Frankenstein by Mary Shelley is quite a disturbing novel. All the creation of life from old body parts, monsters, and death aid in creating this effect. Shelley has several themes circulating throughout this book, but I find the themes of creation and guilt perplexing, especially in how they relate to each other. I understand Victor’s guilt over the murder of his brother and the wrongful execution of Justine, due to the fact that he created a monster that led to both of their deaths. However, I never thought about the religious connotations surrounding this guilt. I did not realize that there was a possible connection between creation, life, death, and guilt until I watched one of my FAVORITE Youtube subscriptions, Thug Notes.* The creator of this Youtube channel, Sparky Sweets, PhD. gives unconventional summaries and analyses of various pieces of literature. As it turns out, Sparky made a video on Frankenstein, which I watched of course. Towards the end of Sparky’s video he mentions the religious references in Shelley’s book and whether the fault lies with the monster or his creator.
Revisiting chapters 5, 7, and 9 I found several instances of Victor’s guilt. The first disturbing instance occurs in chapter 5, shortly after the creation of the monster. Victor imagines seeing Elizabeth, kissing her, and then her turning into the decaying and worm ridden body of his mother. Gross. Shortly thereafter, Victor falls ill with a terrible fever, obviously a result of massive amounts of fear, stress, and GUILT. The guilt that Victor feels stems from the creation of the horrifying living corpse and from the realization that he has neglected his family in Geneva. The neglect of his family is emphasize by the dream of dead Elizabeth and his dead mother and then the appearance of Henry Clerval whose “presence brought back to [his] thoughts [his] father, Elizabeth, and all those scenes of home so dear to [his] recollection.”
The next instance occurs in chapter 7, when Victor realizes that his monster has (supposedly) murdered his younger brother William and then that Justine is being tried for his murder. Once more Victor goes through some violent bodily reactions, “I shuddered at the conception…my teeth chattered, and I was forced to lean against a tree for support.” In chapter 8 we learn that Justine is convicted and executed. At the very beginning of chapter 9 Victor expresses his guilt and remorse, “a weight of despair and remorse press on my heart which nothing could remove…I had committed deeds of mischief beyond description horrible.” Victor basically continues to deteriorate physically and mentally from all of the guilt that he feels.
Getting back to Sparky Sweets and the religious overtones present throughout the novel: Going back through the novel I saw several references to Dante’s Inferno, “filthy daemons,” the devil, absolution, God, etc. I firmly believe that Victor is at fault for all of the tragic events that occurred after the creation of the monster. When Sparky Sweets poses the question of whether the fault lies with the monster of his creator, you then have to wonder whether Victor is truly at fault. One could argue that Victor’s loss of his family is a form of punishment from God for trying to imitate Him by creating life. This claim could also be supported the severe illnesses Victor suffers from and his slow mental and physical deterioration. However, the evil that Victor has done is also the product of his own creator, God. Is the monster to blame? No. He’s just a creepy thing made out of dead bodies. What do you expect other than weirdness and death? Is Victor to blame? Yes? But by that same token God is to blame as well…?
*link to the Thug Note video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hcApm_xETqI *