Analysis Of The Archetypes In Mary Shelley’S Frankenstein
Every piece of literature has an emotional meaning behind the text. Taking a look through the archetypal lens, allows the audience to interpret the meaning through a different perspective. An archetype is a collectively inherited unconscious idea, pattern of thought or image universally present in individual psyches.
They are commonly seen in literature works, but are also seen in real life situations. This definitive lens helps communicate the texts’ true meaning and emotion in every form of literature. In the award-winning novel, Frankenstein, written by Mary Shelley, the archetypal lens allows readers to analyze Elizabeth Frankenstein, Alphonse Frankenstein, and the difference between Caroline Beaufont and Madame Moritz. Moreover, the love interest archetype, the motherly/fatherly archetype, and the good/bad parent archetype are three major archetypes presented.
Elizabeth Lavenza Frankenstein, the love interest in the novel, was first introduced as Victor Frankenstein’s adopted sister. Described as a beautiful young child, Victor was deeply interested with her presence. When she was welcomed into Victor Frankenstein’s family, his mother Caroline ‘gifted’ him with Elizabeth and he ‘interpreted her words literary and looked upon Elizabeth as his’. The love interest archetype particularly motivates the protagonist with their characteristics. This archetype typically supports or resists the protagonist, depending on the protagonist’s goal. The romantic relationship between the love interest and the protagonist brings out different views on both characters.
Similarly, Victor’s romantic relationship with Elizabeth brought out the human side of his character. Elizabeth saw the good in Victor and always put his happiness before her own. His love for her was special as he voiced about how he would ‘die to make her happy’. Victor mentioned that ‘harmony was the soul of our companionship, and the diversity and contrast that subsisted in our characters drew us nearer together’. Victor believed that their differences brought them closer together. Elizabeth had a vital interest in the appearances of things and this motivated Victor to investigate the cause behind these things. The encouragement and impulse she provided towards Victor illustrates her as the love interest archetype in the novel.
Victor Frankenstein was raised by two parents who showed a great amount of affection and love towards him. As a child, Victor, William, Ernest and Elizabeth were all showered with an excessive amount of love. Alphonse Frankenstein, Victor’s father, was portrayed as the fatherly archetype in the beginning of the novel. He was acknowledged as a humble man who committed for his country. When scarlet fever took the life of his companion away, his character slowly molded into the motherly archetype. The fatherly archetype displays order, discipline, supportiveness, and they are known to have the ability to guide others to the right path. In the novel, Alphonse continuously reminds Victor of his duties in society showed readers that his values oppose Victor’s values.
Alphonse questions Victor, ‘is it not a duty to the survivors, that we should refrain from augmenting their unhappiness by an appearance of immoderate grief? It is also a duty owed to yourself; for excessive sorrow prevents improvement or enjoyment, or even the discharge of daily usefulness, without which no man is fit for society’. Alphonse advises Victor that the feeling of guilt is affecting Victor’s health in the wrong way. He educated Victor by telling him that there is no reason to feel agony for something or someone over a long period of time. Alphonse’s role in the novel was to shine light on Victor’s duties and obligations in his life. He was represented as the ideal father in the novel. His character was very important, as he demonstrated towards the readers that family is above all. Sadly, Victor rejected Alphonse’s wise words and this lead to the beginning of his downfall.
When Victor was going through a dark space in his life, his father began showing more features of a motherly archetype. Victor’s sickness had caused great grief for him. The motherly archetype presents an expression for unconditional love and affection. The maternal figure shows calm and soft emotions. In Frankenstein, Alphonse immediately goes to Scotland to visit his son and Victor states, ‘My father calmed me with assurances of their welfare and endeavored, by dwelling on these subjects so interesting to my heart, to raise my desponding spirits; but he soon felt that a prison cannot be the abode of cheerfulness. ‘What a place is this that you inhibit my son. ” Alphonse helps Victor by lifting up his spirits with cheerfulness. The action of him calming Victor down through his stressful times was an action of a maternal figure. As Alphonse grew older, the more softer he became. Towards the end of the novel, he fit more into the motherly archetype rather than fatherly archetype.
The good/bad parent archetype is the comparison between the worst and the optimal maternal and paternal figures. The good parent archetype is a character who shows great affection and care for their child. This specific figure is very observant. However, the bad parent archetype is a character who is abusive and repulsive towards their child. This individual is oblivious to the child’s emotions. This archetype is clearly identifiable as Caroline Beaufont represented as the good parent and Madame Moritz characterized as the bad parent. Justine’s birth mother, Madame Moritz was introduced in the novel as a woman who was abusive and negligent towards her child. Justine was loved dearly by her late father but ‘through a strange perversity, her mother could not endure her’. The lack of attention from her mother caused a rough upbringing for young Justine. Madame Moritz ‘sometimes begged Justine to forgive her unkindness but much often accused her of causing the deaths of her brother and sister’.
The observant mother Caroline, noticed how Justine was being treated and welcomed her with open arms, into the Frankenstein family. Caroline ‘conceived a great attachment for her, by which she was induced to give her an education superior to which she had at first intended’. These two characters allow readers to understand the many different types of parental figures and the effect they have on their children. The novel greatly emphasizes the comparison between Caroline Beaufont and Madame Moritz, even through their deaths. Caroline dies peacefully on a bed with her loved ones closely around her, while Madame Moritz passed away ‘on the first approach of cold weather, at the beginning of this last winter’. This proves the respect Caroline Beaufont received from her children as they stayed with her through her hardest times. However with Madame Moritz, she dies alone with nobody by her side.
The analysis of the novel Frankenstein, written by Mary Shelley through the archetypal lens, allows the audience to investigate the archetypes of Elizabeth Frankenstein, Alphonse Frankenstein, and the difference between Caroline Beaufont and Madame Moritz. Elizabeth was portrayed as the primary love interest in the novel. Alphonse was interpreted as a fatherly archetype who molded into a motherly archetype as the novel progressed. The comparison between Caroline and Mme. Moritz carries the archetype of the good/bad parental figures. These archetypes give the audience reasons of why these characters are vital individuals towards the story and towards other characters in the novel. Every literary text has a meaning, just as every picture has its’ own significance, and without taking a look through the archetypal lens this interpretation would be lost.
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