Victor Frankenstein in “Frankenstein” by Mary Shelley
Frankenstein tells the story of Victor Frankenstein, a scientist in the 18th century. The story begins with a letter from Captain Walton to his sister. The first letter is dated 17–. In Walton’s letters, he tells his sister of his encounter with the scientist Victor Frankenstein. Victor becomes consumed with discovering the secret of creating life. In his pursuit of this knowledge, Victor creates a living creature made of body parts of corpses. Victor is successful in creating life, but is horrified and repulsed by what he created. Victor flees from his creation eventually finding that it has left. Throughout the book, Victor continues trying to escape the creature. Meanwhile, the creature murders Victor’s loved ones. It kills Victor’s younger brother William, as revenge for Victor’s rejection. It also frames the Frankenstein family servant Justine. Justine is charged for the crime and executed. It also kills Victor’s new bride Elizabeth and his best friend Henry, as revenge for destroying the second creature Victor was supposed to make as the it’s companion. The monster even causes the death of Victor’s father, whose heart could not handle the grief of all the deaths. Victor swears he will extract revenge on the creature and tracks it up North. Victor dies in his pursuits, having grown sick in his journey in the cold. He was rescued by Captain Walton and his crew, but he still succumbed to his illness. Walton finds the creature next to Victor’s corpse, crying. Now with his creator dead, the creature can end his own suffering. He departs the ship and ventures into the ice to die.
Mary Shelley was born in 1797 to Mary Wollstonecraft and William Godwin. Wollstonecraft was a writer who would become known as a foremother of feminism. She however died as a result of childbirth complications. She was left in the care of Godwin, another writer. As a prominent writer and philosopher, Godwin’s aquaintances consisted of many other intellectuals. His collegues would often visit his home, exposing Shelley to their knowledge and ideals. Among these collegues that Shelley would meet, were Humphry Davy and William Nicholson. They were top researchers in the field of electricity. From them, Shelley learned of the work of Giovanni Aldini. Aldini’s work consisted of following up on the research of Luigi Galvani. Galvani believed that animals, or rather their bodies, have electricity inside of them, coining the term animal electricity. Volta, the leading opposer in this scientific debate, believed that the bodies of animals act as conductors. Aldini was the nephew of Galvani, and took both sides into account. He began travelling to demonstrate the medical benefits of electricity. His demonstrations included one in which he charged electricity into a corpse, causing it to move. Many believed that Aldini was bringing the corpse back to life.
In addition to Davy and Nicholson, Shelley also knew Samuel Taylor Coolridge. His poem, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner is directly quoted in Frankenstein. The poem tells the tale of a sailor who in his journey of exploration, kills an albatross. The murder of this albatross initiates a series of unfortunate events on the crew. In Walton’s second letter to his sister, he refers the poem by saying he will kill no albatross.
In the summer of 1816, Shelley and her family vacationed on Lake Geneva, in Switzerland. Lord Byron, a romantic writer, was their neighbor. As a pass time for the vacationers, Lord Byron suggested that everyone write a ghost story. Shelley claims that her story came to her in a dream. In this dream, she described seeing a man attempt to create a living organism. From there she began writing the Modern Prometheus, or as it would be called, Frankenstein.
At the encouragement of her father, Shelley spent much of her childhood years writing. Godwin believed in giving his daughter an education equal to the one boys would receive. Her studies exposed her to many forms of literature. Frankenstein was originally titled The Modern Prometheus. In the Greek tale, Prometheus was a Titan who gave the fire of the Gods to mankind. Victor is Shelley’s modern Prometheus, obsessed with sharing the secrets of fire, or in Victor’s case, electricity.
Mary Shelley, as well Frankenstein became some of the prime examples of the teachings andf works of the Romantic Era. The Romanticism movement rejected the ideas of the Enlightenment. While the Enlightenment focused on empirical knowledge, romanticism valued imagination and emotion over logic and reason. In addition, romantics saw nature as a heavy influence on humans. They idealized nature as having a deep connection to human emotion. Shelley reflects this in the behavior of her characters. In Chapter 10, for example, Victor laments on how the sight of the awful and majestic in nature always had the effect of solemnizing his mind and caused him to forget the passings cares of life (Frankenstein 214).
Shelley’s Frankenstein warns us of the danger that comes with mankind’s pursuit of knowledge. In our quest to know more, we risk the chance of destroying ourselves in the process.We experiment with the natural order thinkning we can change it. Victor Frankestein experiments into creating life lead him to destroying his own life.