Was Mary Shelley trying to make a statement about the duality of life and death in the creation of Frankenstein?

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kimfuji's profile pic

kimfuji | College Teacher | (Level 1) Associate Educator

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Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein tells a tale of a scientist, who abuses his creative power. In the other world, his mistake will not be judged and he will not be blamed for his actions. Frankenstein’s creation is a ‘monster’, distinct from his creator.The ‘double’ becomes more violent throughout his story. The reasons behind the creation, the physical appearance of the monster, and the reasons of the creature's violence is different. The author shows how everyone’s soul is made up of two different sides; good and evil.This is dualism.

First, the theme of good and evil can be seen through the reasons behind the scientist's creation. Frankenstein created his Monster from pure curiosity of the mystery of the creation of life. Later in the novel he saw his error.

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ophelious | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator

Posted on

Short answer: maybe.  The trouble is Mary isn't around to ask anymore!  That might sound like a trite answer, but it is the only one that probably is true.

Personally, I don't think Mary was trying to make a statement about anything while writing Frankenstein.  "Making a statement" about something requires a lot of forethought and the writer often wants to make the statement before coming up with the book idea.  I don't think that applies to Mary Shelly.

Think about where the book's origins lie.  You have a group of friends stranded indoors because of lousy weather.  They are sitting around talking about spooky stuff like "galvanism" (the process of making dead muscles move by jolting them with electricity) and Erasmus Darwin (whom, it was believed, had reanimated dead tissue.)  The friends decide it would be fun to hold a "contest" in which they try to write supernatural stories.

That night, Mary had a dream:

"I saw the pale student of unhallowed arts kneeling beside the thing he had put together. I saw the hideous phantasm of a man stretched out, and then, on the working of some powerful engine, show signs of life, and stir with an uneasy, half vital motion. Frightful must it be; for supremely frightful would be the effect of any human endeavour to mock the stupendous mechanism of the Creator of the world."

She went on to write Frankenstein based on this dream.  If anything, I think she was trying to show something about what happens when man plays God.

It is not impossible to say that Mary Shelly was trying to make a statement about the duality of life and death in the creation of her book, but I think that the fact that Mary was a 18 year old girl who had never really written anything before in her life points more to the fact that any "statements" Frankenstein has to make were sussed out after the fact.


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