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Frankenstein: A Cultural History

Autor:   •  March 8, 2011  •  Essay  •  796 Words (4 Pages)  •  1,656 Views

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In Mary Shelley's novel, Frankenstein's creation begins as a physical monster, even though his creator, Victor Frankenstein, selected beautiful body parts to make him. He is eight feet tall (easier to make a big body, Victor says) with watery yellow eyes, thin black lips, and stringy black hair. His character begins benign but as people respond in horror, fear, and violence toward his physical presence, his anger builds and he becomes violent in return. Read more about whether the creator or the creation is more monstrous in Susan Tyler Hitchcock's book, Frankenstein: A Cultural History.

Reason and Positivity

The philosophical outlook of Enlightenment peoples was one of reason and positivity. In the third letter to his sister, Robert Walton states "success shall crown my endeavors," and talks about his perseverance and quest for knowledge. He speaks with optimism towards his guest (Victor) in a subsequent letter, relying on positive conversations and thoughts to propel the guest out of his sadness.

With the same sort of outlook, Victor, considers opposing viewpoints on scientific matters and ponders their meaning in the same manner he has claimed to have traced the history of science and thinking. In a similar situation later on, Victor holds back a response to the criticisms of M. Krempe and M. Waldman, preferring to maintain his dignity and keep his spirits high.

Even at the end of the novel when Victor is acknowledging his failures with his monster and finally taking responsibility for his mistakes (though a bit late), he wishes goodwill upon Walton and others. The will to achieve and a positive reaction to less than positive conditions make these sections representative of the Enlightenment era.

Enlightenment and Fate

When Victor takes a moment to ponder upon a story from his youth, we get a glimpse at the Enlightenment view of fate. Victor recalls a time when he was fifteen and lightning not just split, but splintered, a tree near his house. A well researched natural philosopher just happened to be with him at the time, and when he explained the scientific concepts that had destroyed the tree, Victor immersed himself in the study of mathematics and the sciences related to mathematics.

It is no coincidence that lightning was involved in this great revelation. Shelley uses the illumination of the lightning to show the reader the light in a very literal manner, and the fact that it is destroying an "old and beautiful" oak only further goes to show an Enlightenment view of fate. The oak is a strong tree, representing


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