Despite being written more than a century apart, Paradise Lost and Frankenstein, share the idea of individuals limitations. As classic science fictions, both books seek to express individuals’ over the control of a higher authority. In Paradise Lost, John Milton, questions the religious idea of predestination that says every individual’s life is perfectly designed by God, and therefore one should happily accept his or her identity. During the 18th century, England empowered churches and priests as messengers of God, and Milton despised the corruption and injustice he saw in these Catholic churches. Through Paradise Lost, Milton celebrates individuals who challenge a higher authority and are willing to shape their own identity. Under the influence of John Milton, Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein in 1818 in which people are armed with science technology to challenge authority of nature or God. Although both books celebrate protagonists’ strong will to search and shape their identity, the books still reflect the authors’ concerns that individuals cannot actually shape their identity that had been already determined by predestination or a higher authority. In Paradise Lost, although Satan declares a revenge on God by ruining his plan on humanity, God always has Satan under his eyes and has authority to trump anything Satan has done. Unlike Satan, the creature in Frankenstein is not always under control or watch by his creator, Victor, but ultimately fails to change his identity of being a monster regardless of how hard he tries to be like a human being. As these books assert the existence of a God or creator, the books depict that individuals in any part of human history cannot shape their authentic identity given by a higher authority because although characters who perceived predetermination attempts to change it by doing what they can do the best, the predestined identity and fate remain still regardless of their best attempts.
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Although Satan is known for his evilness, his evil identity is conspicuously designed by Milton’s God who eliminates all Satan’s choices except committing sins. In Milton’s Paradise Lost, God is the most authoritative figure and often expressed as the will of whole universe. Satan, who desires to escape from God, has to make a false vision in order to reject the influence from God. After his fall from heaven, Satan made a speech to gather and encourage his fellow-demons. During his speech, Satan suggests that it is tyrannical for the Son to rule over the angels, because the angels are “self-begot, self-rais’d / By our own quick’ning power” (5.860-61). This is first deception Satan creates to cancel the fact that God is the creator of all angels. This false expression indicates while Satan knows he is ruled by God, he pretends to be out of God’s influence. Swayed by this false sophistry, the demons, and even Satan himself are deluded to believe the false belief. Milton’s God does not taking their strengths when defeated. Giving hope that Satan and devils still have chance to overcome God, God rather prevents devils from repenting and receiving forgiveness. By choosing to follow Satan’s false reasoning, the rebel angels lose all choice in whether they will repent to return to Heaven, and perhaps do not even realize that they are given a chance of repentance. Under God’s machination, they do not have choice because God’s false hope makes them chose to have no choice, but commit sins. The demons’ wills are not conquered by God but instead their wills are voluntarily surrendered to Him. Satan’s false claiming that the angels are self-created further deprives Satan’s will by making him a creator of sort that his creation is a privation. Sin is his self-begotten creation, and with Death, they compose an unholy, sinful trinity. With Sin and Death, Satan, as an inversion of God, is prevented from creating anything good and allowed to create only “Miserie, uncreated till the crime” (6.268-69). As Satan’s choice to be good is initially limited by God and evilness is what Satan is entirely composed of by his false claim, the destiny of Satan is already shaped to be nothing but evil.
Despite the fact that Satan is limited by careful designs of God, he still shows a sign of independence by using material objects to support him. Raphael explains to Adam and Even that God’s creations are “more refined, more spirituous, and pure, / as nearer to him placed or nearer tending” (5.475-476). If Raphael is true, then conversely, Satan must become less refined, spirituous, and pure once Satan turns away from God. However, in the hell, Satan is still ambitious and willing to challenge against God with his spear and shield. As Satan takes his material arms in a war against God, these weapons are symbols of Satan’s unconquerable will against God’s will. Using his spear as a “crutch to support [his] uneasy steps,” as he moves around in hell, Satan, instead of returning to God and seeking for forgiveness, puts his faith in his material things (1.295). Falling with his weapons in hell, Satan never loses faith that his unconquerable will is capable of contravening God’s will.
Satan’s unconquerable will to interrupt God’s plan is also highlighted when Satan enters Eden as a cormorant and wolf and approaches to Adam and Eve first as a lion, tiger, then as a serpent (4.402-08). The change of Satan’s physical appearance might indicate that Satan is actually “being less refined, spirituous, and pure” as he turns more against God. However, it also signifies that despite the insignificant physical shape of Satan, he does accomplish his own goal of corrupting Adam and Eve. In addition, Milton’s God is omniscient, knowing all that happens and all that will happen, but consequently, God can be seen as tyrannical and cruel in not preventing evil. The success of Satan’s mission might reflect that God allows Satan to execute his free-will of ruining God’s plans.
