Boekverslag: Frankenstein, or, The modern Prometheus
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Frankenstein, or, The modern Prometheus
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Mary Shelley was on a journey with two friends. They decided to tell each other ghost stories. The story of Frankenstein is the only one which was completed:
In a letter written to the narrator's sister, Mrs. Margaret Saville, the narrator describes how he encountered Mr. Victor Frankenstein on an expedition to the Pole regions. Frankenstein was on a raft, following a dog-sledge with a man of gigantic stature on it, when they picked him up. The narrator, Walton, says that he is very lonely and that he is seeking for a friend. He regards Frankenstein as a friend. Frankenstein has a story to tell and at first he doesn't want to, but when he sees that Walton is seeking for wisdom, he decides to tell him his story. Walton hopes his sister will pass the story of Frankenstein on to posterity in case he dies of extreme cold.
Victor's father had a friend, Beaufort. Beaufort leaves him because he became poor. He died and Victor's father fell in love with his daughter Caroline. Victor is born and when Victor's father are on a holiday, Caroline sees a little girl. The adopt the girl, Elisabeth. Elisabeth is presented to Victor as a gift. He also gets a brother.
When Victor is about 13 years old, he gets interested in science by a book of Agrippa. He believes his visions. He decides to study the occult and he makes few friends. One exception is Cherval, who studies Oriental languages.
Elisabeth gets very ill and her mother wants to be with her but she also gets ill and dies. Victor leaves for Ingolstadt to pursue his studies with two famous professors: Kremse, who teaches natural philosophy, and Waldman, who lectures in chemistry. Victor learns that the philosophist Agrippa isn't as perfect as he thought.
After two years of industrious studying, he discovers how he can generate life and he succeeds in animating lifeless matter. Out of separate body parts taken from a number of dead men he constructs a creature of gigantic proportions. But, although the parts in themselves are beautiful, the whole of it looks horrible. He has created a monster. In a panic he flees from his creation and when he returns the next day he finds that it has disappeared.
Frankenstein falls seriously ill and is nursed by the good Cherval, who tells him that Victor's family is worried because he hasn't written them. Then they receive some awful news. Elisabeth has written to tell him that his younger brother William has been murdered. Justine Moritz, a girl from the village, is accused of the murder on the ground that she was in the vicinity when it happened, and because she was wearing a miniature portrait of Frankenstein's mother. The portrait belonged to William and it looked quite worthy so they that that was the reason that William was killed. Although they know she must be innocent, Frankenstein cannot prevent her from being hanged. Justine has confessed and Elisabeth doubted if she really was innocent but Victor remains sure (he suspects the monster he created). Justine tells them that she confessed because she pushed to it by her confessor. Ridden by feelings of guilt, Victor flies into the mountains, where he meets his monster. The creature implores to listen to his tale. He wants to explain how he changed from a good being into an evil one.
The monster's tale:
When the monster awakes everything is weird to him: the capability to see, lights etc. He leaves Frankenstein's apartment and goes to a small cottage. He admires the prefect form of the farmers; he knows that he himself looks like a monster. He was then a good being: he brought the farmers wood so they would have more time for other businesses. On a day, an Arabian woman, Sofie arrives. Felix, a farmer, is happy to see her. Sofie doesn't read or speak English so Felix teaches her. The monster watches them and so he learns quickly. He also learns the history of the farmers:
Felix had helped a Turkish merchant and his daughter escape from prison. He did this because he felt that injustice was done by their condemnation. The Turk had promised him his daughter if the escape would succeed. When it did, however, Felix and his family were thrown into prison and deprived of all their property. The government had discovered the escape and was very eager to find the ones who had helped the Turk. Sofie, the Turk's daughter, had refused to accompany her father back to Constantinople and has fled to her Felix.
As they live near him, the monster wants to be acquainted with them and waits till the father, De Lacey and blind, is alone so he can tell him his story without being judged by his appearance. However, the rest of the company returns too soon and he is thrown out. This is the beginning of his bitter feelings for mankind.
The farmers leave because they're too afraid to live there ever again and the monster destroys their cottage. He reads in Victor's diary that he had taken when he "awoke" and so he learns that Victor lives in Geneva. He decides to seek Geneva. On his journey he rescues a little girl from death, but he is shot as reward by the father. The monster is very bitter. He continues his search. He sees William and his portrait. He asks whose picture William is wearing. William says so and the monster knows they William is related to Victor Frankenstein. He decides to kill him. Afterwards, he placed the portrait on Justine, who is sleeping nearby.
The monster begs Frankenstein for a female companion, someone who will not be repulsed by his outward form, otherwise he will continue killing all those who are dear to his master. If Victor does so, the monster will leave with his companion to South America and never return.
At last Victor gives in to the monster's wish. His father asks him if he still wants to marry Elisabeth. He also asks him to hurry because he is old and he wants to see the marriage. Victor, accompanied by Cherval and the monster who will follow him everywhere, leaves for England to finish his studies, promising Elisabeth that he will marry her on his return.
In England they get a letter from an acquaintance in Scotland who asks them to visit them. They do so and in Scotland they split up on Victor's request, who needs rest to complete his experiment. When the monster visits him, however, to inquire after his progress, Victor knows that he can't continue his experiment. He is afraid he may create another gruesome monster and she might not wants to keep the promise that her mate has made: to quit society and live in isolation. They might even get children.
Horrified, he destroys his work. The monster swears he will be present at his wedding night. He leaves Scotland by boat and he arrives in a village in Ireland. He must go to the magistrate because he is thought to be a murderer. The magistrate wants to see his reaction when he sees the body. It is the body of Henry Cherval. Victor is very shocked and put in prison. He gets ill and the magistrate, Mr. Kirwin, calls Victor's father. His father comes and together they go to the court. Victor isn't condemned (people from the village had seen him on a place a few hours before the murder and he it was impossible for him to get there with the strong wind) and they decide to go home.
