Mary Wollstonecraft’s literary novel Frankenstein; The Modern Prometheus is about a creator’s relationship with his creation. The diabolical schemes of the mad scientist playing around with biological molecules in order to create a life is pitted against the concept of good and evil in relation to playing god as Dr. Victor Frankenstein does in this novel. Thus, the relationship between master and creation, or of ‘god’ and ‘human’ will be the exploratory factor in this essay.
The complications that arise between creator and ‘son’ in Shelley’s novel can be found strictly within the sentiments of horror which Dr. Frankenstein finds within himself for having created the monster. Springing forth from these feelings comes another emotion: The emotion of fear for having created something so grotesque in physique, and it is with this predominant feeling that Dr. Victor Frankenstein flees from his creation;
It was on a dreary night of November, that I beheld the accomplishment of my toils. With an anxiety that almost amounted to agony, I collected the instruments of life around me, that I might infuse a spark of being into the lifeless thing that lay at my feet. It was already one in the morning; the rain pattered dismally against the panes, and my candle was nearly burnt out, when, by the glimmer of the half-extinguished light, I saw the dull yellow eye of the creature open; it breathed hard, and a convulsive motion agitated its limbs (Shelley 43).
While Dr. Victor Frankenstein is abhorred at his creation this same sentiment is similar to God as witnessed in the Old Testament. The relationship between God and humanity in the Old Testament falls along a pattern of destruction of the wicked. During Sodom and Gomorrah the entire town is rained down upon by with sulfur (a volcanic substance) which devastates the town past recognizable features. Thus, the relationship between God and his creation who have turned to sin, is one filled with complexities and devastation. The relationship between the sulfur scenario and Victor’s relationship with his monster is the same.
While Victor chastises himself for having created the monster, for having become a god in a sense, the monster searches out Victor his creator, his father in order to satisfy his childlike need of being wanted. As the creator of the creature, Victor has certain obligations that go unfulfilled during the course of the story. Even when the monster approaches him to beseech him for a bride, made just as grotesquely as himself so that he may have some companionship and with a sense of belonging and of need; Victor refuses to once again play God and in his refusing he once again abandons his obligations as a father or as a God to this creature.
The complicated dialogue that occurs in the story as told by Victor Frankenstein is his regret in creating the creature, not firstly due to his murders but initially due to the failure it represented of Dr. Frankenstein’s genius. His endeavors to re-create humanity go asunder with the monster’s ‘birth’ – in the comparison of Victor and God, the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah are done because God is displeased with humanity despite him making them in his own image, there is too much sin in the cities that the only possible action is to destroy them both. This is the same thoughts of Victor in relation to his sinful creation.
The world was to [him] a secret which [he] desired to divine. Curiosity, earnest research to learn the hidden laws of nature, gladness akin to rapture, as they were unfolded to [him], are among the earliest sensations [he] can remember . . . It was the secrets of heaven and earth that [he] desired to learn; and whether it was the outward substance of things or the inner spirit of nature and the mysterious soul of man that occupied [him], still [his] inquiries were directed to the metaphysical, or in it highest sense, the physical secrets of the world. (Shelley 22-3)
In God’s percept of the cities he sees nothing but disgust and carnal affairs with no beauty, in Dr. Victor Frankenstein’s own interpretation of his creature he states, “[a] flash of lightning illuminated the object and discovered its shape plainly to me; its gigantic stature, and the deformity of its aspect, more hideous than belongs to humanity, instantly informed me that it was the wretch, the filthy demon to whom [he] had given life.” (Shelley 60).
In the monster’s outcast from Victor’s affections and fatherly obligations he travels from Ingolstadt to Geneva finding out about humanity along the way and cursing his lack of a relationship with Victor. Thus, the monster is quite likened to Adam and Eve in their banishment from God’s utopia (the Garden of Eden) in the Old Testament. The monster is forced to fend for himself in the world and for this he is jaded against Victor.
In the monster’s feelings of cynicism toward humanity and relationships with people, he seeks to have revenge on Victor not just for having created him, but for having created him and then abandoning him, “‘All men hate the wretched; how then, must I be hated, who am miserable beyond all living things! Yet you, my creator, detest and spurn me, they creature, to whom thou art bound by ties only dissoluble by the annihilation of one of us.'” (Shelley 83). In his revenge he murders William, Victor’s brother. In this action exists the birth of hate between them that seems to rampage through the book between these two characters until the desired end of the death of either of them. In the act of punishment for having refused to make him a wife, the monster kills Victor’s wife, father and best friend Henry. Although the comparison between any biblical relationships is difficult to ascertain it can be surmised that Cain and Abel deeply resemble such a jealousy. The monster is jealous of Victor’s accomplishments and his love between family and friends and as an act of revenge instead of killing Victor, he kills the people with whom he cares about and who represent the type of relationship the monster wished to have with Victor. Thus, as Cain and Abel were brother against brother, the scenario Shelley wrote was father against son.
In any term of the word this creature was his son. Victor found him in the charnel house and created him, lovingly with the greatest of intentions. Victor however was not prepared to be a father just perhaps as the monster was unprepared to be a rejected son. The monster perhaps blames Victor’s ego and his high expectations for leaving him when first he opened his eyes and later when the monster reached out for Victor. They were both unprepared for this life, for this crossing of fates. The monster’s vengeance was that of a hated son and Victor’s hunting him to destroy him was in all capacities a desire to understand his son. They both failed in their lives as these final chapters reflect. The son was far from being the prodigal son and showed no redeeming qualities because this life had shown him no love. Victor failed as a father in loving; Victor did not have enough for his son and did not give him what he so desired; camaraderie (in either a father or a wife). Victor is robbed of his science in the end. Shelley’s story is the evil nature of man gone past redemption and therin lies the idea of hate.
Thus, the two, the father and the son, become enraged with one another and Victor vows to hunt the creature to the ends of the earth. At this point the reader can conjecture that this is Victor’s punishment for playing God; seeking out his own creation in order to murder it; thus the end is found in the beginning. In the course of this chase in the Arctic circle however the reader is presented with the notion that Victor Frankenstein brought this doom upon himself. He is not the victim of the story, he is the god and therefore responsible for his creation’s actions. If Victor had not abandoned the monster the deaths of his friends and his family would not have come to be, thus, with the shirking of his almighty responsibilities, the true victim in this modern tale of Prometheus, is the monster, as Victor states,
“‘In a fit of enthusiastic madness I created a rational creature and was bound towards him to assure, as far as was in my power, his happiness and well-being . . . I refused, and I did right in refusing, to create a companion for the first creature. He showed unparalleled malignity and selfishness in evil; he destroyed my friends . . . Miserable himself that he may render no other wretched, he ought to die. The task of his destruction was mine, but I have failed.'” (Shelley 199-200).
Therefore, Victor’s death is a means to an end. He dies in order so that his creation may have a chance of redemption. Thus, the monster, once abandoned, has the opportunity to live a life as never intended by Victor. Victor was caught up in being God and not in the monster’s well-being, with his death he is able to give him a chance again.