Embodying the lone genius whose efforts to improve human existence could also result in tragedy
I would imagine that most people think of a dim-minded and flat-headed monster when they hear the word Frankenstein. For those of us who are older, we would likely think of the 1931 Universal horror movie that sported the same flat-headed stereotype. Truth is, the real Frankenstein monster was none of these things. If you read the novel, then you will find the monster was the most intelligent and profound character of the story. In fact, when Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein, her intent was to pen political commentary under the veil of a supernatural drama. Sadly, Shelley’s work, which is one of the most brilliant political writings in history, will forever be known for horror instead of insight. This is not only a crime to the brilliance of Shelley, but it is a loss to humanity.
Contrary to Victor Frankenstein, whose goal was to prove his intellectual superiority regardless of the cost, the monster’s feelings, emotions, and empathy made him more human than his creator. In fact, it is the humanity of the monster for whom the reader’s heart bleeds. Frankenstein's monster was a dichotomy who represented the worst of humanity with the best of intentions; showing that a man with the heart of a poet could perform the most egregious of acts.
Frankenstein's monster was a dichotomy who represented the worst of humanity with the best of intentions
Most people do not realize that Shelley’s narrative is a compilation of lessons derived from many influences. A primary influence came from the Titan god Prometheus. The myth of Prometheus had such influence on Shelley’s Frankenstein that she subtitled the book The Modern Prometheus. Prometheus was the Greek god of fire who created humanity by giving life to clay – as Victor Frankenstein gave life to an inanimate corpse. Later, Prometheus was punished for defying the gods by giving fire to his creations. In much the same way, Shelly has the monster punish Victor Frankenstein for defying the laws of nature.
We Are Devoured by the Monsters We Create
Based on Shelly’s writings, another primary influence of her masterpiece was the French Revolution. Shelly sought to show how we are devoured by the monsters we create. Many do not realize it but when it came to freeing humanity from oppression; the French Revolution was a phenomenal failure. Like Frankenstein’s monster, the revolution started with the most noble of intentions, but it became a monster when the revolutionaries turned on themselves. In the end, this monster (the French revolutionary government) was among the most vicious, brutal, and oppressive oligarchies in history – far eclipsing the monarchy of Louis XVI who they replaced. The revolutionary government was so corrupt and oppressive that, ten years later, the people of France overwhelmingly embraced Napoleon Bonaparte as their sovereign and dictator.
Shelly's point is not that the creation in-and-of-itself is evil. Instead, the corruption of the creation makes the monster. Victor Frankenstein had the best of intentions for his creation. However, his failure to nurture his creation turned it into a monster. In Shelly’s novel, the monster infers that he would not have turned against mankind had mankind not turned on him first.
“If any being felt emotions of benevolence towards me, I should return them a hundred and a hundredfold. For that one creature’s sake, I would make peace with the whole of kind! But I now indulge in dreams of bliss that cannot be realized.” - Frankenstein's Monster
Likewise, the failure of the French revolution was not a result of the well intended creation for freedom but the failure of the revolutionary government to be faithful to the principals on which the revolution was based. Today, I see a monster growing in America. I see radicals in our government and within our society hiding behind the noble tenets of liberalism and freedom while clamoring for the imprisonment, reconditioning, and death of those with whom they disagree.
In the end, Victor Frankenstein turned his creation into the monster that ultimately killed him. Likewise, the French revolutionary government turned their creation into the monster that killed them. Now, only moments after its birth, America is turning its creation of progressivism, love, and freedom into a monster that will ultimately kill those very ideals.
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