Pygmalion As An Inversion To The Story Of Frankenstein
“True goodness springs from a man’s own heart. All men are born good.” Confucius
Are humans innately born to be virtuous or wicked? This controversial question has been disputed by numerous scholars and philosophers, yet the story of Frankenstein in contrast to the myth of Pygmalion would provide a novel insight into answering the question. In the novel “Frankenstein” written by Mary Shelley, the main character created and abandoned a creature that turned into a savage monster. On the other hand, the Pygmalion story that was expressed through Burne-Jones paintings was extremely different from Frankenstein. The difference during the creation of life and the relationships between the characters made the story of Pygmalion an inversion of Frankenstein.
The different approaches during the creation of life resulted huge contrasts between the outcome. Nowadays, numerous scholars and scientists believed that humans would eventually be able to create lives upon our own skills and technologies. However, the potential consequence of such operation remains unknown, and it’s highly probable that the result would not benefit humans. In the story Frankenstein, Mary Shelley uses the themes of creation and destruction of the monster to illustrate how creating life through human strength can turn out to be disastrous. “… his countenance bespoke bitter anguish, combined with disdain and malignity, while its unearthly ugliness rendered it almost too horrible for humans eyes.” While Victor had turned himself into a “god” by integrating different parts of corpses into living monster, this action had only highlights his fallibility and failure when he was completely unable to fulfill the responsibility of a “parent” toward his creation. Victor had regarded himself as an actual God, “how much happier that man is who believes his native town to be his world” through the creation of life, yet in reality he became the father of a evil demon. Nevertheless, the Pygmalion story illustrated through the paintings of Burne-Jones was a total inversion in regards to Frankenstein in terms of its element of creation. While the hubris Victor dared to perform businesses only The True God could have done, Pygmalion prayed to the goddess Venus to bestow a lover upon him who resembled his delicate statue. Extremely different from the atrocious monster that Victor had created, the goddess Venus had brought a warm and beautiful woman to life. In the painting “The God-Head Fires”, Burne-Jones created a lovely scene in which Venus bestowed life upon the ivory statue. Unlike the horrific countenance of which Victor had experienced, Pygmalion was able to meet “his” creation with uttermost tenderness and love. The Pygmalion story is an inversion to Frankenstein due to the different approaches the characters took to reach their goals. With the body of humankind, no one would ever be able to achieve the mighty power of God.
The relationships between characters differed drastically, which caused the development of two stories to be extremely divergent. One of the most important treasures in this world is the relations and connection one held on with other. In the novel Frankenstein, all the tragedy, despair, death and horror originated from the mistreatment of Victor toward the monster. From birth, the monster lacked a sense of community and love, but only experienced endless isolation from the rest of the world. As explained by the monster, “… I am thy creature; I ought to be thy Adam, but I am rather the fallen angel, whom thou drivest from joy for no misdeed.” In other words, the “true evil” in Frankenstein was not the monster or Victor, but isolation. The lack of warm relations with other creatures overwhelmed the monster and filled his heart with rage and hate. In contrast, in the Pygmalion story painted by Burne-Jones, Pygmalion took tender care of Galatea with gentleness and love. From the painting named “The Hand Refrains”, it’s conspicuous that the attitude of Pygmalion toward his creation contrasts significantly with Victor. Instead of resentment, disgust and fear, Pygmalion looked into the eyes of Galatea with adore, happiness and a slight sense of shy. As illustrated through the myth of Pygmalion, “Her head, as if she felt it, calls her Darling. My Darling love!” As an inversion compared to Frankenstein, the relations between the creator and the creation was totally different. Victor gave the monster nothing but isolation, yet Pygmalion treated Galatea with love and warmth.
The story of Pygmalion was an inversion to the story of Frankenstein due to the different approaches of creating life, and the relationships between characters. In conclusion, human beings are born as if a blank piece of paper. The first paint on the white paper determines the tone of the entire work. There are no human natures, but simply the approaches parents take to nurture their offspring.
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