"in drawing the picture of my early days, I also record those
Frankenstein's cloistered childhood, however happy, is of the type that had been criticised by Locke, Godwin and Wollstonecraft as leaving children unprepared for the trials of the world, and resulting in a dangerous repression of certain feelings. The creature starts life isolated from society and so is also a genuine tabula rasa (literally "blank slate"), similar to Rousseau's concept of the noble savage. This innocent childhood however, must be followed by an experienced and embittered adulthood, thus demonstrating the disillusioned development of his creator.
Both Frankenstein and his creation are allowed to put forward their perspective on events, resulting in two polarised moral judgements, while Shelley leaves the final verdict ambiguous. Dr Frankenstein perceives his creation as unambiguously evil: both physically and morally repugnant. Certainly, his crimes against the innocent friends and family of his creator necessarily call forth condemnation from the reader. However, when the creature is allowed to speak, he presents an undeniably sympathetic picture of his experiences and his behaviour seems the reasonable response to the treatment he has received (notably, stage and screen versions of the story ignore this aspect to concentrate on the shock value of the creature who they unashamedly turn into a "monster"). Percy Shelley reinforces this viewpoint in his unpublished review:
"Treat a person ill, and he will become wicked. Requite affection with scorn... divide him, a social being, from society, and you impose on him the irresistible obligations - malevolence and selfishness."
Mary Shelley negotiates the pressing concerns of her society through a symbolic tale, in which fear of the creature articulates less rational fears about scientific progress, violence and the human responsibility to provide their fellow men with love and companionship, or face the consequences. Importantly, in Shelley's more complex psychological work the earlier Gothic urge to stabilise at the expense of plot and probability is replaced by an open ending which eschews a neat moral judgement. This use of a sensational storyline relying on fantastical or supernatural events, to communicate a more subconscious and contemporaneous concern is a quality displayed in the best Gothic fiction (see also Edgar Allan Poe), and is a technique that is brought to its greatest fruition in Frankenstein.
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