19. november 2012

A search for perfection

Shelley's novel Frankenstein is one of the best examples of Romanticism. The very nature of a human and his/hers desire to reach his/her individual perfection leads to deadly utopia. The story of Frankenstein teaches that the radical search for perfection ultimately terminates the searcher.

Victor is a protagonist of Romanticism par excellence, doing a lot of self-reflection, contemplating the nature and being very sensitive. When his dying mother addresses him her wish (“… my firmest hopes of future happiness were placed on the prospect of your union…”, p.41) and later his father (“… I have always looked forward to your marriage…”, p.161), this becomes ultimately deadly for Elisabeth. Victor marries her in spite of his knowledge of what will happen. Victor is attached to fulfilling his parent’s wish until the very end. And with this “attachment”, Victor goes to Ingolstadt, where he seems to find his own inner desire,”…animated by an almost supernatural enthusiasm” (p.50), to make something big: giving life to lifeless matter. And this seems to be point breaking in the whole story. He follows his inner wish and completes his task. But later we see how Victor’s creation destroys his love towards his family and their desires. Ergo, it is the exact fulfillment of his dreams (though non-satisfying) that leads to death of his loved ones (“… all was the work of my thrice-accursed hands”, p.92). Victor as a searcher of perfection is realizing that he is facing the impossible task. One can never reach perfection in fulfilling everyone’s request. Unfortunately Victor does not realize that soon enough and due to this the story must end the way it does.

Frankenstein is a novel of imperfection, anxiety and suffering. And a protagonist who is trying to make perfect creature, embracing high ethical standards and thus creating universal scheme of utopia. Victor is in all of us.

Shelley, Frankenstein or The modern Prometheus, London: George Routledge and sons, 1888.

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