INTRODUCTION Frankenstein and quest

INTRODUCTION - INTRODUCTION TO SHELLEY'S Frankenstein(from Penguin Classics One issue with discussing Shelley's text in this day and age is"undoing

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INTRODUCTION TO SHELLEY’S Frankenstein: (from Penguin Classics) One issue with discussing Shelley’s text in this day and age is “undoing” the pervasive myth in 20 th century culture of the Herman Munster, bolts in the neck figure of the creature. Once you read volume 2 and meet Shelley’s creature, you will see that his characterization has little in common with the grunting, green figure of 1940's horror movies. Below is an image from 1831 that Shelly would have been familiar with (the creature has just opened its eyes for the first time in the foreground and Victor Frankenstein flees in terror in the background): Theodore Von Holst Frontispiece to Mary Shelley, Frankenstein published by Colburn and Bentley, London 1831 Steel engraving in book 93 x 71 mm Private collection, Bath In the novel, the monster is nameless, and Victor Frankenstein is the creature's creator, an earnestly romantic, idealistic, and well-educated young gentleman whose studies in "natural philosophy" and chemistry evolve from "a fervent longing to penetrate the secrets of nature.” However, it is a tribute to the power of Shelley's work a masterpiece that it has spawned a parody (again, the Herman Munster stereotype) no matter how skewed, much as Frankenstein's creation parodies the divine creation of Adam. There is some logic, too, in the popular tendency to conflate the monster and his creator under the name of "Frankenstein." As the novel progresses, Frankenstein and his monster vie for the role of protagonist. We are predisposed to identify with Frankenstein, whose character is admired by his virtuous friends and family and even by the ship captain who rescues him, deranged by his quest for vengeance, from the ice floe. He is a human being, after all. However, despite his philanthropic ambition to "banish disease from the human frame and render man invulnerable to any but a violent death", Frankenstein becomes enmeshed in a loathsome pursuit that causes him to destroy his own health and shun his "fellow-
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creatures as if. ..guilty of a crime". His irresponsibility causes the death of those he loves most, and he falls under the control of his own creation. The monster exhibits a similar kind of duality, arousing sympathy as well as horror in all who hear his tale. He demands our compassion to the extent that we recognize ourselves in his existential loneliness. Rejected by his creator and utterly alone, he learns what he can of human nature by eavesdropping on a family of cottage dwellers, and he educates himself by reading a few carefully selected titles that have fortuitously fallen across his path, among them Paradise Lost . "Who was I? What was I? Whence did I come?" T he asks himself. Like Milton's Satan, who almost inadvertently becomes the compelling protagonist of Paradise Lost , the monster has much to recommend him. Despite his criminal acts, the monster's self-consciousness and his ability to educate himself raise the
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This note was uploaded on 03/24/2011 for the course ENG 329 taught by Professor Pitts during the Spring '11 term at ASU.

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INTRODUCTION - INTRODUCTION TO SHELLEY'S Frankenstein(from Penguin Classics One issue with discussing Shelley's text in this day and age is"undoing

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