Frankenstein: a Deconstructive Reading Essay
Deconstruction works in a way based on the assumption that the meaning of a text occurs following some intended displacements and contradictions coupled with the presumption that writers use deferments. Through criticism, playwrights identify and dissolve oppositions to manifest the slippery and often elusive underlying meanings of the book.
‘Frankenstein’ by Mary Shelley is not a difficult novel to understand, as many critics may want readers to believe. This follows the fact that some of the critics try to dig out meanings not even intended by the writer of the novel (Bressler 240); nevertheless, such observations enrich literature altogether.
The relationship between Frankenstein and his monster, as brought out in the novel, is a complicated one as far as the connections between the two are concerned. There are many complexities involved in their relationship, as evidenced by different cases to be exposited in this paper. In trying to figure out meanings in literary works such as this one, Jacques Derrida’s theory of deconstruction provides a foundation for the critic of seemingly complex works by exposing the binary opposites that exist in them and finally inverts within them.
This paper aims at applying a deconstructive approach to explore the relationship between the monster and Frankenstein through analysis of the binaries presented in Shelley’s work. Among the binaries under study is the creator vs. the created where Shelley presents the relationship between the two, as pointed out by Frankenstein and the Monster.
As the story unfolds, there is a notable creator-created relationship between Frankenstein and the monster. In the story, Frankenstein assumes the position of the creator while the monster is the created being. When creating the monster, the glory that the work would bring on Frankenstein was the root source of his motivation. This would give him the glory as of the creator as he puts it. He says, “A new species would bless me as a creator and its source; many happy and excellent natures would owe their being to me” (Shelley 57).
In the process, Frankenstein creates a being that is stronger than he is, thus making it hard to subdue the creature and exercise control over it. This makes the relationship between him and the creature that he has created to take a new turn. Because Frankenstein is the creator of this being, he is responsible for the happiness and the orientation process that will see his creature fit into the world well and live happily.
Montag states that Frankenstein, however, abandons this responsibility following the realization that the creature he had created was hideously ugly, and he did not want to be associated with it (32). The creature’s welfare remains unattended as it is the responsibility of the creator to be concerned, and so it has to fend for itself. In this, the creator forgets that he has the opportunity to modify its features and make it impressive, he does not consider this, for he simply stands guided by the urge to see his project succeed.
The rejection that the creature faces from humans leads to its turning into evil; in fact, it murders Frankenstein’s brother to get the chance to meet Frankenstein. The monster reads its creator’s journal only to realize that he started blaming it soon after the creation. Since it is not its intention to face the availed treatment, it swears to revenge this by making the life of its creator a lonely and miserable one.
The monster laments, “And what was I…I was ignorant, but I knew that I possessed no money, no friends, and no kind of property…I saw and heard of none like me. Was I, then, a monster, a blot upon the earth, from which all men fled and whom all men disowned?” (Shelley 115). The case follows because even its creator has run away from it.
Frankenstein is to blame for any murder and evil deed that the monster does since it was not the monster’s intention to become such a creation that leads to its rejection and live a life of misery.
As a creator who is ready to sail in the glory that his work will bring him, Frankenstein should also be ready for the results of his work and being the “mother” to the monster, he needs to guide it through life and avoid the evil that comes forth because of this. Also, Shelley succeeds in pointing out good vs. evil relationship through Frankenstein and the monster.
In exploring the relationship between the monster and its creator, Frankenstein, the binaries of good/ evil form a key foundation because one can only unravel the meanings attached therein in relation to the other.
Frankenstein has bad motives considering the way he maliciously alters the physical appearance of the monster he has created. The monster has been hideously ugly. “Great God His yellow skin scarcely covered the work of muscles and arteries beneath; his hair was of a lustrous black, and flowing; his teeth of a pearly whiteness” (Shelley 60).