However, Satan’s belief in freewill is rather a delusion that he cannot act apart from God and all acts he performs serve God’s service. When Satan returns to hell after corrupting Adam and Eve, he does not receive victory cheers. Instead, he hears a “universal hiss” as he and his fellow devils transform into serpents. Punished by God, Satan receives “punish in the shape he sin’d,” and the rest of the rebels are “like in punishment, / As in thir crime” (10.516, 544-5). The punishment of this group of sinners reflects that as a poetic justice, God’s justice dispenses punishments that are appropriate to the crimes they committed. The punishment by God further suggests that the rebels’ punishments are fitting as they choose to be governed by Satan and refuse to be governed by God. The fact that God punished them for their decision indicates that although their actions seem free from God, the result of their actions, the poetic justice, is always held by God. In this sense, a demon gets what he wills, but having his will accomplished is always followed by a punishment because what he wills falls short of God’s will.
Another instance that Satan’s freewill actually does not exist is Milton’s description of Satan through Paradise Lost. Milton began his epic with pseudo-heroic size of Satan as that of “Typhon” or “Leviathan” (1.201). Although Satan is a fallen angel, Milton left his majesty and glory as archangel to provide God with a worthy adversary. However, all the appearances he takes on after fall lesson this angelic nobility; he transforms into a cormorant, lion tiger, toad, and at last serpent. As Satan chooses to appear baser as time progresses, there is gradual decrease in a sinful will’s power. His transformation displays an unregenerate aspect of the sinner. Satan did will to be a serpent, and his followers willed for him to corrupt Adam and Eve. However, once they commit sins, their wills are slavishly subjected to the sin that there is no chance of way-out from the sin. Thus, they repeat their sins involuntarily, reminding the results of devils’ decision to have no choice. Ultimately, the poet shows the abysmal fate of Satan that his will is annihilated as one becomes further enveloped in sin, for his will cannot be redirected from sin after God prevents him from being good.
With all these careful plans by God, God not only has the power to trump what Satan uses evil actions of Satan as a part of his plan. By the end of the book, Raphael opens the idea of the fortunate fall, that the corruption of Adam and Eve is also in a way an act that brings more goodness to creation, for it leads to the coming of the Messiah who makes “evil turn to good” (12.471). Although Satan initially attempts to corrupt Adam and Eve to create evil and disorder in the universe, his will of creating evil actually falls under God’s plan of salvation for humanity. Therefore, when it comes to Satan’s proud action, it is really God’s will being done, not his, though Satan never realizes this fact. Finally, Satan’s belief in free-will is rather a delusion that he cannot act apart from God since all acts are performed in God’s service.
Satan is rather a very tragic figure whose actions against God in exchange of his own punishments are actually used to serve God’s plans. While Milton’s God is almost impossible to overcome, in Frankenstein, the creature seems to have more control over his situations. However, the creature, too, falls to the victim of predetermination by his creator, Victor.
Since the time of being created by Victor, the creature is rejected by his creator and world and does not seem to have a place in the world. Since the beginning of his life, the creature is be already abandoned before he knows anything about the world he enters. When the creature “muttered some inarticulate sounds,” and his “hand was stretched out” to his creator, Victor refuses to listen and escapes the laboratory (59). In this scene, the creature is portrayed like a baby, who cannot speak a word, but stretch his hands to father for a protection. The rejection by his creator, Victor, indicates that there is already a gap between the actual creature and the imagined creature by the creator. This gap, which the creature does not perceive yet, already reflects the creature as unwanted life and abortion from Victor and his world. Victor’s first idea of creation and rebirth is somewhat ideal and beautiful, an art work only allowed to God. When Victor with knowledge of science created a life, the created life is rather false and ugly, pointing out that people’s imaginations that sound really appealing can be horrific when brought to the world. The rejection of Victor is therefore significant that the monster is not only rejected by his deformed physicality but also rejected by the fact that he is a resemble of false, imaginative ideas that must only stay in unreal world, in people’s imaginations. In this Mary Shelley’s world of science fiction, the creature is able to be brought to the real world with scientific imagination, but since the creature is a false product of scientific imagination, he has no place to belong in the world. The creature is an outlier in the world and cannot shape his identity because his identity is free to be changed only in unreal world and in imagination of Victor. The view of the creature as the unwanted becomes more evident as the creature makes “inarticulate sounds” like a baby to communicate with his creator. Victor’s refusal to understand or communicate with the creature suggests that the creature’s link with Victor, which is the only connection the creature is born with, can easily fall apart, leaving the creature with no connection to the world, and therefore isolating him from the real world. Regardless of the creature is able to perceive or not, there is again a gap or loss of connection between the creature and the world.
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In addition to Victor’s rejection, even the nature of the real world seems to reject the creature. When the narrative is turned to the creature, he describes his experience of first entering the world: “The light became more and more oppressive to me; I sought a place where I could receive shade (105). In Frankenstein, light is often a symbol of virtue and life which people use it to celebrate a new birth or goodness. The creature, however, finds more comfort in darkness than light, evidence that he does not seem to fit into the world. Light is rather a torture or discomfort for him that nature does not welcome him for entering the world. As the creature is rejected both in terms of nurture and nature, he clearly does not belong to the world.
