Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein Critical Analysis

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein Critical Analysis



Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein Critical Analysis

Naomi Hetherington is a faculty member at the University of Sheffield, The Institute for Lifelong Learning. In addition, she is an early researcher in religious culture, sexuality, gender, and late 19th-century literature. Additionally, she has an interest in both children’s literature and approaches used in the long 19th-century literature. She notes that the end of nineteenth-century literature could be incorporated in teaching mature learners in today’s classes. Notably, at her current post at the Sheffield University, she is teaching and developing four-year pathway degrees in literature and English for students with foundation degrees. Naomi has written three books, which are Religion and Sexuality, Rethinking the History of Feminism and Amy Levy: Critical Essays co-edited with Nadia Valman (Ohio UP, 2010). In essence, all the books are in the literature field, which makes her a credible critic for any literature work. In addition, she has written several papers and analyzed several books by other authors to show the real meaning of the original authors. In essence, Naomi’s interest in the 19th century works is evident in her critique of Frankenstein, that Shelley began writing as a nineteen-year-old in the year 1816 (Hetheringtonb). According to Naomi, many people take the story as that of a high achiever who wants to do things, which could only be done by God. Although Christians believe that the protagonist is punished for overstepping his powers, Naomi reveals that the author wanted to show that man’s powers have been wisely limited; thus, they could only result in misery if they were to be extended.

Naomi notes the stage version of the narrative, Presumption; or the Fate of Frankenstein written by BrinsleyPeake in 1823, in which the creator repents immediately after creating the thing. Essentially, this shows that human beings do not have the qualities of creating living things because it goes against the will of God, the Creator. Significantly, theater-goers of the time Peake rewrote the story were conservative and, as a result, they did not want any narratives that would compare the theatrics of man to that of God. Consequently, Peake had to change the storyline to illustrate the limitations that man had when compared to God. During the Romantic era, many literary writers presented over-reachers as people who lacked religious directions; thus becoming morally ambiguous (Hetherington).

Shelley portrays Frankenstein as forces of evil that were out to fight God and Jesus Christ. In essence, Romantic poets equate Frankenstein to Milton’s Satan where the two are fighting oppression in the Christian church. Frankenstein notes, “All my speculations and hopes are as nothing, and like the archangel who aspired to omnipotence, I am chained in an eternal hell” (Shelley 186). In the novel, Frankenstein compares himself to Milton’s Satan and, as a result, and he is justly damned despite differences in peoples’ characters and ways of life. During Mary’s time, radicals had strong characters of inhumanity, egotism, and arrogance but at the same time, Mary does not portray Frankenstein as a person who creates the thing through rebelling against a godly order. Mary’s work could be compared to that of Walton because the two use characters defying orders from their earthly fathers. Primarily, Frankenstein fits well in the secular tradition because Mary’s father had written several stories that challenged Christian beliefs and norms. Furthermore, Frankenstein establishes that secrets could only cause suffering and sorrow to loved ones. In addition, he realizes, even though late that happiness does not lie in possessions and power, but comes from domestic affections and simplicity. Consequently, Naomi shows that Man’s powers are limited; thus, they should not aspire to reach heights, which are theoretically unattainable (Hetherington).

Ideally, Shelley juxtaposes the over-reacher’s isolation with domestic affection and happiness. From the assertion, “my chief concern in this respect has been limited . . . To the exhibition of the amiableness of domestic affection, and the excellence of universal virtue” (Shelley 2) it shows that the novel is impious and immoral. Although many families portrayed in other stories of the time were poor, they lived in happiness and harmony, when compared to the isolation that Frankenstein had to undergo as he fought to overcome the limitations of man. Although Frankenstein is an over-reacher, his story does not revolve around defiance. Primarily, his quest originates from vanity for he aspires to do what nature would not allow. At the same time, although Frankenstein tries to use benevolence as his chief inspiration; in essence, he is pushed by self-elevation. Frankenstein notes that life and death are ideal bounds, which he must break through in order to achieve his dreams (Hetherington). He acknowledges his creation would bear a generation that would gratify him than any child has done to his father.

Since man has many limitations in his capacity, the story could be used to retell the origin of evil for many people believe that creation was enacted by man because that’s the only tangible thing they can see on earth. In essence, Frankenstein does not acknowledge any heavenly creator but he gives credit to his parents for bringing him to earth. As Christians believe that man was made in the image of God, Frankenstein creates the thing in his own image and describes it as “my own vampire, my own spirit let loose from the grave and forced to destroy all that was dear to me” (Shelley 57). At the same time, just like God, Frankenstein understands the creature’s movements but he is either unable or unwilling to stop it from committing murder as it traverses the world. Although a man has limitations, his creative nature has led to the destruction of tyranny. Both the creator and his creation cannot agree on many things, but they keep on passing blame on to one another. In his last days, Frankenstein notes that even after looking at his past he does not find anything blamable. In essence, he is justifying his action of creating a creature that he cannot control although it is killing innocent people On the other hand, the creature is unhappy at being referred to as the only criminal for it believes that all human beings have sinned against it.

Naomi proves her thesis that misery would result in any extension of the powers that man was given. She reveals that possessions and power do not necessarily lead to happiness as seen in the life of Frankenstein. Frankenstein lives in isolation as he seeks to extend the boundaries of nature by creating a creature in his image. Notably, just like other stories in this era, many over-reachers ended in misery after gaining powers and possessions in their worlds. Consequently, Frankenstein could have avoided his suffering by staying with his family as well as living within the boundaries of nature.


Hetherington, N.(1997).  Creator and Created in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Keats-Shelley Review, 11(1),1-39.

Hetherington, N. (2014). The University of Sheffield, the Institute for Lifelong Learning, Faculty Member.

Shelley, M. (1823). Wollstonecraft. Frankenstein: or, The Modern Prometheus. London: Oxford University Press.


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