though victor himself at last suffered an unfortunate death out of agony. Victor Frankenstein here and again is illustrating the Greek Prometheus with his end. For Zeus punished the Prometheus for his crime by having him bound to a rock while a great eagle ate his liver every day only to have it grow back to be eaten again the next day (Roman Jupiter online). Similarly here, Victor is punished by the existence of his created Monster slaughtering his entire beloved ones ‘the death of William, the execution of Justine, the murder of Clerval, and lastly of my wife’ (274;ch.23) to drive Victor to his collision stated ‘In his murder my crimes are consummated; the miserable series of my being is wound to its closed’ (282;ch.24).

 

Still, secondly, and parallel to Victor’s, the family of De Lacey was the resource to the Monster thirst of knowledge. The monster never had a life full of opportunity like Victor’s lavish education. Oppositely he has only this family, De Lacey who played the role of his knowledge, as the monster declared to Victor: ‘such was the history of my beloved cottagers. It impressed me deeply. I learned, from the views of social life which it developed, to admire their virtues and to deprecate the vices of humankind’ (142;Ch.15) and ‘I learned from Werter’s imaginations despondency and gloom, but Plutarch taught me high thoughts; he elevated me above the wretched sphere of my own reflection’ (144;Ch.15).  Although the De Lacey was for him the family, he, the Monster never been considered one for any of their members. Even with his instinct to love and be loved, their reaction to the monster appearance is one of heartbreaking to a monster and hideous to them if not repulsion stated by first stepped emergence at their cottage:

The cottage door was opened, and Felix, Safie, and Agatha entered. Who can describe the horror and concentration on beholding me? Agatha fainted, and Safie, unable to attend to her friend, rushed out of the cottage. Felix darted forward and with a supernatural; force tore me from his father…he dashed me to the ground and struck me violently with a stick.   (151;Ch.15)

 

The novel of Frankenstein steps forward to continue the discussion of Love and Hate interrelations, by expositing a mixture of good interconnected intention considering the personal sanctuary and social acceptance. Then, the character of Victor Frankenstein and of his created Monster, are all agreed to share an inclination to love, and to be loved, but their loving intentions are however, swiftly transformed to hate, grudge and then to isolation at the end. Specifically, Love and Hate join up through the characterizational similarities of both Victor Frankenstein against The Monster. So far hate on the other hand, interconnected with the consequences of the dissimilar environments!

 

Thus, from the very start of the novel we absorbed that Victor has a loving family; ‘No human being could have passed a happier childhood than myself’ (31;Ch.2) whereas the Monster was family-less. Victor again was surrounded with friends, and a lover then a wife – Elizabeth. But the Monster on the contrary was abandoned the moment he was born by his own creator, expressed by the Monster in ‘I, the miserable and the abandoned, am an abortion, to be spurned at, and kicked, and trampled on’ (258;ch.24).  Once again, Victor is isolated by his obsession to work; this work was mainly his passionate process of giving an animated life to the dead ‘I had worked hard nearly two years, for the sole purpose of infusing life into an animated body’ (65;ch.5). Yet this turned up to sorrowful obsession drove Victor to isolation and solitary; ‘everywhere I see bliss, from which I alone am irrevocably excluded’ (128;ch.10) and because the Monster killed off those he loved, the feeling of hate grows harder in him ‘my rage is unspeakable when I reflect that the murderer, whom I have turned loose upon society, still exist’ (279;ch.23).

 

Conversely, the Monster is isolated for another reason that diverged his creator, Victor. The Monster chooses isolation because of his ugly appearance, the one he got from his creator; ‘I am alone and miserable; man will not associate with me; but one as deformed and horrible as myself’ (195;ch.16) which this also led him to held a great mount of hatred towards humankind who abhorred his out looking ‘believe me Frankenstein, I was benevolent; my soul glowed with love and humanity; but an I not alone, miserably alone?’ (168;ch.14).

 

On another phase, heartbreakingly, the Monster asked for his humanist rights as a living creation. He asked out of Love and desperate seclusion for a companionship, embodied as a female-monster lover, and a friend! In spite of his monstrous form, he again used his knowledge, which he acquired by De Lacey to illustrate, that, Satan is Evil embodiment and yet he has companions, if I’m considered as malevolence and danger as if Satan, I’m yet all-alone! Stated is this line; ‘even the enemy of God and man had friends and associates in his desolation; I am alone’ (256;cp.24).

 

To sum up, Marry Shelley’s novel Frankenstein: or the Modern Prometheus illustrated aesthetically the potential of Evil in Human and inhuman beings excessively. The novel within a scientific plot produced two diverged characters whom the first; Victor Frankenstein is the reason of the second character existence, the Monster. Those characters served the paper analyses on certain dimensions; starting form the novel’s titles, passing studying the characters’ approach of narrating the tale, ending with their interconnection humanitarianly.

 

 

Works Cited

 

Gérard Gennette, ‘Complexe de Narcisse’, Figures I (Paris, 1966), pp. 21-2

“Dactylic Hexameter – What Is Dactylic Hexameter.” Ancient / Classical History – Ancient Greece & Rome & Classics Research Guide. Web. 03 Nov. 2011.

Jean Ricardou, ‘L’histoire dans l’histoire’, Problémes du nouveau roman’ (Paris, 1967), p. 172; trans. Joseph Kestner as ‘The Story Within the Story’, James Joyce Quarterly, 18 (1981), p. 323-38.

Richard Sennett, ‘Narcissism and Modern Culture’ October, 4 (1977), 71.

Sampson, George, and Reginald Charles. Churchill. The Concise Cambridge History of English Literature. London: Cambridge U.P., 1970. Print.

Shelley, Mary Wollstonecraft, and David Stevens. Frankenstein, Or, The Modern Prometheus. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1998. Print.

<http://ancienthistory.about.com/od/poets/qt/081309DactylicHexameter.htm&gt;.

“ZEUS : Greek King of the Gods, God of Sky & Weather | Mythology, W/ Pictures | Roman Jupiter.” THEOI GREEK MYTHOLOGY, Exploring Mythology & the Greek Gods in Classical Literature & Art. Web. 03 Nov. 2011. <http://www.theoi.com/Olympios/Zeus.html&gt;.

“Brooks, “What Is a Monster?”” University of Pennsylvania | Department of English. Web. 24 Oct. 2011. <http://www.english.upenn.edu/Projects/knarf/Articles/brooks2.html&gt;.

“Newman, “Narratives of Seduction”” University of Pennsylvania | Department of English. Web. 24 Oct. 2011. <http://www.english.upenn.edu/Projects/knarf/Articles/newmanb.html&gt;.


[1] A Roman poet wrote his Metamorphoses in the epic meter of dactyllic hexameters. It tells stories about the transformations of mostly humans and nymphs into animals, plants, etc.

[2] He was the king of the gods, the god of sky and weather, law, order and fate. He was depicted as a regal man, mature with sturdy figure and dark beard. His usual attributes were a lightning bolt, royal sceptre and eagle.

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