Frankenstein Had a Dirty Lens
Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein tells a story about a monster created out of scientific discovery, technological advancement, and greed. What most people take away from the text is that industrialization creates terror, and that romanticism, the rejection of advancement and industry, is a hero. However, this is a very broad version of the theme of the tale. Victor Frankenstein is a crazed, tragic doctor playing with scientific innovation to create something which will supposedly fix his depression and provide limitless power. A more specific and analyzed version of the theme has a basis in man versus God, and man versus nature. As a doctor tries to wield the power of God, and ignore the reality and presence of nature, he literally constructs a monster.
Frankenstein had an original, ‘well intended’ motive. He wished to demonstrate the greatness of his new-found technology, mysticism, and need for control. This need for control came from tragic deaths experienced early in life which led to the feeling that he needed to tame the untamable. What he failed to recognize was that by the act of trying to create something in his own image, instead of just accepting the elegance of creation in God’s image, he was attempting to play God, and to command the forces of life and death. From the very start, even with an originally harmless motive, Victor Frankenstein was blind, looking through the wrong lens.
As he worked at constructing a creature of gathered body parts from graveyards, he was so blinded by this wrong lens and scientific power that he believed the monster to be beautiful and amazing. Shelley described the monster as having yellow skin, decomposing limbs, and a frightening appearance altogether. It was gross and haunting–any normal person would be terrified by it. But Frankenstein was not, and due to his blindness, he saw beauty. He also saw a product of his own genius and discovery being made.
This all ended, however, as soon as the thought, idea and effort became a product. The beauty, which had seemed to overwhelm any image of the creature, was burned away by the terrible reality of what Frankenstein had done. With a magnificent show of electric energy well timed to the artificial beat of the monster’s heart, it came to life. That is to say, the idea became a thought, the thought became a product, and the product was alive and horrifying. For a normal person, the beauty was never present. But for Frankenstein, it was only after the thought became a product that he was awakened from his trance, his lens was wiped of his own image, and God’s own image of beautiful fear shed light on the ugly monster. He was frightened at the monster, himself, his power, and he fled.
Such is what all people do when the image of God shines through layers of paint, dirt, lies, and temptations. All people cower at the power of God, and although fear of Him is inescapable, if His image – not man’s image, not society’s image, but His image- is the one valued and understood, the lens is clear and running away will not be something a person does. Rather, that person will embrace peace, nature, and his current status. She will not try painting over any of it with advancements, sorrows, or monsters. He will understand his true purpose: to love. Victor Frankenstein was so distracted from his true purpose by guilt, sadness, and love of power that he began seeing distorted images of the world–he saw the world through his own foggy lens, his own image. He wanted to control this image, paint this image, modify this image, and be this image. Like many people today, his hatred of death and fear of the unknown led him to lose sight of the beauty of naked nature which was created in nobody’s image but the Lord’s.
Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein was written years ago, and is quite obviously science fantasy. The themes, however, are prevalent in today’s culture because of the immensity of all the many distractions which govern our lives and paint over the canvas which God created in His image. Although Frankenstein is likely to be the last thing on anyone’s mind during the Lenten journey, the story offers a good parallel and insight into the realities of God’s intended beauty.