Considering that his creation is inspired by the figures of humans that he sees around him and by himself, Frankenstein shows signs of jealousy, which result in other evils perpetrated by the monster. Because of the physical appearance of the monster, it faces rejection from other humans despite it having good intentions of helping them. That brings forth the loneliness that triggers the atrocities that were committed later by the monster.
When the monster approaches Frankenstein during his journey to the mountains to get some peace of mind, it bears a good intention of settling the disputes and ensuring that everyone else lives happily ever after.
Its grievances receive no honor in that Frankenstein destroys the female counterpart he is making for the monster, which results in its fury and the vow to revenge against all humans. That is eviler because Frankenstein himself wants a wedding only a few days after destroying the monster’s female companion.
In its revenge, it is clear that the monster does not intend to hurt Frankenstein but only wants to kill the people who he holds dear and whom he can call the family to ensure that they face the same circumstances of being lonely and miserable.
The claim stands out clearly when the monster tells Frankenstein that it will be with him on the night of his wedding. This means that it wants to kill his bride and not him. The heated revenge that fuels more evil deeds emanate from Frankenstein’s failure to honor the requests of a being that considers him the absolute good.
Apart from Frankenstein, the other characters in Shelley’s book that suffer the wrath of the monster face this innocently. Irony following Frankenstein’s actions, he is the one supposed to guilty, yet other people die as a result.
The real motive behind the re-animation that finds the coming up of the monster is because of selfish personal glory, the root of all the evil that the monster perpetrates. Frankenstein, as a result, cannot achieve the status of God, who they consider the key “good” even when his creation is a success.
The monster says, “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 other respect…when I viewed the bliss of my protectors, the bitter gall of envy rose within me. (Shelley, 124) in these lines, the monster tries to compare Frankenstein’s state to that of Adam and Satan in “Paradise Lost.” Like Adam, he suffers loneliness while, like Satan, he is envious of the others’ happiness he sees.
With the death of Frankenstein, the monster is also sure to face a subsequent demise with the restoration of the initial tranquility. This scenario underscores the fact that goodwill prevails over evil at the end of the day. The author, too, addresses the relationship as portrayed by a slave and his/her master. Frankenstein and the monster strategically drive this home.
Being the creator, Dr. Frankenstein takes a position of authority over the creature that he has created. However, the creature is physically stronger compared to the creator, thereby altering the relationship.
Frankenstein wants to be glorious with his invention of life, but the venture results in slavery in his whole life. The monster, while trying to reason with his creator, tells him, “All men hate the wretched; how then must I be hated, who am miserable beyond all living things! I will leave them and you at peace; but if you refuse, I will glut the maw of death until it is satiated with the blood of your remaining friends…” (Shelley 130).
This clearly indicates that the “slave” has taken power in that the creature is the one now issuing grievances that people have to adhere to strictly, including the master. The monster comes into power and starts enslaving its master, Dr. Frankenstein.
During the subjugation of Frankenstein, the creature tells him, “Slave, I before reasoned with you, but you have proved yourself unworthy of my condescension. Remember I have power; you believe yourself miserable, but I can make you so wretched that the light of day will be hateful to you. You are my creator, but I am your master -obey!” (Shelley 145) this gives the implication that the monster is aware of the creator’s misery and capitalizes upon it to ensure that people, including the master, honor the grievances that he raises to the latter.
The supposed master, at this point, lives at the mercy of the rebellious slave who has seized his being. At the end of Mary Shelley’s novel, it is the supposed slave, the monster, who ends up killing the master. However, the death of the master entails also the death of the slave, which restores the initial balance in the master/ slave binary. The issue of life and death still has its share in Shelley’s masterwork, where he strategically depicts the relationship between the two using Frankenstein and the monster.
All humans appreciate the concept of life, the key construct that the playwright often portrays in the novel by the use of characters mourning their dead counterparts. Frankenstein makes the monster from dead bodies. The creation of the monster is a clear manifestation of Frankenstein’s ability to deal with his feelings, such as the devastating issue by his mother’s death. Frankenstein admits his guilt, considering that he has to leave home a few days after his mother dies.
