In Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, The Creature and Victor can be said to be doubles. They share similar traits, which suggests the two are closely linked to one another.
The fact that Shelley portrays the two characters as a reflection of the other means that the reader is more likely to draw comparisons between the. The Creature is generally portrayed as the more sympathetic. As Victor becomes more monstrous, the Creature becomes more 'human'
One way in which Shelley establishes the link between the two characters is through their use of similar language. An example of this is the repetition of "miserable wretch"
Both also use Biblical language:
- "Do you not fear the fierce vengeance of my arm wreaked upon your miserable head?"(Victor) - suggests Victor in God/Creator role.
- "I considered Satan as the fitter emblem of my condition."(Creature)
Both can be compared to Biblical / Mythical figures:
- God - Victor 'creates' the first of a species; the Creature has the power to wreak revenge (similar to a Greek god).
- Adam - Victor ruins his life through seeking knowledge and loses the 'perfect' life; the Creature is the first of a species and is left alone with nature (he names the plants). He, too, asks for a female companion and is cast out by his creator.
- the Devil - Victor is devilish from the Creature's point of view and spends much time around death. He can also be compared to Lucifer, who fell from Heaven; the Creature is vengeful and destructive.
- Prometheus - Vicor is punished for creating and seeking forbidden knowledge. His transgression of social laws is similar to Prometheus' defiance of the gods; the Creature is trapped in eternal misery.
Both meet their downfall through the gaining of knowledge. Victor's ambition and thirst for knowledge lead him to create the Cretaure, which is the beginning of his downfall: "more deeply smitten with the thirst for knowledge." The Creature's downfall begins when he learns about the values of society, which exclude him(achieved through reading books). He realises he can never belong.
Both possess masculinity. Victor presides over a feminine act (birth). The Creature is masculine in appearance. Both display a disregard of females, as the Creature makes promises on behalf of the female companion without consulting her and Victor simply destroys her.
Even traits that the two possess that are noth the same, are often opposites, which also links the two:
- Victor is primarily concerned with a quest for knowledge (science), though he eventually turns to nature. This is Englightenment thought. The Creature is primarily concerned with nature, though this eventually becomes little comfort for him. This is Romantic thought.
- Victor possesses foresight, as illustrated through his strange dream, yet he never seems to act on this. The Creature possesses hindsight. An example of this is the way he realises that his knowledge contributed to his downfall.
- Victor is the deliverer of injustice, particularly through his treatment of the Creature. The Creature is perhaps the character who has the most injustice committed against him, particularly because of his appearance.
- Whilst both are charismatic through theier ability to use emotive language, only Victor reaps the benefits of this as people are too prejudiced against the Creature.
These differences seem to favour the Creature, making him the more sympathetic character of the two.
Some might say that the Creature and Victor are the same person and that the Creature never really existed. Possible reasons for this are:
- The Creature was a figment of a psychopathic Frankenstein's imagination.
- Frankenstein himself directly mudered his relations (Ernest excluded) and that the Creature was part of a fanciful tale to act as an excuse.
However, evidence seems to suggest that this is unlikely and the Creature did actually exist. Unless...
- Walton himself was a psychopath who displayed the same symptoms as Frankenstein, which explains why he sees both of them together at the end.
- Walton had spent too long on the ice and was delusional.
- The Creature was part of a tale fabricated by Walton and Frankenstein in order to make Walton look good upon his return to England and to make Frankenstein look like some divine, creative genius (assuming, of course, that Frankenstein himself exists and is not just part of the story invented by Walton to entertain his sister and to explain the end of his determined, driven quest.)
Shelley probably did not intend for this. The Creature and Victor, though very similar,are two different people.
"filthy type of yours"
By Emma Ellis
Further thoughts on use of the Double
- Both Frankenstein and the Creature are self-loathing:
Frankenstein - "I was seized by remorse and the sense of guilt, which hurried me away to a hell of intense tortures, such as no language can describe."
Creature - Why did I live?"
- Before beginning to build the female creature, Frankenstein knows that of he disagrees with the Creature's requests Clerval will be killed:
Frankenstein - "I thought that the fiend followed me, and might expedite my remissness by murdering my companion." - Frankenstein can see what the Creature will do, showing the Creature - Frankenstein link.
