Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein". The role of the monster as a reader

Essay, 2011

6 Seiten


The creature is particularly affected by Milton's Paradise Lost:
`Like Adam, I was apparently united by no link to any other being in existence;
but his state was far different from mine in every other respect. He had come forth
from the hands of God a perfect creature, happy and prosperous, guarded by the
especial care of his Creator; he was allowed to converse with and acquire
knowledge from beings of a superior nature, but I was wretched, helpless, and
alone.' (Frankenstein, p.132)
It is quite obvious that the monster's developing ability to read and understand language
brought more pain to him, as if the more he learned about humans and their nature; the
more he began to loathe them, particularly through the neglect of Victor.
There is a role reversal later between Frankenstein, who becomes the `reader' and his
creature becoming the `author' when
it leaves messages for him on rocks and trees,
showing not only the connection of language and nature, but also a power shift
between the two which is present in the meetings between the two, blurring the line
between creator and creature:
`You are my creator, but I am your master; obey!' (Frankenstein, p.172)
This struggle for power is seen prevalently in their relationship; Frankenstein who wishes
to control the monster by stopping its destruction and the monster who seeks revenge for
its neglect and thoughtless creation.
Victor, himself, is a `reader', particularly at the beginning of his narrative when he speaks
of his inspiration from the works of Cornelius Agrippa, Albertus Magnus and Paracelsus.
Ellis states that Victor's adoration for the juxtaposed by Shelley to modern scientists
such as Monsieur Krempe- `the masters of the science (p.148)
' turns to `natural
Markman Ellis, The History of Gothic Fiction, (Edinburgh University Press Limited, 2000), p.148

Victor and Elizabeth also exchange letters over the course of the novel ­ nervous
breakdowns ­ question reliability of narrator. Victor's most prominent `author' role is, of
course, when he recounts his story to Walton. He refers to his tale as `my hideous
narration' (Frankenstein, p.201) which is remarkably similar to Shelley's own words in the
1831 Introduction in which she describes the novel as her `hideous progeny' (Frankenstein,
Author's Introduction, p.10). Bennett and Royle describe the novel itself as `a kind of
(p.257) due to its unusual structure and endless flow of textuality. Monstrosity is
an extensive theme in Frankenstein in a number of different forms. The frame structure of
the novel, with its multiple narratives, intertwining stories and levels (often described as
similar to `Chinese boxes' or `Russian dolls') are almost ill-fitting. This causes the reader
to draw similarities between this structure and the way in which the monster was created
using an assortment of human and animal pieces, forging the image of a patchwork quilt in
the mind:
`And the novel comes across, sometimes rather awkwardly, monstrously, like
something created out of different genres (the Gothic novel or novels of
sensibility, moral or theological disquisitions, novels of ideas), just as it brings
together the rational investigation of Enlightenment science with the other of that
rationality, the discourse of the superstitious, the monstrous, the Gothic, the
uncanny.' (Bennett and Royle, p.258)
This strange structure contributes to the relationship between `authors' and `readers' in the
novel and the way they interact. Roland Barthes terms this as `intertextuality': `every
word, phrase or segment is a reworking of other writings which precede or surround the
individual work. There is no such thing as literary `originality', no such thing as the `first'
literary work: all literature is `intertextual.''
- Andrew Bennett & Nicholas Royle. An Introduction to Literature, Criticism and Theory, 4
(Pearson Education Limited, 1995), p.257
- Terry Eagleton, Literary Theory ­ An Introduction, 2
Edn, (Blackwell Publishers, 1983), p.119

In his well-known essay, `The Death of the Author', Barthes explores the role of the author
and criticises its presumed importance to the text, stating that a
`text's unity lies not in its
origin but in its destination,'
that destination being the reader.
He states that the
`authors' biography and past experiences are not extremely influencing factors in events
that occur in their texts: `The Author, when believed in, is always conceived of as the past
of his own book: book and author stand automatically on a single line divided into a before
and an after,' (Barthes, p.145). Instead, when an `author' is removed, the `temporality' is
different, and the `modern scriptor is born simultaneously with the text.' (Barthes, p.145)
He states that rather than co-existing together, the `birth of the reader must be at the cost of
the death of the Author', (Barthes, p.148). Raman and Selden state that, according to
Barthes, the `author' is `reduced to a location...readers are free to open and close the text's
signifying process without respect for the signified...they are free to connect with systems
of meaning and ignore the author's `intention''.
In her 1831 Introduction, Shelley `distances' herself from her reader and the text by
stating that
`this is for myself; my readers have nothing to do with these associations.'
(Intro p.10) Taking on a `more ghostly role' (Bennett and Royle, p.26)
Walton's letters appear at intervals, interrupting the narrative. Mrs. Margaret Saville
Walton and his sister ­ letter ­ sister is absent from the action ­safe
- Roland Barthes, The Death of the Author in Image - Music ­ Text, (Ed. and trans. by Stephen
Heath, New York: Hill and Wang, 1977), p.148
- Raman Selden & Peter Widdowson. A Readers Guide to Contemporary Literary Theory, 3
(Harvester Wheatsheaf, 1993), p.132
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Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein". The role of the monster as a reader
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Kelly Dawson (Autor), 2011, Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein". The role of the monster as a reader, München, GRIN Verlag,


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