Life in Hands of Man


What responsibility do men have towards their creations;


Did I request thee, Maker, from my clay


To mould me Man, did I solicit thee


From darkness to promote me?


Milton, “Paradise Lost”, Book 10: 743-5


This quote is the epigraph for Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein”. It expresses a central problem in this work – the problem of the responsibility of the creator towards his creature, and gives the reader the impression that the maker owes something to what he had brought into being.


For the first time we are introduced to this idea in the beginning of Victor Frankenstein’s story when he tells Walton that his mother and father felt that they “owed” something to him because they had given him life. Later on in the second chapter we can see that Victor himself had sensed an obligation of his parents to guide him when he retells how at the age of thirteen he found a book by Cornelius Agrippa, which sparked his interest in alchemy. Frankenstein recognizes that his father should have given him more guidance when he tells how his father, “looked carelessly at the title page”, and merely dismissed the work as, “sad trash”. He states that, if instead, his father had taken the time to explain that alchemy had been disproved, then, “It is even possible that the train of my ideas would never have received the fatal impulse that led to my ruin.” (page 38-39).


But Victor never fully understands this responsibility, rejecting his creature what he thought his father owed him. This is highlighted when, having created “the fiend”, he sees the contrast between his dream and the reality of the “miserable monster” and flees from his apartment. Then, on returning, he realizes that the creature has escaped and, as he tells Walton, “I clapped my hands for joy” (page 60). It is not until the desperate and unhappy creature has already told Frankenstein his story, begging for a mate, that he briefly feels the slightest responsibility for him. It is at this point in the novel that he thinks to himself, “And did I not as his maker, owe him all the portion of happiness that it was in my power to bestow?” (page 132). However, the responsibility for his fellow human beings eventually takes over, as Victor decides not to comply with the monster\'s request after all. This sense of compassion for the demon completely disappears when Elizabeth is killed. The only thing that Victor can feel after that point is hate. His sole purpose in life, which used to be creating life from lifeless matter, now becomes avenging his family and friends by killing that newly created life: the monster.


Victor Frankenstein can really be associated with the modern Prometheus. He defies the gods by creating life himself. Instead of being the created, Victor takes God\'s place and becomes the creator. Just as Prometheus, he gets punished for his deeds. He is, however, punished by his creation whereas Prometheus was punished by the god who he stole from.


The outward appearance of the monster, which remains nameless, is described by his creator: he is created from various different body parts, he has yellow skin which “scarcely covered the work of muscles and arteries beneath”, he has lustrous, flowing black hair and white teeth, and he has a “shriveled complexion and straight black lips.” Combine these features with the fact that he is also very tall and the image of a monster is complete. This appearance turns out to be the cause of all his problems. People are frightened when they see him, which keeps the monster from making contact with them. The lonely creature asks Victor: “You, my creator, abhor me; what hope can I gather from your fellow-creatures, who owe me nothing? They spurn and hate me.” (page 84)


This inability of personal contact and the resulting isolation is what indirectly drives the monster to his crimes. He tells Frankenstein: “I am malicious because I am miserable.” The creature has, in effect, been cast out like Adam and Eve before him. He tries to communicate with people on several occasions but is constantly rejected. He has somewhat lost hope as he takes refuge in the hovel near the De Lacey\'s home. The monster