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Frankenstein: The 1818 Text
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Was Victor unable to bear the self?

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Mark Ueber | 255 comments Mod
In his afterword in the Signet Classics edition of Frankenstein, Harold Bloom asserts that "all Romantic horrors are diseases of excessive consciousness, of the self unable to bear the self." Does this Romantic characteristic apply to Victor and his treatment of the creature? Explain. Consider the fact that Victor never gives the creature a name.
(Questions from A Teachers Guide issued by Signet Classics.)


Mark Ueber | 255 comments Mod
Frankenstein knows in the laboratory that what he is doing is dangerous. He presses on anyway. It seems Shelley is cautioning against the very masculine way in which science, medicine and research are done. Walton wants to conquer the North Pole, and men bring the same machismo to science. The pursuit of knowledge, glory, power, success that matter before considering the morality of what is being done.

The early chapters make it clear Frankenstein is a good and altruistic person, but he becomes an obsessed hermit, no one is there to second guess him. We might have the advantage today that much of science is so complex as to require collegial relationships to move forward, but many ethicists and theologians object to much done today in medical research precisely because it seems to be, “full speed ahead” without consideration of the methods used or the long-term consequences.

The book is filled with self-loathing by both Frankenstein and the creature. Frankenstein hates that he was arrogant and short-sided. He rejects the creature because it represents a threat he created. He is horrified at what he has done and in rejecting the creature, he rejects himself. The creature also hates what he has become. By the end of the book, they are both filled with hatred to the point of becoming more similar than different.


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