The Power of Frankenstein and Manfred Throughout the novel Frankenstein, author Mary Shelley clearly illustrates the moral of the story. God is the one and only creator; therefore, humans should never attempt to take His place. Literary critic Marilyn Butler sums up that we aren’t to tamper with creation in her comment: “Don’t usurp God’s prerogative in the Creation-game, or don’t get too clever with technology” (302).
Butler warns that as humans, we should never assume the position of God. As Victor Frankenstein takes advantage of his deep scientific knowledge, he is punished for taking his experimenting too far.
The novel opens as Victor Frankenstein recalls his curiosity and fascination with human life. Frankenstein quickly becomes obsessed with experimenting, and he attempts to create a living being out of dead body parts. He succeeds, but his creation turns into a living monster. Exclaimed by Frankenstein, “It was the secrets of heaven and earth that I desired to learn” (Shelley 33). Victor is extremely horrified by his grotesque looking creation and falls into a severe illness. While Victor is ill, the monster escapes to the woods where he watches a family and tries to befriend the humans.
But once the monster makes his presence known, the family can’t accept Frankenstein’s ugly appearance. Because all humans he encountered reject him, the monster begins to hate people and believe that they are his enemies. Frustrated, the monster returns to his creator and demands that Frankenstein makes a female companion to cure his loneliness. The creature promises Victor that he will leave with his female companion, travel to South America, and never come in contact with humans again. However, two years beforehand, the creature spitefully murdered Victor’s brother William to get back at him.
Holding a grudge against his monster creation for the death of William, Victor refuses to make a friend for the monster. In an effort to make Victor as miserable as himself, the monster seeks revenge on his creator. The monster takes his frustration out on everything and everyone dear to Victor, and murders of Frankenstein’s family and friends. The remainder of the novel revolves around the struggles Victor Frankenstein encounters as he attempts to escape from the mess of a vengeful monster he has made.
The moral of the story doesn’t simply stress that God is the only Creator, but it also emphasizes the responsibility we need to take for our actions. Humans all make mistakes, but we are all held accountable. Victor Frankenstein creates this monster and then runs away from the disaster he makes. Similarly, parents are responsible for the children they have, even if the pregnancy wasn’t desired. Frankenstein creates a monster he doesn’t want, but he is still responsible to take care of his mistake, which he fails to do. Victor Frankenstein expresses: “It was a strong effort of the spirit of good, but it was ineffectual.
Destiny was too potent, and her immutable laws had decreed my utter and terrible destruction” (Shelley 38). Victor describes his intention to create as a good intent, but because the monster he created was sinful, his effort was useless. Victor is quick to blame his terrible creation on destiny saying that he was only trying to do honorable actions, but they weren’t successful. Though the message of the story is apparent, the antagonist and protagonist of the story can’t be as clearly identified. In the beginning of the novel, Victor Frankenstein is the bad guy for creating his monster and not caring for it.
However some readers may say that as the story develops, the monster turns into the antagonist. The monster is searching for ways to make his creator unhappy. The monster’s god is Victor, he doesn’t know of any higher power. The monster learns to be evil and vengeful as he observes the humans, so he acts upon what he sees. Clearly, the monster’s sins such as murder are deliberate. The monster, however, wasn’t taught how to behave appropriately in situations. As we are commanded in the book of Romans, we are not to take revenge: “Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath” (Revelation 12:19).
Though I am a firm believer that we are to follow God’s commands, I believe that the true antagonist of the story is Victor Frankenstein. Victor is the creator of this evil being, thus he is responsible for the neglect and actions of his monster. It is inevitable that a time comes for parents to let their children branch out to make their own decisions. Parents cannot be held fully accountable for their children’s mistakes, but they are accountable for the foundation on which they raised their children. Victor is very responsible for the monster’s decisions because Victor failed to give him a fair foundation.
Running from his sins, Victor Frankenstein is responsible for all of his personal actions and most of the actions of the monster he chose to create. Victor dangerously messes with God’s job of creating. Once he makes this creature, he should have taken responsibility for the life he brought into the world. Because the creature isn’t nurtured, taught, and loved, I believe that all of his later sinful acts of revenge are a direct reflection of him being neglected. The monster does not create himself, or chose to be neglected, so he shouldn’t be responsible for most of his behaviors.
In today’s society, everyone is held accountable for their actions, no matter what background or family situation they come from. Sometimes, we are unfairly held accountable for our wrongdoings even if weren’t provided with the resources to make better decisions. Generally, in situations such as in the classroom or social conditions, children and adults who haven’t had teaching and advantages given to them aren’t held as highly accountable for their actions. This is a similar situation to Frankenstein and the monster he regrettably made.
