Gothic literature is a genre that aims to explore taboo ideas often with a supernatural edge. It allows the reader to delve into the darker parts of the human experience. In this novel the protagonist, Victor Frankenstein, acts as a vessel for the reader to escape into the gothic realm.
Victor displays typical characteristics of a Gothic protagonist in the sense that he has attained forbidden knowledge. This idea is supported by the alternative title for the novel: The Modern Prometheus.
It would seem unlikely that there should be a comparison between a scientist and a Greek Titan, however, they are both transgressors and defy The Divine but they are both revolutionaries in helping the progression of Mankind. Both characters pay for their sins, although Prometheus suffers physical pain whereas Victor experiences emotional turmoil.
Shelley alludes to the Promethean Myth during Victor’s manufacturing of the Monster. She describes his labours as “infinite pains” which connotes with the Titan’s eternal suffering. The reader can sense that Victor is fixated and obsessed with the creation of life as he says, “I pursued nature to her hiding places”.
He personifies nature as being a woman and when combined with the image of a hunt, it could be perceived as violent and aggressive. Nature is illustrated as fearful and afraid of its transgressive predator.
However Shelley forebodes Victor’s downfall at the hand of nature. In Chapter Four, Victor describes life and death, both natural forces, as tangible boundaries in which he can overcome.
His arrogance and hubristic character will be at his own demise as it is the unnatural being that he has created that inflicts constant misery, which has an ironic flare to it.
Frankenstein may be deemed as a typical Gothic protagonist as he blurs the line between good and evil. The reader may perceive Victor as being an asset to society as it is his scientific intellect and curiosity that has enable his to discover the secret to life.
This new contemporary technology along with innovative minds would have industrialised the world quicker thus creating a modern world in which they has never seen before. Victor expresses his love for Mankind and humanity, “my ability to give life to an animal as complex and wonderful as man”.
Others may agree on Victor’s genius to an extent however it is at the point where he compromises the good of humanity for his own self-interest. His desire to be recognised as a God conflicts the reader as to whether or not he is good or not. “A new species would bless me as its creator and source” illustrates Victor’s greed and corrupted intentions.
This depicts Victor as a complex Gothic protagonist as the psychomachic struggle between what is good and what is evil ultimately propels the story forward. Victor loses the ability to clearly differentiate between right and wrong and as these lines are blurred, he is able to delude himself into believing that he has not transgressed.
Victor displays many of the qualities that are typically found in a Gothic protagonist. He is the bearer of a hidden truth and struggles with good and evil. However, he is different in the sense that he had good intentions for the betterment of Mankind and humanity.
By Libin Farah