of Loneliness, Companionship, and Social Rejection
Frankenstein or The Modern Prometheus is a masterpiece of Mary Shelley. She writes it when she was only eighteen years old. The novel examines the themes of loneliness, companionship and social rejection as the author presents a notable character to Victor Frankenstein, the monster, and Robert Walton. The purpose of this essay is to analyze the themes of loneliness, companionship and social rejection through the use of symbols and other literary devices, which show the agony and loss as the three characters experience these feelings. Mary Shelley uses imagery, irony, and symbolism that set up the themes.
The themes are shown through imagery as the monster, Victor, and Robert experience how the society casts them. The monster’s horrendous appearance makes the society disgust him that even his creator, which is Victor get terrified upon seeing him. This can be seen when Victor describes his creation: “His yellow skin scarcely covered the work of muscles and arteries beneath; his hair was of a lustrous black and flowing; his teeth of a pearly whiteness; but this luxuriance only formed a more horrid contrast with his watery eyes, that seemed almost of the same colour as the dun-white sockets in which they were set, his shriveled complexion and straight black lips” (Shelley 42). The monster’s strange physical appearance makes the society terrorize, mistreat and reject him. It becomes his main barrier as the people are used to judge the outward appearance without looking at its inner surface.
As it happens, not only the monster experiences the rejection and loneliness, but also his creator, Victor Frankenstein. He has this eagerness to learn science that resulted in creating the monster. It is his way of shaking off the loneliness and other negative feelings which is seen when he is creating the monster: “My cheeks had grown pale with study … and the moon gazed on my midnight labors while with unrelaxed and breathless eagerness … My limbs now tremble and my eyes swim with the remembrance … my eyeballs were starting from their sockets on attending to the details of my employment” (Shelley 39). As it shows the process of how he creates the monster, Victor’s knowledge of science and his hunger to create a human, give him the power that results in loss and death of his family because of his carelessness to his creation. Also, his obsession with scientific knowledge separates him from his social life, as he is the one who isolates himself from everything.
In addition, Robert Walton has the desire for knowledge too that makes him explore and reach the North Pole: “I feel a cold northern breeze play upon my cheeks, which braces my nerves and fills me with delight. Do you understand this feeling? This breeze, which has traveled regions towards which I am advancing, gives me a foretaste of those icy climes. Inspirited by this wind of promise, my daydreams become more fervent and vivid” (Shelley 1). As Robert Walton chases his dreams and discovers new places, his knowledge and position leave him a gap between his shipmates. He thinks that his shipmates are too uneducated to share his dreams and feelings. In brief, Mary Shelley uses the three male characters to express and build the themes through their senses which give vivid and real imagination to the reader.
Furthermore, Shelley also uses irony to show how the three male characters are seeking companionship to build relationships so that they can connect their feelings and thoughts. The monster does not choose to look horrible and get rejected. He feels unconnected and seeks companionship and understanding from human society and Victor which is seen:
I endeavored to crush these fears and to fortify myself for the trial which in a few months I resolved to undergo; and sometimes I allowed my thoughts, unchecked by reason, to ramble in the fields of Paradise, and dared to fancy amiable and lovely creatures sympathizing with my feelings and cheering my gloom; their angelic countenances breathed smiles of consolation. But it was all a dream; no Eve soothed my sorrows nor shared my thoughts; I was alone. (Shelley 111)
The monster feels alone and is looking for a living creature that will give the care and understanding, which his creator and the society have not given to him. It also leads the monster to learn things just by himself.
Not only the monster is seeking companionship but also Robert Walton. He mourns the absence of a friend in his life. This is seen when he is updating his sister through a letter:
But I have one want which I have never yet been able to satisfy, and the absence of the object in which I now feel as a most severe evil. I have no friend, Margaret when I am glowing with the enthusiasm of success, there will be none to participate my joy, if I am assailed by disappointment, no one will endeavour to sustain me in dejection… I desire the company of a man who could sympathize with me, whose eyes would reply to mine. (Shelly 4)
Robert Walton cannot find a companion in his shipmates because of his position as their captain. He shows his depression as he has no one to share his feelings and no one can relate to him because of his knowledge. The knowledge separates him from his mates.
On the other hand, Victor is stuck with his emotions as he receives a letter from his father about his brother’s death, William. This is seen when Victor is on his way home: “My journey is melancholy. At first, I wished to hurry on, for I longed to console and sympathize with my loved and sorrowing friends; but when I drew near my native town, I slackened my progress. I could hardly sustain the multitude of feelings that crowded into my mind” (Shelley 58). Victor is questioning himself how his brother died. The questions that have filled his mind which causes him to return home slow. It is so mysterious to him. The punishment that Victor faces in being blinded in creating and not understanding the monster is the loss of happiness, downfall, and destruction of his family. Furthermore, Mary Shelley uses irony that keeps the reader intrigued as far as the themes are concerned. It also helps as the story becomes more interested and the three male characters experience struggles just to feel connected.
