The physical body functions in a variety of ways in the text:
--(1) It acts as the supposed "mirror to your soul" for Frank, who bases many decisisions on physical attractiveness. Which professor's books he'll read, for instance:
". . . but I did not feel much inclined to study the books which I procured at his recommendation. M. Krempe was a squat little man , with a gruff voice and repulsive countenace; the teacher, therefore, did not prepossess me in favour of his doctrine." (33)vs. M. Waldman:
"This professor was very unlike his collegue. He appeared about 50 years of age, but with an aspect expressive of the greatest benevolance; a few gray hairs covered his temples, but those at the back of his head were nearly black. His person was short, but remarkably erect; and his voice was the sweetest I have ever heard . . ." (35)Frank ends up reading Waldman's books, natch. In the later revised novel, Elizabeth is a foundling who is picked out by Frank's mother for her exceptional beauty; it's almost as if Mary wants to highlight this beauty-bias in the text. Frank flees after he views the ugliness of the creature:
"How can I describe my emotions at this catastrophe, or how delineate the wretch whom with such infinate pains and care I had endeavoured to form? His limbs were in proportion, and I had selected his features as beautiful. Beautiful! - Great God! His yellow skin scarcely covered the work of muscles and arteries beneath; his hair was of a lusterous black, and flowing; his teeth of a pearly whiteness; but these luxuriances only formed a more horrid contrast with his watery eyes, that seemed almost of the same colour as the dun white sockets in which they were set, his shrivelled complexion, and straight black lips." (42)So the creature cannot be accepted into society based entirely on his appearance? Mary seems to go out of her way to point out that he is naturally a benevolant fellow, and it is the shallow meanness of society that makes him a murderer. (More on this, later.) But putting the creature aside, every other "good" character in the book is beautiful. Suffering is often described as heightening that beauty. So is beauty supposed to be not important or all-important? If the creature was not physically repulsive, would he have fit into society? Was Frank's crime in making a creature at all, or in making an ugly creature? (It's my private view that his crime was in abandoning it, but at the end of the book on page 160, Frank says that he's been thinking it all over and has decided that he's blameless. Does that mean that he doesn't think he had any responsibility towards a physically deformed creature?)
--(2) the body as a barometer of the mind -- whenever anyone is upset, they're sick. ('cept the creature.) Frank warns us:
"A human being in perfection ought always to preserve a calm and peaceful mind, and not to allow a passion or a transitory desire to disturb his tranquility. I do not think that the pursuit of knowledge is an exception to this rule. If the study to which you apply yourself has a tendency to weaken your affections, and to destory your taste for those simple pleasures in which no alloy can possibly mix, then that study is certainly unlawful, that is to say, not befitting the human mind. If this rule were always preserved; Ceasar would have spared his country; America would have been discovered more gradually; and the empires of Mexico and Peru would not have been destroyed." (41)What I'm guessing that to imply is that when your mind starts to make you sick, you'd better stop . . . and it can destroy you and others as well. (?) Fascinating to give ideas this much power . . . power over the body, power over everything. It's true that whenever Frank or anyone, for that matter, gets passionate, they get ill. Why does it function this way? It seems to be true for everyone except the creature. Does his body determine his mind? (the creature's, I mean.)
Something that kind of intrigued me: the creature never really seems to confront exactly what it is that he's made of. (dead bits, I mean.) That to me seems to be the real horror of the book -- sewn-together charnel-house pieces moving and talking. The creature is made by man -- so can he have a soul? (putting aside for a moment that "soul" is a really vague and weird concept.) Frank seems to have no doubt that he'll go to heaven; he even gets some divine intervention from Liz and the rest on his monster-chase. The monster seems to have no such comfort -- he's read Paradise Lost, but does he get an afterlife? (He talks about "oblivion", but never heaven.)
Or is he somehow "out of the sight of god?"
Frank and nature: how does it function in the book? At the very beginning, Walton says of him: "Even broken in spirit as he is, no one can feel more deeply than he does the beauties of nature. . . (24) And nature does help to calm him, but once things get bad enough it can't serve to completely heal him, it seems. So what does that mean? What about the creature's relationship to nature?
Is Frankenstein a model of Mary Shelley's idea of how a criminal is formed? Again and again the creature tells us that if he had not been treated so badly, he would have been a great force of benevolence in the world . . . society creates him, his creator (parent) most of all. With the female creature Frank almost creates, he seems to address some of these questions when he decides to destroy her. Had he created her and not abandonded her, could she have been good? The narrative of the creature's development indicates that he is a totally a blank slate, and the product of his environment. Does that imply that criminals are made, not born in Shelley's world?
Twice in this book protection=marriage. First with Frank's father and mother (and that's a weird story, there), then with Frank and Liz. This puts kind of a strange spin on love, if you ask me -- except for the creature, all the men in this book want other male companions, not females -- when Walton bitterly laments to his sister that he wants a friend, he does it in the male gender; Clerval is Frank's confidante, not Liz, and performs most of the "lover-like" duties towards him . . . only the creature asks for a female (and does it in many of the same terms used by Walton to describe why he wants a male friend.) When Frank marries Liz (all 8 hours of it), there's no passion anywhere that I could really detect --mostly he just seems to describe how pretty she is when she's suffering. Why does Mary do this? Her two female characters are pretty weak, and exist mostly just to despair; the men are mostly concerned with each other. Why?
What's the power of confession in this book? (Or; what's with the framing?) Obviously a very deliberate choice . . . the widest frame is Walton, then Frank, then the monster -- despite the fact that each has to speak through Walton, (or Walton and Frank), both Frank and the creature are given very distinct voices when they tell their stories. (And why does the creature want Frank to know so much about his life?) You forget that this is written down by anyone other than who is speaking, in fact. (Deliberate?) 3 pieced-together personal narratives -- the structure of the book might almost resemble how the body of the creature is pieced to together -- separate experiences to make a functioning whole.
(7) At the top of the book, Frank tells Walton to give up his north-pole goal. But at the end, he gives a speech to the mutiny-bound crew that makes them agree to stay with the original goal. huh?
Random note: In the novel, the creature is Frankenstein's "hideous progeny", and it is forever remembered with his name. In life, the novel Frankenstein is her progeny as well, and no one thinks of her name without the novel's being attached to it. Both she and Victor are cursed, in a way, for creating something they can never be free of.