Frankenstein as Educational Fiction Thesis

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Frankenstein as Educational Fiction

Frankenstein is one of literature's most well-known stories because it encompasses many themes that are still relevant today. While the story is often bought and sold as a horror story, it is so much more. Notions of knowledge, corruption, and responsibility become the frightening aspects rather than a scary monster, which is not the real monster at all. Frankenstein remains a thriller because it revels the nature of man in one of its most hideous forms through the character of Victor. Victor's biggest mistake was his own desire for knowledge but his neglect led to his own demise. Victor was blinded by his desire to be a famous scientist that brought life from nothing. His thirst was unhealthy because it was all about him and no one else. When he finally does achieve his goal, he behaves like a child because he did not have enough foresight to consider all possible outcomes. When he sees the ugly creature that he is responsible for making, he thinks that running away will solve his problems. Victor's problems are miniscule compared to those of the creature who must discover virtually everything about life in a hovel. As truth descends, the creature realizes his life is doomed and, as recourse, he seeks revenge. All of these elements of mankind are as real today as they were when Shelley penned the novel. We are still a society that thirsts for knowledge and we allow ourselves to buy into the notion that all knowledge and discoveries are good. We are also a society that judges people by how they look. Frankenstein's real horror is that the nature of man can be weak and despite years of evolution, not much changes. Frankenstein is fiction with meaning because it reveals to us who we are and that is why the story will always remain popular.

Frankenstein is popular because it touches on our need to discover. As a society, we will never tire of knowledge and discovery. Jack Sullivan notes that part of the novel's popularity revolves around the notion that it is a "story of a creation that established a life for itself independent of the control and expectations of its creator" (Sullivan 157). The novel possesses the "force and fertility of a vital cultural myth, accessible and meaningful to people on all social and educational levels, exciting the imagination of successive generations to recast the tale continually" (Sullivan 157). Victor was tantalized with the notion of making a great contribution to science. He was blinded by his own desire for fame and never did he consider the negative repercussions of his acts. His lack of foresight serves as a warning for future generations.

Victor teaches us that the world does not revolve around us. Victor was too caught up in himself and his own dreams to think of anyone else. His dream corrupts him and this theme is introduced early in the novel with the "innocent aspirations of Walton" (Johnson xv) early in the novel. Johnson suggests that it is these aspirations that mirror the "progress from innocence to guilt of the whole human race" (Johnson xv). This theme is directly related to the search for knowledge. Hinging on this theme is the longing for power and recognition in one's world. Robert wanted it just as Victor did. In the end, neither man was able to hold onto the power he desired. Walton realized the futility of his search and Victor saw the destruction of it. Power was left to the creature that had no recourse to harness it or utilize it in a productive way. Victor was selfish and "solely wrapped up" (Shelley 36) with his experiment. Victor goes to great lengths to gain knowledge for his cause. He does not care that he is losing his sense of reality as long as he finishes his project. He studies "natural decay and corruption of the human body" (36) and spends "days and nights in vaults and charnel-houses" (36-7). All of this to be great and gain knowledge. Victor is like a child in that he thinks the world revolves around him and his experiment. He is selfish and childish and only learns his lesson too late.

Victor's lack of responsibility is crucial to the story's plot because it points to him as the reason behind the monster's cruelty. The monster is Victor's "child" for all intents and purposes but Victor cannot face him. Sadly, Victor does not realize the consequences of his actions. Johnson maintains that Shelley got from her father the "notion that man in his wild state is a social being, capable of living, like the charming cottagers in her story, in affectionate cooperation" (Johnson xiii). The monster demonstrates the importance of social contact. On his own, he teaches himself to read and through his observation of the De Lacey family, he sees what he has been missing as for as affection and companionship. He wishes to know the family and is certain that when "they should become acquainted with my admiration of their virtues they would compassionate me and overlook my personal deformity" (Shelley 115). This is pivotal in the novel because the monster is reaching out in good faith. Virginia Brackett maintains, "The monster was not 'born' hating others; his hate was taught him by people who refused to see beyond his external appearance to the brilliant warm nature existing just below its surface" (Brackett). From rejection, hatred and retribution is born.

Ironically, the creature is no idiot. Thornburg notes, "only the Creature, whose narrative is central to the other two, recognizes the tragic dividedness implicit in Victor's life and his own" (Thornburg). This is indeed the tragedy of the story. The creature was not as Victor saw him, a mistake in the beginning. He was real and, for all intents and purposes, a success in his original endeavors. He was intelligent. Brackett contends that he "possesses a quick intellect and a natural warmth and goodness that is corrupted only by his exposure to humans remains an indictment of shallow social values and a rigid class structure" (Brackett). He confesses that he has no restraint. After the De Lacey's rejection, he "finally acknowledges his inability to overcome visceral fear at his ugliness; his resulting despair and loneliness drive him to evil deeds" (Gould). He became the "wretched outcast" (Shelley 115) everyone believed him to be. He confesses that "revenge and hatred filled my bosom, and I did not strive to control them, but allowing myself to be borne away by the stream, I bent my mind towards injury and death" (123). This is when the monster gives up and decides a life of crime is the only way for him. Walter Scott states, "The result is, this monster, who was at first, according to his own account, but a harmless monster, becomes ferocious and malignant, in consequence of finding all his approaches to human society repelled with injurious violence and offensive marks of disgust" (Scott). The creature can honestly say that his father drove him to his current, destructive state.

His vengeance can only be directed toward Victor. Peter Otto claims that the monster is real but his "monstrosity emerges only when Victor refuses to nurture and protect his creation" (Otto 379). The product of Victor's dream "becomes his murderous double, destroying those who constitute his family" (Otto 379). In the end, Victor has no one to blame but himself for everything.

Frankenstein is an educational novel in that it tells us much about human nature that we would simply not face. While knowledge is a good thing, mankind has an interesting way of turning a quest for knowledge into a thirst for power. When the search becomes tainted with desire and greed, it ceases to be… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE-->

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