Other than imagery and irony, Shelley also uses objects as a symbol that represents the themes. To prove it, as the monster is looking for his mate, the symbolism of a window often takes place when this happens. This can be seen when Victor is working on the female monster that he and his creation’s deal up, while the monster is watching him through the window: “I trembled and my heart failed within me, when, on looking up, I saw by the light of the moon the demon at the casement. A ghastly grin wrinkled his lips as he gazed at me, where I sat fulfilling the task which he had allotted to me” (Shelley 145). Victor realizes that creating the female monster is one of the ways to make sure that his family remains safe. Apparently, he thinks that the female monster might cause more conflicts and struggles rather than cause resolutions.
Likewise, the monster feels inspired and envy at the same time by the De Lacey family, as he sees the care and love that they have for each other. This is seen when monster observes the De Lacey family through a window:
I have found that one of the windows of the cottages had formerly occupied a part of it, but the panes have filled up with wood … he raised her and smiled with such kindness and affection that I felt sensations of peculiar and overpowering nature. They were a mixture of pain and pleasure, such as I had never before experienced, either from hunger or cold, warmth or food, and I withdrew from the window, unable to bear these emotions. (Shelley 89)
Through the De Lacey family, the monster learns how a family should be. The way how the De Lacey family has love, care, and support for each other despite their poor situation. It also triggers the monster to ask a female mate. The window shows significance to the monster as he watches Victor creating his female mate and observes the De Lacey family through it.
Furthermore, Victor isolates himself as he spends most of his time in his laboratory. The laboratory represents Victor’s knowledge, time, and effort as it is one of the roots why the monster is created: “In a solitary chamber, or rather a cell, at the top of the house, and separated from all other apartments by a gallery and staircase, I keep my workshop of filthy creation …” (Shelley 39). Through this, it shows that Victor is hiding something. He keeps his laboratory separated and secret, and is the only person who has access to it. He leaves his family and spends most of his days in his laboratory studying for his creation, that causes him to isolate himself. It is also evident by the lack of visitation and letters from the family, which suggests his focus and interest in science other than anything else.
Moreover, Robert Walton feels alone and has no one to get along with. The only person he has is his sister but too far away from him. The only communication he has is through the letter. The significance and meaning of the letter shifts throughout the novel. In the beginning of the novel, the four letters of Robert to his sister is about his voyage, lack of companion and when he finds Victor Frankenstein nearly frozen in his voyage towards the North Pole:
Good God! Margaret, if you had seen the man who thus capitulated for his safety, your surprise would have been boundless. Her limbs were nearly frozen, and his body dreadfully emaciated by fatigue and suffering … we accordingly brought him back to the deck and restored him to animation by rubbing him with brandy and forcing him to swallow a small quantity. As soon as he showed signs of life we wrapped him up in blankets and placed him near the chimney of the kitchen stove. (Shelley 10)
Through Robert’s action of kindness, it clearly shows how the absence of a companion effect on him. His longing to have a friend shows on how he takes care of Victor, and is looking forward to be Victor’s friend. At the end of the novel, Robert Walton continues the story in the form of letter to his sister about how the dangerous knowledge leads to tragedy and failure, the death of Victor Frankenstein and the unfinished business of Victor to the monster as he wants Robert Walton to carry on. Apparently, as stated in the final letter, the monster regrets what he has done, ready to die and says:
I am content to suffer alone while my sufferings shall endure. When I die, I am well satisfied that abhorrence and opprobrium should load my memory. Once my fancy was soothed with dreams of virtue, of fame, and of enjoyment. Once my falsely hoped to meet with beings who pardoning my outward form, would love me for the excellent qualities which I was capable of unfolding… (Shelley 196)
The letter shows the perspective of a person from one another and gives importance as a way of communication. Through this technique, it helps the reader to understand the narration of the novel as it is subjective because of the character’s absorption. Through this, the letter represents the realness of a character as Robert Walton uses letters to share the important information about Victor Frankenstein. Overall, Mary Shelley conveys the themes through symbolism as it helps to establish the meaning and importance of an object that is connected to the three male characters and to the themes.
In conclusion, the literary devices show a great importance and significance of the three male characters as they undergo such hardships just to feel they belong, which also establish the themes of loneliness, companion, and social rejection. The themes of loneliness, companion, and social rejection are three of the most important themes in the novel. It also follows a pattern that is repeated in the novel. Victor Frankenstein chooses to isolate himself because of his desire for scientific knowledge that leads to disaster. Robert Walton has the passion for science too like Victor, but pursuit it knowledge that represents a good human being. The monster which he tries to fit into the society like other people, but his hideous appearance becomes the main reason why people keep pushing him back away from them. In this case, Should Victor create the monster or not?