Shelly’s Frankenstein Essay
Doubling as an author’s artistic device is an integral characteristic of Romantic literature. Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein is historically one of the first samples of the phenomenon in English literature. The tradition is integrated and absorbed by later Romantic books like Stevenson’s Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde or Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray. In case with “Frankenstein” it is not phantasmagorical personality or world split like in more modern literature but rather conceptual creative tool, which facilitates the characters’ motives disclosure and gives opportunity to examine their personalities in relation to each other.
One of the most evident parallel is the one between Victor Frankenstein and Captain Robert Walton. They are united by the common obsession – thirst for knowledge, ardent desire to conquer the Nature, stimulated by such ambitious curiosity. Walton goes to the North Pole to discover the place no one has ever reached before him. He believes that all frontiers, all limits – spatial and spiritual- can be crossed and denied. He is confident that it is the way to immortality, the chance to become a God-like creature. His motifs are identical to the ones of Frankenstein, and his story copies the beginning of Victor’s misfortune. Meeting Frankenstein in desolation of Arctic ices serves as a fate’s warning against repeating the history. Shattered, hopeless and overwhelmed by his pursuit, Victor illustrates what happens to such nihilistic researchers. He, too, wanted to take over God’s functions of creation but failed to achieve infinity.
The reason for this has a deep meaning – one’s creation cannot be successful unless it is illuminated by love and affection to mankind. Mary Shelly cautions against soulless science, purely mechanical and irresponsible, irrelevant to human being. Moral values are something that is under threat for Robert Walton already. It is not accidental that both heroes are so much absorbed by themselves and so much isolated that no place could reveal their unhealthy solitude than the white snows of Northern Pole. However, there is still hope for Walton, while for Frankenstein the existence as a human being is over. He doesn’t become God and stops being a human.
The theme of what it takes to be a human is also supported by another pair of doubles – Frankenstein and his creature. Victor calls him a monster throughout the story but the reader has much food for contemplation which of them is monstrous. Guiding us through the story of Demon, Mary Shelly gives enough convincing facts for us to become aware of the Monster’s unclaimed humanity and his creator’s hidden monstrosity. By wanting to commit suicide Victor discloses his wish to kill the demon for it is evident that the most horrible demons and dragons are inside. Like Dorian Gray, he wants to get rid of the double that only mirrors his soul honestly. The creature is originally more human that Frankenstein, indeed – he admires people and wants to join people’s society while Victor breaks away from from it contemptuously.
The creature’s loneliness is the cause of his decay, while Victor’s loneliness is the result of his decay. Both of them are exiles because of bitter knowledge and both are longing for the lost innocence. The impossibility of having what people have condemns the creature with envy. That is why reading Milton’s Paradise Lost he decides that Satan, not God is his maker. In fact, these biblical allusions are somewhat ambiguous because it is really hard to define which of the two Satan is. The creature can be also considered as allegorical Adam or Satan, the fallen angel. The duality of Frankenstein and his creature reminds us of some very important issues – the responsibility for whatever a person does in his or her life, the danger of experimenting with nature and of nihilistic attitude to one’s own soul
Finally, the parallel between female characters can be traced – the one between Walton’s sister Margaret and Frankenstein’s bride Elizabeth. It is important to notice that female characters in Mary Shelly’s story are opposed to the male ones. On the one hand, they seem to be background figures, having no their personal ambitions, on the other hand they are contrastive to aggressive male world. On the whole, Elizabeth and Margaret embody passive virtue; they are deterrents which hold their men down to earth. They are angelic family creatures, sensible correspondence companions for ardent researchers.
Doubling in Frankenstein gives the story another conceptual dimension, revealing the characters in a specific context, giving the clue about their common features and emphasizing the divergent ones. Confirming the idea of inevitable destiny, they at the same time present several possible variants of a similar fate.