Qi novel, Shelley also addressed larger philosophical

Qi QinYi, Jasmine

Mr. Nikolich

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English

9 Jan 2018

 

Frankenstein: The Search for Identity

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus, is
a pioneering science fiction work about the story of a young scientist Victor
Frankenstein who created life out of dead matter. On the surface, Frankenstein seemed to be only a horror
story about unorthodox scientific experiments and grotesque monsters. But by diving
deeper into the novel, Shelley also addressed larger philosophical ideas. Throughout
the story, Victor Frankenstein and his monster have both parallel
and contrasting elements, and their
search for identity is one of the most important ones. Identity is defined a “the
distinguishing character or personality of an individual” (Merriam-Webster). Family roles, social status, physical
appearance, and personality are some of the major characteristics that define
each individual’s identity. In Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein, she used the two
characters, Victor and his creation, to explore the search for identity through
family and social relationships and its devastating effects after failing to do
so.

Obtaining identity is a long process. An individual is given an identity
at birth, then his identity is sculpted through life experiences and social
interactions. Victor Frankenstein’s monster, however, did not have such
luxuries. As a creature with no ancestral heritage, he does not have a familial identity. He is no one’s son, daughter, brother, sister, or cousin. Every individual is created by pre-existing people and will always be characterized as their
creator’s child, so they can have an identity based on the relationship to
their creator. In the case of Frankenstein’s monster, he has no biological parents, his only creator abandoned him and did not wish to have any relationship with
him. After Victor’s
rejection, he ran away and tried to form social relations with people in a
small village. Unfortunately, the creature’s attempt to be part of De Lacy family’s social circle failed. During his conversation
with his creator in the ice cave, he exclaimed
that “no father watched my infant days, no mother had blessed me with smiles
and caresses”, “I was benevolent; my soul glowed with love and humanity; but am I not
alone, miserably alone… (Shelley, pg. 87)” No matter how hard he tried, the
creature couldn’t obtain familial and social connections from others and even do
not have a name, thus he couldn’t obtain a sense of identity. This lack of
identity resulted in his downfall and transformation into a malicious
character.

Victor’s case is a bit different from his creation’s case. He emotional
traumas since youth contributed to his unstable identity and influenced his
actions in the future, which in turn influenced the life of his creation. His mother’s
death created a “void that presents itself to the soul, and the despair that is
exhibited on the countenance (Shelley, pg. 29)”, making his familial identity damaged
and incomplete. In order to bring back the comforting feeling of family and the
identity of a family member, Victor put forth all his intelligence towards bringing
dead matter back to life. While immersed in his passion in science and creation
of life, he shunned all responsibilities associated with his remaining family,
friends, and loved ones, causing his loss of familial and social identity. He “knew
well therefore what would be his father’s feelings, but he could not tear
his thoughts from his employment (Shelley, pg.41)” and did not return home
nor send back family letters for years. Just like his monster’s lonely
condition, Victor also falls into a state of isolation, only caring about
scientific advancements and losing his social and familial identities. Victor tried
to find a new identity in his creation, however unfortunately, he was disgusted
by his creation and hated it right after it was brought to life, as shown by
his description of the creature as “a mummy again endued with animation could
not be so hideous as that wretch (Shelley, pg. 44).” By losing his identity formed
by familial and social relations, Victor’s downfall is resulted from his
monster’s actions of revenge.

In the novel Frankenstein,
the monster
created by Victor Frankenstein is not
identified by most of the qualities of identity
because he does not have them in his life; while Victor himself lost his
identity and sense of self worth during childhood traumas. Being deprived of an
identity, both Victor and his creation are lost and struggled for their whole
life to obtain it, which ultimately lead them to their tragic end.

Works Cited

 

“Identity.” Merriam-Webster,
Merriam-Webster, www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/identity.

 

Shelley,
Mary. Frankenstein. Bantam Books, 1981.