The Role of Allusions and Simple Analogies in the Novels, Frankenstein by Mary Shelley and Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad

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Through the words of Thomas C, Foster, one may never be able to read a book the same ever again. The average reader would never think that such simple details such as two characters enjoying a simple lunch together, or a man being blind in a short story, could ever mean as much as they do. Foster, in his book How to Read Literature Like a Professor, through simple analogies and explanations, shows his readers how much importance these details really have to a piece of literature, In any instance, a “quest” or sorts consists a few things: A quester, a place to go, a stated reason to go there, and challenges along the way (Foster 3), In Frankenstein, the protagonist (Frankenstein) goes through a number of so called “quests”. Frankenstein’s first quest in the story is simply to create life and defeat death. His challenges consist of trial and error in the making of this monster and his success quickly backfires and causes death to his loved ones.

In Joseph Conrad‘s Heart of Darkness, the main character, Marlow, also endures a quest to find Kurtz and in the process has to make his way past many obstacles on his way to Congo, Africa. The act of eating together, or communion, is a sign of peace and in a way saying “I’m with you, I like yount” and that form of community together is evident in both Heart of Darkness and in Frankenstein. In Heart of Darkness, as the men sit together on the boat and eat together, it shows their respect for one another. That while the Company is technically in charge, everyone is equal, In Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, this act of communion is also shown as the family in the cottage “sat down to eat” and exemplifies the love and caring they have for one another and the fondness the monster has for the family as he watches them wishfully.

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When hearing of vampires, one generally would generally think of a pale, white, evil, blood-sucking monster. However, in literature, there is a different type of vampire that strips away someone’s innocence and life as according to Foster. In Frankenstein, the vampire is the monster. He in essence sucked Victor‘s mental state of life away with the killing of so many loved ones, and eventually sucked away his physical life as he continued to evade Frankenstein and led him into deathly cold climates and a journey that would eventually lead him to death. In Heart of Darkness, the slave natives controlled by the company workers have their lives sucked away until their bodies are broken down to the point of death Foster says “If it’s square, it’s a sonnet”.  Mary Shelley uses a Sonnet to creatively show what the character is feeling. Taken from Coleridge‘s work “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” the sonnet further explains the fright that Victor Frankenstein feels.

“Doth walk in fear and dread” (Shelley 37) According to Mr. Foster, “there‘s no such thing as a wholly original work of literature” (Foster 29). That being said, one may find similarities between both Heart ofDarkness and Frankenstein. In both stories there are traumatic experiences that greatly affect the protagonistt In these two books those experiences mostly relate to death, For Marlow, it is the death of the Helmsman that had a spear enter his chest right next to the main character, and the death of Kurtz which led him to find his wife at the end. For Victor Frankenstein, the deaths of William, Justine, Henry, and last of all Elizabeth, all loved ones in his life, are the deaths that caused such anger and thoughts of revenge on his behalf. With William Shakespeare being one of, if not THE most noted playwright in history, influence from many of his plots and storylines are evident in many of today’s work.

Whether the inspiration in a story is taken subconsciously or not, one may find that many plots wind back similarly to that of Shakespeare‘s. In Frankenstein, the monster is forbidden to have a lover by his creator (Victor Frankenstein), Although the connection is not exact, it is impossible not to see the similarities between this scenario and that of Shakespeare’s own Romeo and Juliet where the protagonists are both forbidden to love by their parents. As Foster notably says, ““If something sounds too good to be true you know where it’s from” (Foster 46).” Along with Shakespeare, Foster points out that many allusions are made to the Bible in literature, With the Bible being such an important piece of Literature for thousands of years, it is not hard to make connections to it. The native slaves in Heart of Darkness are not a hard connection to make.

Thousands of years ago the Jewish people were kept by the pharaohs to do their bidding, much like the native slaves being kept by the company workers. Another comparison which is easily made in Frankenstein is that of a creatorl Just as God created the world and mankind in the Book of Genesis, Frankenstein also created a man and was referred to in the book by the monster as his creator: Although the monster recognizes and has respect for his creator in that aspect, he also goes against him many times throughout the story and throws a fit when he does not get his companion. Similar to how many of people may recognize a God and have respect for it, they continue to disobey and not live how their God may wish for them, As just previously noted, there is often close parallels between stories and theme’s among all literature and media. It is simple to make a comparison between two of just about any books you could ever name.

In Frankenstein, the monster leaves Victor clues to his path and even left a dead hare for him to eat in preparation for the tough road ahead. Just as the monster left clues and “breadcrumbs” so that Victor could maybe find him, Hansel and Gretel in their story also left a path so that they could find their way back home. This trail eventually ended up dooming Hansel and Gretel to capture by a witch, as the Monster’s trail led to Frankenstein’s eventual doom. The cornerstone otAncient Greek culture was the myth. One would think that something that important so long ago would have been forgotten “Myth is a body of story that matter” (Foster 65). Writers still use these myths today. The subtitle of Frankenstein, ‘The Modern Prometheus’, is an obvious allusion to Greek mythology Prometheus is the Titan who is attributed to creating mankind and stealing fire away from Zeus to give back to mankind.

