Mary Shelley had her novel, Frankenstein published in 1818. While reading it, I found many reminders of Christianity. Obviously I’m not the first to notice or make these connection, David Hogsette had also made the connection, last summer, and wrote extensively about Shelley’s life and novel and of the connections he made between Frankenstein and the Christianity. In his essay, Hogsette outlined the connections between several types of Christianity and Shelley and her family, and consequently the influences Christianity may have had on Frankenstein.
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Hogsette places a quote from Blaise Pascal, a Frenchman who was a mathematician, inventor, and scientist who increased the world’s knowledge of the atmosphere. Pascal was also a man who left behind the world of math and science to study religion. He did so because he was in a carriage accident where the horses pulling his carriage bolted and left the carriage hanging over the river Seine. (O’Connor) Pascal’s quote here is fitting because he is a man of science and religion. The quote is speaking to men and telling them that seeking to end all sicknesses is pointless because others have done it and failed because they did not know what sickness they had. It’s also saying that the real sickness is pride because it takes away from God. It’s a smart way to begin his paper because with this quote, he’s already established which side of the argument he’s on.
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He like several of the articles establishes about other articles which address Christianity and Frankenstein and points out what others have said. He pulls out George Levine’s argument that the novel is still relevant today because it’s bringing Christian and pagan myths into fantasy and he shows us that by explaining that he sees empty fantasies that are wanted but it’s always debunked by reality. Then he states Paul Cantor’s argument that is that Gnostic creation mythology; where man doesn’t need to honor God. Then he mentions other critics who also build upon Leslie Tannenbaum’s detailed analysis of Milton’s Paradise Lost in Frankenstein and how they all say this application is her way of debunking biblical accounts. He then states that Shelley brings out the question of origins from a scientific and theistic point of view, but doesn’t give us why it’s important. He then goes into his thesis, which are a series of questions which he feels that Shelley answers: if men were to create man without a woman and what if men rejected their own creator, but his thesis goes on with a lengthy sentences, which basically state that he will explore and examine spiritual materialism and show that they lead to despair, crisis, and communal disintegration.
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He sets to answer by stating that Shelly’s philosophical position hangs on her idea that there is a difference between God as a necessary Creator and a human as a finite being. He states she believes that nothing can be created out of nothing, and only God can create something out of nothing. Then he uses her journals to prove that she believed in a god and she called him/it a “beneficent and gently Power” (534, Hogsette). Hogsette makes another statement saying that Victor in the novel is not a humble inventor who shows respect for his creation, instead he is “a presumptuous man who attempts to transcend invention and to create life as if he were God.” and reduces creation to materialistic invention.
Hogsette then runs a little long in his next point where he tries to say that the novel is also a critique on materialism which begins in her own understanding of different debates. Then I feel he runs off topic because he doesn’t really tie in where his claim of all the surgeons and scientists make other than by simply saying that there is a mind-body dualism, but he doesn’t explain it exactly, so he lost me. But he goes onto say that Samuel Taylor Coleridge influenced Shelley through her father, William Godwin and they both converted to Christianity in 1782 and Godwin believed until about 1787, but renounced his atheism in 1800 and believed in a defined theism. Hogsette goes on to write about Coleridge’s influence on Mary and establishes that theological influence was from him as well as his literary themes, but ends it on that she was influenced.
Then Hogsette then makes the claim that Shelley didn’t write about her theological positions, but she was a theistic vitalist, someone who believed in the existence of a soul that is different in nature from a soul with a body attached to it. But Hogsette points out that she doesn’t deny that there isn’t a God and that she has noted that a “Power…rules human affairs….that [Percy and his voice of encouragement and inspiration] should endure.” (538). He also shows that Shelley also acknowledges a god’s providential will over her life and also places recognition of it when tragic events happened.
One of my favorite parts of this article was when Hogsette points out Shelley’s specific theology is not certain, but there is one and it’s evidenced by her journals, but it’s overshadowed in her publications because Percy Shelley edits it out and he proves it by placing Mary’s original manuscript next to Percy’s revision of it. He points out that Percy’s stylistically smoother, but Mary’s is had meaning behind it. He could have also pointed out that Mary had to take Percy’s editing because in this culture, women were usually submissive to their husbands, which I feel is true no matter what age or century it is.
After this part Hogsette says that Shelley thought of education and that it alone did not make a person good, but application of it was actually more important to her, but he didn’t tie it to God or Christianity until later, but his essay wanders from that because he begins saying according to scientific realism DNA is what told Victor to do what he did. His connection was that Victor Frankenstein relied on his self-education and that he was blinded by ambition and he didn’t think to be patient because he was trying to outwit his sensibilities instead of thinking things through. (551) This would have been more convincing if he had shown examples from the text instead of showing what happened after the animation of the monster and sort of rambling about how the text unfolds. He also doesn’t make a religious connection here because he’s caught up in the text, instead he talks about science and DNA and different races. Hogsette doesn’t explain until almost a paragraph later that Victor’s realism and materialism created a monster, but in Victor’s eyes, as the creator, he sees only a “nonhuman thing, a subhuman being, and a racial other. Victor is a flawed creator who condemns the Creature to emotional and communal isolation, not because of anything that the Creature did … but because Victor himself is fallen and incapable of being the divine creator he set out to be.” (554) and then he brings in Christianity at the very end of the paragraph by saying that humans are viewed equally because they are fashioned in the image of their Creator (555).Although he doesn’t explain this view. As a Christian who studies the Bible carefully I understand what this means, but I’m sure any non-Christian would read that humans are created in the image of their Creator and say “who cares?”.
Hogsette concludes his article by stating that the Frankenstein novel is a horrific story, but nowhere in his conclusion does he mention the Christian aspects of the novel. He ends it by saying that the novel explores the ramifications of materialistic concepts and by answering the questions he set as his thesis and giving us a final answer. He also goes on a sort of tangent where he says that Victor “transgresses…[but] the transgression is of no real consequence, because that which is supposedly transgressed is nothing more than an insignificant and arbitrary notion that one can subjectively choose to reject.” (557). If this article was more concise and introduced topics and mentioned things he would talk of in the rest of the article, I wouldn’t have felt lost halfway through the essay. I both liked and disliked this article because of his lengthy explanations, his explanations about the influences on Shelley’s life made sense, but his explanations with the book and Christianity lost me because I didn’t really see his connections and when they did come, they came in little short sentences and which didn’t really explain his connections. Also the second part of his essay confused me because he explored scientific materialism, but he never made the connections for me, so I got lost.
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