The Dynamic Between a Father & Son, and the Many Themes of Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein
In a story of man vs. nature, Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein is a novel of many themes. Here we have a story of what happens when knowledge and science become the enemy, and how one becomes the villain in his own story through bitterness and obsession.
This is a framed story, as well as an epistolary novel, told in the form of letters as well as multiple points of view narration. Normally, written text in this manner would turn me off from reading. But in a story such as this, I feel that it is done well, and manages to capture each character’s point of view without confusing the reader too much. We begin with Walton writing letters during his voyage, where he expresses feelings of loneliness and disappointment. As Victor Frankenstein is rescued and brought on board the ship, he tells Walton the story of The Creature, who he is out to track down and finally kill. We also get the creature’s narration when he tracks down Frankenstein and tells him about his journey after running away.
With the character of Victor Frankenstein, the author explores the issues with science and ethics. Having the knowledge and ability to defy God and nature by creating something otherworldly does not mean you should. Frankenstein becomes obsessed with his quest for knowledge and chemistry. As a child, Victor's father looks down on his interest in a book about science, calling it trash. Which is what Victor says is the cause for his obsession. He blames his father for not giving him the opportunity to explore this subject. Pairing this with his temper tantrums as a child, we see that Victor lacks accountability. A trait that later shows in his creation, and ultimately contributes to his misery and downfall.
When Frankenstein first created the creature, it was established that he, Frankenstein was the creator. But as time goes on, and the creature discovers the evils and misery of mankind, he feels abandoned and unloved. A being without a place in the world. This causes him to develop a hatred for his creator. He resents Frankenstein for giving him life with no love or meaning.
As we see in a scene where the creature and Frankenstein are having an argument, the creature is taking control of the situation. After killing William, (Frankenstein's young brother) he discovers his true strength and power. The power of fear and intimidation. He uses this power to get what he wants, which is for Frankenstein to give him a companion. He outright calls his creator, his ‘slave’, and tells Frankenstein that he is the master. Establishing dominance in their relationship. His tone shows that he is not only angry but bitter and determined.
This causes Frankenstein to loathe the creature even more. A father who hates his own child. In a way, he sees himself in the creature now. A man who will stop at nothing to get what he wants. This is quite common among parents and children who are at odds with each other. His tone towards the creature implies that he is not only enraged but surprised at what he is witnessing. This tone is also prevalent when he first sees the creature come to life.
“The monster saw my determination in my face, and gnashed his teeth in the impotence of anger…”
This is the reaction a child would have to not getting their demands met by a superior. While the creature has established dominance with his demands, he is also exhibiting child-like behaviors which shows that he is still the ‘child’ in this relationship. More so a teenager.
“…but revenge remains—revenge, henceforth dearer than light or food! I may die…”
In this line, the creature is saying that his need for revenge outweighs his need for basic nourishments needed to live. Frankenstein was the same way with his obsession to gain knowledge and become famous. Of course, he doesn’t bow to the creature's commands, in an attempt to gain his dominance back. At the end of this scene, the creature says that he will be with Frankenstein on his wedding night. Not only is this a threat, but also shows that no matter where his creator goes, he will be there. They are bound for life, like his marriage, until the creature gets what he wants. What really stood out to me about the dynamic between Frankenstein and his creature, is the creature seemed to go through all the milestones that a child would go through in their lifetime. The infantile stage, of being new to the world, helpless and naive. To being a teenager who is dealing with a range of emotions when they learn more about the world and their own existence within it. To becoming a young adult who challenges their superior. To finally, later in life when the parent dies and the child realizes their true love and respect for the one that created them.
There are many allusions to religion in this story as well, comparing Victor to Adam in the Garden of Eden. Like Adam, he lets his curiosity get the best of him. By defying God, he becomes an outcast. He suffers because of his choices, and so do those around him, (Creature, Elizabeth, his father, etc.) Just like Eve.
At the end of this story, when Frankenstein dies and the creature talks with Walton on the ship, he realizes his mistakes and mourns his creator. This is when we see that he had what he craved all along. Love, and companionship. Unfortunately not in the way that he wanted, but it was there, nonetheless. What I really love about this story, is how the influence and image of Frankenstein and the creature are still relevant today. The creature represents how good can turn to evil when one feels hurt, betrayed, and unloved. They resort to violence while taking no accountability for their actions and blaming others. I always wondered why the creature is called Frankenstein in the films and in other references throughout our culture. I guess one could say that Victor Frankenstein was the true monster of the story.