Heaven and Hell Religious Imagery in Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein Eric Best Mr. G. Taylor December 8, 2013 EN63UC In Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein, the frequent use of religious imagery effectively portrays specific positive and negative characteristics of Frankenstein’s family, The Monster, and the line of work that Frankenstein decides to pursue which ultimately leads to his demise. Shelly commonly refers to members of Frankenstein’s family as being heavenly and pure of heart. This is shown when Victor describes Elizabeth as a girl that had descended from heaven.
He explains that “none could behold her without looking on her as of a distinct species, a being heaven-sent, and a bearing celestial stamp in all her features” (20). This quote emphasizes Frankenstein’s belief that Elizabeth is a perfect, beyond human girl by indicating that it appears as if she is heaven-sent to all people, not Just him. Another instance where religious imagery is used to describe a member of the family is when Henry Clerval speaks of Frankenstein’s mother as if she is an angel. Shortly after William’s death he says “dear lovely child, he now sleeps ith his angel mother” (57).Order now
Clerval indicates that he believed Victor’s mother to be pure such that she would be able to enter heaven. Victor also expresses his belief that William is deserving of the same heavenly fate as his mother. He says “William, dear angel! This is thy funeral, this thy dirge! ” (59). William is clearly portrayed by Victor as another angelic part of the Frankenstein family. Religious imagery is used throughout the novel to show the innocent nature of the family. In doing this, Shelly shows how different from the rest of his family Victor is which helps define his
The Monster is often described using hellish religious imagery from the moment of his creation to the foresight of his death. Shortly after The Monster’s creation, Frankenstein expresses how no one less than a god would be able to endure the appearance of his monster. He explains that “no mortal could support the horror of that countenance. A mummy again endued with animation could not be so hideous as that wretch” (43). This quotation supports the idea that someone would have to be immortal or a god in order to bestow their eyes upon The Monster without immediately being disgusted and horrified.
Another instance where religious imagery is used to show the wretchedness of The Monster is after he murders William. Frankenstein says “it was the wretch, the filthy demon to whom had given life” (59). Victor compares The Monster to a demon, an entity from Hell whose goal is to instill terror in the souls of mortals. The Monster also explains his suicide to be of the same hellish nature. He says that “ shall collect funeral pile and consume to ashes this miserable frame” (197).
By burning himself, he will quit the world in flames signifying his painful, dark Journey to Hell as where most mortals nfortunate enough to cross him would believe he is from. Depicting The Monster as a terrible being from the depths of Hell contributes to what he was intended to be, a relentless wretch which nothing can be described more terribly than. Frankenstein’s decision to begin his work on the creation of his monster is described with religious imagery on several occasions. Before The Monster’s creation, Frankenstein thinks that his work will bring him glory and will make him appear as if he was a god.
This can be seen when he says “a new species would bless me as its reator and source” (38). Victor refers to himself as a creator of life, where in Christianity God is referred to as the creator. This comparison puts Frankenstein above the rest of humanity because truly no one should have the knowledge of creation other than God, according to common belief during Frankenstein’s time. The outcome of Victor’s success is described negatively by using religious imagery. He describes his works as “a hell of intense tortures such as no language can describe” (72).
In saying that the torture that Frankenstein feels inside him is hellish oa point of indescribability, he effectively shows the pains that have been caused by his ultimate mistake. Religious imagery is also used to describe Frankenstein’s brief realization that he has responsibility as a creator of life. He says “did I not as his maker owe him all the portion of happiness that it was in my power to bestow? ” (125). Victor realizes very late in his attempt to play God that he is in control over his subject’s happiness and as a deistic figure it would be in good nature to provide happiness to The Monster.
Frankenstein’s decision to create a being through nnatural methods is described using religious imagery because it shows how he made an attempt to do the same as God once did, and in doing so he brought misery upon himself. To conclude, the use of religious imagery throughout Frankenstein shows traits of the Frankenstein family, The Monster, and Victor himself in a polarized way because there is Heaven and Hell, no in between. Positive and negative characteristics are easily defined in this way which makes religious imagery an effective form of description in this novel. Shelly, Mary. Frankenstein. New York: Signet Classics, 1963. Print.