Complications of frankenstein’s creature
Paradise Lost in Frankenstein
The intertextuality of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is vast, however one piece of literature remains particularly intertwined throughout the story; Paradise Lost. This novel, written by James Milton reflects a personal interpretation of Genesis and many of Frankenstein’s substance can be paralleled to this text. Most specifically in this respect is the creature’s strained relationship with his creator and how it differs and relates to God and his creation of Adam, or perhaps more realistically Satan. His actions throughout the novel tell as much as the story his gives of his existence; and the complications of his character elucidate the cause of his destructive life. Frankenstein’s parallelism to Paradise Lost is used to complicate the character of the creature. His ties to both Adam and Satan invoke the discussion of whether his role in this novel is as a victim or a beast; and it appears his demonic nature, revealed, may be the fault of another.
The pain the creature suffers through is not a physical one; he bears the extreme cold and heat, with no shelter and little nutrition yet does not falter. His weakness lies in his inability to connect with another being who does not abhor his existence, and thus he despises his own creation for it has dammed him to loneliness. The creature himself, begins to contemplate his parallelism to Paradise Lost: “Like Adam, I was apparently united by no link to any other being in existence; but his state was far different from mine in every respect.” (Shelley, 116) Here Shelley is showing a very vulnerable side of the creature which may not seem apparent at first; although he is not human he yearns to be a social creature. Shelley is showing the torment created by the creature’s loneliness, and he is certainly portrayed as a victim in this sense. Another strong idea which springs from the contemplation of this parallelism is the discrimination based solely on physical appearance. God had made Adam perfect; molded after his own image, while Victor created something out of death and disease which was disgusting and vile to all other human beings. The plight of the creature is now in strong contrast to the perfect biblical creation; and thus Shelley emphasizes the importance of physical appearance in the judgment of others and how it might be a flawed perception.
The creature, now alone in the world again parallels Adam’s story in Paradise Lost by seeking his creator and requesting he be made a mate. Adam’s supplication in Paradise Lost is strangely similar, possibly due to the common need for companionship between two lonely beings:
“So ordering. I with leave of speech implor’d,
And humble deprecation thus repli’d.
Let not my words offend thee, Heav’nly Power,
My Maker, be propitious while I speak.
Hast thou not made me here thy substitute,
And these inferiour farr beneath me set?
Among unequals what societie
Can sort, what harmonie or true delight?
Which must be mutual, in proportion due
Giv’n and receiv’d; but in disparitie
The one intense, the other still remiss
Cannot well suite with either, but soon prove
Tedious alike: Of fellowship I speak
Such as I seek, fit to participate
All rational delight, wherein the brute
Cannot be human consort; they rejoyce
Each with thir kinde, Lion with Lioness;
So fitly them in pairs thou hast combin’d;
Much less can Bird with Beast, or Fish with Fowle
So well converse, nor with the Ox the Ape;
Wors then can Man with Beast, and least of all.
Whereto th’ Almighty answer’d, not displeas’d.
A nice and suttle happiness I see
Thou to thyself proposest, in the choice.” (Milton, Book VIII, Line 377)
The plea for a partner is one of rational delight, as Milton sees it; not one for sexual relief but for conversation and understanding by a person similar to oneself. The creature pleas for similar reasons as Adam, however he is resentful in his supplication and appears to be more interested in the sexual aspect of a mate. He requests his mate soon after telling of how he was entranced by Elizabeth’s beauty; showing his desire for lust. Shelley’s use of a parallel plot with contrasting ideals and details of the two main characters brings about the consideration that the creature be more closely related to another biblical figure and character of Paradise Lost; Satan.