Confirming the claim, he says, “…it appeared to me sacrilege so soon to leave the repose, akin to death, of the house mourning, and to rush into the thick of life” (Shelley 50). To replace this lost life, Frankenstein works tirelessly to ensure that his project of creating life worked. This happens purposely following the most targeted effort of bridging the gap created by the death of his mother.
As a result, people consider the monster the bridge between life and death. It is this creation of life by Frankenstein, which leads him to his death. The monster becomes less vulnerable to death than its maker does. This stands out clearly when the monster pursues Frankenstein to the North Pole with the aim of killing him. He suffers from pneumonia following his exposure to adversely cold temperatures that result in his demise.
On the other hand, the monster survives the cold weather and then vows to go to the north most point and burn itself. However, the author leaves the reader with the question concerning the events after this step. Whether it burns itself or not, the reader cannot tell, but if it did, its death must bring back the awaited calmness restoring the ever-usual balance between life and death. Shelley further seeks to address the acceptance-alienation binary as revealed by the monster and Frankenstein.
The conflict that develops between the monster and the creator is mostly a result of the coexistence between the two. Being the “mother” to the monster, Frankenstein is supposed to teach the basics that would enable the society to absorb and live with it like one among its people without depicting any signs of alienation.
However, Frankenstein does not honor his responsibilities, as the story unveils, a case that results in the monster striving by itself to learn what it can base on what it can grasp from its day-to-day interaction with the society. Despite its efforts, this endeavor is not enough because it still faces harshness from people and even its maker. If Frankenstein could have attempted to embrace the work of his hands, it would have been a different scenario all together since the evils that the monster results in doing are a result of the feeling of alienation.
Funny enough, even the creator disorients his own creation. Dr. Frankenstein has instead alienated his own creation and starts running away from the work of his very hands. The monster attempts to claim its acceptance into society; however, this acceptance remains elusive considering the fact that the monster is so different from other humans.
For instance, the first level into this acceptance has failed when the person who has created him flees after he discovers that he has created him being hideously ugly. As Dussinger puts it, the monster suffers a good deal of condemnation to live as a parasite that has no host (135). The monster evokes great sympathy from the audience, following the fact that he was thrown into the world without a sufficient guide to direct him.
This makes the monster experience more acceptance by the audience than it does with Frankenstein. Also, the creator is subject to be blamed all the time for every line of atrocities that the monster is involved in. For instance, the manner that Frankenstein reveals the story to the alienated sailor Walton at the North Pole shifts the acceptance from the monster to him, which makes even the sailor vow to hunt down the monster and kill it.
Through the dissolution of the binaries that shape the relationship between Frankenstein and his monster, the process of deconstruction ensures that what seems a singular case is uncovered and the elusive, underlying truth, which is slippery in most cases, is discovered.
Shelly deconstructs binaries between the creator and the created, the master and the slave, the good and the evil, acceptance, and alienation, and life and death to mention but a few as a reflection to understand the relationship between Frankenstein and his monster (Collings 280).
Consequently, the author succeeds in driving home several highlights through the story in his quest to define the relationship between the monster and its creator. In broader language, Shelley seeks to picture the relationship depicted between two classes of people or issues.
Bressler, Charles. Literary Criticism: An Introduction to Theory and Practice. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 2003.
Collings, David. The Monster and the Maternal Thing: Mary Shelley’s Critique of Ideology. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2003.
Dussinger, John “Kinship and Guilt in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.” Studies in The Novel 8.1 (1976): 38-56.
Montag, Warren. The Workshop of Filthy Creation in Frankenstein or the Modern New York: Bedford Books of St. Martin’s Press, 1992
Shelley, Mary. Frankenstein or the Modern Prometheus. New York: Signet, 1963.
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