In today’s world of genetically engineered hearts and genetically altered glowing rats, the story of Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley, seems as if it could be seen in the newspapers in our near future. The discoveries seen in modern science, as well as in the novel, often have controversy and negative consequences that follow them, the biggest of which being the responsibility the creator of life has to what has been created. Victor Frankenstein suffers from a variety of internal and external conflicts stemming from the creation of his monster, which in return also experiences similar problems. Shelley uses these tumultuous issues to portray the discrepancies between right and wrong, particularly through romanticism and the knowledge of science.
Upon first discovering how to make life, Victor is overwhelmed with excitement and pride, feeling as though he has unlocked the greatest power on earth. His imagination is “too much exalted” by this newfound ability, and thus determines there is no “animal as complex and wonderful as man” for him to attempt as his first creation (Shelley 43). Frankenstein does not contemplate how he will react to or interact with the human he gives life to, or that he has created an extremely twisted parent-child relationship by creating a human from dead bodies. His general lack of concern regarding the consequences of his remarkable yet dangerous power is the root of the rest of the conflict between him and his monster throughout the rest of the novel, and it exemplifies Shelley’s underlying theme that science should not be pushed past morally and psychologically safe boundaries.
After two years of strenuous labor, Frankenstein is able to instill life within his “miserable wretch” and upon seeing “its dull yellow eye open,” he is immediately horrified and disgusted with his creation (47). Frankenstein is so overwhelmed by these emotions that once he sees the creature try to reach for him, he flees from his laboratory and the thing he created (48-49). The blind fear and immediate rejection by Frankenstein is extremely detrimental to the monster, who seems to be just a confused, lost, and miserable being desperately searching for acceptance and purpose. Ironically, creator and creature share this search throughout the novel, and the paths of both tortured souls are fatefully bound to intersect frequently. Frankenstein’s denunciation of his creation again explicates the cautionary theme of the perhaps extremely detrimental consequences of irresponsible, unplanned scientific progress.
Frankenstein’s creature follows him across Europe for the remainder of the novel, and attempts to learn more about and reason with his creator. During their first interaction, the creature explains how he perceives the “original era” of his existence, and how he is a “poor, helpless, miserable wretch” (87). He does not seem to be a frightening, evil being, but instead a terrified, lonely being, and often throughout the telling of his...