The theme of family in Frankenstein by Mary Shelley is not the only central topic raised in the writing; however, it is the issue that most explains and opens up the complex context of the book. Family is one of the most important parts or aspects of any human life; indeed, most people feel the intrinsic need to relate to someone throughout their lives. Strong family ties frequently play a major role and satisfy in people the essential feeling of belonging. In addition, it is reasonable to assume that an individual’s family has a profound impact on the way a person evolves and the kind of behavioral patterns he or she exhibits. Many psychologists state that poor family ties or distant familial relationships have a detrimental effect on a person’s psyche and might result in a feeling of insecurity. The purpose of this paper is to analyze the topic of human companionship in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and dwell upon the underlying ideas this theme reveals.
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Despite the fact that the book has elements that are characteristic of science fiction, its core lies in philosophy. While reading the book, it becomes impossible for the reader to stop wondering about the meaning of human existence and the things that make a human being happy. However, toward the book’s ending, it becomes obvious that almost any living being strives for companionship and affection. The very nature of people points to the fact that a human being is the result of the interactions and affection of two people; if an individual is lonely, he or she cannot be fully harmonious and originative. The distant relationships between Victor and his family led him to the search for other ways to fill the void in his soul (Zimmerman 154). Despite the fact that the monster was created by a scientist, the monster himself also strived to be united with people and was capable of introspection, learning, and real feeling.
Importantly, although Victor had created a creature that could feel and desire affection, he ran away from his creation. The reason for his abandonment was much deeper than disgust or loathing at the sight of the monster. Instead, Victor ran away because of fear and an understanding that he had condemned the creature to eternal and ceaseless mental suffering (Bentley 339). Just like his creator, the monster would always wander in search of a kindred soul capable of reciprocating his spiritual needs.
The Monster, Victor, and Science
It is significant to emphasize the reasons that were pushing Victor to create the monster. The main motive of the scientist to create life was the desire not only to study nature and humanity but also to get universal recognition. However, once a person receives such recognition, he or she also obtains a certain level of power, strength, and ability to influence other people. Notably, the desire for power had deep psychological roots in Victor’s mind. He sought to gain this power in order to compensate for his inferiority, which originated from family circumstances and personal problems. His spiritual loneliness prompted him to strive for influence.
Despite the fact that Victor had initially stated that he grew up in a happy and harmonious family, he also stressed that since childhood, his life had been a secluded one (Zimmerman 140). In his letters to Margaret, he wrote that he had no close friends and that there was no one to share his sorrows and joys. As he put it, “I have one want which I have never been able to satisfy” (Shelley 18). Indeed, Victor’s soul was in need of reciprocity from another person who could understand him. Consequently, throughout his life, the scientist was experiencing an acute shortage of intimate relationships that would bring him mutual understanding and satisfaction. This loneliness was the psychological trigger that initiated his desire to dominate. When he created the monster, he felt omnipotent, even though he had to give up his own strength and morale to create him. However, blinded by loneliness and his desire for recognition, Victor did not pay attention to the immorality of his actions. Rather, he was moved by serious psychological problems.
Throughout the book, the reader notices the incompleteness of almost all families. It is reasonable to state that Victor created the monster because his family was incomplete and that the death of his mother had pushed him to create a living being that could substitute for this loss. Notwithstanding the fact that Elizabeth played a major female role in his family, she could never replace his natural mother (Shelley 34). Therefore, he created the monster not to fulfill the role of his mother but rather to fill the place of his missing family member. Although the loss was beyond his control and he was helpless in this situation, he did have the power to create a living being that could somehow respond to his need for closeness. The same feelings were brought out in the monster as well. The reason why he asked Victor to create a female companion for him was not limited to his desire to have an intimate relationship but also included his spiritual striving to feel close with someone (Shelley 114). He was rejected by his creator and could never find a soulmate, but living in solitude was unbearable torture for the monster, so he made Victor create a mate who would share a life with him.
When the monster stumbled upon the family living in the cottage in the woods, his loneliness and desire to have a family became even more intense. The family unknowingly educated the being and taught him how to survive. However, this family was also incomplete as there was no mother in it. Agatha did her best to perform similar functions as mothers usually do and took great care of the family members. Apart from learning essential life skills, the monster also understood what it meant to be compassionate and came to realize that he wanted to be loved in the same way the family members loved each other (Zimmerman 154). Although the father was blind and the family was very poor, its members did their best to take care of each other, and the monster wanted to join their family and help them as much as he could. This part of the book particularly highlights the importance of having a family and how having close relationships can make people happy.
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When observing the family, the monster comprehended how badly he wanted to have someone with whom he would be able to communicate. The core of this desire was the need for someone who could understand how he felt and could share the bad and good moments with him. When Victor refused to make his companion, the monster started killing Frankenstein’s family members to make his creator understand how it felt to be all alone and how strongly a person needs to have close people by his or her side. Nevertheless, blinded by rage and hatred, Victor wanted to kill the monster for what he did without understanding that, in fact, he did the same to the monster and was the only one to blame (Bentley 345).
Victor and His Creation
The monster did not only repeat the life story of Victor in some way, but he also served as his reflection. Like Victor, the monster was desperate to find a soulmate; thus, the “monster’s story of deprivation as a double of Victor’s own” stressed the despair a person feels when he or she does not have a proper family (Zimmerman 136). Throughout the book, the reader can observe that the monster’s longing for closeness with people was similar to that experienced by Victor. In addition, the woodshed scene revealed that “the monster’s complete invisibility at the close suggests the degree to which Victor’s own inner world remains unspeakable” (Zimmerman 151). Victor never felt support from his father, and he was alone in his strivings; in the same way, the monster wanted to become a member of the De Lacey family but was rejected by them despite his pure intentions. Importantly, the similarity of the monster and his creator is reflected in their need for closeness. The monster’s desire to have a family has the same origin as Victor’s desire to fulfill the void in his soul connected to the loss of his family member.
Despite the fact that tragedy and despair seem to be the leitmotif of the entire book, its essence can be summarized as the importance of having a connection to family. All the lamentable events occurred as a consequence of the absence of this connection, both for Victor and his creation. Victor lost himself in science due to his need for power, which was caused by a lack of strong family ties. The loss of his mother left a wound in his heart and a void in his soul that he wanted to fill by creating a new family member while losing any sense of responsibility and morality in doing so. The monster was created a lonely creature and sought a soulmate who could become his family. Being rejected by people and deceived by his creator, he resorted to violence to make Victor comprehend the feeling of being completely alone and without family. Thus, the actual evil was neither Victor’s actions nor the monster but rather their isolation from family.
Family is not only one of the most significant things in a person’s life, but it also forms people and gives them direction. Having a dysfunctional family or weak familial ties might have a detrimental effect on a person’s psyche. Having no close relationships might push an individual to search for a soulmate throughout his or her entire life and unconsciously act immorally. From the example of Frankenstein and the De Lacey family, the reader comprehends how deep relationships can affect a person. Suffering from isolation, Victor created a monster who was also doomed to be alone. Therefore, the need to have a bond with the closest people in one’s life surpasses all other relationships; the absence of this connection will hurt any living being.
Bentley, Colene. “Family, Humanity, Polity: Theorizing the Basis and Boundaries of Political Community in Frankenstein.” Criticism, vol. 47, no. 3, 2005, pp. 325-351, Web.
Shelley, Mary. Frankenstein or the Modern Prometheus. Sever, Francis, & Company, 1869.
Zimmerman, Lee. “Frankenstein, Invisibility, and Nameless Dread.” American Imago, vol. 60, no. 2, 2003, pp. 135-158, Web.