Frankestein – A Doomed Birth

During the early 19th century a significant change was occurring in literature. The ongoing protestant reformations had shaken the vice grip that the catholic church had on the minds of its subject. For the first time writers could begin to question the literature that they wrote and in response to the public’s thirst for answers that the church had refused to give them, writers took it upon themselves to answer the spiritual, emotional, and philosophical questions of the day. Today, Mary Shelly’s Novel Frankenstein or The Modern Prometheus is viewed as little more than an archetype for horror. This is certainly not the case. If a reader chooses to shed the cloak of the the twenty-first century and instead steps back into the glances through the eyes of Mary Shelly’s nineteenth century compatriots they will find that the story of Victor Frankenstein is an intense emotional classic that addressed several of the key issues that were prevalent in both the times and the author’s life. Frankenstein can be seen as an allegory to the new sciences of the day, a message to the industrial revolution, and a battle in the mind of a young woman author. 

The Novel Frankenstein has been, for lack of a better word, perverted, into a a horror classic where few even realize that the monster has no name and that Frankenstein is the doctor. However the novel is a great horror classic. Looking through the looking glass of the 19th century European aristocracy, the audience that this booked was intended to reach, one can see how this novel is truly a horror text. The 19th century European aristocracy was a very religious, pompous, and arrogant group of people who considered themselves very godly and very saintly. They wholly believed that God created all life and that it was the human soul that made man unique. In Frankenstein, Doctor Frankenstein creates life, and even more so, life without a soul. To the book’s audience this would have been ugly, repulsive, sacrilegious; something truly horrifying. This book was an effective device to drive fear into the hearts of its readers because at the time scientists were actually doing experiments on dead flesh in hopes of reanimating it. A reader who knew this could no doubt feel terrified that if one of the men in the real world actually succeeded in doing what this book had said, then a monster of Frankenstein proportions could arrive in the real world. To those that the book was written for, it was a masterpiece of horror.

The industrial revolution was in its beginnings when Frankenstein was written. One of the main messages that this book conveys is that man should not overstep his earthly bounds, more blatantly put: MAN SHOULD NOT PLAY GOD. Looking through the window of the past, this is what the industrial revolution was doing to the world around the readers. Out of nowhere grand machines were arising to make products in hours that would have taken weeks to make. There was a middle class rising due these strange internal combustion engines. The readers of this book must have been scared of this change. For years they had lived in a world where there were the haves and the have-nots, but now that line was being blurred and their world was changing all around them. Can it not be equated to Prometheus stealing the flame of the gods? From that point man had fire and could change their lives for the better, but did the gods welcome this change. No. They chained the cause of the change to a rock. The wealthy of the 19th century must have wanted to chain this industrial revolution to a rock and have an eagle peck out its liver each day in order to deter it. But as change was inevitable this book remains to testify to the changing world and those who fought its message do not.

It is said that Mary Shelly wrote Frankenstein on a dare. Whether that is true or not she wrote in one of her journals that she conceived the idea for her book in a terrifying waking dream that she wrote “I saw the haggard and frail student bent furiously over his work and giving it the spark of life watched at the monster arose, a patchwork of flesh and bone.” Few people will every be as lucky as to be gifted with a dream that produces a book but looking through Mary Shelly’s eyes we can see how this book was affected by her life. Mary Shelly’s mother died eleven days after Mary was born. Due to this the theme of the created being shunned by creator is very prevalent in this story. The monster (Mary) feels shunned and pushed away by its creator (Her Mother) and in turn goes through intense psychological and philosophical pondering that are frequent in the dialogue  of his book. Additionally I press the reader to find a character in literature who is as ill as Victor Frankenstein. Through the seven years that this book encompasses he is ill for six of them. This is no doubt a representation of how Mary Shelly experienced  being a creator; giving birth to her children. Medicine was not what it was today back in the 19th century, and Frankenstein’s frequent ills are representations of Mary Shelly’s ills as she lived her life.

Looking through the eyes of the intended audience, or the author of a novel is paramount in understanding the deeper themes that the story represents as a whole. While any number of relevant  themes are present in Frankenstein the ones that are most profound and the ones that help a reader understand why Frankenstein is a horror classic and why the author wrote her masterpiece can only be found when the does not look and read with their own eyes, but reader’s through the eyes that were meant to see the book for the first time.