Two Peas, One Pod- The like protagonists in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein
Quintessential to the gothic tradition of literature, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein has transcended time, countlessly readapted into television series, plays, and movies the tradition of gothic horror has much owed to Mary Shelley’s work. However, a disservice is rendered to any who ventures not to read the book, Hollywood’s adaption often fails to include a key element in the novel that allows readers to draw parallels between the works of Shelley’s Dr. Victor Frankenstein and the Creature, two sides of the same coin, these characters share such similarities that some venture to suggest that they were in fact a representation of the dual elements of personality within the same individual.
This theory is supported by textual evidence of their shared feelings of isolation. Dr. Viktor Frankenstein, at a young age, was left without his mother after her death and as a result, never experiences a motherly and nurturing bond, “She died calmly…it is so long before the mind can persuade itself that she whom we saw every day and whose every existence appeared a part of our own can have departed forever and the sound of a voice so familiar and dear to the ear can be hushed, never more to be heard.” (Shelley, 29). It can be suggested that the denied relationship between a son and mother is what drove Victor’s ambition to create life. Victor appears to be lonely, in his college years he chose to isolate himself from both his family and friends, consumed with his latest discovery in science: the creature, but argues that his work alone was sufficient enough to comfort him. However, after his creation, comes to life Victor Frankenstein is consumed by the guilt of his creation, and abandons him out of fear and disgust. The creature is left to make his way in the world, however a fright to mankind, he is forced into isolation. The creature’s lonesomeness consumes him, “I am an unfortunate and deserted creature; I look around, and I have no relation or friend upon earth. These amiable people to whom I go have never seen me, and know little of me. I am full of fears; for if I fail there, I am an outcast in the world forever” (Shelley, 159). Like Victor, the Monster is also a motherless child, lacking both the nurturing and patience that maternal figures provide for their children. An element that Shelley argues divides men from monsters. Without the guidance of a mother and the abandonment led by Victor, the only father the creature knows, he is denied the happiness that community and society offers. Creature, without family or love to comfort him, seeks Victor to ease his discontentment. The creature wants a wife, and when Victor Frankenstein refuses, he pays the ultimate price as the Creature retaliates by murdering Frankenstein’s last living relatives and rendering him as lonely and ostracized from society as the creature is.
Dr. Frankenstein’s likeness to the creature is further strengthened in their like “God” roles. Life both given and taken is a position of authority, that only God can command. However, Dr. Frankenstein and the Creature attempt to take on this ultimate position of control. Ambitiously, Victor believes he has discovered life, “After days and nights of incredible labor and fatigue, I succeeded in discovering the cause of generation and life; nay, more, I became myself capable of bestowing animation upon lifeless matter” (Shelley 52), and has taken on the blasphemous activity of creating it for himself, consequently shocked at what he has done when the creature, rendered with the decaying body parts from the grave yard, comes to life. Victor, in fright, and horror states “…now that I had finished, the beauty of the dream vanished, and breathless horror and disgust filled my heart. Unable to endure the aspect of the being I had created, I rushed out of the room, and continued a long time traversing my bedchamber, unable to compose my mind to sleep” (Shelley, 59). Victor creates new life, however rather than assuming his responsibilities as a creator, he chooses to abandon the creature and sets him loose upon mankind.
The creatures abuse of life, parallels that of Victor Frankenstein, rather than be the giver of life, Creature is the taker of it. Lonely and angry at his creator for abandoning him, the creature avenges himself against Victor by murdering all of his nearest relations, vowing to William Frankenstein, Victor’s brother, “to him towards whom I have sworn eternal revenge; you shall be my first victim” (Shelley 171).
Though one action is sparked from ambition, and the other from revenge, both characters have committed terrible egregious crimes, that have condemned them to act as the hand of God. Victor in his ambitious desire to create life, Creature, in his anger, to take life away. Both actions are followed by a chain of unhappy events that plague the inner consciousness of both Victor and Creature. Urging mankind, not to make the blasphemous decision to act in ways outside the parameters set for men by God.
Despite their differences, Victor and his creature are two sides of the same coin. Both strive to attain the same goals, suffer similar pain, and are destined to the same fate. Perhaps, it is their shared likeness that has inspired Hollywood to merge the two characters into one being.
Brianca Jay is a writer, tutor and literary analyst. She has upwards of 100 literary videos on youtube and has presented at several national conferences, with a host of publications across various literary journals. Feel free to connect with Brianca