OCR Essay on Morality in Frankenstein

An Essay on the different aspects on morality present in Frankenstein

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Fiona Donnelly 13D
"For all its violence and the radical challenges to social order
it presents, Frankenstein is an extremely moral tale." How
useful and truthful do you find this as a view of the novel?
Mary Shelley's Frankenstein subtitled "The Modern Prometheus" has been put forward by a number
of critics as having an obvious moral motive in its critique of the overreacher, the abandonment and
isolation of outsiders, the view of the Justice system and indeed its commentary on the social
revolutions of the time. However, some do not agree with this view and find it not at all useful in
their analysis of the novel. John Wilson Croker stated in his review that, "it inculcates no lesson of
conduct, manners, or morality; it cannot mend...its readers."
The most obvious moral tale in the novel is that of Victor Frankenstein's attempt to play God in the
creation of the monster. Certainly, it is the character's own cautionary tale that he recites to Walton
as a warning, "when I reflect that you are pursuing the same course, exposing yourself to the same
dangers which have rendered me what I am, I imagine that you may deduce an apt moral from my
tale". Throughout the text there are a number of mythical references to Prometheus, Lucifer, the
Ancient Mariner and Paradise Lost, which reflect the result of overreaching. Prometheus in Greek
mythology gave fire to the human race he created out of clay defying the ruling of Zeus; Frankenstein
is a reworking of this character using electricity instead of fire as the spark of life. It has been Shelley
clearly is illumining the dangers of seeking powers beyond your natural reach. Frankenstein's
attempt at this results in the death of his beloved family members and eventually his own demise.
Some critics see this moral tale as lending itself to Marxist interpretations as a critique of capitalism.
Francis Gilbert writes that Frankenstein represents the privileged elite in the creation of a being that
is supposed to "serve and worship him", however, like the rebellious working classes, this leads to a
backlash in which Victor loses all that is dear to him.
Conversely, however, this warning is not truly heeded by Walton who only returns from his
expedition at the threat of mutiny. It seems likely to a reader that his character will once again
become obsessed with a new goal in the future perhaps even reattempt this journey to the North
Pole. Moreover, the admission of any reference to the fate of Walton leaves a reader wondering if
he too becomes an overreacher, thereby eliminating any claims that this is a moral tale and rendering
this view of novel unhelpful.
An expansion on the examination of the moral tale of the overreacher leads to the moral debate in
the novel on nature versus science. In creating his monster Frankenstein usurps the role of women as
well as God in creation thereby defying the laws of nature. This lends itself well to the genre of the
gothic novel as gothic writers are interested in the breakdown of boundaries and in the exploration

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Fiona Donnelly 13D
of what is forbidden. The result of this act of hubris is the creation of a superhuman creature that has
none of the redeeming features of humans. Its face causes great fear in everyone it encounters and
curdles "the blood, and quicken[s] the beatings of the heart" (Mary Shelley). Anne Mellor writes that
"Mary Shelley...presents Victor Frankenstein as the embodiment of hubris...which blasphemously
attempts to tear asunder the sacred mysteries of nature.…read more

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Fiona Donnelly 13D
suffer throughout the novel. The submissive Elizabeth dies violently at the hands of Victor's creation
while she waits for him to come and save her, a damsel in distress. Justine is put to death for a crime
she did not commit but is unable to defend herself and so perishes helplessly.…read more

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Fiona Donnelly 13D
Godwin's philosophy and it is obvious that she wants to portray the moral implications of
mistreatment of the underprivileged.…read more


Daniela Lapenna

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