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Injustice in Shelley’s Frankenstein and Milton’s Paradise Lost

“Th’ infernal Serpent; he it was, whose guile
Stird up with Envy and Revenge, deceiv’d 35
The Mother of Mankinde, what time his Pride
Had cast him out from Heav’n” (Milton Lines: 34-37)

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The monster created by Mary Shelley in Frankenstein (henceforth mentioned as Frankenstein) and the character of Satan in Milton’s Paradise Lost are obsessed with the idea of injustice and revenge. The characters revolve their action in the novel and the epic poem motivated by their obsession to avenge the injustice done to them. Both the characters feel dejected and aim to revenge their creator. This essay analyses the facets of these two obsessions found prominently both in Frankenstein and Satan. I believe that both Satan and Frankenstein felt severe injustice in their banishment and therefore, overwhelmed by their pursuit of revenge, indulged on their obsession.

The perception of injustice in Satan and Frankenstein were ignited by the sheer dejection of their creator. Satan, one of the most beautiful of the angels, felt that injustice was being done, as the Son of God would get to reign on Heaven while he will remain a servant. When he revolted against God, he was defeated and thrown out of heaven, infusing the seed of revenge in him. Satan therefore says, “Better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven.” (Milton 11, Line: 263) However, once Satan was banished from Heaven he harbored but one feeling, that of revenge:

“Our power sufficient to disturb his Heaven,
And with perceptual inroads to alarm,
Though inaccessible, his fatal throne;
Which, if not victory, is yet revenge.” (Milton 35, Lines: 102-105)

Therefore, the feeling of injustice ingrained in Satan was the creator of the urge of vengeance in him. Frankenstein was a creation of Victor Frankenstein, a young scientist obsessed with the zeal to create life “invulnerable to any but violent death” (Shelley 32). Soon after he created him and brought him to life, Victor was appalled by his ugliness: “but now that I had finished, the beauty of the dream vanished, and breathless horror and disgust filled my heart.” (Shelley 45) Victor deserted Frankenstein. In his own account, after Victor deserted him he wandered in the woods feeling dejected and vowing revenge:

For some weeks I led a miserable life in the woods, endeavoring to cure the wound which I had received … My sufferings were augmented also by the oppressive sense of the injustice and ingratitude of their infliction. My daily vows rose for revenge, such as would alone compensate for the outrages and anguish I had endured. (Shelley 112)

Therefore the feeling of injustice and dejection led the two characters avow revenge.

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The obsession of revenge was intensified by the feeling of injustice that Frankenstein felt not only on his creator Victor but also to all humankind. Frankenstein in his pursuit to be accepted in the human world without fear and disgust seized a boy, which he then discovers to be Victor’s brother and murders him, with the sole intention to see that if the latter would accept him even with his deformities: “Suddenly, as I gazed on him, an idea seized me, that this little creature was unprejudiced, and had lived too short a time to have imbibed a horror of deformity.” (Shelley 112) Nevertheless, the boy too called him a “Hideous monster” and asked him to let him go. When Frankenstein finds out that the boy is actually related to Victor he says, “Frankenstein! You belong then to my enemy, — to him towards whom I have sworn eternal revenge” (Shelley 113).

In many other occasions, Frankenstein looked for social acceptance and was rejected as a monster like his creator and therefore, all his anger, his bitterness was expressed towards him. Frankenstein killed Victor’s brother and he was “swept with exultation and hellish triumph” at the thought that he too, like his creator, was capable of creating desolation to Victor and make him misery as “this death will carry despair to him” (Shelley 113). Revenge was his sole pursuit as Frankenstein clapped his hands triumphantly at the thought of having brought “thousand other miseries” that “shall torment and destroy him” (113). This episode actually demonstrates the dejection that Frankenstein felt due to his monstrous looks. Though he was a kind gentle hearted being, the dejection at the hand of his creator wrenched his heart with the desire to make him suffer the way he, Frankenstein suffered in his loneliness.

Of all things, his lonely existence tormented Frankenstein the most. This is why he went to Victor and asked him to create another being like him who could he his companion:

I am alone, and miserable: man will not associate with me; but one as deformed and horrible as myself would not deny herself to me. My companion must be of the same species, and have the same defects. This being you must create. (Shelley 114)

The right to have social companion is exerted by Frankenstein to save himself from this friendless, companionless, existence. This is done in the same way as Satan fights for his rights to become the ruler of Heaven. Victor speaks of Frankenstein’s desire in more clear words as spoken by Frankenstein: “You must create a female for me, with whom I can live in the interchange of those sympathies necessary for my being. This you alone can do; and I demand it as a right you must not refuse.” (Shelley 114). Therefore, it is the obsession of Frankenstein that injustice is being done on him by his creator pushes him to make this request. His obsession with the dejection he felt is fully expressed when he speaks to Walton and tells him his account of his lonely life:

You who call Frankenstein your friend, seem to have knowledge of my crimes and his misfortunes. But in the detail which he gave you of them, he could not sum up the hours and months of misery which I endured, wasting in the impotent passions. For, which I destroys his hopes, I did not satisfy my own desires. They were for ever ardent and craving; still I desired love and fellowship, and I was still spurned. Was there no injustice in this? Am I to be though the only criminal, when all human kind signed against me? Why do you not execrate the rustic who sought to destroy the savior of his child? Nay these are virtuous and immaculate beings; I, the miserable and abandoned, am an abortion, to be spurned at, and kicked, and trampled on. Even now my blood boils at the recollection of this injustice. (Shelley 175)

This actually demonstrates that most of the activities that Frankenstein did and the murders he committed were instigated by his obsession with injustice done towards him by humankind and his desire to seek revenge.

