bodies and identities


Nature and Identity in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein
Matt Simpson, Computer Engineering senior

Mary Shelley's Frankenstein is a pioneering science fiction work that challenges conventional ideas about bodies and identities. Western thinking has long equated natural, organic bodies with natural, unique identities, whereas manufactured bodies have been linked to subhuman creatures with monstrously unnatural identities. Frankenstein's creature foils these equations: although the creature possesses a second-hand body fashioned from post-human remains, his engineered birth does not prevent him from maturing into a unique, rational being. However, this birth is far more tragic than triumphant. Throughout Shelley's novel naturally-born humans-particularly Victor Frankenstein himself-remain locked in an ignorance, both conscious and unconscious, that prevents them from seeing the creature as anything but a monster. Ultimately, it is this ignorance that fatally stunts the creature's development and drives him to misery, despair, and, finally, monstrous behavior. These issues emerge most powerfully in the central passages of Frankenstein, when the creature confronts Victor atop Mont Blanc.



  attitudes toward creation




creature's history


creature's humanity


  other themes