Frankenstein and the Inescapability of the Creator-Creature Relation

In Mary Shelley’s masterpiece Frankenstein, we learn of a young scientist, Victor Frankenstein, consumed with the desire to unlock the mystery of life. After many nights in his laboratory, he manages to bring a horrendous looking creature, put together from dead human parts, to life. Instead of exhilaration, Frankenstein is filled with horror. Listen to the fateful moment:[1]

It was already one in the morning; the rain pattered dismally against the panes, and my candle was nearly burnt out, when, by the glimmer of the half-extinguished light, I saw the dull yellow eye of the creature open; it breathed hard, and a convulsive motion agitated its limbs.

At that moment, looking into the dull yellow eyes of the creature he had brought to life, young Frankenstein learns something of the sacredness of life. This was supposed to be the moment of his greatest triumph! He had succeeded where no one before had done so! Yet he had played with a power that he could not control. His reaction:[2]

How can I describe my emotions at this catastrophe, or how delineate the wretch whom with such infinite pains and care I had endeavoured to form? His limbs were in proportion, and I had selected his features as beautiful. Beautiful! Great God! His yellow skin scarcely covered the work of muscles and arteries beneath; his hair was of a lustrous black, and flowing; his teeth of pearly whiteness; but these luxuriances only formed a more horrid contrast with his watery eyes, that seemed almost of the same colour as the dun-white sockets in which they were set, his shriveled complexion and straight black lip.

Image this moment. The creature looks up to his creator, seeking affirmation and love, but it is met instead with horror and disgust. The creature searches the eyes of his creator, wondering why? For what purpose did my creator make me? But no answer is forthcoming. Frankenstein runs out of the room. The creature follows to his bedchamber, mutters some incoherent sounds, and reaches an arm toward his creator, only to have Frankenstein evade him and run out of the building. I don’t want to ruin the story for you if you haven’t read this classic, but I will say: from the moment of his creation, the creature is intimately connected to his creator. As much as Frankenstein wants to deny it (or forget it), he and his creation are inescapably bound together. Not only did the young Frankenstein deny a relationship to his creation, but he also denied the creature a purpose. The creature tried in vain to find favor with members of the human race, and because he had not been given any purpose in life, he made one up himself: to destroy his creator.

Contrast this with the story of creation as detailed in Genesis Chapter One. We learn that God first creates a place: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” (Genesis 1:1) But, God didn’t stop there, next (among other things) he creates a people: “God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” (Genesis 1:27) And finally, God gave his people a purpose: “God blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.’” (Genesis 1:28) And, as God beheld his work, he did not respond in horror like the young Frankenstein. Rather,  “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.” (Genesis 1:31) God’s creation is very good. He loves it. He loves you and me. He wants to have relationship with us. He has given us a purpose.

What is interesting is that we, in a kind of reverse Frankenstein, have rejected our Creator. But God, as a good and loving God, would have nothing of it. Creator and creature are inescapably linked together. We can no more deny our Creator than Frankenstein could deny his creature. This is why religion will never go away—there is no neutral, “secular” ground in the universe—all of us respond to God in either humble praise and adoration or in rebellion.

[1] Mary Shelley, Frankenstein (London: Penguin Books, 1985), 105.

[2] Ibid.

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