There are stories and ideas which resonate through centuries. In this third blog post considering the NT production of Frankenstein I will consider the way the story has gained mythic status, but also another idea in the play which could be argued to be a modern myth. In my last blog post I suggested that the blind man De Lacey, while being kind to the Creature, could also be argued to have some responsibility for some of the ideas he introduced to the Creature’s still latent mind. I have already discussed the potential consequences of reading of the violent revenge enacted by characters in Plutarch’s Lives, but watching a second showing of the play, with Jonny Lee Miller in the role of the Creature I was also struck by another strong influence from De Lacey.
The Creature is talking about being alone, being solitary after watching Felix and Agatha so happy together. De Lacey asserts that even though the Creature is poor:
De Lacey: One day, though, you will find someone who will make you the wealthiest man in creation.
Creature: Will I?
De Lacey: Yes! A good man deserves it. You are a good man. Someone will love you, whoever you are.
This scene is followed immediately by the Creature’s first dream of a female creature companion, an idea which becomes an obsession and drives much of the rest of the action of the play. Watching the play again, particularly with Lee Miller as the Creature who seemed to emphasise more of his sexuality, I wondered whether the planting of this idea could actually be considered more harmful. The idea that humans (or creatures) are entitled to a mate, someone who will love us whoever we are, is one of the most pervasive in literature and more popular culture including films, pop music and television shows. But I’m not sure if it’s true.
I wanted to put a paragraph in here about the recent Channel 4 show ‘The Undateables’. The premise of showing people with disabilities or disfigurements trying to find a partner resonates in a way with the Creature but I found the whole idea of the show so distasteful and voyeuristic that I never watched it so I’m not really informed enough to have an opinion. One review seems to suggest it wasn’t quite as dreadful as I imagined, and while I have sympathy (empathy even) for anyone who is unhappily single, I know there are a raft of reasons why some people don’t seem to end up in a happy couple.
I’ve probably written enough already about my own lack of contentment being single, and I have talked to many friends in a similar boat over the years. Some have been absolutely convinced that God has got a partner out there somewhere for them, and indeed, one of those has just got married and another seems in a good new relationship. I’m not saying their faith isn’t justified – certainly if they are convinced that God has said that they will find someone to marry then I wouldn’t want to argue against anything they are sure God has said. Well, anything that seems consistent to God’s character anyway. But I don’t see anything that promises that for everyone, and I’m afraid the stereotype of the tragic older spinster with a cat is not totally without foundation… (goes to let the cat out).
In real life it seems like some people are blessed with a partner, some take the partner they have for granted, some struggle in their relationships and others end up alone, whether happily or with some regret. While those gifted with talents and good looks may be more quickly paired off, these relationships don’t always last, and there certainly doesn’t seem to be a correlation between being good and being loved. Some of the most hardened criminals still have partners who stand by them, while many of those who devote their lives to the service of others stay single by choice or as part of the spiritual lifestyle they choose.
In the play Dr Frankenstein’s fiancée/new bride is perhaps the most clearly ‘good’ character, waiting patiently for Victor to finish his work and even offering to befriend the Creature. Her tragedy follows the Creature’s revenge after he is denied his own chance for a partner. We are clearly meant to question whether Victor could ever have loved her as she deserved or hoped. My ignorance about Mary Shelley and her own ideas about Romanticism has led to some interesting reading on Wikipedia. It sounds like she was critiquing the prevalent opinion of the day arguing against individualist and egotistic Romanticism in favour of a more political and radical perspective, but with an underlying pessimism.
Shelley created a creation myth without God; one which raises challenging questions about parenting, nature and nurture, scientific ‘progress’ and our need for love. Had the Creature been properly loved by his creator Dr Frankenstein, his need for love from others would have been far less acute. In parallel, perhaps this suggests that our society’s obsession or craving for romantic love would be less powerful if we knew ourselves to be loved by our parents or a creator God. I’m looking at the story of Ruth again for some sermon preparation, and considering how she only ended up with the good man Boaz after she’d sacrificed her own needs to serve her mother-in-law and committed to pursuing the God of Israel with her whole heart. Ruth seemed to be giving up her best chances of marrying again but she actually ended up with a respected, wealthy husband and great grandmother to David and ancestor of Christ.
I guess to some people, Ruth is just a myth, and the God she pledged to follow is just another interesting literary reference. When I studied Paradise Lost at school the teacher struggled to explain all the Biblical references which went so far over many other students’ heads. There’s certainly a power and influence from biblical stories and characters even if you don’t believe the source is truth and life. I like the verse at the end of John which says how the whole world would not have room for the books that could be written about what Jesus has done. I guess we’ve all made rather more room now with iBooks and Kindles and blogs and so on. But there are still plenty more stories to tell.