Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Frankenstein: A Despicable Coward?

By Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley (Google books) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

I think the first time I read Mary Shelley's Frankenstein was in a 19th Century Lit class in college and I wasn't completely sure about Victor Frankenstein's character. Was Frankenstein terrified to take responsibility of his horrible act of recklessly creating life and then abandoning it or did he fear saving Justine's life by confessing and sacrificing his own in her place?

At the time I thought the latter was true, but now I'm thinking maybe both are true. Maybe he was just a big coward. He certainly didn't want to admit that he had created what turned out to be a hideous looking freak and didn't want his family and friend, Clerval, to know, but he wasn't about to risk looking like a madman by publicly confessing that he was indirectly guilty of murdering his brother in an attempt to save Justine's life either. 

"A thousand times rather would I have confessed myself guilty of the crime ascribed to Justine, but I was absent when it was committed, and such a declaration would have been considered as the ravings of a madman and would not have exculpated her who suffered through me."

Really? I'm pretty sure he could have at least tried. His innocent little brother was dead and now innocent Justine was going to be tried as his murderer. How could he just stand by and watch it all play out? Then Shelley goes on to describe his remorse and inner agony over the whole thing. It would be different if he didn't have a conscience, but he obviously does. How could anyone live with themselves after that? But he does only to have more horror and guilt piled onto his dark and damaged soul. For someone who at first looked upon himself as a god, he quickly became a low impotent creature.

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