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" (Voltaire, Chapter 30) as much as the reader might have suspected Pangloss' increasing embitterment, irrational emotional ties to creed, in the world of the novel, still hold true, although rather than believe him or attempt to show disrespect towards the former tutor who has proved so useless to him, Candide stresses that the mans remarks are "excellently observed...but let us cultivate our garden." (Voltaire, Chapter 30)
Let us, in other words, suggests both Candide and Voltaire -- the first time the author and the protagonist are really united in their sentiments and voice -- return to nature and the inner cultivation of the self and one's personal life and soul in an independent fashion, rather than debate outer, political philosophy that adheres to the ideology of others. This is an ideal that is the soon to be stomping ground of Romanticism, as depicted in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, a work also subtitled the "Modern Prometheus" as it illustrates the creation of a human being by a figure who is touched by the fire of daring and inspiration, and suffers for his creation's sake, despite his best intentions.
The novel takes place not as a rollicking satire, but with three-dimensional characters. To give it an added verisimilitude, it is told through the voice and perspective of a traveler and explorer in the Artic, who comes across the scientist. To explain why he has taken to the ice, the scientist tells his tale largely as a flashback, suggesting the fundamental 'reality' to the scenario that is proposed by the novel, even if the actual plot is a work of science fiction. This use of a framing narrative suggests a novel that has a moral, if not a literal truth.
Shelley's plot of Frankenstein depicts its protagonist first not as an innocent, but a deifier of conventional religious and scientific wisdom. However, the scientist, however well versed in technical disciplines, cannot rationally predict his own reaction to the superficial ugliness of his creature, even though the so-called monster in the text proves to be highly articulate and intelligent in conversation, and a student of Romanticism himself. The monster is innately moral, even studying the Sorrows of Werther, when left to his own devices in the woods, much as Candide begins the novel as innately moral. But the creature (and Candide for that matter) innately possesses this goodness, and is not given this by his creator, because Frankenstein has turned the monster away.
The monster, however, unlike the Pangloss-taught Candide, is innately curious, and engages in constant self-education, in absence of tutors other than the books the monster finds. Then, in observing two peasants dwelling in a state of nature and internal reflection, much as the Candide at the end of that character's own saga, Frankenstein's creature cries out "Yet why were these gentle beings unhappy? They possessed a delightful house (for such it was in my eyes) and every luxury; they had a fire to warm them when chill and delicious viands when hungry; they were dressed in excellent clothes; and, still more, they enjoyed one another's company and speech, interchanging each day looks of affection and kindness. What did their tears imply? Did they really express pain? I was at first unable to solve these questions, but perpetual attention and time explained to me many appearances which were at first enigmatic." (Shelley, Chapter 12) the irony is, these rude peasants have even less than did Dr. Frankenstein and his friends, but to the creation of Frankenstein, cast out of society, even simple association with others seems like a paradise. This undercuts the promise of scientific rationality to give humanity all that it needs, or of any specific doctrine.
Thus, of course, it would be tempting to superficially read Frankenstein as a parable of the hubris of scientific arrogance upon the part of human beings. But it is just as easy to read it as a parable of the creation of humankind, a parable that deflates both the arrogant human use of science by humans who are confident of their Enlightenment intellectual prowess, but also the notion of religion, that any ideology or dwelling in a simple and good world can satisfy human emotional needs to know about themselves. The monster desires to learn about the monster's own, self-creation. The scientist desires, emotionally as well as intellectually, to exceed his natural boundaries, as given to him by his strange birth.
In Shelley's novel, humans (including both the scientist and the monster) are given the intellectual tools of thought and suffering, yet rejected by their creator, as they are cast off in a world that provides no satisfaction and no real answers either through the mediums of narrow religious doctrine or science. There is, as in Candide, no best of all possible worlds. And the world, as in Candide, proves embittering even to a pure soul. Only after ordinary people reject the creature, and after his creator will not give him love does the monster becomes embittered. The novel suggests that Frankenstein is as much at fault for deserting and failing to understand his creation's search for companionship, love and truth as he is for creating the monster -- an accusation that could be brought against the divine, some advocates both of the Enlightenment or Romanticism might assert.
After the scientist agrees to make a mate for the monster, he experiences fear and refuses to go all of the way in terms of his rational and scientific ideology. He denies the internal and emotional needs that derive from scientific experimentation, the inner and Romantic life and needs of the creature. After a wave of remorse makes him destroy the female he attempts to create, the lone creature swears revenge and the kills Frankenstein's bride on their wedding night, an act of horrific cruelty, but understandable, now that Frankenstein cannot have what he desires like the monster. At the end of the novel, as in Candide, the tutor becomes the teacher of his creator, showing the fundamental lacking of the ideology advocated by the first 'wise' philosopher or scientist the reader encounters. Both Pangloss and Dr. Frankenstein lead their creations astray through an ideological failure to address the creation's inner needs and contradictions, and pay the price.
Shelley, Mary. Frankenstein. E-text available at Online Literature. 2005/
Voltaire. Candide. E-text available at Online Literature.…[continue]
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