Abstract: The use of intertextual elements in the Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein complicates the characters of Victor and the creation allowing for sympathy of the creation. The references to Paradise Lost and Mary Shelley’s version of Genesis put forth her view of a cruel dark world shifting the monster from Victor’s creation to society in our world.
- What is working? I believe I have a strong counterargument that helps further and support my argument.
- One thing I believe I could have done better is used more in text evidence and developed a deeper reading, however I feel as if my argument was not affected by the minimal use of textual evidence.
The Humanization of a Monster
The English idiom “Don’t judge a book by its cover” is very applicable to the world around us. Many people today hide their vast amazing knowledge behind a wall that someone passing by would never suspect. In Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Victor’s creation is judged by his cover and for that reason is an alleged monster. The intertextual evidence used by Mary Shelley in the writing of her “horror classic” complicates and destabilizes the mainstream idea of the creation being a monster. Her comparisons to the characters in Paradise Lost and her rewriting of the Genesis story allow for readers to humanize the creation understand the author’s view of a cruel dark world that shifts the monstrosity from the creation to the society around us.
The monster is humanized in the novel Frankenstein by Mary Shelley through the use of intertextuality. Throughout the novel, there are many signs of intertextuality. Mary Shelley references the literary works of Paradise Lost and the Genesis story in the bible. These were seen as the monster began to educate himself and explore literature. Through this self-exploration of literature, the story of Frankenstein is further complicated by the intertextuality used by Mary Shelley.
The monster starts to read books he found in a satchel, and began to find similarities between himself and fictional characters. One of the books that he began to read was Paradise Lost by John Milton. Unaware the story was fictional, the monster read the story as factual history. Further reading the story, he sympathized with the character of Satan. The reading of Milton’s Paradise Lost allowed for Victor’s creature to realize that he was a monster. He found similarities between himself and Satan, and began to sympathize with Satan. The sympathy shown by the monster for Satan, humanizes him which furthermore complicates the simple storyline of Frankenstein.
Victor Frankenstein is also seen in the novel to have startling similarities to the characters in Milton’s writing. Victor Frankenstein begins the novel as an innocent happy character. He begins a quest for knowledge and complicated sciences that allow for him to play creator. This “forbidden” knowledge causes him to “fall from grace.” He creates something that he sees as evil and satanic and refuses to claim it. This shows similarities to God in the Paradise Lost story. Victor compassioned with his Satan when he was speaking but could not overcome the monster’s looks. “His words had a strange effect on me. I compassioned him, and sometimes felt a wish to console him; but then I looked upon him, when I saw the filthy mass that moved and talked, my heart sickened, and my feelings were altered to those of horror and hatred. I tried to stifle these sensations; I thought, that I could not sympathize with him, I had no right to withhold from him the small portion of happiness which was yet in my power to bestow” (Shelley 158). Mary Shelley in this excerpt uses the book of Genesis to additionally complicate the story. Victor is the creator with the power to give the monster (Adam) a loving partner (Eve). Victor’s original thought of creating a partner was innocent, just how God never thought that Adam and Eve would sin and betray him by eating the forbidden fruit. The intertextuality of Milton’s story and the book of Genesis complicates the characters of Frankenstein through hidden comparisons and references.
The intertextuality of Paradise Lost in Shelley’s Frankenstein destabilizes the main storyline of the novel. The main storyline of the novel that common Hollywood producers take from the original novel, is that Victor’s monster is a ruthless killer. The comparison of the monster to Satan and Victor to the creator, destabilizes the original storyline by humanizing the monster. This destabilization complicates the original understanding the reader of the book has by shifting the monstrosity from the creation, to the people of society. Mary Shelley’s reference to Paradise Lost changes the depiction of the “monster” to a “creation,” also allowing readers to see the world in Mary Shelley’s dark perspective. Through her writings in Frankenstein, she puts forth her view of a dark, mean world.
Mary Shelley uses the intertextuality of Paradise Lost to show readers that the world she sees is mean and dark. She rewrites the Genesis story to fit her perspective of the twisted world. Victor’s creation is constantly rejected by society and his creator because of the way he looks. Nobody in the novel sees through the appearance of the monster, and looks at the intellectual beauty of him. Victor can be referenced throughout the novel as the “creator,” just as God created Adam. However, in this world, unlike the biblical version, the monster gets no partner and is rejected by its creator. In Milton’s Genesis, Eve played a key role in humanity. According to him, Eve’s sin by taking the apple is what makes us human. After Victor refuses to make another creature, the creation becomes filled with rage that was not previously seen before. The creature was inherently good, but throughout the novel was shown nothing but evil from a “dark” world. Coincidently, all of the wrong doings of the monster, happen at night. The world that Mary Shelley creates in Frankenstein is a cruel and twisted representation of the Genesis story.
It is easy to overlook the intertextuality placed before the reader and say that I, as a writer, am looking too deeply into Frankenstein. People in our world are reluctant to look at monsters in film, as human or good. It is in human nature to use black and white words to describe the world around us. Words like: good, bad, evil, villain, and hero are commonly used in stories. If readers were to overlook Paradise Lost in the novel, then they would view the creature as “evil,” and believe that it deserved the treatment it received. Without the deeper reading of the novel, it is a classic horror script as seen in the Hollywood productions. Mary Shelley would be disappointed if she were to see the reproductions of her novel in film. The comparisons to Paradise Lost and her recreation of the Genesis story in her “horror classic” allow for readers to sympathize with the creation, destabilizing the thought that it is a monster.
When the word Frankenstein comes to mind, the Halloween green skinned, wide eyed, huge monster comes to most people’s mind. The deeper reading of Frankenstein allows for the finding of hidden messages in text. Intertextual elements are used by writers to complicate, compare, and destabilize the upfront plot of a story. Mary Shelley uses Paradise Lost and the Genesis story to humanize the creation allowing for readers to sympathize with him. The character comparison between stories allows for the complication of the plot destabilizing the Hollywood depiction of Victor’s creation and putting forth the author’s view of a dark and cruel world. Based on my analyzation of Frankenstein, the genre of horror should be deeper understood for: who exactly is the “monster”?
Shelley, Mary Wollstonecraft. Frankenstein, or, The modern Prometheus. Ed. Kathleen Dorothy Scherf and David Lorne Macdonald. Peterborough, Ont.: Broadview Press, 2012. Print.