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He who fights with monsters might take care lest he thereby become a monster.

-Nietzsche, Jenseits von Gut un Bose.

There are many possible and fascinating avenues of study in considering Mary
Shelleys Frankenstein. The lasting popularity of the novel and the myths that
have grown out of it are due in large part to the empty signifier of the Monster,
into which many a critics ultimate concern has been placed. The novel has
been written about in terms of the themes of flight and pursuit, persecution and
destruction; the importance of appearances; rationalism, emotionalism and
perfectibility; the unconscious and insanity; fate, religion and nature; the anti-
hero, rebel and outcast; promethean and faustian overreachers; alter-egos and
doppelgangers; isolation; education; the characters obsessions; imperialism and
racism; personal and familial relationships; the role of women, society and the
individual; Mary Shelleys own attitudes towards her parents, her husband,
childbirth and motherhood. Thus Frankenstein is necessarily a text of
multivalent nature with many possibilities of plural readings.

While considering the plural interpretations of Frankenstein, the first point that
comes to ones mind is the question whether the idea of Frankenstein is
Godwinian or Anti-Godwinian. Frankenstein was first published anonymously in
1818 with a dedication to William Godwin. Although the critics did not know that
the author was the daughter of Godwin, they were quick to group him/her in the
same "literary family." As a matter of fact reviewers surmised that Frankenstein
had been written by Godwin or Percy Shelley, and drew parallels with Godwin's
earlier novels. The Edinburgh Magazine declared that the novel was 'formed on
the Godwinian manner', with 'all the faults, but many likewise of the beauties of
that model', and compared its 'monstrous conceptions' with the 'wild and
irregular theories of the age' also present in St Leon. More receptive to the
intellectual aims of the Godwinian novel, Scott compared Frankenstein and St
Leon as novels which aimed 'less to produce an effect by the marvels of the
narrations, than to open new trains and channels of thought'.
Indeed, Mary Shelley builds on Godwin's use of the pursuit to destabilize moral
values: in the complex equivocations of Frankenstein, the abandoned creature
returns to challenge his monstrous father, and the pair act out a drama of
enticement and threat that leads to widespread social destruction. Mary Shelley's
debt to the Godwinian tradition is not simply a matter of basic similarities in plot
and technique: the novel's bold imaginative simplicity also makes available its
challenging political and philosophical concerns.
However, it is a well-known fact that the symbolic association between Godwin
and monsters was forged in the years 1796-1802, when the conservative reaction
against him reached its peak.3 During those years demonism and the grotesque
were frequently used to deflate Godwin's theories about the utopian
regeneration of humanity. Conservatives depicted Godwin and his writings as a
nascent monster that had to be stamped out, lest England go the way of
revolutionary France. Thus, Frankenstein might well be described as a descendant
of the anti-Godwinian novel of the 1790s.
Godwin's utopia is public, political, and messianic. It foresees the salvation of the
human species as a correlative of the coming state of anarchism. Restraining
institutions will be dissolved and oppression will come to an end. Humanity will be
reborn socially and physically. Mary Shelley parodies these heroic hopes in the
quest of Victor Frankenstein. But she also shifts the emphasis from politics to
psychology. Godwin's disinterested utopianism is parodied through Victor
Frankenstein's self-centered creation of a new Adam of gigantic structure. In
Godwin's paternalistic utopia, children were eliminated entirely. Victor does seem
to want offspring, but only as a glorification of himself. He anticipates:
A new species would bless me as its creator and source; many happy and
excellent natures would owe their being to me. No father could claim the gratitude
of his child so completely as I should deserve theirs.
Victor foresees a utopia that reflects his own subjective desires. What was
previously a form of social millenarianism has been reduced or narrowed to the
status of a psychic obsession. Victor Frankenstein goes through the motions of a
1790s melodrama. He robs graves, revives the dead, and spawns a monster who
rises against him.

If the characterization of Victor Frankenstein owes much to Godwin's utopian


writings and to the body of literature that grew up in response to him,
Frankenstein's Monster, in contrast, rises from the body of writings on the French
Revolution. Mary Shelley's reading was by no means confined to the philosophical
tradition of her father. Victor Frankenstein creates his Monster in the same city,
Ingolstadt, which Barruel cites as the purported secret source of the French
Revolution -- and as the place in which the "monster called Jacobin" was originally
conceived. Victor, in effect, is producing the second famous literary monster to
issue forth from the secret inner sanctum of that city. This second coming differs
significantly from the first. Even though the demonic personification remains intact
and though the story is nominally set in the 1790s, the French Revolution has
simply disappeared. Mary Shelley retains the monster metaphor, but purges it of
virtually all reference to collective movements. Her monster metaphor explains the
coming of a domestic tragedy.

