The key figures in Romanticism addressed many of the same issues. Such connectivity is marked in William Blake’s poems “Infant Sorrow” and “On Another’s Sorrow”, and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Shelley, like Blake, argues for continual development of innocence to experience, and through the character of Victor Frankenstein’s creation, Mary Shelley suggests the equilibrium of innocence and experience offers insight into the human condition. The shift is distinguished by what Blake states in plate 3, stanza 2 of “The Marriage of Heaven and Hell”: “Without contraries is no progression” (112). Any event, idea, or emotion that is contrary to the innocent human conscience is a progression to experience. In Frankenstein, the balance and shift of innocence and experience is evidenced by the creature’s observance of the De Lacey’s, the misfortune that befalls him in his wandering, and finally, the progression of experience reaches maturation through murder.
A careful analysis of the creature’s initial human interaction shows a steady shift from innocence as the creature experiences the world around him. Frankenstein’s creation is simple and child-like in conscience yet aged and abhorred in appearance. Although a paradox, the creature is akin to an adult child: innocent and naïve, but forced to experience the world. Blake recognizes this concept in his poem “Infant Sorrow” in which he states, “Into the dangerous world I leapt: / Helpless, naked, piping loud, / Like a fiend hid in a cloud” (ll. 2-4). One rarely thinks of a newborn baby as a “fiend”. It seems more believable to observe the grotesque form of the creature as a fiend. However, both the infant and Frankenstein’s creation entered the world with veiled and “clouded” eyes, unable to see the infinite. In the early years of childhood, both newborn and creature are like clay to be molded. They are malleable and in Blake’s world of experience, subjected to face the world and its inhabitants. The creature himself remarks about the significance of his first human contact apart from his creator: “Perhaps, if my first introduction to humanity had been made by a young soldier, burning for glory and slaughter, I should have been imbued with different sensations” (116). The sensations felt by the creature can certainly be considered benevolent. He continues:
“I felt the greatest ardor for virtue rise within me, and abhorrence for vice, as far as I understood the significance of those terms, relative as they were, as I applied them, to pleasure and pain alone… the patriarchal lives of my protectors caused these impressions to take a firm hold on my mind” (116).
The De Lacey’s offered Frankenstein’s creation with an education in speech and human society. They also unknowingly left the creature with so many unanswered questions. Left to his own devices, brooding and pensive, the creature began to realize his naïveté with a bold proclamation of “I was absolutely ignorant” (109). No longer in the...