Rational Mind vs. Passions
Have you ever acted on an impulse without even thinking of potential consequences of your actions? Victor Frankenstein certainly has. He is a passionate human being that let his love for science and need to impress his father drive him to attempt to bring the dead back to life. Was it a good choice? Through the use of hyperbole and conflict, the author of Frankenstein, Mary Shelley, uses the motif of “rational mind versus passions” in her work to illustrate the negative effects of guilt on one’s conscience.
Shelley uses hyperbole to exemplify the motif of “rational mind versus passions” and how guilt can negatively affect one’s conscious mind. In the beginning of the novel, Victor Frankenstein becomes obsessed with the idea of bringing the dead back to life. During this period of time, he goes off to a secluded place away from his family so he can dedicate all of his time to his work. When his work is completed, he begins to develop an overwhelming feeling of disgust. “I had desired it with an ardour that far exceeded moderation; but now…the beauty of the dream vanished, and breathless horror and disgust filled my heart” (35).
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It is at this moment that Victor feels guilty. His passions outweighed every rational thought of his mind during the creation period, and now he is responsible for the creation of a monster. He became overcome with guilt, which made him become depressed. He even claims that he “slept, indeed, but [he] was disturbed by the wildest dreams” (35). His powerfully dramatic diction shows how upset he is at himself for creating the monster. The feeling of guilt prevails while he is losing sleep and becoming so emotional that he is numb.
This is the first moment in which he experiences the deep feeling of guilt due how passionate he was about bringing the dead back to life. The negative effects of guilt on a human’s conscience can be shown in Shelley’s work through her use of conflict. The biggest conflict comes when the monster asks his creator to make him a mate. At first, Frankenstein is completely against it; his rational mind is kicking into gear. But soon, the monster gets him thinking. Victor Frankenstein wants nothing more than the monster to simply go away.
Knowing this, the monster proposes that if Victor were to make him a mate, they would both run off into the forests of South America and keep away from any sort of civilization. What was Victor supposed to do? If he did consent to make the monster a mate, they could have children and go out into the world and cause harm. However, if he did agree to make the monster a mate, there would be a good chance that he would never have to see the being that made him so depressed again. Victor experiences a rapid change in emotions during this time.
He says “[The monster]’s words had a strange effect on me. I compassionated him and sometimes felt a wish to console him; but when I looked upon him…my heart sickened and my feelings were altered to those of horror and hatred” (106). It is at this moment in which his rational mind is fighting the passionate hatred he feels toward his own creation. He feels as though he should not give in to the monster’s passion for a companion, but at the same time “[d]id [he] not as his maker, owe him all the portion of happiness that it was in [his] power to bestow? (105). Victor is now able to realize that he does have some responsibility for his creation’s unhappiness. He created the creature that everybody was afraid of. He did not do his job as the creator of a being; he was so caught up in being disgusted and depressed that he was not able to account for the monster’s feelings. He was not able to show him what it feels like to be cared for or teach him right from wrong. At this point, he agrees to make him a mate due to the guilt he feels for the monster’s unhappiness and aggression.
Although Victor agrees, he does end up going back on his word which makes the monster go on a tangent of violent acts. One may argue that the monster’s passion for a companion drives him to kill those who are closest to Victor. However, he is unable to be completely blamed because of the unhappiness that Victor had left him to deal with on his own. Victor was not around to give him a sense of the rational mind’s thoughts. The monster may not even have a sense of guilt.
His animosity, while it can not be fully blamed on Victor, is drawn from his strong feelings and need for a mate. The motif of “rational mind versus passions” makes it easy for one to see the correlation between a feeling of guilt and its effects on the conscious mind. Victor started this all with a deep passion for bringing the dead back to life. His father underestimated his ability, which may have made him want to be the one to do it even more. When he was completed, he became overwhelmed with guilt. His name would now be associated with the creation of an abomination.
Although he attempts to use the rational mind while he is reasoning with the monster regarding the creation of a mate for him, the passionate side of Victor outweighs any rational thoughts. One could say that Victor is a passionate human being. He rarely thinks about the consequences of his actions. When the consequences do hit him, they hit him hard. He feels guilt, which drives him to make more unconscious decisions. Throughout the novel, he is constantly conflicted with decisions that he wants to make with his rational mind, but the passions inside of him usually take over.