One of the most interesting aspects of Frankenstein is the fact that how it mirrors
images from Miltons Paradise Lost. Victor Frankensteins creation of his creature
puts him at a parallel to God, his dismissive abandonment of his Adam makes
him the tyrannical God from Miltons Paradise Lost while his over achieving
ambition and apathetic lack of concern towards the pain and suffering of others
puts him at par with Lucifer. By creating the monster, Victor has displaced God
and usurped the role of the woman. Frankenstein the monster is an allegory of
Adam because he is inherently the creation; Like Adam, I was apparently united
by no link to any other being in existence; but his state was far different from
mine in every other respect, But at the same time he too is the devil. Many
times I considered Satan as the fitter emblem of my condition; for often, like him,
when I viewed the bliss of my protectors, the bitter gall of envy rose within me.
Likening himself to Adam, The monster accuses Victor Frankenstein of botching
his creation by saying, Why did you form a monster so hideous that even you
turned from me in disgust? God, in pity, made man beautiful and alluring, after
his own image, but my form is a filthy type of yours, more horrid even from the
very resemblance. He models himself around Paradise Lost which he takes to be
the written Truth, and sets out to avenge his undeserved punishment and
destroys what his creator holds dearest. Satan shames Gods most prized creation
(Adam and Eve) and Frankensteins creation destroys his family.
In Frankenstein, Mary Shelley creates the unholy Trinity of The Father, The Son
and The Holy Spirit but replaces them with Victor Frankenstein as the Father,
Robert Walton as the Son and the monster as the Unholy Spirit. The book begins
with these characters in opposition to each other but it ends with them
resembling the other two foils. Shelley achieves this by using the typical Gothic
feature of multiple narratives. Robert Waltons epistolary frame narrative embeds
itself into Victor recounting the monsters story, which can be called the box of
horrors opened by Pandora; the central driving force of the novel (the monster) is
the Heart of Darkness of the novel. These inescapable inter-relations propelled
from the centre i.e. the monster, is also the metaphorical monster of ambition
that lives in Waltons and Victors hearts. That is the reason why all three can be
referred to as the fallen angel, banished from their original world and set out to
create a life for themselves, out to seek revenge against their maker or to defy
him in Waltons case.
The depiction of women in Frankenstein is another point for multivalent nature of
the text. Mary Shelly despite of being a woman has written a novel where the
women have little or no function at all. Female characters like Safie, Elizabeth,
Justine, Margaret and Agatha provide nothing more but a channel of action for
the male characters in the novel. Events and actions happen to them, usually for
the sake of teaching a male character a lesson or sparking an emotion within him.
Each of Shelleys women serves a very specific purpose in Frankenstein.

Then again, the women of Frankenstein tell us a tale of an age when women had
very limited opportunities compared to men and how women like Safie stood
against it to control and possess a lot of power. She experiences a lot of turmoil at
the beginning but later on she is able to experience more freedom and power.
Anne Mellor explains, Safie is an alternative female role-model of an
independent, well-educated, self-supporting, and loving companion and the De
Lacey household represents an alternative nuclear family structure based on
sexual equality and mutual affection. Thus, unlike the Frankensteins , the De
Laceys offer an example of a female character who does not have to be a
constant victim of oppression and disappointment.

The relation between the creature and the creator also gives us a series of plural
readings. On one hand the Frankenstein monster is subservient to his creator,
who is the only man with enough knowledge to create another of his kind. On the
other hand, however, Frankenstein is subservient to his creation, because it is
physically stronger than he and able to murder his whole circle of family and
friends without putting forth much effort. In addition, their relationship is not
marked by a simple hero-villain pattern. Neither of these men are exactly
heroes, but neither of them are anti-heroes. The author sympathizes with both
while condemning them both simultaneously. After relating his tragic story of
being rejected by Felixs family, the Frankenstein creature beckons his creator to
have mercy on him and to do him a favor: He continued, You must create a
female for me with whom I can live in the interchange of those sympathies
necessary for my being. This you alone can do. In this instance, Frankensteins
creature is putting himself in a submissive position. Yet readers can also see how,
at the same time the Frankenstein creature is submissive to his creator, the
creators fate is in the hands of his creature. Thus, the creature forewarns him
moments later what could happen if Victor does not comply with his demands:
Have a care; I will work at your destruction, nor finish until I desolate your heart,
so that you shall curse the hour of your birth.

Hence, it is very clear to us that although Frankenstein is quite often regarded as a


Gothic novel, yet one has to admit that Mary Shelly has created one of those
masterpieces in the gallery of world literature whose complexities cannot be
unraveled by any single tool because of its multivalent nature.