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Copy of Biblical Allusions in Frankenstein

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Justin Whitt

on 23 July 2015

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Transcript of Copy of Biblical Allusions in Frankenstein

Mary Shelley's _Frankenstein_ contains strong allusions to the Bible. As the Bible was an esteemed text in the early 1800s, Shelley's use of it in her novel served to establish _Frankenstein_ as a sort of parable or didactic text.
in _Frankenstein_

In Genesis 1, God creates humans in his own image out of love with an awareness of their capacity for sin. He has great hopes that they will love him as he loves them and despite their constant sin, God reaches out throughout history to the children of Adam and Eve, always hoping that they will answer his call and return his love. Even when they deny him, God is merciful and forgiving.

Shelley models the creation in Frankenstein after the creation in Genesis, but with one major difference: Frankenstein's monster is created as a test of Frankenstein's power (34). Once his experiment is proven successful, Frankenstein wants nothing to do with the monster. Since the monster is created from the parts of multiple dead bodies, he is in no one's image and has no real role model or father whose image to strive toward.

When Adam sins by eating from the forbidden Tree of Knowledge, hoping to be more like God, God banishes him from the Garden of Eden, which must remain a sinless utopia, but continues to love him and urge him back toward salvation (Genesis 3:17).
Frankenstein's monster finds knowledge in the books he reads, such as Milton's _Paradise Lost_. He gains this knowledge after he is banished by his creator and uses it to try to fit into the outside world that is now his home (79).
It is Frankenstein himself who is "banished" from his "utopia" when he eats figuratively from the Tree of Knowledge by trying to harness God's unique power of creation. As soon as his creation is finished, Frankenstein's life becomes one of terror and loss: terror that someone will discover that he is responsible for the monster and the continual loss of his family members, whom the monster kills (148). Frankenstein will never again realize the happiness of his ignorant Eden, just as Adam will not.
Shelley draws obvious parallels between the Creation Story of the Bible and Frankenstein's creation of his monster. However, she also shows that Frankenstein is still a mortal descendent of Adam, created himself by God, and that he cannot therefore be God. His blasphemy is grounds for exile from his previous life of happiness.
In Genesis, Adam and Eve are banished from the Garden of Eden for disobeying God. They eat from the Tree of Knowledge because Satan has convinced them that it will make them like God (Genesis 3). For this blasphemy, they are stripped of their rights to live happily in the Garden of Eden or even happily with themselves.
In Genesis 11, the people of the city of Babel attempt to construct a tower tall enough to reach God. God punishes the people by making each builder speak a different language, thus sabatoging their project by destroying any means of communication and therefore teamwork.
Lucifer, Catholicism's idea of the devil, was God's most favored angel. Greedy for more power and hoping to make himself like God, Lucifer challenged God to a great battle, which he lost (Hansen). Because of his blasphemy, Lucifer was cast from heaven forever, just as Adam was cast from the Garden of Eden and Frankenstein from his peaceful life.
After Frankenstein completes his creation, he realizes his mistake and goes into a fit for days (39). He is ashamed of his creation and the guilt of the monster's actions and attempts to hide himself from the judgement of his family and town just as Adam and Eve hid from God. Frankenstein's blasphemy strips him of his comfortable life and he worries constantly about his monster's location and actions. For stretching the bounds of human knowledge and attempting to be like God, Frankenstein is punished by having reached a level of scientific achievement beyond any other man's and being incapable of explaining his position to anyone other than Walton. When Justine is punished for William's death, Frankenstein stays silent even though it was his creation that killed the boy (56--59). Though Justine is a close friend of his family, Frankenstein is afraid that he will not be able to make anyone understand his position or motives and that he will be killed for William's death. This punishment by alienation is similar to the punishment suffered by the workers of the Tower of Babel.
A common punishment in the Bible-- and the most potent suffered by Frankenstein-- is separation from one's family.
In Genesis 22, God asks Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, his only son, to prove his allegience to God. This is considered the ultimate sacrifice, and Abraham's attempt to fulfill it proves his loyalty to God above anyone else, even his own family. Since Abraham tried to obey God's command, Isaac is spared in an act of great mercy.
