Sociology Index

FRANKENSTEIN

Frankenstein is the title of a book written by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley (1797-1851), the daughter of Mary Wollstonecraft. The book Frankenstein, published in 1818, depicts the creation of a man through the application of science. Frankenstein's monster subsequently gets out of control and kills his creator.

Taken as a metaphor of the limited vision but overwhelming arrogance of scientific ‘man’ or rational ‘man’ the book Frankenstein is now seen as an indictment of the modern society emerging in the 18th and 19th centuries. Frankenstein's eponymous main character constructed and gave life to a human monster. Frankenstein is often wrongly used as the name of the monster itself.

Frankenstein is a terrible creation; a thing that becomes terrifying to its creator. Also referred to as Frankenstein's monster, Frankensteinian is the adjective.

Mary Shelley subtitled her novel "The Modern Prometheus." According to the Greeks, Prometheus stole fire from the gods. As punishment, he was chained to a rock, where an eagle each day plucked at his liver. Haughty Prometheus sought fire for human betterment, to make tools and warm hearts.

Similarly, Mary Shelley's arrogant scientist, Victor Frankenstein, claimed "benevolent intentions, and thirsted for the moment when I should put them in practice." Frankenstein endures not only because of its infamous horrors but for the richness of the ideas it asks us to confront--human accountability, social alienation, and the nature of life itself.

In Frankenstein, the intelligent and sensitive monster created by Victor Frankenstein reads a copy of Milton's Paradise Lost, which profoundly stirs his emotions. The Frankenstein's monster compares his situation to that of Adam. Unlike the first man who had "come forth from the hands of God a perfect creature," Frankenstein's creature is hideously formed. Abandoned by Victor Frankenstein, the monster finds himself "wretched, helpless, and alone."

In Frankenstein, Shelley used both the new sciences of chemistry and electricity and the older Renaissance tradition of the alchemists' search for the elixir of life to conjure up the Promethean possibility of reanimating the bodies of the dead.

Mary Shelley gave Frankenstein's monster feelings and intelligence. Fatherless and motherless, the Frankenstein's monster struggles to find his place in human society, struggles with the most fundamental questions of identity and personal history. Alone, Frankenstein's monster learns to speak, to read, and to ponder "his accursed origins." All the while, Frankenstein's monster suffers from the loneliness of never seeing anyone resembling himself.