From the first paragraph we are thrown into a world of fast paced action. The monster lives. None of that “I plugged Wire X into Socket 3, Wire Y into Socket 11, connected the inter-communicational cord to the conjoined lever, handled the stick and turned on the power…” stuff – no, no! We aren’t treated to any sort of explanation as to how it works. Just death, ‘instruments’, life. ‘Instruments’, death, life. Death, life. ‘Instruments’, life. Life. “I saw the dull yellow eye of the creature open; it breathed hard and a convulsive motion agitated its limbs.”
To change the subject a wee bit, if I had created a man-thing, even from dead bodies, I would try to love it. I mean to say, I created the dashed thing in the first place! But not so Victor Frankenstein. Oh, no. The poor sausage didn’t give a thought to whether his creation was of a well meaning ugliness or nasty ugliness. Ugliness was, to Frankenstein, the be all and end all, alpha and omega and… hm. Well, maybe tricolons can be a bit overused! In short, he didn’t love it. This is evident in his reaction to Mr. Monster: the ‘wretch’, with his ‘yellow skin’ and ‘straight black lips’ forming a ‘horrible contrast with his watery eyes’ and ‘shrivelled complexion’ was enough to send him galloping out of the room to the sanctuary of his bedchamber.
Later on during the night, Frankenstein is stopped from knitting up the ravell’d sleeve of care – as Macbeth would say – by the entrance of his creation. Paying a moonlit visit to his newfound mummy, daddy and god, the poor thing (and this isn’t perfectly clear from Frankenstein’s narration) tries to make friends with his master. He tries to speak, to smile and to touch him… unsuccessfully of course.
For dear old Victor is terrified. A ‘cold dew’ is covering his forehead, his ‘teeth chattered and every limb convulsed’. In short, ‘the dim yellow light of the moon’, in illuminating the ‘demoniacal corpse’, had made a ghastly error. No longer just revolted with his creation, the sight of the frightful thing appearing suddenly on him like that made him petrified and cast him into the very agonies of terror. It made him feel like a little boy in an aeroplane who, finding an ugly elongated black object on his seat, decides that it might be quite fun to try to drop it down somebody’s chimney. Throwing it out of the window is the work of a moment, and remorse only sets in when he sees half of London vanish in a cloud of smoke.
Just like that little boy, he was overawed by the mere appearance of things. He allowed what he saw to influence his usually ice cold and shrewd judgment. He presumed that because he had blown up the House of Lords he had done wrong. But really, if he looked down underneath the cloud and the debris, he would have found a spark of goodness even in this, the worst of worst disasters. I don’t think that bombs are as nasty as they are made out to be.
I don’t want one dropped on me admittedly, but just think of all the good one would do to the centre of London! Those ugly concrete towers, which can’t be knocked down because they would be a health and safety hazard, would all be swiftly and cleanly removed. The population problem – a few bombs would reduce our national head count quite a bit, and then we’d be able to welcome with open arms any immigrants, thus avoiding nasty, vulgar international brawls. And the best point of all: if the House of Lords was blown up, the House of Commons would have gone too.
So you see, Frankenstein was acting as superficially is it is possible for man to act. Clearly a shallow and vain man himself he is painting everyone with the same brush – the brush of good looks. The only one he failed to paint was the one whom he himself created. And that is the monster in a nutshell – Frankenstein’s creation; not very artistic. One can imagine the passport profile… or perhaps it’s best not to.
While on the subject of Frankenstein-the-man, perhaps a brief character study wouldn’t be out of place…? A Genevan and from a wealthy family, skipping lightly over his early childhood, through the death of his mother and his romantic entanglement with adopted ‘sister’ Elizabeth, we find ourselves at Ingolstadt, a particularly outlandish university of the times. It is here that he creates the monster. Throughout the rest of the novel, every single member of his immediate circle will die, either at the hand or through the mechanisms of his creation. From his father to his servant-girl; from his close friend to Elizabeth (now his wife); and finally to his own death and the monster’s suicide, his very life is haunted with dead bodies. It seems that his destiny is to be an impromptu curse upon whomever he knows; an undertaker’s dream.
Oddly enough, this very fact gives us a huge insight into his character. One of his peculiar traits is to constantly refer to his destiny. When his brother William has been murdered and the servant Justine is about to be hanged he is tossed into the depths of self pity. “Despair!” he cries. “Who dare talk of that? The poor victim, who on the morrow was to pass the awful boundary between life and death, felt not as I did, such deep and bitter agony.”
And really he is right. Justine will know no more, at least not in this world, whereas Frankenstein has an awful lot still coming to him before he dies. Of course, he doesn’t know this yet and is only guessing but that only goes to prove that he is accepting fear, pain and terror as his due. He was going to be killed. That was what he told himself and that was what he believed. Later on in the novel he says “…the hour fixed for my destiny. In that hour I would die…”
All this is very interesting, but what does it have to do with Chapter Five? The opening paragraph of Chapter Nine sets it quite nicely: “I had begun life with benevolent intentions, and thirsted for the moment when I should put them in practice, and make myself useful to my fellow-beings. Now all was blasted: instead of that serenity of conscience, which allowed me to look back upon the past with self-satisfaction, and from thence to gather promise of new hopes, I was seized by remorse and the sense of guilt, which hurried me away to a hell of intense tortures, such as no language can describe”. He felt ruled by what he saw as his destiny, and indeed the novel does go quite a way to supporting this idea. Basically, his feeling was that whatever he thought, said or did the same thing was always going to happen. However he treated his creation, the future could not be changed. The monster would turn bad. Frankenstein would die.
All that is contrary to the opinion held by many that Frankenstein should be responsible for the monster. Just in passing, how ridiculous is it to hold opinions on what fictitious characters should have done? After all, if everyone in the novel was perfectly moral and upright there wouldn’t be a plot! Unless it had been decreed by fate and nothing that anyone could do would be able to stop it… No. The entire plot hinges around two things: the existence of the monster; the monster’s desire for companionship.
Both of these things cascade dramatically off Chapter Five. For the first one at least, it is blatantly obvious why – I mean to say, if the monster hadn’t been created it wouldn’t exist. The second point however is the start of the main theme for the entire tale. Frankenstein shuns his ‘son’; his ‘son’ goes off to find a friend. He finds a cottage in the woods. And in the cottage is a family with a blind old man.