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In Frankenstein, is there any similarity between the creature's experience with fire...

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kareemoo | Student, Undergraduate | Valedictorian

Posted January 14, 2013 at 11:54 PM via web

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In Frankenstein, is there any similarity between the creature's experience with fire when he puts his hand into it and when he says "sorrow only increased with knowledge"?

Is this called parallelism? if not, what is it called?

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted January 15, 2013 at 12:57 AM (Answer #1)

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In Chapter 11, as the creature relates his history to Victor after having fled Frankenstein's apartment in confusion, he explains his growing awareness of the elements while he wanders in the wilderness. He tells Victor that when he was very cold, he discovered warmth from a fire.  However, he says,

In my joy I thrust my hand into the live embers, but quickly drew it out again with a cry of pain. How strange, I thought, that the same cause should produce such opposite effects!

Further, in Chapter 13, the creature relates the knowledge that he gleaned surreptitiously from the cottagers, the Delaceys.  For, in his hideaway, the creature observes the family and their interactions.  One day a beautiful Arabian girl comes to visit Felix accompanied by a countryman. Just as the weather has become "fine," the young man delights in the company of the girl, a presence that dismisses his gloom as the sun dismisses the dawn. Clearly, the creature draws parallels between the improvement of the weather and the improvement of the mood of Felix.

Further in his tale, the creature states that from watching and listening to the cottagers he has learned that

the possessions most esteemed by your fellow-creatures were high and unsullied descent united with riches.

Realizing that he possesses nothing, not even normal size and looks, the creature agonizes over his possibilities for any reciprocations of his intense feelings and yearnings.  He knows that he is unlike any other creature, alone, "a blot" upon the world.  He tells Victor, 

"I cannot describe to you the agony that these reflections inflicted upon me: I tried to dispel them, but sorrow only increased with knowledge. Oh, that I had forever remained in my native wood, nor known nor felt beyond the sensations of hunger, thirst, and heat!

The creature wishes that he had not come to know human warmth and their desires and feelings because he will not be able to share in these feelings.  This knowledge brings him nothing but sorrow. Like the fire, the knowledge of his isolation from the world of man brings the creature pain.

Thus, the reader may assume that the fire and the creature's experience of it is similar to his sorrowful feelings as he observes Felix and the beautiful Arabian girl, knowing that he is never to partake in any privilege of life when even the handsome Felix and his beautiful girl cannot. And, because the experience of the fire precedes the creature's sorrow, the sting of the fire may well symbolize the woe that the creature feels. In a sense, too, his experience of the fire's elemental danger and pain symbolizes the pain and danger associated with the creature's very existence.

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