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Role of Identity in Mary Shelleys Frankenstein

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In past and present, society has always put an emphasis on external appearance as opposed to inner personality. As a result, social classes are formed, such as upper and lower, wherein members of each class must uphold the norms defined by the prestige of the class. Upper classes are deemed to be perfect, as they contain the wealthy and the beautiful. This class distinction is heightened in Gothic literature where emotions and the persona of the characters are externalized. Emotions are literalized as characters, supernatural phenomena, and the protagonist and antagonist roles.

Victor Frankenstein's upbringing in a perfect society ultimately led to the destruction of his life which coincided with the lives of those emotionally close to him. Victor was raised in an atmosphere where beauty and physical appearance define one's quality of life. This superficial way of life results in a lost sense of morals and selfishness, which in turn produces a lost sense of personal identity. This can cause a feeling of failure and resentment in the later stages of life which, in Victor's case, can be externalized into a form of hatred directed toward himself.

Victor was born into an upper class family, and experienced a pleasant childhood. ...during every hour of my infant life I received a lesson of patience, of charity, and of self control, I was so guided by a silken cord that all seemed but one train of enjoyment to me. (Shelley, Frankenstein, P. 33). However, the Frankenstein's were mainly concerned with physical appearance. Victor's father married Caroline because of her exquisite beauty, and Elizabeth was adopted into the family, also because she was beautiful. Victor was also a product of idealistic education; the explicit goal of this form of education is to make a contribution to civilization. For Victor, the contribution would be the study of life sciences and the formation of the soul; however, he had no one on his side encouraging him and supporting his educational involvement. As a result of this childhood, Victor is left with no sense of inner beauty. His disillusionment with parenthood, especially mothering after he lost his mother to scarlet fever, led to post-partum depression and neglect. He experienced the burden of loneliness by living in a superficial society and did not have the character to cope with it. For Victor, parenting had become an issue of possession, ownership and self-exaggeration.

The issue of parenting soon became an obsession with power. This need of power led Victor to create what he believed would be a beautiful human being. But he failed to see that combining the most beautiful human features does not necessarily create a beautiful human being. He was inspired by scientists who ...acquired new and almost limitless powers... (Shelley, Frankenstein, P. 47). Victor sought this unlimited power to the extent of taking the role of God. He not only penetrated nature, but also he assumed power of reproduction in a maniacal desire to harness these modes of reproduction in order to become acknowledged, respected, and obeyed as a father. While bringing his creation into the world he was himself alienated from society, and isolated himself from the community. Isolation and parental neglect cause viciousness within man. Because of his upbringing, Victor had no sense of empathy, and therefore could not realize the potential harm he was creating towards himself and his creation. The sole purpose of his project was an attempt to gain power, but instead of power Victor realized that a morally irresponsible scientific development could release a monster that can destroy human civilization.

Victor Frankenstein is in many



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