Frankenstein – evaluation of a critique
Mary Shelley’s novel ‘ Frankenstein’ depicts a monster which is the brainchild of Victor Frankenstein. Victor gives birth to the monster and he could probably refer himself as God/ Creator to a new species. However the monster finds himself a misfit to the human society when he tries to find a family of his own. At last he attempts to find a partner and pleads his Creator for the same. However Victor Frankenstein cannot be compared to God’s approach towards His creation (Adams) as he is scared of creating a generation of monsters which would harm the society and cannot meet the need of his ‘ child’. Claridge’s article “ Parent-Child Tensions in Frankenstein: The Search for Communion” focuses upon this aspect and finds an analogy between the troubled family relations of the author’s life with the theme of the novel. Above all this article critiques the novel by discussing “ the failure of human beings to “ parent” their offsprings in such a way that they will be able to take part in society rather than retreat into themselves”(Claridge, 14). Thus Claridge draws up an interesting aspect here. According to the researcher, the novel attempts to prove the man can live through communion and when he is isolated, he is almost dead. Again the writer brings up the unfulfilled childhood of Victor who had an inadequate home-life including siblings’ friction and feeling of exclusion with respect to parental affection. This necessitated the experiment of the scientific creation.
The first problem with the presentation of this critique of the novel lies in the fact that the focus shifts from the relation between Victor and the monster towards Victor and his parents. It is not clearly explained why after facing such isolation the scientist would like to create another entity who would probably face the same loneliness and why thinking of the society at large he fails to promise a gift to the monster, unlike his mother’s gift of Elizabeth (his wife) to Victor. Claridge also rightly points out here that parental failures signify or symbolize a sense of responsibility of people towards the society. He also points out how Shelley revised her second version of the novel to show that during the sensitive adolescent age, the scientist was not supported by his father. However it is agreeable that the writer skilfully draws out evidence in terms of Victor’s reflection on his childhood to show this. Claridge even reviews works of other scholars in this field and presents the most relevant observations. One of these says that the pivotal reason behind the evil in Victor is the lack of parental responsibility and selfishness. However it is not well explained in this respect why Victor after being able to understand the problem of isolation would venture towards such a creation which would be a misfit to the human society. Now if he can be justified on the ground that his parents did not perform a good role, then perhaps his parents’ (mostly his father) approach towards rearing him could also be justified through the analysis of his grandparents’ role. Also, if social obligations prevent parental ones, then one has to explain what social obligations Victor’s father fulfilled while being detached from his son. The writer here brings up the issue of ugliness to justify the escape route adopted by Victor form his parental obligations. But the inclination to pass on his agony to the monster is made clear at the end of the novel and this is well highlighted by Claridge. An important aspect missed by Claridge is the education and the role of parents in imparting the same to their children in the context of the need for educating the willing to learn monster. Here Victor evaded the responsibility of educating his brainchild just like his father did towards him when he wanted to discuss science with him. Education imparted in proper way could have prevented the deaths in the novel and the disastrous outcome. The article uses a literature review approach to study the novel and present the association with the modern society. However the article fails to validate this with empirical studies. The only case under study is the novel of Frankenstein but the thesis drawn out from there is not supported with other practical evidence.
The writer of the article has totally kept aside the exploration of the good or bad lying behind the creation and the evil of modern science. Victor’s father does not support him when Victor attempts to discuss his subject with him. Does this subtly hint that the evil of science was known or estimated by his father with his farsightedness and hence his discouragement to his son could also be justified on the ground of social obligation. This connection has not been drawn by Claridge who focussed mainly upon the parent-child relation without considering other influencing factors in detail. The study is therefore explorative but not exclusive.
Claridge, Laura P. Parent-Child Tensions in Frankenstein: The Search for Communion, Studies in the Novel, (1985) 17. 1, 14-27