- Both Frankenstein and the Creature are isolated from society:
Frankenstein chooses isolation to build the Creature - "I could not tear my thoughts from my employment." - when isolated he builds the Creature and this leads to disaster.
The Creature is forced into isolation as he is rejected by humans - "after my late dearly bought experience, I dared not enter it." When the Creature is isolated (almost all of his life) he murders and destroys.
Both Frankenstein and the Creature react negatively to isolation, showing the link of the Double between them.
- Both Frankenstein and the Creature suffer in the novel:
Frankenstein - "I am a blasted tree; the bolt has entered my soul." - Frankenstein suffers in his misery and guilt.
The Creature suffers in loneliness - "I am alone, and miserable"
Both Frankenstein and the Creature are miserable, yet each of them believe that they, themselves, suffer the most - this supports the theory of the Double.
- Frankenstein thirsts for knowledge, as does the Creature:
Frankenstein - "deeply smitten with the thirst for knowledge" - science.
The Creature - "Who was I? What was I? Whence did I come?" - wanting to find how he was created.
Like Frankenstein, the Creature wants to learn, as shown by his enjoyment of the DeLacey's books.
- Both Frankenstein and the Creature are monsters:
Frankenstein - "The first part of the deposition did not in the least interest me" - Frankenstein is selfish, ambitious and obsessive - a monster on the inside.
The Creature - "I became fully convinced that I was in reality the monster that I am" - the Creature is a monster in his deformed appearance.
The Creature is the living being which represents Frankenstein's evil side.
- Women, to Frankenstein and the Creature, are the ultimate companions, providing comfort and acceptance.
Frankenstein - "My future hopes and prospects are entirely bound up in the expectation of our union." To Frankenstein, Elizabeth is his only joy which removes his guilty conscience.
The Creature - " 'You must create a female for me, with whom I can live in the interchange of those sympathies necessary for my being.' " - a partner would commiserate with the Creature in his awful existence.
Both Frankenstein and the Creature want a partner to make their awful situation better.
- Both Frankenstein and the Creature use dramatic and eloquent language.
Frankenstein - "The human frame could no longer support the agonies that I endured." - he exaggerates the situation, so he sounds more like the 'tragic hero'.
The Creature - "No guilt, no mischief, no malignity, no misery, can be found comparable to mine." - just like Frankenstein, he uses eloquent and dramatic language to evoke sympathy.
The repetition of the idea of misery, self-induced by both Frankenstien (in creating the Creature) and the Creature (in killing Frankenstein) supports the idea of the Double.
By Nicki Deane
Is Frankenstein Gothic?
As seen in her 1831 introduction, Shelley declared her desire to "curdle the blood, and quicken the beatings of the heart." This is the first of many signals to the reader that Frankenstein should be placed in the genre of the Gothic. However, difficulties arise when Frankenstein is compared to other novels of that time and genre. This is because the Gothic genre covers a wide variety of texts and is difficult to define.
GOTHIC - noun
Of or relating to a style of fiction charcterised by the use of desolate or remote settings and macabre, mysterious or violent incidents.
One of the first novels to be later recognised as a Gothic novel was Horace Walpole's Castle of Otranto (1765). This text as well as others such as Matthew Lewis' The Monk (1796) were seen as being linked with what were traditionally considered Gothic traits: the emphasis on fear and terror, the presence of the supernatural, the placement of events within a distant time and unfamiliar setting, and the use of highly stereotyped characters.
However, if we were to limit our definition to these characteristics it would be difficult to locate Frankenstein firmly in the Gothic genre. Even though Shelley claims to be writing a 'ghost story', there is nothin supernatural in the story. There are no decaying monasteries (as found in The Monk), no decadent monks, headless nuns, or terrifying brigands; castles are mentioned as part of the travelogue rather than serving as a setting for supernatural events. Therefore we can say that all the conventional Gothic trappings have disappeared.
Gothic writers, like Shelley, were interested in the breakdown of boudaries, in the exploration of what is forbidden, in desires that should neither be spoken of or acted upon. If we read Frankenstein as a Gothic novel, we can suggest that what Victor does and what he creates are unnatural. He goes too far, breaks the laws of nature, crosses forbidden boundaries, and what he unleashes, within himself and in society, is disruption and destruction.