The miraculous creation of this creature does mirror that of Adam’s; however his swift desertion and abhorrence by his creator and those around him more accurately reflects Satan. The creature reflects on their similarities: “like him, when I viewed the bliss of my protectors, the bitter gall of envy rose within me.” (Shelley, 117) and here the author brings about a dark feeling towards the creature’s intentions. Her use of Paradise Lost is in part to make the reader contemplate whether the innocence of the creature reflects Adam who has been unfairly treated, or if his malicious acts only support the demonic perception of this beast. Although he seems to resent his creator like Satan, the creature is not comparable in every respect: “God, in pity, made man beautiful and alluring, after his own image; but my form is a filthy type of yours, more horrid even from the very resemblance. Satan had his companions, fellow-devils, to admire and encourage him; but I am solitary and abhorred.” (Shelley, 117) Here the total isolation of this creature is revealed; and it becomes apparent that he is not truly parallel to Satan for this reason, however the tragedy of his plight brings some sympathetic emotions to the reader. This would make a strong case for the creature as a victim, however he turns his resentment into rage and seeks to spread his pain among the people who shun him. Here, a very close parallel to Satan can be seen as the creature plots destruction: “’Cursed, cursed creator! Why did I live? Why, in that instant, did I not extinguish the spark of existence which you had so wantonly bestowed? I know not; despair had not yet taken possession of me; my feelings were those of rage and revenge. I could with pleasure have destroyed the cottage and its inhabitants, and have gluttoned myself with their shrieks and misery.” (Shelley, 121) Beastly would be an adept description of this mindset, and it appears that no matter how commiserative the reader can feel towards the creature’s situation, his lust for destruction and death dispel most positive characteristics he appears to possess.
The nature of the creature and Satan’s are not comparable; the creature was shunned only for his hideous physical appearance while Satan was cast from Heaven for his malevolent actions. Satan’s preliminary insubordination to his creator casts him in a much darker shadow than the creature:
“Say first, for Heav’n hides nothing from thy view
Nor the deep Tract of Hell, say first what cause
Mov’d our Grand Parents in that happy State,
Favour’d of Heav’n so highly, to fall off
From thir Creator, and transgress his Will
For one restraint, Lords of the World besides?
Who first seduc’d them to that foul revolt?
Th’ infernal Serpent; he it was, whose guile
Stird up with Envy and Revenge, deceiv’d
The Mother of Mankind, what time his Pride
Had cast him out from Heav’n, with all his Host
Of Rebel Angels, by whose aid aspiring
To set himself in Glory above his Peers,
He trusted to have equal’d the most High,
If he oppos’d; and with ambitious aim
Against the Throne and Monarchy of God
Rais’d impious War in Heav’n and Battel proud
With vain attempt. Him the Almighty Power
Hurld headlong flaming from th’ Ethereal Skie
With hideous ruine and combustion down
To bottomless perdition, there to dwell
In Adamantine Chains and penal Fire,” (Milton, Book I, Line 27)
This celestial banishment to the “penal Fire” shows Satan’s own fault in his decline, as he attempted to wage war with the one who blessed him with life. The creature makes no error that is the cause of his ostracism; the vile nature of his creation is ironically the cause of the desire for his demise. It is impossible then; to totally attribute the blame of the creature’s rage and destruction on himself like one so easily could with Satan.
Satanic in his actions, but not in his nature; the creature is revealed as a character not contained in Paradise Lost, but rather a unique kind of villain. Too much destruction and misery has been caused to go without blame, however the creature appears slightly too innocent in his squalor to deserve it all. Is it possible then to impute this fault on his creator, Victor Frankenstein? Through the parallelism with Paradise Lost, Mary Shelley has created a demonic creature who, albeit evil like Satan, cannot be reproached for his actions and thus the reader’s perspective of the creature becomes complicated. His creator has worked out of irrational passion and nearsightedness which leaves him responsible for the creature’s actions, even by his own account: “From the tortures of my own heart, I turned to contemplate the deep and voiceless grief of my Elizabeth. This was also my doing! And my father’s woe, and the desolation of that late so smiling home- all was the work of my thrice-accursed hands!” (Shelley, 85) Here could bring a larger implication to Frankenstein; the God, the creator, of this story has now become the downfall of the society in which he lives; destroying the lives around him and tormenting his own soul. This is an interesting twist on the biblical lineage of Paradise Lost; the complications of Mary Shelley’s characters continuously appear all the more vast.
Shelley, Mary. Frankenstein. Beford/Saint Martins, 2000, Boston.
Milton, James. Paradise Lost