What does the word “monster” mean to you? Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein has a lot to say about it. When gothic and science fiction get married in a dark laboratory, Dr. Frankenstein gives birth to the creature with no name. What was its shape really? Some called it “fiend”, some others “wretch” and some even “daemon”. It was a monstrosity structured of dead bodies belonged to criminals and its size was double the size of a normal human being…
But you may know all of that. On the contrary Ruth Scobie is going to give a lecture on “Mary Shelley’s Monstrous Explorers” revealing to us new aspects for the subject. The story of Frankenstein has as its main theme the total ugliness, physical and mental, but how is it related to Shelley’s life, religion and science? The rumours say that when Mary delivered a two-month premature baby, her husband, Percy, did not care about the condition of it and left with Claire, Mary’s stepsister, for a lurid affair. The infant died two weeks later. This experience in combination with the practices of galvanism on humans and a friendly competition between her, Percy, Byron and Polidori about composing the most horrific story, brought in life this “Modern Prometheus”.
According to the dream she had at the previous night of the conception of the first idea, she saw “the pale student of unhallowed arts kneeling beside the thing he had put together…. the hideous phantasm of a man stretched out, and then, on the working of some powerful engine, show signs of life, and stir with an uneasy, half vital motion. Frightful must it be; for SUPREMELY frightful would be the effect of any human endeavour to mock the stupendous mechanism of the Creator of the world”. So, in her conscience, abnormality played a crucial part and influenced her artistic concerns.
The fact is that while Dr. Frankenstein’s creature was free and was wondering through the villages, it stopped at a little cottage and hidden managed to learn how to behave more civilised and read. However, when the inhabitants discovered it and saw its monstrous appearance, they got frightened and shooed it away. The true monstrousness, though, hides behind its reaction afterwards, while it burnt the house. A similar case occurred when the “demon” willing to silence a young child, strangled it. Its exploration for a peaceful life and equality among humans was not fruitful and as a result it killed itself after its creator’s, Dr. Frankenstein’s death. As a consequence, can a monster ever be developed? Can it create? Or is it doomed to live under the shadow of its creator and suffer from a solitary life? Moreover, when Adam and Eva felt desperate for exploration, they discovered the prohibited fruit and were led to their doom when Shelley’s creature self-refers itself: “ the Adam of your labours”.
Ruth Scobie “Mary Shelley’s Monstrous Explorers” in on 30 October 2012 at 8:00 pm at King’s Manor, Exhibition Square, York.
Admission is free.