Sympathy in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein
Mary Shelley was born in 1797. She had a difficult life with many
family upsets’, miscarriages and suffered personal depression; she
died aged 53. Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein firstly as a short ghost
story but it was published as a novel in 1816.
Frankenstein is a Gothic novel and it deals with two genres, Gothicism
and science fiction. Gothicism is part of the Romantic Movement that
started in the late eighteenth century. The Romantic Movement is based
on freedom of thought and expression and the belief of living in an
age of new beginnings and high possibilities. Science fiction explores
the marvels of discovery and achievement that may result from future
developments in science and technology. Mary Shelley has obviously
used the idea of new technology to create an original novel.
Frankenstein is about a young man called Victor who has a thirst for
knowledge and ambition. He discovers the secret of animating lifeless
matter and, by assembling corpses, creates a monster that vows revenge
on his creator after being rejected from society.
This essay will be looking at how Shelley inspires sympathy for the
monster. Sympathy is a feeling or an expression of pity or sorrow for
the distress of another. Shelley creates sympathy for the monster by
creating themes of alienation and prejudice towards him. She also adds
subplots of the Delacy family and the monster’s lack of childhood to
create sympathy in Frankenstein.
The theme of alienation is very prominent throughout Frankenstein.
Alienation means estrangement, which is exactly what the monster was
going through. In volume two, we are able to understand the monster’s
tale through his own eyes. This creates more sympathy and we feel his
emotions because he is speaking in the first person. When the monster
says, “I was a poor, helpless, miserable wretch… I sat down and cried”
he creates more sympathy for himself because he knows his emotions but
he doesn’t know why he is “wretched, helpless and alone” so therefore
he is alienated from the world and himself.
The monster’s character also creates isolation because of his
weaknesses and strengths, which make him different from society. The
monster lacks the knowledge and understanding of who he actually is
and why he is alive. Frankenstein rejected the “creature” at birth,
never gave him a name and never helped the monster grow up. The
monster says, “Cursed, cursed creator, why did I live? It shows the
reader that he blames the only family he has for bringing him into the
world and then rejecting him and making him isolated and cut off from
everyone. This shows the monster’s feeling from his point of view. I
think this creates sympathy because it shows the monster questions the
reason for his creation.
With no other monster alive he has no family apart from Victor who is
not the biological father, so the monster has no one to relate to as a