Mary Shelly's Frankenstein Term Paper

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Frankenstein

An Analysis of Mary Shelly's Frankenstein

Mary Shelly Wrote the novel Frankenstein in the year 1817. Since its publication it has gripped the interest and imagination of readers throughout the world and is still being read and studied today. The book has spurned a wide range of interpretations in films, plays and in many copies of its central themes. As one commentator notes; "…the novel still endures. Its lasting power can be seen in the range of reactions explored by various literary critics…" (Frankenstein: Introduction)

This continuing interest in this 19th century novel would suggest that it must contain something in the narrative and themes that is relevant to the modern world and which still excites our imagination and intellect. It has been suggested by some critics that the novel can still be related to contemporary issues, such as cloning and feminist critiques of a male -- centered and dominated world.

This paper will explore this perennial interest in the novel and in an analysis of the book attempt to understand why the themes and the ideas in the book still excite such interest and study.

.2. Brief plot overview

The plot and structure of the novel is relatively complex and has many subtle nuances of meaning and interpretation. The following is intended only as a very brief overview and focuses only on the main points, as a precursor to the discussion of the central themes.

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The setting of the novel is Europe in the late 18th Century. The narrative is initially centered on a series of letters from Captain Robert Walton to his sister, which narrates the story of Victor Frankenstein and the "monster" that he created.

Frankenstein's search for knowledge and his desire to understand nature and the forces of life leads him to conduct strange and esoteric scientific experiments. He created a human being from scavenged body parts. However he becomes disgusted by his own creation, which he sees as hideous.

Term Paper on Mary Shelly's Frankenstein Assignment

Alone, the monster searches for friendship but becomes afraid of people due to the harsh treatment he receives, mainly because of his appearance. However, he succeeds in educating himself through his observations of others. His general rejection by human beings causes him to seek revenge on his creator, Frankenstein. He kills Frankenstein's young brother.

Frankenstein realizes that the monster is seeking revenge and he is beset with remorse and torn by the realization that his own creation has murdered his brother and has turned against him. When he tries to find some solace and peace in the mountains he is confronted by the monster who demands that he create a female companion who can assuage his loneliness.

Frankenstein, fearing further violence against his family, returns to England to carry out the monster's demands. However, as he finishes his work he realizes the awesome responsibility and consequences of creating monster and destroys her. As a result the monster vows further revenge. He kills Elizabeth, Frankenstein's bride, and Frankenstein decides to pursue the monster and destroy him. This leads him to the North Pole. Frankenstein dies and the monster tells Walton that he plans to kill himself. He then leaves Walton's ship on an ice-raft.

3. Central themes

The reason for the intense interest in this novel lies in the relevance of the themes that are explored. These range from the search for immortality and the need to create life, to the meaning of love and compassion. The following section will discuss some of the central themes and attempt to integrate these thematic strands into a holistic appraisal of the book. These themes also have a universal significance that transcends time barriers. As will be discussed, the themes that emerge from this book can be applied to contemporary subjects such as cloning and feminist critiques of male hegemony.

3.1. Playing God

The theme of "man playing God" is possibly the most important theme of this book. As one critic notes; "Mary Shelley's novel, Frankenstein, gains increasing significance in the modern world with its relevant theme of "man playing God." Creation lies in the hands of God/Nature, but man tries to interfere in this process." (THEMES ANALYSIS)

It should be remembered that much of the Romantic ethos influenced the writing of this work. This refers to view that science and the rational, scientific worldview was essentially flawed and egotistical. This view is also clear in the audacious attempt by the young scientist, Frankenstein, to create life and to "play God."

The human urge to create is central to the novel; as is the view that science does not have the insight and wisdom to control its creation. This becomes clear in the narrative. In essence, "By examining the consequences of Victor's ambition, Shelley questions the goal of science itself: is science a way of improving life, or does it threaten life? (THEMES ANALYSIS) This theme also critiques false human pride and ambition and intimates that the forces and power of nature are more complex and mysterious than the modern world of science is aware of.

3.2. The Question of Knowledge

The issue of human knowledge and the limits of that knowledge is a theme that is linked to the above discussion on the obsession with the control of creation. As has been referred to, scientific knowledge often exceeds its limits and creates things that are questionable. As one study emphasizes, " Shelley questions the goal of science itself: is science a way of improving life, or does it threaten life?" (THEMES ANALYSIS) the creation that Victor Frankenstein brings to life through knowledge and science has disastrous consequences and leads to death.

This theme therefore suggests that advances in human knowledge and science are not always indicative of positive progress but should be tempered by wisdom and insight. If we extrapolate this theme to the context of the modern world then we could refer to scientific discoveries such as the splitting of the atom and the dire consequences that this has and still may have for human life. In essence,"The theme of destructive knowledge is developed throughout the novel as the tragic consequences of the… obsessive search for understanding are revealed. "(Frankenstein by Mary Shelley)

3.3. The Monster

The idea of the monster and the concept of 'monstrosity' is found throughout the novel. It should be noted that Frankenstein's monster is considered to be monstrous not only because of his hideous appearance but because his creation is 'unnatural' and outside of nature. This theme however can also be extended beyond the monster itself. To a certain extent we could argue that Frankenstein himself becomes a 'monster' in his driving ambition and selfishness and his abandonment of his own creation.

4. The Symbolism of Light and Dark.

There are many symbols and images that support these central themes. One of the most pervasive is that of light and dark, as well as the symbol of fire. Light is usually symbolic of knowledge and 'enlightenment' which many believe comes about as a result of science. However, the novel suggests that faith in science without the light of wisdom and insight is false and misplaced. Symbolically in the novel, light turns into the depths of darkness and suffering for all concerned after the creation of the monster.

One should also bear in mind the link between light and fire in the novel. The full title of the book is, Frankenstein: or, the Modern Prometheus. This refers to the Greek god Prometheus who gave the knowledge of fire to humanity, and was punished for this act. In the novel Frankenstein is symbolically linked to Prometheus as the bringer of a dubious gift in the creation of the monster. He too, like Prometheus, is severely punished for his audacity.

5. Conclusion

This novel is still popular today and has become absorbed into contemporary culture… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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