Defining Factors of Life
Throughout Frankenstein, Mary Shelley creates subliminal critiques on the enlightenment that Victor’s exploration strives to grasp throughout the tale. She provides critiques and curiosity that are long-lasting and well-rounded thoughts which prove the instincts and natural pattern of values in our world. From the moment that Frankenstein opens his dull and yellow eyes, there is a sense of curious questioning of the concepts that are being challenged in this story. These concepts combine the curiosity of what actually defines a living being and what reveals the depths of the soul and how the high of the sublime has ultimate power on a person’s life.
Victor’s creation suffers from a lack of influence, knowledge, personality and nurture which ultimately defines his monstrosity. This figure’s lifespan is defined simply by the will to power that Victor creates when he constructs Frankenstein. After his creation, he is given nothing to develop his personality and no point of reference. This reveals that while Frankenstein may be considered a monster, this may or may not have been a direct result of Victor’s care-taking of this “spawn”. The definition of life may vary between individuals but in this text, a powerful and thought-provoking statement is made through simply presenting the creature alone with only his will- an act of creation needs more than this. This creature was given no form and no sense of space in which his life and personality should develop. This is a problem because without this form, there are natural consequences that are shown through the destruction that is displayed through the life of Frankenstein. Without form, culture, influences, emotions, and knowledge what exactly defines us as living creatures rather than monsters. This allows us as readers to glimpse into the idea of “playing God” which is a continued debate through culture today in different aspects of the progress that we have made in our scientific research and development. Shelley had an early insight to this thought that has withstood the tries and testing of our progression through culture and time.
Another idea presented through the text is that Victor is chasing the high of the sublime. Through many discussions, the sublime is continuously defined as a state of awe and wonder; a detachment from one’s self which results in a revelation of some sort. These effects are usually achieved from a safe distance in which an individual experiences the fear and wonder in a close enough interaction so that it is realistic, yet far enough away to detach from true reality. This drive that inspires Victor can be a dangerous fire to play with. His addiction to this state drives him to search for different ways to achieve the feeling of the sublime and the effect that it has on him. This is an early exploration of the way that the scientific motive may be flawed. In scientific motive, the pursuit of knowledge often results in a manipulation of nature in order to achieve a desired result. This in itself presents a challenge to humanity. It leaves us on our own to continue to develop our opinions of what extent is appropriate to research and create natural discoveries through unnatural scenes and observations. Another important question that is presented through this idea is whether or not chasing this “high” is worth it. This asks the question, what exactly this cost is and what is actually worth laying out your vulnerabilities for it to grasp and possess.
Mary Shelley’s early curiosities that are seen through the text are surprisingly indicative of human thought and reason that have lasted well into the modern perception of the sublime and the definition of life. This historical impact has laid a foundation for exploration into the unknown realms of the mind and affirmed curiosities of not only her contemporary readers, but allows the minds of modern day readers to identify with her arguments and concerns, and thoughts pertaining to the sublime and the definition of life.
Shelley, Mary. Frankenstein. Ed. J. Paul Hunter. New York: W.W. Norton &, 2012. Print.