English / Effect Of The Three Books On The Creature In Mary Shelley'S Frankenstein

Effect Of The Three Books On The Creature In Mary Shelley'S Frankenstein

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Autor:  anton  28 December 2010
Tags:  Effect,  Creature,  Shelleys
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The creature in the book Frankenstein by Mary Shelley in chapter 15 stumbles across three books in a leathern portmanteau after he heard the De Lacey story. In the bag were three books, which he read to further his education. These books were The Sorrows of Werter by Goethe, a section of Plutarch’s Lives [of Ancient Greeks and Romans] by Plutarch, and Paradise Lost by John Milton. Each one of these books inspired and instructed the creature in its own way. The Sorrows of Werter taught the creature “despondency and gloom” and inspired him to commit suicide, Plutarch’s Lives taught the creature “high thoughts” and inspired his hope for civilization, and Paradise Lost taught him about God warring with his creation, which affected him the most and inspired his revenge for Victor. The reading appears to elevate his state of misery.

The Sorrows of Werter is a novel written by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe written originally in German as Die Leiden des jungen Werther (The Sorrows of Young Werter). It is a story about a boy named Werter who falls in love with a girl named Lotte. However, she was already engaged to an older man named Albert and Werter was heartbroken. Lotte eventually marries Albert and in the end, Werter realizes that one of the three must die and he shoots himself with a hunting pistol. The creature finds great interest in the book, which is apparent with what he stated in Chapter 15.

“… I found in it a never-ending source of speculation and astonishment. The gentle and domestic manners it described, combined with lofty sentiments and feelings, which had for their object something out of self, accorded well with my experience among my protectors, and with the wants which were forever alive in my own bosom…. The disquisitions upon death and suicide were calculated to fill me with wonder. I did not pretend to enter into the merits of the case, yet I inclined towards the opinions of the hero, whose extinction I wept, without precisely understanding it.”

There are a few parallels between Frankenstein and The Sorrows of Werter. For example, the creature is miserable because he is not loved, not even by his creator, and decides that people must die consequently. The Sorrows of Werter taught the creatures how humans respond to misery. This book influenced his quest to make Victor Frankenstein miserable by killing William, Elizabeth, and Henry Clerval because Victor would not create a bride for the creature. The Sorrows of Werter may also have inspired the creature’s plan of burning himself at the North Pole after repenting for what he has done to Victor Frankenstein.

Plutarch’s Lives, better known as Parallel Lives, is a series of biographies written by the Ancient Greek poet Plutarch (full name Mestrius Plutarchus). Plutarch’s Lives contains 23 pairs of biographies, one Roman, one Greek. The creature has a different reaction to this book compared to The Sorrows of Werter.

“The volume of Plutarch’s Lives, which I possessed, contained the histories of the first founders of the ancient republics…. Plutarch taught me high thoughts, he elevated me above the wretched sphere of my own reflections to admire and love the heroes of past ages. Many things I read surpassed my understanding and experience. I had a very confused knowledge of kingdoms, wide extents of country, mighty rivers, and boundless seas.... I felt the greatest ardour for virtue rise within me, and abhorrence for vice, as far as I understood the signification of those terms, relative as they were, as I applied them, to pleasure and pain alone. Induced by these feelings, I was of course led to admire peaceable lawgivers, Numa, Solon, and Lycurgus, in preference to Romulus and Theseus. The patriarchal lives of my protectors caused these impressions to take a firm hold on my mind; perhaps, if my first introduction to humanity had been made by a young soldier, burning for glory and slaughter, I should have been imbued with different sensations.”

The creature now learns of human nature, the structure of civilization, as well as ancient Greek and Roman history. The creature relates to the ancient figures in different ways, he probably followed the views since Plutarch wrote his biographies to tell of the natures of the subjects, instead of true history. For example, he preferred Numa, Solon, and Lycurgus, who were “peaceable lawgivers”. Numa was the second king of Rome, who was known for his religious reforms, Solon was the Athenian that resolved the Cylon crisis, and Lycurgus established the military-oriented society of Sparta. This book inspired the creature to approach the De Lacey family in order to gain their acceptance. The creature learned more into the nature of humans and their behaviors in terms of governing and as a result, learned how to communicate in a better way.

Paradise Lost is an epic poem about Fall of Man written by John Milton. Although Paradise lost is not a true history, the creature mistakes it for a true history. Paradise Lost inspired and instructed the creature more than how The Sorrows of Werter and Plutarch’s Lives inspired the creature. Paradise Lost is a story of Adam, Eve, and Satan in the Garden of Eden. It is apparent that the creature is most awe-inspired by this book because he read it as a true history and how he couldn’t conceive of such a God before.

“But Paradise Lost excited different and far deeper emotions. I read it, as I had read the other volumes which had fallen into my hands, as a true history. It moved every feeling of wonder and awe that the picture of an omnipotent God warring with his creatures was capable of exciting. I often referred the several situations, as their similarity struck me, to my own. Like Adam, I was apparently united by no link to any other being in existence; but his state was far different from mine in every other respect. He had come forth from the hands of God a perfect creature, happy and prosperous, guarded by the especial care of his Creator; he was allowed to converse with, and acquire knowledge from, beings of a superior nature: but I was wretched, helpless, and alone. Many times I considered Satan as the fitter emblem of my condition; for often, like him, when I viewed the bliss of my protectors, the bitter gall of envy rose within me.”

Satan, who is the protagonist of this story, parallels the creature’s story in several ways. Satan was the most beautiful creation of God, was cast down from God, and tried to become the master of God. On the other hand, Victor selected the features of the creature at creation as beautiful, Victor rejected the creature, and the creature is attempts to be the master of Victor. The book inspired the creature to harass Victor to create a female. The book also inspires the creature to do what Satan did, to rebel against his creator and try to overcome him.

From the books The Sorrows of Werter, Plutarch’s Lives, and Paradise Lost, the creature is affected enormously in the events that followed later. The books educated and inspired the creature, who becomes the bane of Victor Frankenstein. Events such as the want of happiness, the female creation, the death of Victor’s loved ones, and his final suicidal plans all are linked to the reading of these three books.


Shelley, Mary. Frankenstein. Cheswold, Delaware: Prestwick House Literary Touchstone P, 1921. 9-186.

Plutarchus, Mestrius. "Plutarch: Lives of the Noble Grecians and Romans by Clough and Plutarch." Project Gutenberg. 1 Oct. 1996. 11 Apr. 2007 .

Von Goethe, Johann. "The Sorrows of Young Werther by Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe - Project Gutenberg." Project Gutenberg. 1 Feb. 2001. 11 Apr. 2007 .

Milton, John. "Paradise Lost by John Milton - Project Gutenberg." Project Gutenberg. 1 Oct. 1991. 11 Apr. 2007 .

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