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A Clashing of Conscience

Essay by   •  January 31, 2018  •  Essay  •  981 Words (4 Pages)  •  284 Views

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A man, standing on the end of a dock. The night is dark, and the water still. A full moon mirrors his face upon the lake. Suddenly, a tidal wave with the enormity of a castle reveals a monster. It devours the man, whole. However, somehow, his reflection stays, though forever deformed in its appearance. Stillness had turned to haze, and goodness had been demolished. A similar atrocity occurs with Victor Frankenstein and his creature, who is supposedly part of him, in the award winning novel which dates back to 1831. In Frankenstein, Mary Shelley juxtaposes the characteristics of Frankenstein as both good-hearted and malevolent in order to manifest an aura of uncertainty within the reader. Through foreshadowing, metaphor, and biblical allusions, the gray area within moral verdicts is exposed as characters straddle the lines of villainy and virtue.

Certain quotes and events serve as excellent precursors to important plot and character developments. In fact, before the narrative even truly begins, Captain Walton remarks in his fourth letter that: “One man's life or death were but a small price to pay for the acquirement of the knowledge which I sought, for the dominion I should acquire and transmit over the elemental foes of our race” (13). Describing his passion for knowledge to the stranger on his boat, who is later revealed to be Dr. Victor Frankenstein, Walton piques at a chord within his visitor. Frankenstein denounces these words in grief and sorrow, evidently from previous experience, signaling to the reader that events involving a man’s life or death are prevalent further along in the story. Additionally, the perception that the acquirement of knowledge will later involve itself in these life and death matters. Another instance of Shelley’s eerie foreshadowing preemptively indicates Henry Clerval’s death by utilizing the past tense: “Clerval! Beloved friend! Even now it delights me to record your words and dwell on the praise of which you are so eminently deserving. He was a being formed in the ‘very poetry of nature.’ His wild and enthusiastic imagination was chastened by the sensibility of his heart” (145). Though extremely positive in nature, the terms “even now” and repetition of the phrase “was” indicate that Clerval is no longer living, though the narrative has not yet reached the point where Clerval’s death is explicitly retold. Shelley leaves many hints in regards to future plot and character proceedings that encourage the reader to keep guessing, and become captivated in the macabre story of the souls that perish because of Frankenstein and his creature.

Furthermore, this same sense of hesitation surrounding what each character will do next is manifested through metaphor. In order to illustrate, and perhaps exaggerate, the vanquishing of Frankenstein’s optimisms and pleasures, Shelley describes his adult life through nature: “I feel exquisite pleasure in dwelling on the recollections of childhood, before misfortune had tainted my mind… like a mountain river, from ignoble and almost forgotten sources; but, swelling as it proceeded, it became the torrent which, in its course, has swept away all my hopes and joys” (24). A mountain river is paralleled with the sweeping effects of Frankenstein’s misfortunes, and though the reader is informed about his childhood, his adult life now becomes shadowed with unbeknownst calamity. Nature is a common subject of Shelley’s metaphors, as she uses it often to describe the emotions of Frankenstein, like when he remarks that, “my health and spirits had long been restored, and they gained additional strength from the salubrious air I breathed, the natural incidents

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