An essay on the novel Frankenstein

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Richard Withnell

The novel Frankenstein is as relevant and terrifying today as it was when it was first published

At the time that Mary Shelly wrote the book Frankenstein the idea of creating and bringing people back to life using electricity was a prominent idea in science. She was also reading Emile by a famous French philosopher Rousseau where he argues that mans nature is harmless but is made evil by society. These ideas help to influence her novel and contribute to the key themes.  

       When Mary Shelly was young her mother died and this ties in with the character of Victor whose mother also dies from giving birth to his brother William, who is later murdered by the creature, (Mary Shelly also had a son called William who died at the age of 3).  Mary Shelly’s first child died twelve days after she was born, she had a dream that her child had come back to life she wrote “Dream that my little baby came to life again - that it had only been cold and that we rubbed it by the fire and it lived - I awake and find no baby - I think about the little thing all day” this tragedy is reflected in Frankenstein with the idea of bringing the dead back to life. Mary Shelly’s own childhood seems to have been brought up in the character of the creature, the creature was abandoned by Victor and Mary Shelly seems to feel that her mother abandoned her because she died when Shelly was only a baby.

       The book Frankenstein has three different narrators though out the novel;  Walton, the captain of a ship heading for the North Pole. Victor Frankenstein the creator of the creature and finally the creature itself, although Victor and the creatures stories are embedded in Walton’s narrative. Mary Shelly uses Walton’s letters to his sister to tell the story from his point of view and that of Victor and the creature.

       The book starts with Walton writing letters to his sister. Walton then encounters  when his ship can go no further north because it is stuck in the ice; Victor Frankenstein has been traveling across the ice following the creature and is ill because of the cold. Robert Walton takes him aboard his ship where Victor Frankenstein tells him the story of creating the creature.

        Victor tells him about his childhood in Geneva which he spent with his cousin .  Victor went to the University of Ingolstadt. While he was there he became obsessed with the idea of bringing people back to life. Victor thinks he has found the secret of life and puts together a human being from bits of other dead people. It was a “dreary night in November” when he finally brings the creature to life. He looks at the repulsive thing that he has created and it horrifies him. He tries to sleep but is disturbed by dreams of his mother and Elizabeth “I held the corpse of my dead mother in my arms”, he wakes up to see the creature standing over him. Mary Shelly is increasing the tension and making the reader more involved. He escaped into the streets of Igolstadt and runs into his friend Clerval, who had come to study at the university. Victor takes his friend back to his apartment, but he finds that the creature is no longer there.  He then becomes ill from a fever; the sickness is a sign that he has realized the horror of what he has done. Before he returns to Geneva he receives a letter from his father telling him his brother William has been murdered. Victor hurries home and when he was passing through the woods where William was murdered, he catches sight of the creature and is convinced the creature killed him, Mary Shelly is increasing the horror with each event as the story unfolds.

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       Victor took a holiday in the mountains to try and ease his grief for his brother. While he is alone one day, crossing a glacier, the creature approaches him. The creature then tells Victor what has happened to him he describes running away from Igolstadt after he was assaulted by the towns’ people, and how he hid away in forests where he discovered fire. He discovers a small shed where he spends some time as he is sheltered from the rain; there is a small peep hole where he can look in to a family house this ...

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