How effective is Mary Shelley's account of the monster's awakening in Chapter five of Frankenstein? Why is the experiment significant and what are the consequences?
The novel Frankenstein was written during 1816 and 1817 by Mary Shelley and then published in 1818. Shelley originally intended Frankenstein to be a short story for a ghost story competition but her husband, Percy, persuaded her to develop the idea into a novel.
The main themes of Frankenstein are life and death and the idea of creating life from death; regret when Frankenstein realises his mistake, revenge when the monster takes its vengeance and responsibility when Frankenstein avoids the responsibility of the monster; and human feelings, prejudice against appearance and how people react to that.
The main characters in the book are Dr Frankenstein, an ambitious young man obsessed with death and the prospect of eternal life; the monster, who is never given a name, created by Dr Frankenstein after two years of hard work; and Elizabeth, Frankenstein's adopted sister who he will marry at his mother's wish.
Chapter five is a very important and significant event in the book. In Chapter five Frankenstein finally achieves his ambition and his creature awakes. However, almost immediately he realises the mistake that he has made and is shocked, horrified and disappointed with the way he has worked for so long on something he had hoped would be beautiful but is really hideous and repulsive.
Mary Shelley was inspired by several factors which eventually compelled her to write the novel Frankenstein. Some of the things that inspired her were death, religion and science.
Shelley's son, William, died at age three, just a year after she had lost her daughter. She later had a dream where she brought William back to life. Mary's mother also died, days after Mary was born. These deaths in her life influenced her when writing her novel and in the story, Dr Frankenstein's little brother is named William, after Mary's son.
At the time when Frankenstein was being written there was an ongoing battle between science and religion. New scientific discoveries were raising questions about Christian beliefs and scientists were seen to be 'challenging' and 'going against' God. When electricity was first invented many people believed it was magic. Then, when Luigi Galvani, a scientist in the late 1700s, made a dead frog's leg twitch by a surge of electricity, other scientists were led to think that dead people could be brought back to life by this seemingly magical new discovery. From this point of view, Frankenstein is a 'what if'. What if electricity did have this life giving potential? Shelley has incorporated this controversial idea of resurrection into her story as one of the main themes in the novel.
Myths and legends also played a part in inspiring Shelley. In the Greek myth of Prometheus, Prometheus was recruited by the immortal Gods to create the human race. Prometheus then betrayed Zeus by stealing the God's fire so that he could give it to his people. Zeus subsequently punished him for all eternity. This myth is mirrored in Frankenstein when Dr Frankenstein defies God by creating the monster and he is then punished when his monster begins to murder Frankenstein's family.
In another legend, an academic named Dr Faustus sold his soul to the devil in an exchange for knowledge. This is reflected when Frankenstein works for so long and gives up his life for his ambition.
All of these things inspired and influence Mary Shelley when writing Frankenstein.
At the beginning of the story Frankenstein is loved by his family and a determined, studious young man but when his mother dies, he gradually becomes increasingly solitary and begins to get progressively obsessive about death and infinite life.
When Frankenstein goes to university he studies science and preoccupies himself with the idea of creating a monster out of dead body parts and bringing it to life.
Then, as the story progresses, he goes from having a happy childhood and being loved and spoilt by his parents: "For a long time I was their only care." To being overly ambitious: "I will unfold to the world the deepest mysteries of creation" and wasting his time on something he later regrets.
Chapter five is a significant event in the story because it is when the monster wakes up; Dr Frankenstein had worked so much for this moment. We know this because he says:
"I had worked hard for nearly two years" and "His features with such infinite pains I had endeavoured to form."
These quotations show the extent of Frankenstein's ambition and the lengths he went to, to fulfil it.
At the beginning of the chapter Shelley sets the scene by using a gothic style of writing. The opening sentence is:
"It was a dreary night of November, that I beheld the accomplishment of my toils."
This is effective because it creates an image in the reader's head and "accomplishment of my toils" gives an impression that the narrator has achieved something. This starting sentence also sets up the chapter's plot; the reader instantly has some idea of what is going on and, as the word "dreary" implies, they may think that something bad is going to happen.
Shelley also builds up an atmosphere of gothic horror by saying:
"It was already one in the morning; the rain pattered dismally against the panes and my candle was nearly burnt out."
This shows that Frankenstein is a horror story and that Dr Frankenstein must be determined if he's working at one in the morning.
Before the monster wakes up, Shelley describes its appearance as, "Beautiful" and explains how Dr Frankenstein had selected its features so carefully. This makes the reader aware of how much hope Frankenstein had for his creation.
Then, after the monster awakens, Frankenstein is stunned at what he has done and how repugnant his creature really is. We know this because Shelley uses adjectives and says:
"Great God! His shrivelled complexion and straight, black lips."
This contrast between what Frankenstein hoped and what is reality shows how shocked Frankenstein is at the creature's repulsiveness.
Following the monster's awakening Dr Frankenstein has a dream. He dreams that he saw Elizabeth in the "bloom of health". He went to hug her but she then became the corpse of his dead mother.
This dream mirrors the events in Chapter five and is similar to Frankenstein's feelings prior and subsequent to the animation of his creature.
This dream also foreshadows the later events in the story since Frankenstein's dream ends in death and this idea is conveyed into the plot when his ambition (his dream) leads to death aswell.
The consequences of the experiment are dreadful and horrifying. The monster meets and murders Frankenstein's little brother and then plants false evidence on the maid, Justine. She is then wrongly accused and convicted of William's murder and hung.
The monster then kills Frankenstein's friend, Cleval; following this Frankenstein is imprisoned for this murder.
Finally, on Frankenstein and Elizabeth's wedding night, the monster kills Elizabeth; Frankenstein vows to get revenge.
These deaths happen because when he created the monster, Frankenstein refused to take responsibility for what he had done. I don't think that the monster is responsible for its actions because he had been rejected and hated by people for no other reason than how he looked.
I think that Frankenstein is to blame for the way the monster acted because Frankenstein just abandoned the monster and acted as if it didn't happen.
In conclusion, Chapter five is effective because it is the turning point of the novel, when the mood changes from positive to negative, it uses a lot of language and it has a good description of when the monster wakes up and it sets up the plot for the rest of the novel.
I think that the message that Shelley was trying to express is that if scientists try something that is too advanced then it will go wrong. This message is also relevant to modern scientists today as they are somewhat fascinated by the idea of cloning but this, like Frankenstein's experiment, could also have disastrous effects.