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Mary Shelley's Frankenstein and John Milton's Paradise Lost Essay

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Mary Shelley's Frankenstein and John Milton's Paradise Lost



“Forth reaching to the Fruit, She pluck’d, she eat:/ Earth
felt the wound, and Nature from her seat/ Sighing through
all her Works gave signs of woe,/ That all was lost […]”
(PL 8. 781-784)

In the gothic novel Frankenstein, Mary Shelley weaves an intricate web of allusions through her characters’ expedient desires for knowledge. Both the actions of Frankenstein, as well as his monster allude to John Milton’s Paradise Lost. Book eight of Milton’s story relates the tale of Satan’s temptation and Eve’s fateful hunger for knowledge. The infamous Fall of Adam and Eve introduced the knowledge of good and evil into a previously pristine world. With one swift motion sin was birthed, and the perfection of the earth was swept away, leaving pain and malevolence in its wake. The troubles of Victor Frankenstein begin with his quest for knowledge, and end where all end: death. The characters in Frankenstein are a conglomeration of those in Paradise Lost. Frankenstein parallels Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, as well as God, while his monster acts an Eve/Satan mixture.

The most predominant theme of this novel is the characters’ ever-present search for knowledge. It is this thirst for learning that spurs Frankenstein’s psychotic attempts to give life to inanimate tissue, ultimately causing his demise. Frankenstein, in this way, mirrors the character of Eve in Paradise Lost. Eve lives her most peaceful life in the Garden of Eden, her only job being to tend the plants in the Garden which she loves so much. In the novel Frankenstein, Frankenstein lives in an Eden of his own, though macabre in nature. His “garden of life” is actually mo...


... middle of paper ...


...was influenced greatly by Milton’s work, evidence of which lies in the eerie similarities between the two. The allusions to Paradise Lost give the reader a story by which to subconsciously compare the characters of Frankenstein, thus also reiterating one of the main themes; the quest for knowledge and the resultant death. Following the death of Frankenstein, his monster utters his own last words. “‘But soon,’ he cried, […] ‘I shall die. […] I shall ascend my funeral pyre triumphantly, and exult in the agony of torturing flames’” (225).


Works Cited

Milton, John. Paradise Lost. 1667. Electronic Text Center,
University of Virginia Library. 20 Nov. 2005.
id=MilPL67.sgm&images=images/modeng&data=/texts/english/
modeng/parsed&tag=public&part=8&division=div1>

Shelley, Mary. Frankenstein. 1818. New York: Penguin Classics,
2003.


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