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Frankenstein and Paradise Lost

The reason of existence and overall identity of the monster in Mary


Shelly’s Frankenstein is the most important conflict in the story. An argument can be
made that many other works that are present in the novel greatly contribute to the plot
and morality, but the one that is most important to the monster’s confusion is John
Milton’s Paradise Lost. From the very title page to the end of the story, Paradise Lost is
alluded to and plays a key role in the monster’s development and overall understanding
of the world surrounding him. The most critical aspect
of Frankenstein that Paradise Lost contributes to is the confusion of identity
throughout the story. Although there are many parallels between Paradise Lost and
Frankenstein, the most significant connection between the two is that of the monster as
both Adam and Satan. Through the conflicting roles of Adam and Satan, Paradise
Lost with Frankenstein mainly represents the confusion of the Monster’s identity and
whether he is truly a monster or just misunderstood.
The first appearance of Paradise Lost in Frankenstein is the epigraph on the title
page and probably represents the most important conflict in the story; why did Victor
create the monster? “Did I request thee, Maker, from my clay To mold me man? Did I
solicit thee from darkness to promote me?” (Shelley 20, -Paradise Lost). This is a
question posed by Adam to his creator, God, in Paradise Lost and represents Adam’s
confusion and uncertainty of why he was created. Adam questions his existence as well
as his view of his creator this couldn’t be a more fitting way to compare the monster to
Adam. In Frankenstein, the monster actually reads Paradise Lost and states that he
greatly compares the story to his own situation and this quote foreshadows the
monster’s inner conflict. Adam’s question is the most important allusion in comparing
the monster to Adam because, like Adam, he is uncertain as to why he was created and
why he had been created with no tie to any other being in existence. The two are both
alone and at the mercy of their creators and out of uncertainty both Adam and Satan are
unsure of whether they are good or evil in nature, or better yet what good and evil even
are. With that being said, there were many differences between Adam and the monster
regarding their creations that add even more questions of why Victor created him.
Unlike the monster, Adam was created in God’s image and likeness and as a beautiful
and perfect being. The monster was hideous and was created through disgusting
circumstances. In addition to this, God also aided and helped Adam and watched over
him whereas Victor was so disgusted by the monster that he abandoned it. The monster
even says to Victor:

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, being of a superior nature: but I was wretched, helpless, and alone (p.
116),

showing the monster rejecting the identity of Adam through his relationship with his
creator. The monster realizes from this that he couldn’t be like Adam, who was created
to be good in nature and was accepted by his creator, because Victor was horrified by his
creation. Thus the monster contrasts himself with Adam and begins to identify himself
with Satan.
Like Adam, Satan was originally created in God’s image and was at one point the most
beautiful angel in Heaven. But when Satan tried to overthrow the Kingdom of Heaven
and failed, God banished him to Hell and made him a hideous creature. The monster
relates himself to Satan because of their shared grotesque appearance and the fact that
their creators made them that way. Although Satan wasn’t originally made ugly like the
monster, Satan was always somewhat ugly on the inside through his hatred for his
creator that the monster also shared. The monster says to victor, “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” (p. 117). This
best represents how he is like Satan in sense of his relationship with his creator. From
this, the monster’s confusion goes even further than the question of why Victor created
him and makes the monster feel more so that he could not have been created to be good
if he could never be accepted by anyone including his creator.

Aside from the monster’s comparison of creation and overall appearance of himself to
Adam and Satan, another key part of Paradise Lost that the monster compares to his
situation is the presence of Eve in the story. In Paradise Lost Adam is originally created
alone, like the monster, with no ties to any other creation. Because Adam feels alone he
asks God to make him a female companion and God, out of love for Adam, complies and
creates Eve. After reading about this, the monster feels the need for a companion as
well and wonders why he was created alone. This shows how Adam can represent the
monster through his longing for not wanting to be alone and have some sort of
companion. When the monster says to Victor, “and sometimes I allowed my thoughts,
unchecked by reason, to ramble in the fields of Paradise, and dared to fancy amiable and
lovely creatures sympathizing with my feelings and cheering my gloom; their angelic
countenances breathed smiles of consolation” (p. 118), he shows somewhat of a human
side through his wanting of a companion and resembles the same longing as Adam in
the sense that they both just wanted a significant other to get them through their
situations.
But unlike God, Victor is not as generous in creating the monster a mate. Because
Victor views the monster as an evil and hideous being, he can’t imagine a positive
outcome of creating a female creature for the monster. Due to this, the monster hates
his creator even more thus contributing more to the argument that the monster is more
like Satan. “I remembered Adam’s supplication to his creator. But where was mine? He
had abandoned me; and, in the bitterness of my heart, I cursed him” (p. 118). The
hatred present in this statement shows that, possibly unlike Adam, the monster is
probably unworthy of a mate because of hatred he has for his creator and makes it hard
to be sympathetic to the monster. Satan, in his ugly and evil state, is like the monster in
that he is also alone. But unlike the monster, he never asked for a companion. But
because Victor didn’t create a companion for the monster, it can be interpreted that
maybe the monster was supposed to be on his own like Satan. However, the fact that
the monster longed for a companion, or simply something to compare himself to, shows
the human side of the monster and the possibility of good in his nature like that of
Adam. But because the monster was filled with hatred from being alone and
abandoned, his side of evil can be interpreted to show how he is more like Satan, which
all leads back to the inner conflict of the monster of who he is better represented by:
Adam or Satan.
All in all, the fact that the monster reads Paradise Lost is almost imperative to the
conflict of Frankenstein through the presence of both Adam and Satan in the monster.
The story is based around the question of whether the monster is really a monster
and Paradise Lost contributes to this basis because it adds to the confusion of this
question. If the monster despises his creator and is meant to be alone, how is he like
Adam? But if the monster longs for companionship and acceptance, and doesn’t wish to
be seen as evil, how is he like Satan? These are the questions
that Paradise Lost contributes to in Frankenstein and through this the monster is
ultimately confused as to who or what he really is. In conclusion, the presence
of Paradise Lost in Frankenstein shows the monster’s confusion of identity through the
monster’s comparison to the characters of Adam and Satan.