On their way to Geneva, they get a letter from Elisabeth in which Elisabeth tells Victor that she thinks that he was in love with another woman and left to England to think. Victor write her a letter back in which he tells her that he wasn't in love with another woman but that he one great secret. He promises Elisabeth to tell her his secret the day after their marriage.
Back home, Victor and Elisabeth get married. Victor tries not to be sad (he remembers the monster's promise), but their wedding-day isn't perfect.
That night, Elisabeth gets killed. Victor returns to Geneva to see if his father still lives. He does but a few days later, full of grief. Victor goes to the magistrate of Geneva and to him he tells his story. The magistrate seems to believe him but he does nothing.
Victor goes to the cemetery and there he meets the monster. He decides to follow and kill him. The monster "helps" him by leaving signs for him (he wants to torture Victor as much as possible). They travel to the North Pole, where Frankenstein meets Walton.
Victor is again very ill and Walton can't do anything to revive him.
The crew of Walton's vessel wants to return south, if possible. Walton isn't happy about it but he knows he must listen to them
. Victor dies and then the monster appears. Although he thinks that Victor hasn't suffered enough, he regrets his deeds. He promises to go to the northern extremity of the globe and there build a funeral pile for himself so that his miseries will finally be over.
A warning against the danger of acquiring knowledge, of which the consequences cannot be controlled. The theme resembles a book in France, also the dead of Justine is told in that book. Prometheus did the same and he learnt afterwards that more was needed for man (fire) and was punished in the attempt to make man perfect.
The novel starts with a letter from Walton to his sister, Mrs. Saville, which describes the events that led to his meeting with Frankenstein. During Victor's last days, he tells his story, which is faithfully recorded in manuscript-form by Walton. The novel ends with several letters to his sister again, in which he relates the reappearance of the monster, its grief and final disappearance into the polar region.
The narrative technique:
Shelley never unveils the secret, which is central to the plot. The dramatic effect of Frankenstein's struggle is achieved by plain language.
Frankenstein is a scholar who becomes obsessed with putting into practice that which he has learnt. Under the influence of his two tutors, he has developed an interest in natural philosophy and chemistry. He starts to experiment with creating life in lifeless matter, but when he eventually succeeds, he is horrified at the consequences of his ambitious scheme. It is too late for him to turn back as his creation has escaped. He can only wait and hope he will never hear or see anything of him again.
When he learns of the murder of his brother William, he realizes that it is too late to pretend that the monster has vanished. He has to search for him and destroy him. He is ridden with guilt and feels very lonely, because he cannot share his secret with anyone. He cannot take his best friend Cherval into his confidence and neither can he confide in his fiancee Elisabeth as they will blame him for the death of his brother.
He feels responsible for the monster's evil deeds and when the monster returns to him and asks for a companion, he is horrified at the thought of a whole race of monsters coming into existence. Compassion and pity for the monster lead him to comply, realizing that the monster had not asked for its life and has a right to happiness. Yet his horror and aversion make him break his promise with the result that Elisabeth is killed. He swears to find the monster and destroy it, but dies in the attempt, when he falls ill on the Pole. round
The monster is a character, who, although artificially made, shows all sorts of human emotions and is driven to his awful deeds merely by his utter loneliness. He once was good: he helped Felix with is wood. He lacks the one thing in life that every other human being has: hope. When Frankenstein does not comply with his wishes, he knows there will be no hope for him.
He repents of his deeds, when he meets his creator on the Pole and tries to redeem himself by promising he will never again appear in inhabited surroundings and will remain in exile on this cold and inhospitable continent round
Elisabeth only wants the best for Victor. She thought that Victor was in love with another woman but was willing to forgive him. She is one of the victims. flat Cherval also wants to make Victor happy. He even travels to England with him where he gets killed by the monster. flat
Justine is the most tragic victim. She didn't kill William but the evidence was so overwhelming that she was executed. flat
The dream of creating a human being lived among scientists for a long time and the notion became particularly popular in the eighteenth century. (See also Goethe's Faust) In France scientists were even experimenting. Shelley talked a lot with a scientists and so she might have got the idea.
Frankenstein expresses moral and political lessons as well as psychological truths, most clearly in the monster's reproaches to Frankenstein when he asks for a wife. Frankenstein accepts the argument that the monster's vice derives form his misery, and that as his creator, he is obliged to make him happy. As the monster tries to adapt to society, he soon discovers that property is not equally divided. People hate and are repulsed by the poor and wretched. Poverty and isolation breed bitterness and crime.
Geneva, Ingolstadt (his studies) , Scotland (the study to make another monster), Ireland (the court) and Russia (the pursuit of Victor). The time is the beginning of the nineteenth century.
Eros has created the world but one thing was missing: a lifeform to rule the other ones. He told Prometheus , the ingenious one, to create man. Eros brought it to life and Pallas Athena gave it the possibility to think, so man could distinguish itself from the other lifeforms. Man lived as animals and Prometheus knew that they missed fire. Zeus had it but he didn't want to give it away, so Prometheus decided to steal it. With much ingenuity he succeeded but Zeus found out quite quickly. He decided to punish Prometheus: every day, an eagle pecked out his liver and every night, his liver grew again. Prometheus was tortured for 30.000 years until Heracles shot the eagle.
Mary Shelley, geboren Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin (Londen, 30 augustus 1797 – aldaar, 1 februari 1851) was een Engels schrijfster.
- Frankenstein, or, The modern Prometheus
- Mary Shelley
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