The idea that the creature does not belong to the world continues even after the creature becomes conscious of his surroundings. After gaining knowledge and human sense, the creature realizes that “Satan had his companions, fellow-devils, to admire and encourage him, but [he] is solitary and abhorred” (133). The creature’s attempts for self-extension, for connection with community do not seem to work at all; as Satan has evilness to have fellow devils and belong to hell, the creature has “labeled” identity of a monster to belong to its category. It is a tragic irony that while one’s original identity guides one to one’s original community, there is no such thing as original community for the creature, who does not initially belong to the world. For the creature, the chance of belonging to this world is never given because it is Victor and society that attributes his “labeled” identity, forcing him to belong somewhere else.
Despite his initial rejection from his creator and the world, the creature develops hope to be part of community. Without help of his creator, the creature educates himself to be closer to humankind. The creature’s desire to be accepted and assimilated is apparent when he speaks his feelings toward cottagers: “The more I saw of them, the greater became my desire to claim their protection and kindnessâ€¦ to see their sweet looks directed towards me with affection was the utmost limit of my ambition” (134). His desire to be a part of the cottagers’ lives, to have them accept and love him, illustrates a tangible connection felt between the creature and the rest of the humanity. The creature goes on to say “I required kindness and sympathy; but I did not believe myself unworthy of it” (134). The creature believes himself capable and even worthy of both emotional and psychological reciprocation and by extension, capable of existing in harmony with the rest of humankind. The creature confirms his belief by educating himself, showing that at least there is an opportunity for him to assimilate to the morals and ethics of humankind. The product of his self-education seems fruitful when the creature talks with Victor persuasively: “my food is not that of man; I do not destroy the lamb and the kid to glut my appetite; acorns and berries afford me sufficient nourishment” (148). Without the teaching from his creator, the creature is able to discern moral right and wrong. The creature is able to form his own code of behavior on example and the behavior he views from others despite the lack of formal education. This is notable that his instinctive sense of morality comes without any help of creator, and although his morality is not inborn, it is obtainable by the creature. Further knowledge on virtue and vice is given to the creature through the books: “I read of men concerned in public affairs governing or massacring their species. I felt the greatest ardor for virtue rise within me, and abhorrence for vice” (131). The presence of a creator is again absent from his education, yet he is capable of developing a thoroughly structured sense of morality and ethics. His “ardor for virtue” and “abhorrence for vice” is a basis for strong intellectual development, as well as, being skillful in human relations, the end goal of the creature’s self-education. His capability of changing himself by learning indicates that the creature is not an incommunicable evil monster by inherent constitution. He is rather born unformed without any shaped identity. Therefore, as he absorbs the characteristics of humans, he feels to be closer to mankind.
Despite the creature’s effort to be closer to mankind, his constructed inner-personality is easily overridden by his deformity, and ultimately cannot depart from predetermination by his creator, Victor. The fall of his inner-personality occurs when the creature is shot by a boy after the creature saves a girl. “The feelings of kindness and gentleness which I had entertained but a few moments before, gave place to hellish rage and gnashing of teeth. Inflamed by pain, I vowed eternal hatred and vengeance to all mankind” (143). The sudden turnover of creature’s personality from “kindness and gentleness” to “hatred and vengeance” suggests how easily his constructed virtue and inner-personality to be a person can be replaced as if his efforts are worthless. Regardless of his efforts in creating his inner-personal identity, the “labeled” physical monstrosity overlaps his self-construction and even brings him back to his initial status, a rejected and isolated life from the world. The insignificance of his self-education becomes more apparent when Victor replays his rejection to the creature: “Begone! I will not hear you. There can be no community between you and me” (103). The repetition of Victor’s rejection is evidence that there is not much change in the creature’s connection to the world after his self-education. Although the creature learns the value of virtue and community, Victor denies the creature’s needs when he insists that “there is no community.” As the creature’s efforts turn out to be futile, the creator, Victor, seems to be the only one who can save the creature from misery. Even though the creature renounces all his virtue and passion to revenge on Victor after destroying his mate, Victor’s death, the loss of creator, does not allow him to be independent from misery: “in his murder my crimes are consummated; the miserable series of my being is wound to its close” (221). While Victor is the creature’s source of agony, Victor has been the only relationship he actually has in the world. The death of Victor represents the loss of core link between the creature and the world, which allows him at least to stay in the world. His demise, in fact, brings the complete isolation of the creature in the world and therefore his own annihilation in the world.
The classic science fictions reflect that overcoming the creator or a higher authority is near impossible, and even if one defeats one’s creator, what left is one’s self-annihilation because one is directly connected with the creator. The scientific imaginations from classic science fiction do not provide actual freedom or extension of independence beyond the limit of the world. In classic science fictions, the freedom of imagination rather brings down the individual by imagining a higher authority in form of supernatural. Therefore, at the time of classic science fiction, the ideas of science fiction are powerful tool to erase existing boundaries in oneself, but seem to paralyze one by giving new boundaries, that are taller than the old boundaries.
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