Mary Shelley's Frankenstein: The Sacred And Profane

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Frankenstein: The Sacred and Profane The novel Frankenstein by Mary Shelley can be interpreted as having heavy religious undertones. Shelley’s beliefs while writing the novel are debatable. The argument remains as to whether or not Shelley was pro-science or pro-religion. The book can be seen as arguing both a vitalist and materialist perspective, as proposed in the article “Frankenstein and Radical Science” by Marilyn Butler. Mary Shelley was first interpreted as a scientific radical heavily influenced by evolutionary theory and materialist William Lawrence. Butler explains the cultural reaction to the original release of Frankenstein, “Mary Shelley could be deemed to have attacked Christianity” (305). Where materialists believe in scientific…show more content…
The sociological theory of objects being considered sacred, or of “god” and otherworldly; or profane, ordinary and commonplace, is a theory developed by the sociologist, Emile Durkheim (Schaefer 379). This sociological theory can be applied throughout the text of Frankenstein in a very intriguing manner. Use of literary works within the novel such as Paradise Lost and Dante’s Inferno are seen as sacred, otherworldly objects by the creature, Victor Frankenstein, and the author. They are looked at with value and insight, stories of divine contact. For the creature, they are his only reference to the history of the world and a major agent of socialization. To Victor, they are a guiding force for his predestined road to greatness. For Shelley, these objects serve as powerful sacred tools to set a tone, influencing both the main characters and those reading the novel. Paradise Lost and Dante’s Inferno are Christian based, with tales of heaven and earth; god and the devil. Materialists would argue that the struggle appears to be the creature’s experience with socialization and society itself. His creator, Victor Frankenstein views his creation as profane, an abomination and on numerous occasions refers to him as a demon or devil. Vitalists would argue, the creature struggles to find his sacred identity of being an…show more content…
Materialists could argue that Victor Frankenstein has fallen prey to delusions of divine purpose. He is plagued by fluctuating feelings driven by his ego and delusions of grandeur. Victor believes he is predestined to do great things, and at times consumed by pseudo-sociopathic intellect. Victor has immense ambitions and feels driven by destiny. He views his family and friends as objects in his possession; however, he rarely shows any obligation to them and interacts with them only when convenient, or to further reaffirm his self-identity. Most of his feelings of grief can be seen as blows to his pride, ego, and perceived social status; the loss of his family members shatter the identity that Victor has built of himself as a kind and present son, husband, and brother. Victors robust feelings of worth overshadow any true intimacy he could share with his family. Ardently, driven to fulfill his destiny, he is self-consumed. Whereas Vitalists would argue that Victor chose to play god by creating life, and in a vain attempt for glory, suffered the consequences of his sins. Victor attempts to mend his wrongdoings: he first refuses to create a companion for the creature, then reluctantly agrees. However he has another change of heart, destroying the creature’s nearly finished companion, and finally vowing to destroy the “demon.” These incidents can be seen
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