Visceral Morality in Frankenstein

This essay illustrates the type of morality that the main character expresses in Frankenstein.

From reading “Frankenstein” by Mary Shelley, I believe that Shelley’s book puts the main character in a peculiar, pessimistic scenario of events which occur throughout his lifetime. Victor, who’s the main character in the story, creates a creature because of rage and tension that arises within himself due to having a lack of a social circle. Victor describes the creature as being a lifeless thing that had rested at his feet with dull, yellow eyes. This is seen in Chapter 4, Page 51 of the book. Throughout the story, I’ve eventually realized that the creature creates more problems for everyone than solutions. As a result, I think that Victor and his family members are the victims, while Victor and the creature are the ones which blame should be imposed on. Lastly, I envision that the underlying theme of morality in Frankenstein is visceral morality, which means that your morality is realized from your environment, emotions, and experience.

In my perspective, visceral morality is prevalent throughout Shelley’s book. In Chapter 2, Page 34 of the book, Victor states “Natural philosophy is the genius that has regulated my fate; I desire therefore, in this narration to state those facts which led to the prediction for that science”. What Victor implies here is that he believes the condition of the natural environment around him acts as a “regulation” for how he would conduct himself. This is reinforced on the book on Chapter 6, Page 63, when he says, “We returned to our college on a Sunday afternoon, and the peasants were dancing, and everyone we met appeared gay and happy. My own spirits were high, and I bounded along with feelings of unbridled joy and hilarity.” That is how and why I could use visceral morality to explain why Victor acts the way he does during some parts of the story. Visceral morality is seen through an emotional perspective during Justine’s trial, which was in Chapter 11 of Shelley’s book. Victor mentions that his soul was torn by remorse, horror, and despair, while he spent vain sorrow thinking about the deaths of William and Justine. The way that it was said in the book on Page 79, indicates that Victor’s soul was an object that you could see and touch. In the day after the murder trial of Justine had concluded, Victor takes a walk through a valley and describes his emotions in relation to the environment he’s in by saying on Page 88, “Wandering spirits, if indeed ye wander or take me, as your companion away from the joys of life.” This implies that Victor somehow wanted to become a critical element of the environment that he was in.

    After reading Shelley’s novel, there are several people who fall into the status of being “victims”. In my opinion, I believe they are Victor and two of his family members, which are William and Justine. These issues arise based off of what Victor has written in Letter II on Page 15 and 16 of the novel. Victor mentions in the letter that one of his most severe evils he contends with on a daily basis is that he lacks a friend to share his joys with. I believe that Victor’s lack of friendship with others is what perpetuates a lot of the other problems that have arisen throughout the progression of the novel. The first instance of this occurs when Victor talks with his college professors, which are M. Krempe and M. Waldman in Chapter 3, Page 43 of the novel. The professor’s words “enounced” Victor to destroy himself, because he stated that he felt as if his soul was grappling with a “palpable enemy”, and he wanted to “explore new powers and unfold to the world the deepest mysteries of creation”. We can assume that the palpable enemy and the creation is in reference to the creature that is mentioned later in the story. Right at the start of Chapter 7, Victor arrives back at his college and opens a letter written from his dad, which states that William was murdered, but the murderer was unknown. A trial occurs, and Justine is accused of murdering William. Before the trial begins, Victor urges Elizabeth to believe that Justine is innocent and deserved to be acquitted from a conviction. Victor’s attempt to convince Elizabeth fails and a trial starts. Before Justine is sentenced to death, she says on Page 78, “I do not fear to die, that pang is past. God raises my weakness, and gives me courage to endure the worst. I leave a sad and bitter world; and if you remember me, and think of me as of one unjustly condemned, I am resigned to the fate awaiting me.” Eventually, Justine is wrongly sentenced to death by the judicial system. After this happens, Victor states on Page 80 that a weight of despair and remorse “pressed” on his heart, causing an inability for himself to sleep. That’s why I believe the victims in Shelley’s novel are Victor and his two family members which are William and Justine.  

    The people who mainly contribute towards the blame in Shelley’s novel includes Victor and the creature that he’s created. It is stated in the essay prompt and in Victor’s own words that they have the same desires and intentions. On Page 33 of the novel, Victor says “My temper was sometimes violent, and my passions vehement; but by some law in my temperature, they were turned, not towards childish pursuits, but to an eager desire to learn, and not to learn all things indiscriminately.” I believe that it makes sense to say that Victor’s personality is a reason of why he contends with the issues that occur between himself, his family members, and the creature throughout the novel. In Chapter 5, Victor states that he finally gives birth to the creature on a dreary night in November, after attempting to do so for a period of two years. He describes the creature as having black hair, yellow skin, black lips, and yellow, watery eyes. At the start of Chapter 7, Victor gets a letter from his father which explained that William was murdered. Victor suspects that the creature murdered William, but he fails to acknowledge it to everyone else, and as a result, the blame for the murder was placed on Justine. That’s why Victor says on Page 69 and 77 “Two years had now nearly elapsed since the night on which he first received life; and was this his first crime?”, and “I did confess; but I confessed a lie. What could I do? In an evil hour I subscribed to a lie; and now only am I truly miserable.” Therefore, the creature is the one to blame for murdering Victor’s family members, and Victor is to blame for refusing to be honest and truthful about how exactly William’s murder took place. On the day that preceded Justine’s trial, Victor decides to roam a valley by himself but notices the creature he created tracks him down and it causes the two have an emotional confrontation with each other. Lastly, the creature admits to murdering William, in Chapter 10, Page 89 of the novel when it says “If you will comply with my conditions, I will leave them and you at peace; but if you refuse, I will glut the maw of death, until it be satiated with the blood of your remaining friends.” Victor responds to the creature saying “Begone! I will not hear you. There can be no community between you and me; we are enemies. Begone, or let us try our strength in a fight, in which one must fall.”

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