Frankenstein Challenging Extreme Romantic and Enlightenment Ideologies
Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein like all texts is far from neutral, functioning as a site to obstacle and/or endorse certain ideologies. Released in the 19th century, it follows the journey of three characters in the middle of the influence and dispute of extreme Romantic and Enlightenment ideologies. Mary Shelley experienced much heartbreak, suicide and sadness with the intense Romantic way of life she had picked to embrace with Percy Shelley and it can be argued that Frankenstein is a critique of radicalism as revealed by her comment ‘I earnestly want the excellent and knowledge of my fellow creatures … ut I am not for going to violent extremes, which appropriately bring injurious reaction … I have no desire to ally myself with Radicals– they are full of repulsion to me– violent without any sense of justice– self-centered in the extreme– talking without understanding’ (Frankenstein, Penguin Edition, pg 12). Through different literary devices, Frankenstein functions as a website to challenge the extremes of the 2 contrasting ideologies of romanticism and Enlightenment, which result in natural limits being broken and a multitude of repercussions.
Frankenstein first of all criticises the visionary or optimistic lack of truth that Romanticism promoted, an ideology indicating fantasy and fiction that is typically not possible and leads to failure, damage and ruin upon an individual and the broader society. The novel opens with Robert Walton’s letters to his sis utilizing strong visual images to explain his journey to discover the arctic. His words have strong Romantic impacts as he explains his wild and practically childlike dream to travel to an undiscovered land and discover excellent secrets.
His opening letter reads ‘Inspirited by this wind of guarantee my visions become more fervent and brilliant. I try fruitless to be persuaded that the pole is the seat of frost and desolation; it ever presents itself to my creativity as the area of charm and pleasure.’ (Pg 1). Here his emotion becomes rather of a force that consumes his mind, fending off any reasoning or reality ‘the pole is the seat of frost of desolation’. Rather such emotion becomes impassioned which connotes a sense of desperation that consumes his mind and enables nothing however an unrealistic creativity.
The word ‘visions’ indicates concepts about a childlike fantasy, which to numerous readers alike is known to be filled with naivety. Kids are unable to make rational decisions and as such are assisted by their parents, they have no understanding to understand the world with a clear mind. As such Shelley links such a Romantic ideal with a naive childish state which is far too filled with feeling and void of reasoning which without assistance will certainly result in dire repercussions as is with the case of Walton.
Walton’s dream to reach the Arctic result in both failure and the almost death of himself and his team before his vivid psychological passion became less extreme and he understood the illogical state of his mind and the risks it postured. Shelley utilizes strong visual imagery to describe the setting and caesura to influence the tone of Walton’s voice to depict the possible effects of Walton’s ‘fervent’ ‘imagination’.
In the latter half of his letters he exposes ‘I am surrounded by mountains of ice, which confess of no escape, and threaten every minute to crush my vessel … Yet it is awful to show that the lives of all these guys are threatened through me. If we are lost, my mad plans are the cause.’ (Pg 266) The description of the setting ‘mountains of ice’ might be symbolic of a natural border guy must not cross– as mountain ranges are typically used as limits such as the Himalayas.
Walton comes to realize this danger as the use of caesura develops a broken sentence structure and depicts his fear as he realises his ‘madness’ could eliminate them all. Nevertheless with this realization, some logic go back to his state and this allows him to conserve himself and his crew prior to it is too late. Although his exploration did not be successful, he thankfully realized that it was impact by an inflated Romantic ideology that does not have reality, and remedied his methods time to save himself and his crew.
Shelley represented the really prospective effects of such an unreasonable vision, regrettably these effects came true for Victor Frankenstein. Mary Shelley also challenges the Romantic ideology that male should liberate himself from intellectual chains and follow his feeling with spontaneity and flexibility when it is taken to the extreme. Just like Walton, Victor Frankenstein was also grasped by irrational visionary which lead him to produce human life from the remnants of dead people. What resulted was an animal so monstrous that not even Frankenstein its creator might bear witness to it.
In Chapter 4, Frankenstein exposes ‘It was with these sensations that I began the production of a human being’ (pg 54). The word ‘feelings’ suggests really strongly that pure feeling was the driving force behind why he produced the creature. Although numerous readers argue that Shelley is in fact criticising the Enlightenment pursuit of knowledge as the factor behind Frankensteins failure and the pursuing effects on animal, creator and society; maybe she is also challenging the extremely basic feeling that influenced Frankenstein to pursue such a job in the first location.
What Frankenstein did was follow his ‘sensation’ suggestive that the choice lacked reasoning or factor to consider of possible consequences. As an outcome of this Romantic ideology that man must liberate himself and follow his own feeling and spontaneity, Frankenstein’s creation reveals that this ideology when inflated can result in dire effects. Nevertheless Shelley also challenges the Knowledge ideology that guy need to pursue scientific knowledge to comprehend himself and his world; as she thought that if taken to the extreme as is usually the case, it results in self-destruction.
In the case of Victor Frankenstein, although above it was talked about that emotion/desires may have inspired his pursuit, the real pursuit itself was sensible as exposed on page 53 ‘Some miracle might have produced it, yet the stages of discovery stood out and likely’. For that reason the damage ‘My cheek had grown pale with study and my individual had actually ended up being emaciated with confinement’ (Pg 55) was the direct result of a scientific Knowledge venture.