The suggestions of incest in Victor's love for Elizabeth, along with the focus on a creative act that goes beyond both the functions of God and women, and a creation that blurs the boundaries between life and death, not to mention the possibility of the Creature being Victor's double which acted out his forbidden desires, mean that Frankenstein fitted in with more modern conceptions of the Gothic.
The main protagonist of a Gothic novel is usually a solitary character who has an egocentrical nature. This is seen many times in Frankenstein, often represented by the landscape: the bleak, glacial ields of the Alps and the mists of the Arctic serve to indicate the isolation of the two protagonists. The solitary character can apply to both Victor and his Creature as they both lived their lives in social isolation.
Although Gothic novels were written mainly to evoke terror in their readers, they also served to show the dark side of human nature. Novels such as Frankenstein draw on science instead of superstition, on what is frighteningly possible and familiar rather than entirely absurd and alien. They make a link between the world of text and the world of the reader.
They emphasise that the horror is in us, now!
All in all we can say that although Frankenstein does not fit in the norm where Gothic novels are concerned, it certainly gives us an insight into the dark side of human psyche and exposes the society at that time and how Shelley reacted to it.
By Hannah North
Language in Frankenstein
Language is important in Frankenstein, both to the text and within the text, in a number of ways:
- There is always more emphasis on description than dramatic action; this emphasis on description does not however involve detailed analysis of inner feelings.
- There is more emphasis on telling than showing.
- The language is usually highly emotional, melodramatic and threatening.
- The Creature's language is highly rhetorical (which could also be said for much of the book).
- There is much difference in language between the three narrators.
- It is the Creature's eloquence that receives most attention. We expect a grunting animal, but what we are confronted with is the impressive use of balance and opposition in his order to Victor "Remember I am thy creature; I ought to have been thy Adam; but I am rather the fallen angel, whom thou divest from joy... and I shall again be virtuous." Victor is indeed eventually persuaded to make him a mate. Language seems to have power in this novel.
- Language also seems to be inadequate and weak and doesn't seem to capture inner experiances. Characters repeatedly assert their inability to express their feelings in language, e.g. Victor is constantly falling back on 'no-one can conceive' or 'I cannot describe' (this is also a feature of the Gothic). The inner experiance in Frankenstein is is captured symbolically in the nightmare Victor experiences after bringing the monster to life, e.g. when Elizabeth is transformed into the corpse of his dead mother it tells us his true feelings for his mother and Elizabeth, and his attitudes towards human sexuality.
- The first key stage of the Creature's education is his recognition of the importance of language: in the hovel adjoining the DeLaceys' cottage, he sees that people communicate "their experience and feeling to one another by articulate sounds. I perceived that the words they spoke sometimes produced pleasure or pain, smiles or sadness." Words produce emotional effects.
- The Creature becomes aware that his physical appearance would cause only disgust if he conronted the family; the Creature believes that by becoming skilled in the 'godlike science' of language he will be able to win their affection through his gentle words. His success with the blind father initially bears out his faith in language, but as soon as the others enter, the importance of appearance reasserts itself and prejudice wins out.
- The Creature has a similar experience when trying to persuade Victor to create a mate for him; once again this is an attempt to gain love and companionship through language. Victor is convinced by his eloquence - "His words had... him" - but the effect is fleeting: as sson as he looks upon the Creature, he is again filled with horror of the "filthy mass that moved and talked". When he next catches sight of this 'filthy mass' at the window of the hut where he is making the female, enough time has passed for the effects of his eloquence to have worn off completely. Victor reads in the Creature's features only evil, and he tears the female to pieces.
- Victor too is noted for his fluency with words, his ability to manipulate language, his 'unparalelled eloquence'. When Victor speaks, Walton's sailors no longer want to return home, no longer in despair; they are roused to action, filled with courage. The effect persists only until the voice is heard and once Victor is dead the sailors insist that Walton turn back.
- Victor's eloquence also impresses Walton, but not enough for him to continue his quest to destroy the Creature.
- Shelley draws attention to the difference between reading and hearing narrative; we can only be told the tone in the voice of the speaker.
The Frame Narrative
Frankenstein uses a double frame structure, with Walton telling the story of his encounter with Frankenstein, who, in turn, tells the story of his disastrous experiment, and within that includes a re-telling of the Creature's own story.
