I was commissioned to write this, but they didn’t want to pay for the copyrights. Given that fact, I am posting them here both to show off, and to maintain my ownership.
Frankenstein’s Monster, Adam, and Satan
There are countless underlying themes in the novel Frankenstein, expressed partly through characters, their behaviors, their thoughts, and even in the quote on the title page. Some of the less-noticeable themes are addressed indirectly, hidden in context and, sometimes, in verse. Shelley forms obvious parallels between the creation of the monster and the creation of man, with Victor Frankenstein often taking on the God-role within the novel. She also, more subtly, addresses the monster’s correlation to Satan from both Biblical text and the oft-mentioned Paradise Lost. It seems less the story of how a neglectful God led to the fall of mankind, and more the story of how a neglectful God could have led to the true fall of his angels long before the creation.
The epitaph of the book contains a quote from John Milton’s Paradise Lost, beginning the book with the undertone of Adam’s entreating God why he was made in the first place. “Did I request thee, Maker, from my clay to mould me Man, did I solicit thee from darkness to promote me?” (Epitaph) This sentence sets the tone for the beginning of the story, and solidifies the concept early on that there is a creationist complex looming.
Paradise Lost is also one of the three books that the monster finds while foraging for food, and the book that he connects with the deepest. “It moved every feeling of wonder and awe that the picture of an omnipotent God warring with his creatures was capable of exciting. I often referred the several situations, as their similarity struck me, to my own.” (Ch. 15, P. 7) The monster’s correlation to Adam is something that’s often noted throughout the book. He started his life with innocence, with no bias towards anyone or anything, a blank slate that could be molded with an open heart and open mind. The cruelty of his maker and, moreover, the world he was thrust into, corrupted his emotions and his mind. Much like Adam, set to rest in the Garden of Eden where temptation awaited him, the monster was let loose in a world that he was by no means prepared for, and forced to adapt in order to survive.
Just like Adam when he ate of the Tree of Knowledge, the monster’s eyes were opened to the truth of the world abruptly upon entering a town and seeing how people responded to someone different from them. However, unlike Adam, this unveiling of the world had an enraging effect on him more akin to the demons. “The feelings of kindness and gentleness which I had entertained but a few moments before gave place to hellish rage and gnashing of teeth…Inflamed by pain, I vowed eternal hatred and vengeance to all mankind.” (Ch. 16, P. 20) Here, the monster finds himself responding more demonically than Adam did to his own punishments. Whereas Adam had shown remorse for his actions and continued to love his God after his sin, the fallen angels had vowed vengeance and destruction, overcome by “hellish rage”, as mentioned before.
Even the monster struggles with this dichotomy of concepts. Where at first his creation seemed to be parallel to the story of Adam in Paradise Lost, the route that his life took and the way his mind changed made him question which history he was in fact reliving. “Like Adam, I was apparently united by no link to any other being in existence; but his state was far different from mine in every other respect. He had come forth from the hands of God a perfect creature, happy and prosperous, guarded by the especial care of his Creator; he was allowed to converse with and acquire knowledge from beings of a superior nature, but I was wretched, helpless, and alone. Many times I considered Satan as the fitter emblem of my condition, for often, like him, when I viewed the bliss of my protectors, the bitter gall of envy rose within me.” (Ch. 15, P.7) The monster begins to realize, here, that his fate aligns more with the demonic entities than with the human that he had before seemed to understand.
Whereas Adam is forced from the Garden of Eden after his sin, the monster is not. Though shunned for his appearances, Victor Frankenstein (as God) immortalizes the concept of ‘monster vs man’ when he runs in fear. “Unable to endure the aspect of the being I had created, I rushed out of the room, and continued a long time traversing my bedchamber, unable to compose my mind to sleep.” (Ch. 5, P. 3) After Frankenstein rests, he sees the monster climbing through his window. His misunderstanding of this situation sets the tone for the rest of their time together.
Whereas Victor immediately assumed his creation to be a murderer before this was even true, the monster was in fact reaching out to him. This is evidenced through his wording of their encounter. “His jaws opened, and he muttered some inarticulate sounds, while a grin wrinkled his cheeks. He might have spoken, but I did not hear; one hand was stretched out, seemingly to detain me, but I escaped, and rushed down the stairs.” (Ch. 5, P. 3) The monster was happy to serve his “God”, his “Father”, but Frankenstein’s misunderstanding of the creature that he had created drove his fear.
When he returns to his apartment, the creature is already gone, and he is elated by this. Through his hubris he had brought to life what he perceived as his own worst nightmare, and didn’t take the time to consider why the monster would have left if he was, in fact, harmful. “I could hardly believe that so great a good fortune could have befallen me; but when I became assured that my enemy had indeed fled, I clapped my hands for joy…” (Ch. 5, P. 14) Here we see him filled with joy that the creature was gone, without a single thought to the possibility that it never meant to harm him in the first place.
Unlike the story of Adam where mankind is punished justly and yet mercifully, the monster leaves of his own accord. Victor sees the monster again when he returns home to the place where William was killed. Later, it’s confirmed that the creature was the true murderer. The monster’s murder of a child is very much symbolic of Satan’s temptation of mankind, and the destruction of innocence in the garden. “A flash of lightning illuminated the object, and discovered its shape plainly to me; its gigantic stature, and the deformity of its aspect, more hideous than belongs to humanity, instantly informed me that it was the wretch, the filthy daemon, to whom I had given life.” (Ch. 7, P. 25) When Victor sees his creation in the storm near the spot where William was killed, he himself even refers to him as a demon. As well, he stresses that, despite the fact that the creature is made from human parts, his stature is hideous compared to humanity. Biblically, Adam was created in God’s image, thus further evidencing that the parallel is, in fact, between the monster and Satan.
The monster is indirectly referred to as the devil, as well, by characters who do not even know that he exists. When William is killed and Justine falsely confesses to his murder, she speaks to Elizabeth about her innocence. “I thought with horror, my sweet lady, that you should believe your Justine, whom your blessed aunt had so highly honoured, and whom you loved, was a creature capable of a crime which none but the devil himself could have perpetrated.” (Ch. 8, P. 23) Here we have someone that does not even know that the monster exists claiming that only the devil could have killed the child and soiled something so pure.
With all of the lines that are easily drawn between the creation of man and the creation of the monster, it is easy to say that the book is written as a lesson to show what happens when man plays at God. However, it is also very likely that, throughout her writing, Shelley’s true intention was to instead show the parallels between Adam and Satan, and to show how easily innocence can turn to rage and hatred if not nurtured. The essence of nature versus nurture looms heavily over every word of the novel, and it would seem that Shelley’s work makes a bold statement that, in comparing the monster to Satan, nothing is created evil.
“The Online Literature Library: Frankenstein by Mar Shelley” Literature.org. 26 Apr 2016