Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Understanding Creation Through Frankenstein

Popular culture has turned the Monster in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein into a lumbering oaf devoid of intelligent thought. In Boris Karloff's film interpretation, we see a Monster that merely roams around zombified with his green arms extended, appendages stiff and rigid, while issuing unintelligible grunts and moans. Actually, in Shelley's terrific novel, the Monster is quite the student, learning language and reading many books and classic works that inform him on humanity, human behavior, and on his unique position in the world. The Monster states:
Like Adam, I was apparently united by no link to any other being in existence; but his state was far different from mine in every other respect. He had come forth from the hands of God a perfect creature, happy and prosperous, guarded by the especial care of his Creator; he was allowed to converse with, and acquire knowledge from, beings of a superior nature: but I was wretched, helpless, and alone. Many times I considered Satan as the fitter emblem of my condition; for often, like him, when I viewed the bliss of my protectors, the bitter gall of envy rose within me.(1)
As the Monster comes to understand his terrible plight as a secondary creation of man and not of God, he breaks open:
"Hateful day when I received life!" I exclaimed in agony. "Accursed creator! Why did you form a monster so hideous that even you turned from me in disgust? God, in pity, made man beautiful and alluring, after his own image; but my form is a filthy type of yours, more horrid even from the very resemblance. Satan had his companions, fellow-devils, to admire him; but I am solitary and abhorred..."

No Eve soothed my sorrows, nor shared my thoughts; I was alone. I remembered Adam's supplication to his Creator. But where was mine? He had abandoned me, in the bitterness of my heart, I cursed him.(2)
The loneliness of the Monster leans on the reader throughout the book. Some of his lamentations read like Psalms of David crying out to God for mercy and for answers. The horror of the novel is not so much in the physical hideousness of the Monster (although his countenance does cause other characters to recoil), but the crushing loneliness of this abandoned creation.

Left to a lesser God, such would be our lot. A lesser God might look upon our "filthy type" and dismantle us much like the Monster's would be bride is dismantled by Dr. Victor Frankenstein. But, through His mercy, we are monsters restored. What might have been horrific and terrible to look upon is made beautiful by Him. For example, a horrendous crucifixion and death births a glorious resurrection. Further, we have not been left to toil in loneliness. We have been provided with human communities, relationships, marriages, parents, and children. We have not been abandoned. We have the spark of our Creator and may even glimpse Him in His created beings in our best moments.

The Monster's rejection so stained him that he killed Victor's wife on their wedding night, and this after he had killed Victor's closest friends. This led to a pursuit of the creature on the northern seas to the icy reaches of the earth. Finally, the Monster was being pursued by his creator. Although Victor sought to destroy the Monster and undo his unholy creature for good, the Monster took twisted delight in the fact that his creator pursued him at all--even if it meant his death at the hands of his creator. In fact, that likely would have been comforting for the Monster.

The Monster serves as a sort of anti-Adam. Instead of pursuing us to destroy us, God pursues us for life. Instead of trying to end our life, he desires for us life to the full. Instead of recoiling at our ugliness, he makes it beautiful. Instead of our Creator dying as we float away on a chunk of ice in a distance ocean, we are pulled toward Him even as we struggle to escape.


(1) Mary Shelley, Frankenstein: or the Modern Prometheus, (Hertfordshire, England: Wordsworth Editions Limited, 1999), 100.
(2) Ibid, 101.


Kevin B. said...

Nice post, Cort.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this article, it was very helful. I appreciate it that you took the time to wirte this out. =)

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Are you a creationist?

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