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September 5, 2011

Seeing is believing.

The first thing that struck me in particular upon picking up Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein” for the first time since graduating High-School English was that the language was a great deal less confusing than I remembered it to be. The second was that I still didn’t like it much, but for very new reasons. I find “Frankenstein” off putting  simply because of it’s lack of characters. I don’t mean to say that it doesn’t have any likable characters, or that I find the characters that it does have dull and difficult to understand. What I mean to say by this is that I think the characters Mary Shelley has invented to drive the universe of “Frankenstein” are not truly characters at all, but merely shells constructed with the sole purpose of promoting the plot and advancing her moral vision — which might sound like a completely ridiculous claim, seeing as this is the purpose of characters in many narratives and we do not strive to take away their titles and declare them shells. My particular grievance in Mrs. Shelley’s case is more complex, however.

From the beginning of the story we are made to believe that Victor is a man of much passion and emotion. Partially because of the actions he takes in the narrative, and partially because of how he is described to us by Walton and by himself. We do not know this because of what we see. We are continually told of Victors great love for Elizabeth and for his family, of his great passions for science and philosophy, and of his great sorrow when tragedy befalls him. He is forever describing the depth of his emotions and feeling but we are never made to feel along with him, never given a moment to stop and sympathize. Never for a moment are these characters humanized or relatable. We are told by Victor, of his close relation to Henry, of their love being as strong as  a love between brothers; and we are told similarly of his closeness to Elizabeth and her unparalleled beauty and goodness. We are told these things and then just accepted to take then as fact, even though we see very little evidence of them, and the narrative relies heavily on them. The difference between being told these things and having “seen” them is vital. Actually having them emotionally established for us within the story is as important as the difference between being told there will be a party and cake and actually being at the party, enjoying the very real cake with all of your friends.


Filed by at September 5th, 2011 under Uncategorized
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