frankenstein excerpt

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This passage from Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein functions as a pivotal point in narrative progression, a prophetic plot device, as well as a thematic emblem within the novel. Literary devices such as evocative language, narrative point of view, imagery, metaphor and intertextuality create a resonance between the passage and the ideas and events within the novel. The excerpt has a prime function as an index against which the issues and narrative progression of the novel may be qualified and contextualized.

This excerpt functions as a pivotal point in the narrative progression of the novel, the infusion of the “spark of being” (p 4) into the creature signifying the beginning of a destructive momentum which steers Frankenstein and his human attachments to ruin. The passage marks a radical change in the tenor of the novel; Frankenstein’s altruistic dreams of achievement are quashed by the birth of a “miserable monster” (p 5), chrystallising the inherent conflict between his “emotional nature and intellectual aspirations . A sense of dramatic climax is created through contrasting word selection; the loftiness of Frankenstein’s expectations portrayed through phrases such as “the beauty of the dream” (p 5) and “I had desired it with an ardor that far exceeded moderation” (p5), are contrasted with his horror at the crude reality of his creation, “horror and disgust filled my heart” (p 5). Frankenstein’s abandonment of the creature, his “escape” into the courtyard, also reinforces the change in the pitch of the novel, signifying the point at which his creation becomes an abortion.

The passage also has an important prophetic function within the novel. Death and destruction are equated with the birth of Frankenstein’s monster, preempting the downfall of the protagonist and his human attachments through the “murderous autonomy of excessive ambition . Frankenstein’s dream of Elizabeth, transmuted into images of his dead mother, is a prophetic device employed by Shelley which foreshadows the death of Elizabeth. In the passage, juxtaposition of the dead Elizabeth with the presence of the creation (“forcing its way through the window shutters” (p 5)) upon Frankenstein’s awakening, emphatically reinforces the intrinsic link between the creation of the monster and the destruction of Frankenstein’s companions. Storm imagery is also employed in the passage as a prophetic device which foreshadows Frankenstein’s steady dissolution towards tragedy. Storm imagery punctuates Victor’s interactions with his creature, “cast as symbols of unleashed destruction” , forging a strong association between the creation of monster and the gradual stripping of Frankenstein’s attachments. The creature is animated amidst “rain patter[ing] dismally against the panes” (p 4), while “Clouds hid the mood…The wind was high” (p 100) on the night of Clervald’s murder by the creature. Similarly, on the evening of the murder of Elizabeth “a heavy storm of rain descended” (p1016). Thus the passage has an important prophetic function, forcing the reader to qualify the downfall of the protagonists in relation to the birth of Frankenstein’s creation.

The ambiguous nature of ambition, the morality of science, and the responsibility of the creator are three prevalent themes whose significance echoes throughout the novel, giving the excerpt significance as a thematic emblem against which the narrative progression of the novel can be qualified. The ambiguous nature of ambition, which marries the ardent pursuit of unparalleled achievement with immense human cost, is chrystallised in Frankenstein’s reaction to the animation of his creation. The emotional polarity expressed by Frankenstein, who eagerly awaited the infusion of life into the corpse with “anxiety that almost amounted to agony” (p 4) but who was beset with “breathless horror and disgust” (p 5) upon completing the task, alludes to a sense of “loss through gain” . This Faustian ambiguity of ambition is paralleled in the situation of Walton, whose “ardent curiosity with the sight of the world never before visited” (p 1), stems to an intense sense of isolation (“I have no friend Margaret” (p15)). The contrast and interplay between these two narrators, their convergence in the harsh climate of the North Pole, creates a resonance between them through which the human cost of ambition can be qualified against the allure of achievement.

Questions surrounding the morality of science stem from Frankenstein’s transgression of natural order whereby he “infuse[s] a spark of being into the lifeless thing” (p 4). His endeavor to emulate and supersede the female capacity for childbirth is emphasized through the dream of his dead mother and Elizabeth which juxtaposes those with capacity for natural creation with Frankenstein’s artificial methods. From this feminist perspective, Victor’s dream of his dead mother upon the animation of his creation, can also be construed as a warning against subversion of natural forces , equating death with the birth of the creature. Frankenstein’s scientific exploit is also synonymous with “defiance of God” , and this act is held up to scrutiny through Promethean allusions which run throughout the novel. Frankenstein’s utterance of the words “Great God!” (p 5), draws attention to his endeavor to enter the realm of the creator. However his tremendous horror at the wretchedness brings a painful awareness of human alienation from the divine . Frankenstein’s ultimate inability to circumvent the role of creator and the imprudence of such an endeavor resonates throughout the novel, epitomized by the death of Elizabeth as foreseen in the passage, which draws attention to the serious repercussions of his exploits.

From a relational dynamics perspective, Frankenstein’s failure to love and assume parental responsibility for his creature is shown to correlate with the development of the creature’s monstrosity , thus his abandonment of the creature in this passage is significant in the narrative development. When Frankenstein is reflecting on the process of the creature’s construction, emphasis on singular body parts of the creature (“his hair was of a lustrous black and flowing, his teeth of a pearly whiteness” (p 5)) alludes to his unwillingness to assume responsibility for the self-conscious animate entity. This unwillingness is also illustrated in Frankenstein’s stream of conscious, “unable to endure the aspect of the being I had created” (p 5), and is crystallised in his compulsive abandonment of the creature. However, the phobic flight of the creator is contrasted with an evocative description of the innocence and dependence of the creature; “one hand was stretched out, seemingly to detain me” (p 5), and this submerged cry for companionship in the midst of perpetual abandonment permeates the development of the creature’s monstrosity throughout the novel. The monster appeals to Frankenstein, alluding to his initial innocence which has been corrupted through abandonment; “I ought to be thy Adam, but rather I am the fallen angel” (p 60). Thus the violent actions of the monster can be assessed in relation to his innocence illustrated in this passage which is then tainted by abandonment.

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