Milton, Geo-politics and Romantic Procrastination in Scotland! (Frankenstein, Chapters 15-21)



Here is one of the most fascinating segments of Shelley’s novel, where the Monster, far from the image of the lumbering idiot that Universal Studios imprinted upon popular culture, eloquently relates his tale and reveals a depth of thought and soul that is heartbreaking. Actually, this all began at around Chapter 10 – where the Monster stalks, helps, learns from and is rejected by a poor and virtuous family, the De Laceys-  but I will address it here.

My takeaways:

  • Could it beeee..?: The Monster learned how to read, and his favorite book was Paradise Lost by John Milton. He was the outcast of Heaven, shunned by his creator, and suddenly Satan seems like the figure with which to identify. This is natural; and given the Promethean themes of Frankenstein, I wonder what light the Monster was meant to be bringing to the world that he should be so punished for it. I also find it interesting because a strain of modern Satanism has taken Milton’s text as an important part of their philosophical canon.
  • Orientalism: The DeLaceys are soon joined by an exotic woman named Safie. As much as I like to think it’s the poor beleaguered daughter from Absolutely Fabulous, escaping her monstrous mother and her partner-in-crime, Safie was in fact a Turkish woman escaping execution- a refugee – escaping the strictness of Muslim religion and oppression of women, etc etc.  These are ideas and stereotypes that are all too prevalent today, and the United States is in internal crisis over political refugees from Muslim nations so this struck me.
  • The History of the World Part I: The Monster also takes up a book on world history called  Ruins of Empires by one C.F. Volney, where you get unfortunate crap like a mention of “slothful Asians” and where the Monster also exhibits enough empathy about the effects of colonialism for this: I heard of the discovery of the American hemisphere and wept with Safie over the hapless fate of its original inhabitants.
  • The Child Murder: Lest you forget, Frankenstein is a horror novel. Vic’s little brother, a child, is murdered. That is incredibly horrifying and as a father, I was not terribly comfortable reading this – not that its necessary to be a father to be horrified by such a thing.
  • Enter The Bride: The Monster wants a mate and his own bunch of l’il kids to look after. Well, ultimately Vic is filled with horrifying visions of little monsters running around supplanting the human race, and says no. Why did this strike me? This idea added to the Frankenstein mythos in grand fashion (The Bride of Frankenstein) and it also is a major anxiety in the Blade Runner series, about which I’ll dedicate a blog post.
  • Self Obsessed and Sexy: Poor Vic. The Monster is furious that he doesn’t get a GF and vows to ‘be with him on his wedding night.’ Vic thinks it’s all about him, but as he’ll find out, the Monster wants to take out all the innocents around him. That’s some horror. So he postpones nuptials to Elizabeth and takes his beloved friend Henry Clerval on a trip all over Scotland – and you’re perfectly justified in making of this what you will. I ship Henry and Vic, and sadly the Monster rightfully assumes that Henry is loved by Vic, and thus kills Henry any of Vic’s dreams of a life together. Oh yeah, Vic is part of another courtroom trial where he is acquitted of Henry’s murder. How conveeeeenient.




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