I believe that Frankenstein should be held more highly accountable for his mistakes. The monster was never taught how to behave as he grew up, which wasn’t his fault. Living in the woods and being able to observe how humans should acceptably behave, he should be held partially accountable for his actions. I have come to understand that we are held accountable for what we know. Victor Frankenstein was an educated man who knew better than to tamper with the creation of life. There is no excuse for the mistake he made and didn’t assume responsibility. Victor Frankenstein is more of a monster than the monster he created.
Evil is at the heart of the story as expressed by critic George Levine: “In gothic fiction, but more particularly in Frankenstein, evil is both positively present and largely inexplicable. ” The monsters evil nature is inexplicable. As he was never nurtured and taught manners, the monster was also never taught to be evil. The monster chose to act on his evil emotions, which isn’t easily identified. At the end of the novel in an effort to destroy humans, especially his creator, the monster kills Victor Frankenstein’s brother, William, when he sees him in the woods.
The monster also kills Victor’s love, Elizabeth. The monster is a prisoner to this state of a lonely life. He couldn’t help the way he was born into the world and left to fend for himself. He could have, however, chose to act differently on his angry emotions. Initially, Victor thought that he could escape this misery and get rid of the monster if he made a female. After more careful thought, Victor was worried that he will create a whole family of monsters who would take over the world. The scientist refuses to get himself into even more of a mess.
It does appear that Victor learned from his mistake, but it seems to be too late. Victor is being spiteful in refusing to make the monster a companion. Though Victor still refuses to take responsibility for the one monster he already created, he is smart enough to acknowledge the tragedy that would come from creation of another. The novel Frankenstein shows close relation to Lord Byron’s play Manfred. Mary Shelly used Byron’s poem as an inspiration for her novel as both stories exhibit man’s struggles with the supernatural.
Byron opens his dramatic poem with Manfred pondering his guilty conscience. Manfred conjures up seven spirits: earth, ocean, air, night, mountains, winds, and the star, but none of them grant him the wish of forgetting the thoughts that race through his mind. Under the cast of a spell, he then pursues his own death, but is not given his wish of death. As Manfred stands on the edge of a cliff, he contemplates suicide: I feel the impulse Yet I do not plunge; I see the peril Yet do not recede; And my brain reels And yet my foot is firm. (1. 2. 280-283)
Death doesn’t take Manfred because it wasn’t his time. Full of depression about his onetime lover, Astarte, and the suicide of his dear sister, Manfred doesn’t know what to do. He refuses relief from the different spirits and also rejects religion. The Abbot shows up to Manfred to save his soul, but Manfred declines: “Manfred believes himself ?? to be above his fellow mortals but he is not fit for the life of an immortal, either. To him, there is?? only one option for such a conflicted soul: death” (Warren). Manfred refuses to stoop down low enough to allow a mortal to help him.
Mary Shelley and Lord Byron both exhibit the danger of tampering with the power of God. Lord Byron writes: “Sorrow is Knowledge: they who know the most/ Must mourn the deepest o’er the fatal truth, / The Tree of Knowledge is not that of Life” (1. 10-12). I interpret these lines to sum up that we shouldn’t mess with the knowledge that we have, because it doesn’t reap good things, or life. Victor Frankenstein certainly took his knowledge of science to a level beyond his place, and his knowledge brought about disaster life. Lord Byron also creates a character that takes too much control and acts in Gods position.
Filled with guilt, Manfred tries to seize the power of God and decide his own time for death. That isn’t our position or our calling, only God’s. Victor Frankenstein tries to assume the position of God by creating life. Similarly, Manfred tries to assume the position of God by deciding when to end life. Refusing the Abbot’s help, Manfred turns from religion. Both characters acted as if their own power was above everyone else and God. Victor thought he was good enough to take God’s place of creating while Manfred thought he was too good to accept God’s gift of salvation.
Both Shelley and Byron paint a clear picture of the consequences that come from attempting to take God’s power and position. Works Cited Butler, Marilyn. “Frankenstein and Radical Science. ” Shelly 302. Byron, Lord. Manfred. Vol. XVIII, Part 6. The Harvard Classics. New York: P. F. Collier ; Son, 1909-14: Bartleby. com, 2001. www. bartleby. com/18/6/. [September 26, 2012]. Levine, George. “Frankenstein and the Tradition of Realism. ” Shelly 209. Shelly, Mary. Frankenstein or the Modern Prometheus. Ed. Simon ; Brown. 1818. Warren, Ashley. “Association of Young Journalists And Writers. ” UniversalJournal AYJW. Web. 29 Oct. 2012.