Loneliness & Isolation in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein Essay
The main character of Frankenstein by Mary Shelley was sure regarding his uniqueness: “A new species would bless me as its creator and source; many happy and excellent natures would owe their being to me” (42). The reason is that Viktor Frankenstein was a young scientist obsessed with the idea of creating a unique living creature by referring to science and alchemy.
Still, he cannot love this monstrous human being, and this fact leads to disastrous consequences (Cengage Learning 7; Seal 84-86). This novel represents the key characteristics of Romanticism through accentuating isolation from society, the focus on exploring nature, and the freedom of desires and feelings (Chase 165-166; Varner 137-138). Viktor, a Romantic character, chooses alienation as his path in the world that leads him to misery, and he develops as an irresponsible scientist who does not realize his duty.
Alienation in Shelley’s Novel
In Frankenstein, alienation is discussed through the perspective of sorrow and despair for the main characters. Although Viktor was brought up by loving parents, he always wanted to isolate himself from other people to focus on science (Gottlieb 127-129). Viktor states: “I must absent myself from all I loved while thus employed” (Shelley 117). These words accentuate Viktor’s focus on himself and his desires that later determine his path, leading to more obsession with science and creating a new living being, as well as to more alienation while being locked in his laboratory and conducting experiments. Viktor’s alienation further leads him to despair because of creating the monster, but Frankenstein’s creature also suffers from isolation because he cannot be opened to society and accepted by it (Nesvet 348).
His first experience of interacting with people is described the following way: “The whole village was roused; some fled, some attacked me” (Shelley 83). The creature that wants to be loved faces the cruelty of the world that makes him become even more alienated and concentrated on revenge.
Responsibility in Frankenstein
In addition to making him and his creature be isolated, Viktor does not accept the idea of duty and responsibility for his actions because of his inability to understand what it means to be responsible for the creation. Being focused on a scientific aspect of creating, Viktor ignores his duty as a creator and a “father” (Bloom 22; Halpern et al. 50; Nair 78). As a result, the creature is forced to ask: “How dare you sport thus with life? Do your duty towards me, and I will do mine towards you and the rest of mankind” (Shelley 78). In this context, Viktor understands his duty only after his creature’s words.
However, he still does not accept his responsibility as a “father” because he cannot love his “child.” Thus, the creature states, “Yet you, my creator, detest and spurn me, thy creature, to whom thou art bound by ties only dissoluble by the annihilation of one of us” (Shelley 78). From this perspective, it is possible to note that Viktor is unable to take responsibility for his actions and perform his duties as both a scientist and a creator despite his ambition.
Alienation and the lack of responsibility regarding the scientist’s actions for society can be viewed as partially related to the modern world. On the one hand, the isolation of a scientist today cannot lead him to impressive results, but this characteristic is typical of Romanticism. On the other hand, modern scientists change the world, and they need to be responsible for their actions. Therefore, the ideas stated by Shelley in the novel should be reconsidered from the perspective of the modern world.
Bloom, Harold. Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Infobase Learning, 2013.
Cengage Learning. A Study Guide for Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley’s “Frankenstein”. Gale/Cengage Learning, 2015.
Chase, Cynthia. Romanticism. Routledge, 2014.
Gottlieb, Evan, editor. Global Romanticism: Origins, Orientations, and Engagements, 1760–1820. Bucknell University Press, 2014.
Halpern, Megan K., et al. “Stitching Together Creativity and Responsibility: Interpreting Frankenstein across Disciplines.” Bulletin of Science, Technology & Society, vol. 36, no. 1, 2016, pp. 49-57.
Nair, Lekshmi R. “Playing God: Robin Cook’s ‘Mutation’ as a Reworking of the Frankenstein Theme of the Creator Pitted against the Creation.” Writers Editors Critics, vol. 6, no. 2, 2016, pp. 77-82.
Nesvet, Rebecca. “Review: Frankenstein: Text and Mythos.” Science Fiction Studies, vol. 45, no. 2, 2018, pp. 347-351.
Seal, Jon. GCSE English Literature for AQA Frankenstein Student Book. Cambridge University Press, 2015.
Shelley, Mary. Frankenstein. Diversion Books, 2015.
Varner, Paul. Historical Dictionary of Romanticism in Literature. Rowman & Littlefield, 2014.
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