18th June 2018

2.4 Writing Portfolio


Develop a response to the following statement:

Philosophers of the 18th Century looked for new ways to understand the acquisition of knowledge and human behaviour . Understanding their theories allows us an insight into Mary Shelley’s intentions in her gothic novel, Frankenstein.

The purpose of this essay is to develop a response to the acquisition of knowledge and human behaviour and the understanding of theories that give us an insight into Mary Shelley’s intention in her gothic novel ‘Frankenstein’. I will be talking about John Locke and his theory of knowledge and creation. John Locke was an English Philosopher and physician. He lived between 1632 and 1704 which was the age of enlightenment. He was known as the ‘father of Liberalism’ because he was one of the most influential thinkers of his time period. He had a big influence on political philosophy and of knowledge. His main theory was the theory of knowledge which I will be talking about. I will also relate this theory to the ideas in the gothic novel ‘Frankenstein’ and I will explain how Mary Shelley’s ideas were influenced by John Locke and his theories.

In one of John Locke’s essays he says “If I succeed, that may have the effect of persuading the busy mind of man •to be more cautious in meddling with things that are beyond its powers to understand” This relates to Victor Frankenstein when he is creating the monster. Victor represents the “busy man” in this quote. He is “meddling” with things that are beyond his power to understand. The quote talks about being more cautious when meddling with things that are beyond our power to understand which is a big link to Victor Frankenstein. Victor could potentially be endangering the lives of many people by messing with the physics of nature. He is not careful at all and doesn’t care what it takes for him to succeed in his duty which is shown in this quote. I think Mary shelley has tried to be a bit controversial with how she has created frankenstein. She originally intended her novel to be as scary as she could make it and I think by contradicting what a famous philosopher has said, it would make it even more scary and it the process make a better novel.

“One man’s life or death were but a small price to pay for the acquirement of the knowledge which I sought, for the dominion I should acquire and transmit over the elemental foes of our race.” This quote is what frankenstein said whilst trying to create the monster and therefore proves that he is willing to take others lives just so he can quench his thirst for knowledge. I think Mary Shelley worked this novel how she did for a reason. She makes Victor Frankenstein purposely not  cautious when he is meddling with things that he morally shouldn’t because of what John Locke said in his essay. I think she wants Frankenstein to contradict what John Locke said to make him fit in as a gothic protagonist which she has done quite well.

Another of John Locke’s theories is that when a being is born it is a blank state. This theory states that a newborn being has no knowledge and no morals. Its knowledge and morals come from how it is brought up and who it is brought up by. The monster in the novel Frankenstein is created by Victor frankenstein. The monster has no knowledge or morals so he relies on Victor Frankenstein to raise him however victor abandoned the monster which meant the monster had to rely on the people of a cottage that he found to gain these two things. This is shown when the monster says “their lessons were impressed upon me even more deeply. I heard of the difference of sexes, and the birth and growth of children, how the father doted on the smiles of the infant, and the lively sallies of the older child”. His knowledge and morals come from this family which is linked to John Locke’s theories of knowledge and creation.

He also learns things through personal experience. For example when he touches fire he burns himself and he therefore learns not to do so again. “In my joy I thrust my hand into the live embers, but quickly drew it out again with a cry of pain. How strange, I thought, that the same cause should produce such opposite effects!”. He is like a child. He says “in my joy” which means he is excited by the site of fire which could represent his similar mind set to a child. I think Mary shelley has worded this quote like this on purpose because she wants us to see that the monster has a mind of a child and that his knowledge will be created by experience and it was not inherited, just like a child. Frankenstein was a night owl. He often learned a lot at night.

Victor Frankenstein tried to keep the creation of the monster a secret. He thought that if his creation wasn’t a secret then he would become a target and be hated by a lot of people. This is shown by one of John Lockes quotes: “New opinions are always suspected, and usually opposed, without any other reason but because they are not already common.”  Especially in the time period when this book was written it was best to keep things to do with science a secret as a lot of people still strongly believed in religion and would protest if someone said otherwise. This quote shows that there is a clear link between John Locke’s theories and the way Mary Shelley wrote her book.

Overall I think Mary Shelley has linked the monster to John Locke’s theory of creation quite well. She has obviously made the monster out to have no morals or knowledge when it is created but it has learnt and gained knowledge by himself and also others. I think there is a very clear link to the monster and a child which was definitely the intention for the monster. I also think that she made victor frankenstein play with science for a reason. I think she intended him to be a contrasting and on edge character. She made him completely contradict John Locke’s statements in his essay and made him out to be a bit of a selfish character. This helped Mary Shelley portray victor frankenstein to be a gothic protagonist.

John Locke’s theories give us more insight into what Mary Shelley is intending in her novel ‘Frankenstein’. I am able to understand the story a lot more with my knowledge of John Locke’s theory of knowledge and creation. In the 18th century the philosophers were trying to understand the acquisition of knowledge and human behavior and this is shown through the creature that Victor Frankenstein created. It is quite apparent that Mary Shelley has used the ideas of John Locke in her novel Frankenstein. We were clearly able to see this with evidence from both the novel Frankenstein and by John Lockes quotes and essay writing. Victor Frankenstein and John Locke have a lot in common. They both looked for new ways to acquire knowledge and human behaviour however they are also very opposites as John Locke warns us not to mess with nature however Frankenstein purposely messes with nature.

We are not only able to more clearly understand the intentions for her ideas and characters but we are able to see her intentions for who she wants her audience to be for her novel. Mary Shelley’s intentions for her story were not to become famous for her novel. She was just trying to create a scary story. We know this because she has used the ideas of John Locke throughout her novel. In the time period that this was written, many people only believed in religion and whilst these philosophers were very influential, more people believed in religion. I think this means that she is not writing this story for the people of the present but she is instead writing for people of the future. She knows that more people are starting to believe in science instead of religion therefore she is creating an audience that would appear not then but now.


Join the conversation! 2 Comments

  1. Hi Lewie,

    As you move towards the editing phase, you should begin to think about”
    – How to ‘weave’ your quotations into your sentences.
    – Avoid repeating the same words too many times inside the same sentences. There are places where your sentences are convoluted as you have tried to say too many things or used too many words to express your idea.

    Reading your work out loud to yourself will help you to identify these areas and also the mechanical errors (punctuation, grammar etc) in your work.

    Mrs. P

  2. Hey Lewie,

    My above advice still stands: read your work out loud to yourself to find and fix your errors.

    I also want you to think about the explanation of your evidence from the text. You have some strong pieces of evidence but in places your explanation of these is brief.

    Just like with your quotations, “weave” Shelley’s intentions through your essay rather than leaving them until the end. Don’t overthink the intention (do you think she was looking for fame and publicity when she wrote this novel? How do you know this?). Be careful making judgements about her.

    Mrs. P


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