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In Chapter 5, How does Shelley convey his revulsion towards the creature he has created? In chapter 11, how does Shelley create sympathy for the creature? How effective is the change in narration?

Date : 07/03/2023

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Uploaded by : Kanwar
Uploaded on : 07/03/2023
Subject : English

Exam style questions on the novella Frankenstein by Mary Shelley:
  1. Describe Victor’s reaction to his creation in chapter 5. How does Shelley convey his revulsion towards the creature he has created?
  2. In chapter 11, how does Shelley create sympathy for the creature? How effective is the change in narration?
1) Shelley has done some brilliant work here with the narrative voice. Without any obvious references to it, we can work out the different moods that Victor was in the throws of as he recites this momentous occasion. He starts by recounting the exact date. We are told it was a dreary night but this may be the weather or a perceptive comment in hindsight. There is clear reflection here and it is not a moment by moment unveiling of consciousness; we are told he felt an anxiety that almost amounted to agony. He describes the instruments being `of life`, a hint as to their effective application. The `thing` and `creature` is described as having `being` injected into it.
This `being` is indescribable - `how can I describe my emotions at this catastrophe`, there is almost a rhetorical lament following this as Victor describes his `infinite pains and care` taken to `..form`, a reasoned contemplation would clearly see this as an artificial construct, which could never stir up wihin the life of emotion and feeling every human being possesses.

We then move into a rhetorical back and forth which brilliantly encapsulates the mechanised and scientifically oriented mindset of Victor pre-creation versus his more reactive sense perceptions - `selected his features as beautiful...Great God!` His vitruvian sense of proportion, his aesthetic prefiguring of a human body backfire completely and only make the visage all the more horrifying as contrasts are not shaded but entirely black and white.


The change in narration is effective because it is brilliantly conceived. Rather than have the narrative begin with a current set of thoughts or actions we are taken to the first cause, the beginning whereupon no harsh judgements can be made by the reader because we are taken to a point where something has been created, `born into the world` like a new born baby. The vitally significant fact is that this is recounted by a fully formed `adult` with memory recall and clear narrative abilities for an event we are all unable to describe through an accurate recall of conscious experience. To have this unfiltered and fully `present` recounting available to us removes any preconceived judgements of separateness we may feel from the creation event.

We are told it was an `era of my being`, denoting what is to come, namely a fully realisable transcendence with the natural world. The senses are first observed as pure sensation, all indistinguishable, a strong image we may feel reflected in a baby crying upon birth. We are told `by degrees` his adjustment to light (`being born into the world`) required re-encountering `darkness`, but like any living being he fought to remain in the light. He encounters `liberty` a principle of civilisation, an entry into a domain of positive rights. However, he still must learn to `walk before he can run`, an empathetic and humbling trait which the reader acknowledges with appreciation.

He enunciates his human needs - food, shelter, clothing and warmth. He starts to look outward into a universal realm, having `beheld a radiant form rise from among the trees`. It is described an `enlightening his path`, a hint toward the development of his cognitive and reasoning capacities. The human development is so cleverly and incrementally developed by Shelley that we cannot but will him on. We respect his taste, `the sparrow uttered none but harsh notes, whilst those of the blackbird and thrush were sweet and enticing.`

I think what we could do with this particular extract is to break the class up into teams and provide their analysis of each character`s state of mind and then draw general classifications of the ways each of them think. ie. Victor is scientific, inquisitive and conceives things in a very subjective manner, the `creation` is untainted by relative judgements, is conscious and interprets through the senses, grounded and close to physical nature.

We can then do an interesting comparison with an extract from Dr Jekyll and Hyde. We can ask what the motivations were for each in their experiments, were they naive, can they be forgiven. We can then ask - do these experiments need to be terminated? What outcomes are possible and how do we justify our thoughts on this.

This resource was uploaded by: Kanwar

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