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The dejection of humankind and mostly his creator makes Frankenstein very angry and lonely. In his despair, he seeks vengeance. Revenge becomes his sole purpose as expressed in the following comment: “Are you to be happy, while I grovel in the intensity of my wretchedness? You can blast my other passions; but revenge remains, – revenge, henceforth dearer than light and food!” (Shelley 133)

The pursuit of revenge gains paramount importance to Frankenstein. In his dejected life, revenge in a way became his constant companion. He expresses that his sanity was based on the thought and desire of revenge and tells Victor that he will “be with you on your wedding-night” (Shelley). To take away all happiness from Victor’s life for giving him such a desolate and dejected existence, Frankenstein murders Elizabeth, Victor’s bride. Frankenstein came back to show Victor what he had done to his wife that Victor narrates in the novel: “I saw at the open window a figure the most hideous and abhorred. A grin was on the face of the monster; he seemed to jeer, as with his fiendish finger he pointed towards the corpse of my wife.” (Shelley 155 ) Such was his feeling of hatred towards Victor that he came back to see his anguish on the death of his lovely bride.

Similar feeling of hatred, dejection, and revenge is observed in Satan in Paradise Lost. Satan is jealous of Adam, son of God destined to be his heir. He feels dejected for he, an angel, is not chosen as the heir and the next ruler and in his desire to rule on Heaven he swears revenge:

But what will not ambition and revenge
Descend to? who aspires must down as low
As high he soared, obnoxious first or last
To basest things. Revenge, at first though sweet,
Bitter ere long back on itself recoils : –
Let it; I reck not, so it light well aimed
(Since higher I fall short) on him who next
Provokes my envy, this new favorite
Of Heaven, this man of clay, son of despite,
Whom, us the more to spite, his Maker raised
From dust. Spite then with spite is best repaid.” (Milton 251 Lines: 168-178)

Satan’s desire to avenge God and the Son of God, Adam and to make him fall stimulates a plan that disgraces them. It is out of the ignominy of exile that Satan and the other fallen angels device to create another kingdom in Hell: “Inclines, here to continue, and build up here/ A growing empire” (Milton 42 Lines: 304-5) and live “exempt” from “Heaven’s high jurisdiction” and branded incompetent for the thrown if Heaven” (Milton 42). Satan was convinced that he had banished from Heaven because of the Son of God. Though he says in the epic poem that he would rather reign in Hell than be a servant in Heaven but still he harbors the desire to be accepted among the angels, which he expresses when he looks at Paradise and peaceful Earth. But the feeling of revenge overcomes the little existing goodness and goes on to devise a plan to bring down Adam. Satan disguises himself as a serpent and persuades Eve to take a bite of the forbidden apple. Eve also convinces Adam to eat the apple, which actually leads to their downfall from Heaven and paradise. This reduces their lives into mortal existence taking away Adam’s chance of reigning over Heaven. Satan’s undying hatred for God and Adam that had become an obsession with him and therefore, he says to his fellow fallen angels:

“All is not lost; the unconquerable will,
And the study of revenge, immortal hate,
And courage never to submit or yield,
And what is else not to be overcome;” (Milton 6 Lines: 106-9)

Satan is convinced that God which he speaks as “Heaven” had actually wronged them by throwing them out of Heaven. Therefore, he says that the “tyranny of Heaven” was actually responsible for their fallen state. Satan feels that the fallen angels should not give up hope because they had lost a battle but should consider their “own loss how repair” and “overcome this dire calamity” (Milton 8 Line: 188). Infused by his “eternal” hatred, Satan disguised as a Serpent enters Paradise and convinces Adam and Eve to eat the forbidden fruit to bring in mortality and sin in the lives of humankind.

The infernal serpent; he it was, whose guile,
Stirred up with envy and revenge, deceived
The mother of mankind, what time his price
Had cast him out from heaven, with all his host
Of rebel angels, by whose aid, aspiring
To set himself in glory above his peers,
He trusted to have equaled the Most High,
If he opposed; and with ambitious aim
Against the throne and monarchy of God
Raised impious was in Heaven and battle proud.
With vain attempt. (Milton 3 Lines: 85-94)

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Therefore, the fall of man was a design planned by Satan due to his obsessive feeling of injustice and revenge towards Heaven. He felt he and his comrades were wronged when they were exiled from Heaven and therefore to take revenge on God’s most prized creation and to be heir, he planned the fall of man.

Works Cited

Milton, John. Paradise Lost. 1869. Web.

Shelley, Mary. Frankenstein. 1869. Web.

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