Frankenstein takes his pursuit to the extreme ‘the stars often vanished in the light of morning whilst I was yet taken part in my lab’ and as such suffers direct physical repercussions which only act to foreshadow the degrading moral repercussions, death of family members, anguish and lonliness to haunt him to his tomb. Shelley challenges the Enlightenment ideology relating to guy ought to pursue scientific knowledge when taken to its most extreme as it has awful consequences on the individual.
Frankenstein functions as a site to likewise challenge the Knowledge ideology that promotes reasoning, reason and rationality of mankind to such an extreme that it blocks the totally free play of feelings– turning guy into a soulless thinking maker. The philosophes glorified human reason and believed it was a typical human belongings that would confess a foundation for typical morality. Frankenstein as such taken in by his Enlightenment scientific pursuit ends up being such a believing maker during his duration of production, ‘I appeared to have actually lost all soul or sensation but for this one pursuit’.
Yet in the following paragraph he elaborates revealing this exact same pursuit ‘made me disregard the scenes around me triggered me also to forget those friends who were numerous miles missing’. This leads to the suffering of his dad and other member of the family who do not get any interaction or affection from somebody they dearly love (Frankenstein); as well as Frankenstein not having the ability to value the appeal of nature.
These are two things that are incredibly essential to human joy, and without them Frankenstein ends up being a miserable scalawag as he suffers the effects of blocking the complimentary play of his emotions in favour of severe scientific reasoning and reason. Shelley challenges the inflated philosophe ideology that man ought to utilize his clinical endeavors to open the secrets of nature. The philosophes appreciation of nature was obtained completely from Isaac Newton and as such they believed that nature was subject to laws which might be understood with mathematical certainty, and as such man’s pursuit of science might permeate its secrets.
Shelley believed that nature was a power that should not be tampered with, yet Frankenstein does through his creation ‘I pursued nature to her hiding places’. The words ‘concealing locations’ to explain the place of natures tricks certainly exposes that they are not implied to be discovered. However Frankenstein does try to find them and as such exploit them in a way which just leads to his damage at the end of the novel where he has actually lost himself, his household and pursues his creature in the severe elements of nature.
Nature penalizes his absurdity and leaves him in such a state as explained by Walton ‘His limbs were almost frozen, and his body terribly emaciated by fatigue and suffering. I never ever saw a guy in so sorrowful a condition’. Shelley exposes the power of nature, that its tricks ought to not be revealed especially to male through the clinical pursuit of knowledge. Frankenstein serves as a website to challenge the Knowledge ideology that nature’s secrets must be unlocked for the improvement of guy. Frankenstein criticises the philosophe worth of clinical endeavor that permits male to assume the function of a higher entity.
Through the allusions to Milton’s Paradise Lost and the Greek Promethean misconception; this ideology is yet another taken to an extreme in Frankenstein to highlight that a purely Enlightenment value system results in many repercussions, when it comes to this ideology man should not presume such a role as he is not capable to do so. The title of the text Frankenstein is interchangeable with ‘the Modern Prometheus’– the character from Greek mythology who brought fire to man and was penalized permanently by the gods for sharing knowledge that mortals weren’t supposed to have.
As such Shelley highlights the idea that guy must not tamper with the fire that acts as a symbol for all divine knowledge as it will just ruin man, as is the case for Victor Frankenstein. The reason that he ought to not pursue such understanding is highlighted by his incapability to undertake the very same responsibilities nature has over what it produces communicated through the allusion to Milton’s Paradise Lost.
Guy must not pursue the understanding to control what comes from a greater entity since he is incapable spiritually and ethically to undertake such a task. This is an idea which through the allusion to Paradise Lost, challenges the Enlightenment ideology that male need to pursue knowledge to understand and manage his world. When Frankenstein meets his creature for the very first time in the Alps, the animal confronts him ‘Keep in mind, that I am thy creature; I ought to be thy Adam but I am rather the fallen angel, whom thou drivest from joy for no misbehaviour’.
This quote permits the reader to become totally knowledgeable about the duty creator ought to have over the happiness and success of his creation as Frankenstein is represented as assuming the position of the Christian God, and the animal of the Archangel. The animal is restricted to a world of anguish since Frankenstein is not able to secure his ‘child’ and as such wreaks havoc on society through vengeance and murder. The effects of the philosophes ecologist psychology in which guys know only what their sense impressions allowed their professors of factor to comprehend become really clear.
By disrespecting the power of a greater entity and assuming such a role, Shelley challenges the enlightenment ideology concerning reason over the existence of a God-like figure through displaying the resultant effects of taking this ideology to the extreme. Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is an intricate book that serves as a website to challenge both Knowledge and Romantic ideologies when required to their extreme. As such she highlights the needed balance between the 2 to enable society to function at its most optimal– devoid of excess feeling and a fascination with scientific logic and order.
She argues that a purely Romantic or Knowledge worth system contained within it inflated ideologies that would result in a wide range of repercussions on mankind. Composed throughout the tail end of the ‘timeless’ Enlightenment period and the flood tide of the Romantic backlash, Frankenstein maybe is a subtle criticism of the excesses in both, it is similarly challenging all ideologies of inflation whether clinical, religious or philosophical.