This use of the frame narrative achieves a number of effects, influencing how we read and understand the text, and also influencing our emotional reponse to the characters and narrators.
Firstly, the fact that the stories of all three narrators seem to concur adds credibility to the narrative. This is, however, deceptive, as each narrator is able to give his own view of events without danger of contradiction - all three are together only after the death of Frankenstein. In addition to this, both Frankenstein and Walton are able to edit not only their own stories but those of the 'framed' narrator(s). We have, really, only Walton's version of events - he gives his version of Frankenstein's version of the Creature's version of his story - and we are under no obligation to believe Walton.
Cynicism aside, it seems reasonable to accept the majority of Walton's account - we are given no reason to do otherwise. Caution must be exercised, however, when it comes to Walton's descriptions of Frankenstein; Walton is clearly heavily under the influence of Frankenstein's exceptional charm and charisma, and lavishes upon him a praise which many readers would find difficult to understand.
The second effect of the frame narrative is that it provides us with a number of perspectives, giving more than one version of the truth. Remembering that we remember that the narratives of the Creature and Frankenstein are coloured by the re-telling of their tales, we are presented with three different personal views on the story.
Whilst we are encouraged by each narrator to believe his narrative, and sympathise with him and his concerns, this is quite obvious, and so the reader is empowered to select a viewpoint, either from the three given, or by constructing a new, personal opinion on the story and characters. This then leads the reader to become engaged, and perhaps even immersed in the story, helping Shelley to achieve her purposes: to horrify and to generate thought on a number of social, moral, religious and political issues. The empowerment of the reader, giving the freedom to choose what to accept and find sympathetic, carries with it the responsibility to develop a personal view on these issues.
This use of the frame narrative to provide different viewpoints gives its third effect: to bring the use of foil characters to the attention of the reader. Frankenstein uses a number of foils, all of whom are used to demonstrate Frankenstein's inadequacies and failings as a human being:
- The Creature himself, especially if he is Frankenstein's double, serves to show that Frankenstein had good innate within him, but (willfully or accidentally) turned from it. The Creature and Frankenstein seem to have only one measure of humanity between them, and as the Creature becomes increasingly human (even with all the attendant vices that implies), Frankenstein becomes increasingly monstrous. The Creature uses reason to get what he wants (initially at least); Frankenstein uses hysterical threatening. The Creature performs altruistic actions; Frankenstein is the epitome of egocentrism.
- Walton serves to show what Frankenstein was before he was perverted by his blind attachment to science. The novel begins as Walton is treading a knife-edge between sane, rational normality and wild, driven ambition - Frankenstein's warning to him seems to succeed, and he is prevented from taking a similarly destructive path.
- Henry Clerval is the exact opposite of Frankenstein in almost every way. Whilst he also wishes to study and to acquire knowledge, his motives seem to be less selfish than Frankenstein's - it is difficult to see how a desire to master foreign languages could lead to an all-consuming and destructive ambition. Clerval is calm; Frankenstein raves madly. Clerval is caring; Frankenstein seems unable to sympathise with others, much less to empathise. Clerval is chivalrous and well-mannered; Frankenstein's selfishness prevents him from behaving in anything other than a callous and rude fashion. Clerval is interested in poetry; Frankenstein is interested in nothing but science. Clerval is a dedicated Romantic; Frankenstein is still lost in the worldliness of the Enlightenment.
- Elizabeth, too, is a foil for Frankenstein - she demonstrates true loyalty to family and friends, and an appreciation of the beauty of nature which makes Frankenstein's use of the horrific and unnatural look extremely bad. Elizabeth also seems to welcome her forthcoming marriage, showing the strangeness of Frankenstein's reluctance. Elizabeth, as a mother-figure and 'love interest' represents procreation and sexuality, which serves to highlight the wrong Frankenstein has done in creating life without the involvement of a woman, and also shows his odd rejection of mature sexuality.
Finally, the frame narrative reinforces the message of the text - anyone behaving like Frankenstein will come to no good - by having the entire story told in the barren wastes of the Arctic. There is no life, and therefore symbolically no hope for Frankenstein, at the beginning, and we are reminded of this when Walton's narrative resumes at the end. Frankenstein had failed and was at death's door as the narrative began - we were presented with this 'warning' at the beginning of the text, as well as its being shown to us more directly and in greater detail at the end.
By Emma Furness