Published:  12:37 AM, 08 May 2018

Mary Shelley understanding the male ego and its ties with science

Mary Shelley understanding the male ego and its ties with science

Mary Shelley published Frankenstein or The Modern Prometheus in 1818. At the tender age of 18 she first began writing this novel, which is one of the first science fiction texts. Frankenstein, or rather The Creature, has populated mainstream mythology in myriads of ways.

 It should be noted that Victor Frankenstein is the name of the scientist who made The Creature. The Creature is nameless, hapless and abandoned. Shelley uses him as a manifestation of the destitute and the forlorn in society. Irrevocably, Frankenstein's Monster can also be a metaphorical argument for race and gender.

The Creature is alienated from society yet his exile is first and foremost by his own Father, Victor. The novel deals with issues of humanity, society and ultimately about science and ethics. In retrospect, it can be concluded that such a novel that deals with male arrogance and social exclusion, can only have been written by a woman.

Mary Shelley presents Victor as a precocious child and then a relentless scientist. Most authorial figures in medicine tolerate him for his privileged family status. Victor's male privileges are also fleshed out in comparison to the novel's female lead and love interest, Elizabeth Lavenza. Victor treats Elizabeth more or less as a child. He never tells her of his plans in their entirety neither does she fully serves as his equal and confidant. She simple is. Nevertheless, she is kind and patient with Victor and attempts to remind him of his mortal limitations. Victor pays no heed to such advices. Elizabeth is a woman who would be more socially critiqued and ousted if she were to deviate from her norms.
Victor remains on his bold and arrogant path of curiosity only to create a Creature he cannot accept or fathom. He is a horrible mimicry of humanity and a crude assemblage of its anatomical parts. Victor renounces The Creature and then The Creature is renounced by society as well.

Though The Creature is innocent and pure he is maligned as though he is Satan incarnate. In time, The Creature stumbles upon a family and secretly aides them in their distress. He observes from them and learns of familial bonds, romantic love and companionship. However, he is discovered by them and ousted once again. Feeling betrayed by humanity, he seeks out his progenitor. The Creature threatens Victor to work on a female companion for him so that he and his mate may leave peacefully and not bother human society.

Victor cannot accomplish even this simple request. His own human limitations and paranoia makes his speculate of a species being some monstrous progenies of the union between the Creature and his mate. So, he abandons working on the female mate. The Creature takes retribution by killing Elizabeth.

An enraged Victor pursues The Creature to the North Pole where he is found by Captain Walton and his crew. Victor is exhausted and near death when The Creature appears to resolve the enmity between them. By this time, Victor has accepted his follies. He recognizes his mistreatment and negligence of The Creature and his own arrogance in rejecting him for not meeting his ideal image. The Creature, now fully orphaned, disappears: a ghost and pariah in the fringes of humanity.

Shelley's' understanding of male privilege and arrogance is constructed through Victor. She does treat it partly as hubris and partly as mankind's own impregnable pride in his own abilities. The key term here is "mankind" as we know womankind, through the role of Elizabeth, to be more patient and cautious of their actions.

 The Creature, himself, though identified as male, is usually given typical feminine traits. He has the innocence, good faith and supportive nature of a woman. He only desires to belong somewhere and to be loved. The Creature is the voice of the women and the destitute subjugated by the patriarchy and other authorial figures.

The Creature fosters no ill at first, no taste for vengeance nor any acrimonious thoughts. He is innocent and vey soft-hearted. Yet, he is repeatedly ostracized and shunned for his seemingly hideous appearance. He is abandoned because Victor feels he is a parody of man. Unlike Elizabeth, who wishes to understand Victor even though he hides so many truths from her, Victor has no patience even with his own creation.

On various occasions, Shelley shows that The Creature is more human than Victor in it that he is humble, his request is fair and he only desires a companion to not be isolated. One can infer these as simple requests by the downtrodden and downcast of society, including women, whose simple requests at being treated fair and being respected for themselves are usually renounced as well by authority. The Creature is the Other but the Other is made, not born.

Science is manifested as the Promethean Flame in Shelley's work. It can offer innovations and technology but also cause malevolence and chaos if there are no ethical boundaries. Science is still dominated by men today and some men do not like or respect their female peers.

A lot of female researchers and inventors were ignored for a long time, such as Rosalind Franklin, the woman who discovered the helical structure of the DNA. Initially, she was not given credit for her research and it was James Watson and Francis Crick who were presented the Nobel prize for the discovery.

Frankenstein is still relevant not only as a popular icon in pop-culture but as a lesson that everyone and everything needs patience, kindness, compassion and genuine acceptance. For The Creature is only the other side of ourselves. We cannot spurn The Creature without spurning ourselves as Shelley has shown. The Shelleyian Torch of scientific ethos was lit by a female author and its flame illuminates our understanding of humanity even today.  

The writer works as a Copy Editor in The Asian Age

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