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Comparing Character Traits in Paradise Lost & Frankenstein

Paradise Lost, Tree of Knowledge

The characters of Victor Frankenstein and his monster in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein uniquely parallel the characters of God, Satan, and Adam in John Milton’s Paradise Lost. In Frankenstein, Victor is the obsessed creator who wants to be the first man to be able to give life. Although he is successful, as is God in Paradise Lost, he does not posses many of the positive traits that God has; instead, he is a self-centered man who only does things that will benefit himself. The monster that Victor creates identifies both with Satan and with Adam in Milton’s novel. Like Adam, the monster was created perfectly and loved those around him. He was not born evil or with the intent to do harm and violence to others, but throughout the novel his emotions overwhelmed his mind, and he committed heinous acts against others. At the same time, the monster also possesses similar qualities to those of Satan. In Paradise Lost Satan was originally created by God to be good and pure, but fell from the good graces of his creator. Frankenstein suffered the same fate, in that his creator never accepted him. The monster suffers constant rejection, not only from his creator Victor, but also from other villagers, even those who he helps. Satan too was rejected by God and cast away forever, with no chance of ever redeeming himself. Even though Shelley’s Frankenstein and Milton’s Paradise Lost contain very different subject matter on the surface, both Victor Frankenstein and his monster parallel the figures of God, Satan, and Adam.

Victor Frankenstein has several qualities that make him a parallel to the character of God in Paradise Lost. The most obvious connection between the two figures is the idea that both of them wanted to create life. God created both Adam and Eve, while Victor created his monster. However, both of the creators rejected their creations. God banished Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden for disobeying him. Frankenstein, however, rejects his creation purely because of the horrendous look that it has. He says, “Oh no mortal could support the horror of that countenance” (Shelley 57). He does not even give his monster a chance in life, but he instead is fearful of him and wants nothing to do with him. God had a valid reason to expel Adam and Even from their paradise, since they had chosen to disobey his commandment, but because of Victor’s self-centered mindset, he does not want anything to do with his monster. Even after he realizes how the monster that he created turns out, he thinks of no one other than himself, saying, “I passed the night wretchedly…I felt the bitterness of disappointment; dreams that had been my food and pleasant rest for so long a space were now become a hell to me” (Shelley 57). He is disappointed that his experiment was a not a success, and pays no attention to his creation.

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The monster that Victor Frankenstein creates strikes a close parallel to the character of Adam in Milton’s Paradise Lost. Like Adam, the monster really never really had a chance to meet his father. He was immediately cast aside and his creator wanted nothing to do with him. Although God was very pleased with his creation of Adam, he also pushed him away after he had betrayed his trust and eaten from the tree of knowledge. He too never really had a chance to know God, his creator, since he was rejected from Eden. Frankenstein’s monster did not choose to be rejected by his father, but he did not have any control over his appearance. Likewise, Adam was tempted by the serpent, which in turn, ultimately led to his rejection from God. Another connection between Adam and the monster is the fact that they are both very lonely and wish for companionship. The monster, while reading Paradise lost says, “Like Adam, I was apparently united by no link to any other being in existence” (Shelley 124). Adam simply asks God for a mate and he is given one. However, when the monster asks Victor to create a mate for him, he is strung along until Victor decides that he is not willing to help the monster. The monster sees that Adam was allowed to converse with other beings and animals, but he “was wretched, helpless, and alone” (Shelley 124). He is unable to get anyone to talk to him, as people are always offended by his outward appearance, despite the fact that he is simply a lonely man looking for acceptance. Finally, there is a distinct connection between Adam and the monster in the way that they both become self aware of themselves. Adam discovers the tree of knowledge, and even though he knows it is forbidden to eat from the tree, he does so anyways and becomes aware of himself. The monster discovers the bag full of books and upon reading them, begins to ask questions much like the way Adam did when he stumbled upon his knowledge.

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The monster not only is comparable to the character of Adam, but he also possesses several of the qualities that Satan has in Paradise Lost. The monster, like Satan, was intended to be a great creation by their respective creators. However, those that made them ultimately rejected them both. A key difference between Satan and the monster is the fact that the monster did not choose his fate like Satan did. Satan chose to rebel against God, which in turn led to his banishment from God’s Kingdom. The monster, on the other hand, was simply cast aside because his creator did not like the way he looked after creation. After finding Victor’s creation journal and reading the words, “Hateful day when I received life” (Shelley 124) he becomes even more upset about the injustice that he has been exposed to. Like Satan he is not accepted anywhere by anyone, so he is forced to live as an outcast, far away from other people. He says, “Many times I considered Satan as the fitter emblem of my condition…when I viewed the bliss of my protectors, the bitter gall of envy rose within me” (Shelley 124). He is not necessarily a bad person because of his violent offenses, but he is simply overwhelmed by emotions that he cannot understand completely.

Even though the characters in the two novels appear to have little to nothing in common with one another, they share a fair amount of similar characteristics. It is extremely apparent that Shelley constantly referenced Paradise Lost while writing her own novel. Simply by changing the setting, she is able to offer a unique twist upon a very similar story. She ironically portrays Victor Frankenstein as the true monster of her story, forcing the reader to discover that he is the cause of all of his monster’s problems, rather than being the victim. The monster wanted very little in his life; he sought only the acceptance of his creator and other fellow human beings. However, he was never able to attain this necessity, so he was driven into seclusion, much like the life that Satan was forced into. Had his creator never made him, he would not have been doomed to wander the earth alone without companionship, much like Adam was forced to do after disobeying God. Victor obsession with his desire to become a God figure and be able to grant life to people was ultimately his downfall. God was able to balance his creations, but Victor’s was not, and his madness overshadowed everything else in his life, which led to his downfall.