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Frankenstein By Mary Shelleys: Compatibility Of Science And Religion

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Having read the novel Frankenstein, I feel that religion and science are counterpoints to each other throughout the novel. There is a constant flow between science and religion that can be found in the characters at once in opposition and at other times in harmony.

At first, we find Walton the one who brings Frankenstein’s story to us, is himself an explorer, a scientist of sorts on a quest for knowledge but wanting friendship and love. He, through his telling of Victor’s story, is sharing the tales of creation, tragedy, jealousy, consequences, and death as we see in the stories of the Bible. It is interesting that Walton begins his journey in a place called Archangel. A hint to the foreshadowing of the story that is about to be told. He also rescues Frankenstein from death “benevolence restored me to life”. (Letter 4). Is this a suggestion to Jesus’ miracle of bringing Lazarus back to life? (John 11:1–44)

Victor’s early intense interest in Cornelius Agrippa and his fellow philosophers/scientists is where we are introduced to the first spark of desire for scientific knowledge and his acceptance of the supernatural of possibilities. (Frankenstein, Ch.2). His interest in these theories is shunned by both his father who he loves and respects and Professor Kremp at Ingersol. Wanting to prove himself to them and make a name for himself, he pursues discovering what is possible and leaves everything else behind, including people he cared for such as, Elizabeth. His love for science becomes an obsession.

Victor creates a human, not in his own image, but appreciably bigger and perhaps better. What is more God-like than the act of creation? Victor is motivated by the fact that he was chasing the impossible of bringing the dead back to life. (Frankenstein Ch.4). Victor’s ego and the certainty of his greatness are very apparent. The creature somewhat resembles Victor based on the fact that Victor’s ego is big and ugly just as the creature turns out to be both physically and mentally. We begin to see some of the seven deadly sins play out in both their personalities, with envy and pride.

As the creator, Victor should have acted as the father and the mother of the creature, but he utterly fails in both roles, causing the creature to feel like he has nobody to go to. (A Child’s Mind, Ch. 5). Victor as a scientist is almost anti-love and feeling as scientists are very orderly and precise. The act of creation and perfection was what Victor was striving for not emotional connection in the sense of love. The act of creation is a means to an end in science but is the genesis and the emotional ties in most religions.

When Victor rejects the creature and abandons him the creature turns into a revengeful killer motivated by his abandonment and loneliness. Like Lucifer who was banished from heaven by God and cast away, the creature was rejected and forced to fend for himself. (Isaiah 14:12).

After killing William and additionally the consequence of being responsible for the execution of Justine, she is the most religious character in the novel, the creature wants absolution from Victor, his Creator. Victor in turn feels responsible for these deaths. He wants to eradicate that which he created. This is the ultimate desire for eye revenge.

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We see that the creature is a scientist looking for knowledge so that he can survive and ultimately belong. His studies cover a vast number of subjects. As he learns he seems to grow and evolve emotionally, more than Victor ever does. I felt sympathy for the creature because he understood better and knowing what was good, he wanted people to treat him as a person not as a monster. You see this when he spends his time watching the cottagers and helping them when he could, He learns what love looks like when he is near them. In the end, however, he burns down their home and ruins the land once he is rejected. (A Child’s Mind, Ch.4). Fire is what Prometheus stole and gave to humankind and he was punished for it. Here the monster destroys what he had created in his mind as his ideal home.

Before the death of Elizabeth, Frankenstein still has some sympathy for the creature. He begins to create a companion for him. Again, thinking like a scientist he realizes that the future could not be controlled and therefore he could not duplicate another creature that would kill like the monster he had already created. Frankenstein had too much pride to have this as his legacy,

Mary Shelley used a lot of biblical words such as “apocalyptic” or “mortal speed” expressed in Ch. 23 “the creature had more than mortal speed” She suggests that as Victor ran in pursuit of the creature, he felt that the spirits were helping him. She even has Victor and his father enter the port of Holyhead.

This story also creates images of a David and Goliath battle and certainly, the theme of good and evil runs through the novel. Victor suffers and loses a lot, just like Job. Unlike Job, he does not stay loyal to his belief in God or humanity but rather wants to destroy what destroyed his life. (The Book of Job).

Science and religion are not outwardly spoken of as in conflict in this novel. The characters however possess characteristics that cause the conflict of these two themes. Victor represents science, he rarely talks of love, takes advantage of his friendships, wants to be known for great achievements, and lets his ego rule his emotions. He justifies his failings through science. Science is a very singular pursuit that tends to develop a man with a large ego.

The creature on the other hand wants knowledge so that he can relate to and help others. He wants to share his life and talk of love and beauty and family. The creature wants to be seen as a man, not a monster. He points out to Walton that Satan had friends, while he could not have any because of how he was created. (The Book of Job). Called Satan at times by his creator, the monster is an archangel. Although he killed, he is a sympathetic character who knows best and has a sense of love. He tells Walton that when he dies no one will remember he existed.

Just as we struggle today in relating religion to scientific principles, Shelley seemed to try to tell a story that balanced these themes. As the monster drifts off on the raft at the end of the novel he says, “I shall ascend my funeral pile triumphantly and exult in the agony of the torturing flames. The light of that conflagration will fade away; my ashes will be swept into the sea by the winds.” (Frankenstein, pg.277). Is this the ultimate “ashes to ashes and dust to dust” reference?

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Frankenstein By Mary Shelleys: Compatibility Of Science And Religion. (2021, July 20). Edubirdie. Retrieved December 5, 2022, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/frankenstein-by-mary-shelleys-compatibility-of-science-and-religion/
“Frankenstein By Mary Shelleys: Compatibility Of Science And Religion.” Edubirdie, 20 Jul. 2021, edubirdie.com/examples/frankenstein-by-mary-shelleys-compatibility-of-science-and-religion/
Frankenstein By Mary Shelleys: Compatibility Of Science And Religion. [online]. Available at: <https://edubirdie.com/examples/frankenstein-by-mary-shelleys-compatibility-of-science-and-religion/> [Accessed 5 Dec. 2022].
Frankenstein By Mary Shelleys: Compatibility Of Science And Religion [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2021 Jul 20 [cited 2022 Dec 5]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/frankenstein-by-mary-shelleys-compatibility-of-science-and-religion/
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