Textual Analysis: A Shift in Power

Chapter II of Volume II in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein features a dramatic encounter between Victor Frankenstein and his creation. While the creature’s desperate plea for an opportunity to articulate his story suggests his lack of power and subordinate status, the creature’s utilization of persuasive and complex language through the integration of a rhetorical question and Biblical allusions not only reveals an underlying accusatory and commanding tone, but also exemplifies a shift in power roles.

As the creature implores and “[e]ntreat[s]” Victor “to hear” him so that he might be understood rather than unfairly misjudged and undeservingly subjected to rejection, it appears that the creature assumes a position of inferiority through this act of begging. However, the creature’s command for Victor to “be calm,” quiet, and open-minded “before…giv[ing] vent to [his] hatred” not only discloses how the creature immediately takes control of the conversation by giving orders, implying that any and all requests should be understood as demands, but also reveals the creature’s accusing tone. In presuming that Victor will respond with antipathy, the creature insinuates that a hostile nature is typical of Victor. As a result, Victor is cast in an unfavorable and negative light. While the creature is willing to return to his innate “mild” and “virtuous” self despite all that he has endured, the expectation that his creator will react solely with resentment distinguishes Victor as ranking below himself by quality of character.

In addition to the creature’s physical dominance of “superior” height, strength, power, and skill that he instructs Victor to “remember” and recognize, belittling Victor as if he is a child that needs to be told the obvious, the creature also gains the upper hand intellectually. Unlike Victor who converses with short and curt statements, the creature, displaying an eloquence and mastery of the human language, confronts Victor with an elaborate speech and a rhetorical question. Analogous to a leading question in court, a query proposed to suggest a particular answer, a verbal response is not required to disclose and confirm Victor’s desire to both “increase” the “suffer[ing]” of and inflict further “misery” upon his creation. Through this rhetoric, the creature not only maintains command of the encounter, but also shapes his speech to both accuse Victor of cruelty as well as highlight him as an evildoer.

Furthermore, by comparing himself to both the “fallen angel” and Adam, the creature continues to rise to a position of superiority. The creature elevates himself to a divine status greater than that of man like Victor as well as discloses that he was spurned without reason. Unlike the angel that was cast out of heaven for a “misdeed,” the creature, despite his “benevolent” nature, was “irrevocably excluded” from society without engaging in any wrongdoing. The creature, placing blame, reveals that he was “trample[d] upon” and despised not only by the human race, but also by the one individual that “owest” him most, his creator. While God made Adam in the likeness of Himself, instilling life and love into a being considered to be perfect, Victor proves unable to love a thing so frightening and ugly. Impulsively abandoning his creation and child, his Adam, out of disgust, Victor denies the creature of “clemency[,] affection[,]” and endearment; exemplifying that he is not only lesser than God, but also lesser than a mortal parent. As a result of continual neglect and failure to fulfill his duty as the creator, Victor has lost control of all outcomes regarding his creation and child. The creature clearly indicates that he is no longer the inferior party.

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