I’ve completed another reading of Frankenstein: Or the Modern Prometheous, and while Shelley used many elements of naturalism in the piece the text is still fiction. The message regarding the advancement of human nature – a focus of Literary Darwinism – is a backward struggle in the story as Victor creates life then hates himself for his achievement, subsequently deserting the new life to fend for himself. Should we assume Victor, then, to be the hand of Natural Selection – directing life essence until consciousness then standing back and insisting a hands-off approach to conclusion? Is Victor’s desertion of responsibility for the Creature a mirror for modern man to note the absence of God?
The 1818 text ends with Walton accusing the Creature of inherent selfishness and desires to control Victor in which drove the character to find his death. The Creature laments his disdain and promises Walton that he is going farther into the Artic to begin his own death amid a funeral pyre. Walton, disgusted to be returning to England and from the death of his friend Victor, stands back and watches the Creature depart for the mountains. The story is over, the Frankensteins are no more.
The 1831 text as well as many productions of the story end differently. My husband noted one film ending with Victor and the Creature both sinking into the ice and dying, and another where Victor succeeds and kills his creation. I propose a different ending for the ghost story, one in which natural means secure an isolated existence for the Creature. The Creature is not the only person who feels separated from society; although he was not born of natural means, he is pieced together with human parts. Natural Selection did not give him any gifts, but Victor did – making him larger, stronger, and more resilient to the workings of nature.
Contemplation on Frankenstein:
1. Click HERE to read my essay “Darwinian Literary Analysis of Mary Shelley’s
Frankenstein or The Modern Prometheus (1818 Text)”.
2. Click HERE for a note to Mary Shelley from yours truly.
3. Read my alternate ending in which the Creature is granted a name as well as a society.
Click HERE for Natural Survival: Letter 5
Click HERE for Natural Survival: Letter 6
Click HERE for Natural Survival: Letter 7
Click HERE for Natural Survival: Letter 8
Click HERE for Natural Survival: Letter 9
Click HERE for Natural Survival: Letter 10
Shelley, Mary. Frankenstein or The Modern Prometheus (1818 Text). Ed. Marilyn Butler. New
York: Oxford University Press, 2008.