Lip Lit: Frankenstein: Don’t Mess with God or Women
Meet Victor Frankenstein. He’s an egotistical, loner-scientist who seeks godly esteem by creating his own masterpiece, his own “child.” Victor gives “birth” to this creation by trawling through graveyards (as you do) and assembling parts and limbs of the dead together like a thousand piece jigsaw puzzle. Volia! Frankenstein’s DIY child: just add limbs and organs! No female required, coming soon to a store near you!
It is hard when reading Mary Shelley’s 1831 text to not take all the pop cultural baggage of Frankenstein’s baby on board. Puns aside, one must remember that this was written before Frankenstein costumes of deformed green faces were on display at your local supermarket for Halloween. We must remember that Frankenstein, in Shelley’s book, is the name of the scientist himself and the monster – sadly – remains unchristened and unnamed.
The novel slots into a gothic/science fiction category and is known famously for heeding the warnings of science taking its work outside the realm of morality. During the 19th Century science was fast becoming the popular kid in town. Science was not merely for intellects pursuing knowledge but also for the common person who sought entertainment in science fairs and shows. Now in the 21st Century, in the Western world Science has pretty much kicked God off its mighty pedestal as the creator of the universe. Shelley’s warnings and concerns may be seen relevant in the ongoing debate of cloning animals and persons regarding human nature.
Although God does not physically smite Victor Frankenstein the moral implications of his God-playing are conveyed through the murdering rampage of his creation. The monster asks Frankenstein for a mate and a friend, but Frankenstein denies him of this possibility. Readers sympathise with the monster, who expresses great kindness and affection towards humanity. I became quite attached to the monster who seemed a little bit like Roald Dahl’s BFG in the beginning when his “heart was fashionable to be susceptible of love and sympathy..” (222) The murder of Frankenstein’s friends and family who fall down like dominoes is somewhat justified, the monster just wants love and acceptance. But these things are denied by his creator and so he seeks revenge.
Interestingly, Shelley does not seem to be concerned with Frankenstein’s creation – a villain composed of the dead – but rather asks us to question the motives of the scientist and why he is so lacking in feeling and humanity for his creation to begin with. Frankenstein’s monster may be scarred and hideous but he is still his newborn. Aren’t mothers supposed to love their children no matter how ugly they are? Frankenstein is both mother and father to the monster but does not act as a maternal nurturer or paternal protector. By creating his monster Frankenstein defies the laws of nature by denying women of their natural right to be child bearers and mothers. At the time of writing, women had little other role to play in society apart from being mothers.
It may be seen by Shelley that Frankenstein – a power hungry male – was asserting his male dominance to women as a whole by upsurting their role as mothers. As Shelley’s mother herself was Mary Wollstonecraft “the mother of feminism” it would not be surprising that some feminist ideologies are within the text. There are many morals within the book but one that stands out and shouts out is: don’t mess with God or women. Feminine qualities can be found in males but are usually generalised in literature to be the traits of the woman which include: a caring, loving and motherly disposition. Femininity is important at keeping the fictional (and real world) in its natural balance. It keeps monsters off the street and only in nightmares. Perhaps if Frankenstein was surrounded and nurtured by more feminine qualities he would not have become a monster himself.
Shannon’s blog: www.freedomtights.wordpress.com