Frankenstein Questions and Answers
by Mary Shelley

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Compare Frankenstein to The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, being sure to consider the following motifs in organizing your response: sin or guilty acts, communal responsibility, selection of a scapegoat, consequences of moral guilt, retribution, and partial restitution.

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In both Frankenstein and The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, the protagonist commits a crime against God. Victor Frankenstein oversteps his bounds and takes on the role of God when he creates human life from inanimate matter. The mariner violates divine law when he wantonly kills the albatross for no reason except he feels like it. The albatross was an innocent creature created by God, and the mariner had no right to kill it. Likewise, Victor had no right to create life artificially and sinned further in abandoning his creation. Both are punished for what they have done.

Scapegoating comes up in both works, for members of the protagonists' communities bear the brunt of the punishment for what each protagonist has done. The creature kills Victor's friends and family out of the pain of being rejected and despised. The creature is also a scapegoat, blamed by Victor for being what he is when it is Victor who created him. The mariner's fellow sailors are scapegoats in suffering God's punishment for his deed, which includes death and parching thirst.

Communal responsibility is implicit in both societies: nobody stops Victor from creating life (he works secretly, but no one looks deeply or seriously enough into what he is doing), and his university offers him the tools to do so. He also lives in a society that celebrates ambition and achievement. As for the mariner, his killing of the albatross reflects a society that does not adequately respect God's creation.

The consequences of moral guilt destroy Victor's health and happiness and finally cost him his life. He attempts to make restitution in a single-minded pursuit of the creature across the earth, hoping to kill him to atone for the deaths of his loved ones and prevent more suffering.

The consequences of moral guilt for the mariner are the punishments he undergoes at sea, including the death of his comrades. In his case, he does come to a full realization of what he has done and repents entirely of his act. He offers restitution by wandering the earth to tell his story to others as a cautionary tale.

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