In Exodus, Moses is sent away from his Israelite slave family and grows up as an Egyptian prince. Once he realizes his true Israeli heritage and God's call to lead his people out of Egypt, the most difficult decision he must make is the one to turn against his adoptive brother Ramses, who grows to become the Pharaoh who keeps the Israelites ensalved in Egypt. This is a decision of faith similar to Abraham's which Moses must make in order to fulfill God's plan. God's ultimate punishment, which Moses predicts will be brought upon those Egyptians who support King Ramses' decision to keep the Israelites as slaves, is the death of the first born son of each house. This punishment is severe enough for Ramses to finally agree to let Moses' people go. In this story, Ramses is guilty of blasphemy, as were all Pharaohs of Ancient Egypt. The Pharaoh traditionally considered himself a god among the many other pagan gods worshipped by the Egytptians. Ramses ignores Moses' warnings from God and denies his prophecies, claiming that he was the only god in Egypt, just as Frankensten ignores the warnings of the Bible. Ramses and
Frankenstein both suffer the loss of close family members from their blasphemies.
Shelley's parallels between punshment for blasphemy in the Bible and Frankenstein's punishments make the reader nervous for Frankenstein. Since Shelley's audience was familiar with the Bible, they were familiar with the consequences of sins such as Frankenstein's. She uses this knowledge to emphasize pathos in her novel and teach a clear lesson: the boundaries of science and human power are not to be pushed past a certain point. As Marilyn Butler states in her essay "_Frankenstein_ and Radical Science," "Do not usurp God's perogative in the Creation Game."
God said “let us make man in our image, according to our likeness” (Genesis 1:26). Frankenstein creates a monster from pieces of dead humans so the result is neither in his own image nor anyone else’s, but a gruesome scrapbook of unknown origins. This misrepresentation of Creator by Created contributes to Frankenstein’s lack of responsibility toward his monster.
The unknown origins of the monster also contribute to his feeling of alienation and incite in him a desire to have something made in his image, namely: a female companion. Without a female, Frankenstein’s monster cannot fully represent the Adam of the Old Testament, for he will have no Eve with whom to rule over the creatures of the earth, nor any consequent children to raise and love. When Frankenstein denies his creation a companion, he dooms the monster to a life of loneliness, which is a fate opposite any wished on Adam by God (98).
When the monster kills William and Justine is to be punished for the crime, Frankenstein claims that he is distraught with guilt but does not come forward to reveal the truth (Shelley 56—59). Instead, he lets Justine die for his crimes in a sort of forced Messianic manner. Unlike the Bible’s rendition of salvation, however, Justine does not rise again and Frankenstein is not forgiven for his sins by her death. In fact, her death is on his hands and is a heavy addition to his list of transgressions.
In the New Testament, God sacrifices his son Jesus, often referred to as the “new Adam,” who allows himself to be killed by God’s own people in exchange for their eternal salvation (Matthew 27). In _Frankenstein_, Dr. Frankenstein’s creation kills the doctor’s family out of anger. Whereas in the New Testament, the murder of the Creator’s family by the Created leads to salvation by the sacrifice of the Creator, in Mary Shelley’s novel these murders leads to nothing more than pain and suffering for both.
In John 15:13 Jesus says "No greater love is there than this: to lay down one's life for a friend." Jesus is forshadowing his crucifixion in this passage, referring to his magnificent love for the human race and his willingness to suffer and give up his life for their salvation. Jesus' life was the only case in history in which God incarnated himself in human flesh and walked among people on Earth. Despite all his teachings and rare insight, Jesus was hated by many. This hatred did not affect his love for humanity, however, and he gave his life for them nonetheless.
Frankenstein's monster has the unprecedented gift of artificial life. His body was not born of a woman, but of the recycled parts of people who had already lived and died. Because of its rare circumstances, his life is immeasureably precious. The monster mostly uses his life well, observing and loving humans, trying to protect them, and reading and educating himself. When he discovers that he is only a menace in their eyes and will never be accepted by humans no matter how good his intentions, he resolves to isolate himself in Antarctica, away from the people he admires and whose love and acceptance he wants above everything. This is a great sacrifice by the monster, for he is giving up his rare life for the mundane lives of millions who hate him.
With the sacrifice of Frankenstein's monster at the end of her text, Shelley emphasizes the innocence of the monster and invokes pathos once again to turn the reader against Viktor Frankenstein, who acts the part of Pontius Pilate or even Judas in his betrayal of Justine.
Hansen, Maurice G. "The Name Lucifer." The Old Testament Student.
Vol. 4, No. 2 (Oct., 1884), pp. 71-73. The University of Chicago Press. Print.
Butler, Marilyn. "_Frankenstein_ and Radical Science." Frankenstein. New York: W. W. Norton, 1996. Print.
Genesis, Exodus, and John. _Holy Bible: New American Standard Bible._ [Nashville, Tenn.]: Nelson Bibles, 2006. Print.
Shelly, Mary W. _Frankenstein._ New York: W. W. Norton, 1996. Print.
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