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How Are Characters Presented in Frankenstein?

By:   •  May 21, 2018  •  Essay  •  770 Words (4 Pages)  •  882 Views

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Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, alternatively called “The Modern Prometheus”, is a cautionary tale concerning the attainment of the forbidden and obscure. Shelley touches on themes such as isolation and prejudice to appearance, as well as obsession (to some extent madness) .Her primary means of translating these themes to the reader is through Frankenstein, who represents the consequences of accepting responsibility and blaming one’s shortcomings on fate and The Creature, could be described as a literal metaphor for everything wrong in society. The two protagonists of the story operate as polar opposites but ironically it could be suggested that both possess very similar character traits, and flaws.

Frankenstein is the antagonist of the novel, destined for downfall, and this element alone depicts that of a tragic hero. Shelley modelled Frankenstein after Prometheus, hence its original title, ‘The Modern Prometheus’. According to Greek mythology, Prometheus was one who helped mankind by giving them fire which he stole from Zeus; however, in Latin mythology, he is the creator of mankind.  Irrespective, in both adaptations, he was severely punished for acting against the will of the gods. Shelley uses Frankenstein as a clear parallel to convey Frankenstein’s blatant disregard for the laws of nature and of God in his quest to create and/or sustain life. Similarly, she further utilises this mythology to foreshadow his fate; perhaps therefore he was merely fulfilling his destiny which arguably provides a safety net which Frankenstein seems to gladly fall into.

Continuing on from this point, Shelley presents a character who was fortunate enough to have a good, privileged life; growing up in an environment of “kindness and indulgence”. This is further emphasised by the existence of Elizabeth, who symbolises the goodness already in Frankenstein’s life, evidencing that Frankenstein was subject to fate and could have simply

Yet he allowed the “fiend that lurked” p105 in his heart to control him which resulted in him committing horrific acts. Frankenstein himself further admits to dabbling “among the unhallowed damps” and to torturing animals in order to “animate” the dead, which acts lead us to doubt Frankenstein’s affiliation with any description of a virtuous character. However, we must not lose sight of the fact that Frankenstein’s aim was to “create a being like” himself, a “human being” p50. Admittedly he was also driven by the “enthusiasm of success” and his quest to be the “first to break through” p51 this boundary; but maybe this could be considered a normal sentiment for any inventor? Conversely, Frankenstein might be considered a hero in some respect because he destroyed the female monster, albeit denying  the monster a mate, but saving mankind from potential threat as  she might become more “malignant than her mate“ and cause further slaughter. Maybe at this stage he realises that he must accept responsibility for his monster and take action.


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