The Power of Remorse
Remorse is a complex feeling; one that was not common in the romantic period in which Mary Shelly’s gothic novel Frankenstein was written. The literature, written for a contest, showcases the free thinking of that time and highlights the danger of thinking too recklessly. Self inflection was the name of the game. “’You seek for knowledge and wisdom, as I once did; and I ardently hope that the gratification of your wishes may not be a serpent to sting you, as mine has been,’” (p.31), Frankenstein says to Robert Walton, offering a clear warning that correlates directly to the regret Victor feels for his sin. In the real world and in this particular piece of literature, remorse is incredibly powerful.
“It was already one in the morning; the rain pattered dismally against the panes, and my candle nearly burnt out, when, by the glimmer of the half-extinguished light, I saw the dull yellow eye of the creature open…” (p. 58). Upon gazing at his creation, Frankenstein almost instantly regrets ever having the idea. “’I had desired it with an ardour that far exceeded moderation; but now that I had finished, the beauty of the dream vanished, and breathless horror and disgust filled my heart,’” (p.58). This feeling of remorse for creating something so grotesque sticks with Frankenstein up until his death at the end of the novel. He is ashamed of what he has created and does not want to have anything to do with it. Avoiding his creation, however, only made the situation worse, as the monster prowled about, killing everyone close to Victor and wreaking havoc wherever he went. Frankenstein regretted what he has done so deeply that he gave up his life and traveled to the ends of the earth to destroy the thing he created. The stress of hunting for his creature was the death of him, in the end.
Victor loathes himself after the creation of the monster. So much so, that he was almost willing to do anything it took to get the monster to stay away from him. The creature had a plan; he wanted a female companion to share his lonely life with. Victor agreed, but soon realized he was making the same mistake again. His remorse in this part of the book, not felt because he is making another creature for the creature he already detests, but is felt for the rest of the sin that has been committed since the day his creature came to life. When Victor realized his second mistake and felt the remorse for all of the sin, he trashed the female creature. “’ …[A] race of devils would be propagated upon the earth who might make the very existence of the species of man a condition precarious and full of terror”’(Chapter 20). Victor deprives the male creature from having anyone to love or care about because he is too blinded by his own regret and sin.
The monster is hideous and neglected, but that did not protect him from human emotion. His remorse was felt on two different ends. He killed and destroyed everything he came in contact with but, he felt the remorse at the end of the novel, seated next to his creator’s death bed. He realized what he had done to his creator; killed him and everyone close to him as a result of the love he never felt. The monster’s own creator died in pursuit of him. This is a terribly large burden. On top of that, the monster felt the remorse of his creator. He saw the hate his creator felt for him and was incredibly upset. He could see how detested Victor was, and felt that from him. The monster’s only way to repay the debt he owed to his creator and to settle the terms was to take his own life. “’I am malicious because I am miserable’” (p 147).
Frankenstein, analyzed properly, tends to venture off the beaten path when it comes to the idea of life. Naturally, Mary Shelly was influenced by her life experiences and displayed that in Frankenstein, but she wrote about things people of the Romantic period hadn’t thought about. In theory, Romantics believed that only in isolation you could be great, but Mary proves that solitude only leads to despair and loneliness. Taking true responsibility for actions and caring for the welfare of others weren’t popular ideas either, but that did not stop Mary from using them as main themes. Mary Shelly displayed remorse in the book as something that could kill or take away any chance of love. It is almost as if Mary is trying to show people of her time period the problems with society. Growing up in this environment, full of lazy politicians and lack of religion, she had a special insight into what might be if people changed how they went about things. Perhaps, Mary Shelly wanted people of her era to be willing to face their sin and regret like Victor Frankenstein had.