Sins of the Father


Shelley’s Frankenstein and her attempts to avoid the “amiableness of domestic affection,” portray, for the reader, many instances of domestic failure.  Shelley suffered the devastating loss of her mother, estrangement from her father and entered a marriage under questionable circumstances, all before she entered true adulthood.  Knowing this and gleaning bits of information from the footnotes, we can’t help but believe that this greatly influenced her work.  Shelley’s relationship with her mother would have been formed through her writings.  Unable or unwilling to speak with her father, she would again be forced to understand her father’s thinking by reading his written word.

Frankenstein presents the reader with a handbook of exactly what not to do as a parent.  From chapter one, Victor’s description of his “domestic circle” hints at a mother and father unwilling to allow their child to suffer any uncomfortable circumstance.  For Victor and his family, “care and pain seemed for ever banished.”  Even though Victor’s father attempted to discourage the study of alchemy by suggesting that Victor “not waste his time upon” this “sad trash,” he fails to recognize that this only sparked a deeper interest for his child.  Victor easily hid this continued study from his father and regretfully remarks that if his father simply explained that these were disproven theories, perhaps the arcane would have not taken residency in his psyche. The father’s inability or unwillingness to guide his child onto the safe path resulted in a perversion of knowledge.

Victor’s lifelong pursuit to create his creature filled him with purpose and drove a series of feverish attempts to fulfill his dream.  There is never mention of why he has chosen to do this other than for self-serving reasons.  The creation is about him and never about the spark of life that he, as a modern-day Prometheus, steals from the gods. Once the fruits of his labor are realized, he immediately becomes the prototypical absent father.  The ultimate sin of the father is irresponsibility and selfishness.  Victor’s creation yearns for companionship but is denied from the moment of creation.  The creature’s construction is not the genesis of his evil, it is Victor’s failure to fulfill his duty as a father.

Victor only dabbles in acknowledgement of his fatal flaw.  It isn’t until he is near-death that he finally acknowledges that he is ultimately responsible for all the death that resulted in his creation.

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