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Essay On Shelley's Frankenstein And Milton's Paradise Lost

3270 words - 14 pages

Shelley's Frankenstein and Milton's Paradise Lost


     Even upon first glance, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein and John Milton's Paradise Lost seem to have a complex relationship, which is discernible only in fractions at a time.  Frankenstein is Mary Shelley's reaction to John Milton's epic poem, in which he wrote the Creation myth as we perceive it today.  His characterizations of Adam and Eve and the interactions of Satan and God and the impending Fall seem to have almost taken a Biblical proportion by themselves.  By the time that Mary Shelley read Paradise Lost, it was indeed a stalwart in the canon of English Literature, so it should not come as a surprise to the reader the it ...view middle of the document...

  Frankenstein is still the story of a Creator, Victor Frankenstein, and his Creation/Opposer, the Creature or Monster (he is not given a name), just as Paradise Lost is the story of a Creator, God, being foiled by that embodiment of Evil, Satan.  Already the questions abound: If Satan/Creature is created from their respective Creator, are they not Adam-like on their own?

     Victor's Frankenstein's childhood was an idyllic existence, much like how Milton would describe the early days of the Garden of Eden.  His problems start occurring when he starts to wonder about the origin of life, and eventually Victor himself creates life in the lab in the form of the Creature.  This can be seen as a secularization of the Creation myth, where the role of God is placed upon Victor.  Victor not only has aspired to Godhead, but he has also put science ahead of God.  He is aspiring to Godhead and omnipotence when he says: "The world was to me a secret which I desired to divine."   The use of "divine" is particularly telling in Victor's statement.  Victor wields the power to create, as God does, but his God-like powers come through modern science.  Those powers which he uses, though, contain a complex series of effects which he does not understand.

      This lies in contrast to the Miltonian God, who is all-knowing, ever-present Father-figure.  Milton's crafting of God is as a man attempting to describe something greater than the human experience.  God in Paradise Lost is largely an undeveloped character, because ascribing human characteristics to God is heretical to say the least to Milton.  Milton partially uses the Son of God to give more character to his God, but in the end we get only a sense of his importance and proportions, not any psychoanalysis.  To Milton, this would be both unimportant and impossible, because the Miltonian God is everything and everywhere.  Victor Frankenstein is an example of man/mortal aspiring to be a God-like character.  Victor Frankenstein's experience with giving life to what once was lifeless gives him a God complex, where he acts throughout the narrative as a paradox - a fallen, corrupted God.  When he finally brings about his Creation, it is an abomination, not, as he had hoped, the "...creation of a being like myself."   The comparison between Milton and Shelley's attempts to bring a "god" to us in written word ascertains the true difference between the two: Shelley brings this myth to mankind, while Milton propels it towards the epic.

      In Paradise Lost, Satan is a much more complex and developed character than God.  His speeches are extremely compelling to the reader, just as his temptation is extremely compelling to Eve.  Milton has almost seemed to go out of his way in order to make Satan a sympathetic character to the reader.  He is testing us just as God is testing Adam and Eve.  Victor's Creature, too, is a form of Satan, who exists as all evil in the fallen world.  The Creature says to Victor: ...

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