Commentary on Frankenstein – Justin Lau

Victor Frankenstein’s abomination is finally brought to existence right at the beginning of the fifth chapter of Mary Shelley’s horror tale. Victor was ardent and eager for his creation to be brought to life. He originally expected that the monster would be a beautiful being and feverishly looked forward to the completion of his project. However, when the daemon opens his eyes, Victor abruptly understands the gravity of what he has done and perceives the monster in an entirely different light. He is horrorstruck by it and he is haunted by it both in his dreams and in reality. Victor finally flees from his own creation in terror and disgust.

Mary Shelley achieves the effect of accurately showing the reader how terrible the monster is and how Victor feels about his creation through her clever manipulation of language. At the very beginning of the chapter, the monster is referred to as the “lifeless thing”. The word “lifeless” is used even though Victor clearly succeeds in animating the creature through electricity. This word shows that even though the monster has a spark of life, its animation is artificial and was not meant to be. The word allows the reader to understand that Victor has created something that was not supposed to have life. The word “thing” also illustrates Victor’s confusion and horror of the being he has created. The word allows the reader to think that the creature is not human and is not a real living being. Victor also describes the monster as a “wretch”, a despicable being that can bring out nothing but contempt and loathing from Victor. We can also find that the monster is referred to as a “demonical corpse”, which tells the reader that the monster appears evil and almost satanic in Victor’s eyes. “Corpse” may be a nod towards the fact that the body of the monster was made with scavenged body parts from graveyards, and it may also be an indication of Victor’s regret of bringing his creation to life because he thinks that the daemon’s life is unnatural and abnormal.

Victor’s feelings of the monster are also described in detail in the abstract. Mary Shelley informs the reader of how appalled and surprised Victor is to suddenly find out that his creation is far from the beautiful being he originally aspired to create. It is when Victor finally completes his work that he looks at the situation at a different angle. Instead of the perfect, unblemished work of art that will prove that Victor Frankenstein can create life itself, the monster turns out to be a tainted, ghastly and grotesque being. This being suddenly looks horrific and inhumane to Victor, and Victor is taken aback. The reader will later discover that the monster does not only take a demoniacal form, but also performs evil deeds to Frankenstein and those close to him. The reader is shown how strongly Victor s affected by the monster. He flees the room where the experiment takes place and cannot banish the monster from his thoughts, even in his sleep.

Another significant part of the extract is the dream Victor experiences while he is in his troubled sleep. When Victor throws himself onto his bed, all his excitement is completely gone but his mind is still disturbed. He falls asleep but he goes through a nightmare. He sees Elizabeth and embraces her, but in an instant her body turns into the corpse of Victor’s deceased mother. Victor’s sexuality is a big part of the dream. He fears the dirty business of sex and does not like to engage in these affairs with a woman. The dream is a sign that Victor will sooner or later have to confront his sexuality. The dream points towards a desire buried deep down in Victor’s subconscious, the thought that if Elizabeth dies, he will not have to marry a woman. It is an indication of this desire that is hidden from the outside world. Victor may even feel that sexual activities are unnecessary because the need of a womb has been eliminated, as proven by how Victor creates life without any sexual affairs with a woman. This gives the reader insight to Victor’s mentality and his subconscious feelings.

The aspect of death in the dream is also crucial to the plot and to the understanding of the novel’s protagonist. The word “death” itself may suggest that the monster will somehow lead to the death of its creator later on in the story. The dead corpse of Victor’s mother can also be related to the Oedipus Complex. The replacement of Elizabeth, one of the people Victor cherishes the most, with Victor’s dead mother might be a sign of the Oedipus Complex as well. This means that Victor subconsciously wants to have sexual relations with his own mother. Victor’s passion for Elizabeth may possibly be a transference from his feelings for his mother, given that Elizabeth took up a

motherly role after the death of Victor’s mother. The connection established between Victor’s mother and Elizabeth may also be an indication towards Elizabeth’s untimely demise on the wedding night of Victor and herself. The theme of death itself is an important hint towards the many tragic deaths that will happen in the story.

A symbol of the darkness of the story is the candle next to Victor when he brings the monster to life. The “half-extinguished light” is a representation of the tone of the story and more importantly the awakening of the daemon. The candle might also be a symbol of Victor’s misfortunes throughout the story. Victor is at first extremely enthusiastic and committed to creating life, but then once his creation turns out to be a monster, his life goes downhill and he experiences many hardships and deaths. Another factor worthy to note is that the word “convulse” was used twice in the extract, once to describe the monster as it is brought to life and once to describe Victor after his nightmare. This creates a link between the monster and Victor, and may be a subtle hint towards the fact that the monster is a projection of Victor’s very own inner darkness, an alter ego that is the physical manifestation of Victor’s deepest, darkest thoughts.

When the monster grins towards his maker and extends his arm towards him, these actions are like a child reaching out to his parent for consolation and intimacy, and the gestures might well be a symbol of innocence and pathos. However, this is contrary to what Victor thinks. Victor runs because he believes that the monster’s grin is evil and its outstretched arm is going to hurt him in some way, which of course is a complete misinterpretation. The dark theme of the extract is, in fact, entirely due to the way Victor looks at things. The monster itself has not done anything horrible or wrong yet, but it is Victor’s perception of the monster as an abomination that generates the darkness of the extract. Victor views the monster as an evil being and what it does to be wicked and horrifying, which is something that Victor cannot possibly be sure of because he has not interacted with the monster at all. The interpretation of the environment and of the monster is what makes this extract so blood-curdling.

This extract is a strong turning point of the story. Victor finally accomplishes his goal of creating life, but once he sees how horrendous the monster was, he flees. Victor’s life is changed dramatically from the moment the being opens his eyes onwards, and this chapter gives the reader a taste of what is to come. Mary Shelley’s clever use of language, along with the detail and depth of the characters make this extract a horrifying but enjoyable part of the story, while laying the foundation for the tone and intensity of the remaining part of Victor Frankenstein’s tale.

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