Victor parallels Prometheus in creating the monster as Prometheus created mankind and stealing from God the power to create life, as Prometheus stole fire away from Zeus. So as a writer, say your main character was having a bad day. Would you make the weather sunny that day? Of course not! It’s going to be a gloomy, rainy day because that is what fits in the story! Such weather can add to the mood of the writing and often even foreshadow what is to come Such as in Heart ofDarkness, as Marlow’s boat approached a foggy, murky part of the river. One would think that something was about to happen, as it did! There was an attack from the natives Kind of think we saw it coming? In Frankenstein, as the two nemeses headed north, the climate rapidly changed and temperatures dropped down to icy conditions, representing Frankenstein‘s health and mental state.

There is always a reason behind the violence. Self-defense, jealousy, love, lust, you name it, Just as many upcoming advancedly placed students might be putting use to their fireplace a little early this year due to reasons of celebration and anger alike, the Monster of Frankenstein used violence as an expression of his anger and revenge towards his creator for not granting him a bride. While most see violence as an act of hate, violence can also be seen as an act of protection. In Heart ofDarkness, natives shoot at Marlow and his company out of fear to try and scare them away and protect their way of life. Asymbol can mean whatever you want it to mean. Foster says symbols can “involve a range of possible meanings and interpretations” . The definition of a symbol comes from your experiences, your imagination, and your intelligence. Therefore what something means to you could or could not mean the same to another.

The river in Heart ofDarkness could mean the same thing as it does in Mark Twain’s book The Adventures ofHuckIeberry Finn; the open road. The river Marlow travels on is the same. It is a chance for him to find himself, even if he doesn’t know it at the time. In Frankenstein, also, the fire the monster uses to stay warm with and create light in the night represents his continual learning and growing as he lives on. In our Christian culture today, readers sometimes find, as writers many times include, Christ-like figures in much literature, The most farfetched characters may be these Christ like figures While definitely did not have the personality or standards of Jesus Christ, Frankenstein‘s monster in some aspects could represent the Godly figure. Just as Christ did before his death, the Monster stated that his work in that world was nearly complete.

After mass amounts of suffering and agony, the “daemon” rid himself from the world for its betterment, just as Christ gave himself for the world also. Literary geography is typically about humans inhabiting spaces and at the same time the spaces that inhabit human” (Foster 165). The geography of a story, or poem, or play isn’t just the setting; it helps to shape our ideas about a work. The importance of the geography in Frankenstein is quite plain. The icy temperatures declining as they traveled farther north represents the ever declining level of emotion in Frankenstein’s being. Victor turns from someone who loves greatly and is very in touch with his feelings, to someone who is like the monster he created, hell bent on revenge. By bringing a blind character into the story, “the author wants to emphasize other levels of sight and blindness beyond the physical”. Mary Shelley does this with the character of De Lacey. De Lacey‘s first initial reaction to the monster is a judgment based on his speech and words as opposed to his appearance.

This allows us for a moment as readers to see into character of the monster and his true personality and feelings at the time and putting aside his physical aspects, Until of course the rest of the family showed up and did as anyone else would and panic in fear. Thomas C. Foster offers this to help readers understand classical writing, “don’t read with your eyes”. One must remember that a writer only knows what has happened in his time. There was no knowing of how cultural and social standards were going to change throughout history. Frankenstein, written in 1818, and Heart of Darkness, written in 1899 were just right for their times. The slavery shown in Heart ofDurkness was normal, Frankenstein could be seen by many as a warning to the society of how such rapid advances in technology as we are making, could be rapid paths leading to the destruction of our world.

It shows exactly how science can be a wonderful thing until messed with or used in the wrong way by the wrong people. Many of the religious inclination would say that the Victor’s experiences were direct consequences of him meddling with God’s own power of creation. Irony; the king of all comedy and tragedy. It adds “richness to the literary dish,” “It keeps us readers on our toes”. Foster puts it quite bluntly, “Irony Trumps everything” (Foster 235). In the Heart ofDarkness, Kurtz’s transformation from a civilized Englishman to the savage he became was ironic. Kurtz not only went to the Congo to for business, but also the reason for most everything in history: imperialism. His task was to assimilate the natives into English customs. With that he failed because he became a savage himself hoping that would set him free which led to his illness and eventual death. Victor Frankenstein refused to create a companion for his monster. In turn the monster killed Frankenstein’s loved ones, leaving Victor alone.

The thing that Victor Frankenstein created in turn led to his demise. Another ironic twist in Frankenstein is that of the lightning bolt, When Victor was about fifteen he witnessed a lightning bolt hit a tree, “I never beheld anything so utterly destroyed”. Interestingly enough, the fateful night when Frankenstein‘s monster ‘came alive’ a lightning bolt, which had previously destroyed, was the creature‘s source of life. It seems that most of us wish to just be able to read a book for the fun of it, No deep meaning, no crazy interpretations or symbolism While that does sound nice and all, sometimes one might think “Well what’s the fun in that?” Every writer has a purpose and some sort of inspiration behind their work They are trying to be heard and explained in a way that the ignorant would not be able to understand. They are reaching out to the intelligence of the world in hopes that they will make a difference. Thomas C. Foster with How the Read Literature Like a Professor helps connect us to those authors and complete the bridge some of us have not been able to cross.

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The Role of Allusions and Simple Analogies in the Novels, Frankenstein by Mary Shelley and Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad. (2023, May 19). Retrieved from

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