Commentary on Frankenstein – Li Pak Hei Issac

English “Frankenstein” Commentary Volume II Chapter 2 p.101 – 103

This chapter reunites Victor and the creature after a separation of years. Tormented by guilt and rage following the deaths of William and Justine, Victor Frankenstein climbs Montanvert alone to see the sublime and magnificent view from the mountain to relieve his negative emotions after creating the monster. However, he comes face-to- face with the monster, who speaks passionately about his loneliness and his experience as a wanderer. Rejected by his creator and refused by society, the monster is spending his life wandering in the deserts and mountains. Later, the monster takes Frankenstein to his but high on the mountain and tells him the story of his misfortune.

Mary Shelley is excellent at building up tension and atmosphere in the story. “As I said this, I suddenly beheld the figure of a man, at some distance, advancing towards me with superhuman speed.” The writer does not include the word “monster” in the sentence, as the readers can vividly imagine the sudden approach of a “strange visitor” — the monster. “I was troubled: a mist came over my eyes, and I felt a faintness seize me; but I was quickly restored by the cold gale of the mountains.” This shows that Victor is really nervous and unready for a meeting with the monster. Mary Shelley creates engaging and dynamic characters with opposite goals and successfully rises the tension to a peak that heightened the suspense in the story to catch the readers’ attention.

One of the main themes in the story is Frankenstein playing God. When Victor Frankenstein meets the monster, he immediately warns the monster not to approach him. He addresses the monster in language reminiscent of the vengeful God of the Old Testament, “and do not you fear the fierce vengeance of my arm wreaked on your miserable head?” and “that I may trample you to dust!”. This shows the exaggeration of Frankenstein’s speech. It shows his authority of being a creator. However, he is eventually weak and exhausted from his creation and is irresolute of the approach at the monster, as he is unable to beat the monster’s superhuman strength.

The monster’s language is generally calm and reasoned, biblically solemn and dignified. He is skilful in using a series of rhetorical devices, such as oxymoron and antithesis. “I ought to be thy Adam, but I am rather the fallen angel, whom thou drivest from joy for no misdeed.”. The monster delivers a sudden telescoping ad radical interpretation of the mythic text that stands behind this entire narrative, Milton’s “Paradise Lost”. The point behind the monster’s distinction is that Adam fell by knowingly committing a sinful deed, while Satan, in contrast, was intended to fall from heaven as an intrinsic part of the conception of God’s new creation. The monster sees himself as Satan, excluded from bliss and happiness. He tries to finesse and fix the issue, but is forced to represent the “fallen angel” in the bible. The monster’s most threatening speeches are delivered with elegantly constructed phrases. “If you will comply with my conditions, I will leave them and you at peace; but if you refuse, I will glut the maw of death, until it be satiated with the blood of your remaining friends.” The writer here uses parallelism and repetition. “I will glut the maw of death” means that the monster will fill the mouth of death until it is satiated by the blood of Frankenstein’s loved ones. There is a harmonious arrangements of words and a suggestive balance and reasoning in his speech. This is the first time the monster speaks yet the readers may only be expecting the monster to grunt and produce some inarticulate sounds. There is a striking contradiction between the monster’s verbal and visual appearance. Despite the monster’s hideous appearance, he is the most eloquent character in the novel. The source of eloquence becomes clear when we learn about his education and his impressive reading of the Paradise Lost. Nevertheless, despite his power and size, the monster still believes Frankenstein is his creator and his “natural lord and king”. The monster describes him as “devoted” and is willing to accommodate with Frankenstein. He exclaims that if he takes a proper role in being “mild and docile” to his lord, then Victor Frankenstein must not reject and abandon him.

In comparison, Victor Frankenstein’s language clearly shows that he has a terrible, savage passion. However, he has been only diminished by this passion. His speeches are melodramatic, full of exclamations and theatrical, such as ‘Begone, vile insect!’. He would appear to have lost all sense of proportion and consciousness in referring to the eight-foot high monster as an insect, as he might be too anxious and apprehensive about the meeting with the monster. Victor repeatedly expresses his violent feelings and rage with phrases like “trembled with rage and horror”, “rage and hatred” and “My rage is without bounds”. He then overwhelms the monster “with words expressive of furious detestation and contempt” to show his hatred towards the monster. All Frankenstein’s threats convey a sense of impotence and helplessness and it is further emphasized as the monster reminds Victor, “thou has made me more powerful than thyself.” When Frankenstein charges towards the monster to launch an attack, the monster eludes him easily. This reveals that Victor is overconfident in his ability to beat the monster, as he has superior physical strength and agility. Moreover, Frankenstein uses epithets such as “devil”, “fiend”, “daemon” to place the monster in the role of Satan, claiming misery in hell is not a sufficient punishment for his crimes.

Through the repeated confusion and exchange of roles in the passage, the undermining of all our assumptions and expectations, Mary Shelley makes it difficult to claim any straightforward opposition between the human and the monster. However, the boundaries between the human and the monster seem to dissolve as Victor’s savage passions suggest that he, apparently not a more civilised character, is the “real monster”.

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