SECRETS. By: Latham Speasmaker Sarah Durfee. 2002, Form B.
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Often in literature a character’s success in achieving goals depends on keeping a secret and divulging it only at the right moment, if at all. Choose a novel or play of literary merit that requires a character to keep a secret. In a well-organized essay, briefly explain the necessity for secrecy and how the character's choice to reveal or keep the secret affects the plot and contributes to the meaning of the work as a whole.
Our prompt from 2002 asks the writer to explain a necessity for secrecy in the novel and how the character’s decision on revealing or keeping that secret affects the plot and meaning of the work as a whole.
Keeping a secret relates to Frankenstein in how Dr. Frankenstein discovers the secret of reanimating dead tissue. Instead of revealing this new knowledge to the general public, he takes it upon himself to make a new “human” specimen and reanimating it, which in turn results in him creating a monster that haunts him until his death.
“I paused, examining and analyzing all the minutiae of causation, as exemplified in the change from life to death, and death to life, until from the midst of this darkness, a sudden light broke in upon me– a light so brilliant and wondrous, yet so simple, that while I became dizzy with the immensity of the prospect which it illustrated, I was surprised that among so many of genius who had directed their inquiries towards the same science, that I alone should be reserved to discover so astonishing a secret” (Shelley 30-31).
In this excerpt, Victor has just discovered the secret that eluded other men of his profession, the causation of life and reanimating dead tissue. He chooses to keep this knowledge as his own power, leading him to create a “human being” that becomes a monster, becoming more or a curse than that of the original revelation of knowledge.
“I was firmly convinced in my own mind that Justine, and indeed every human being, was guiltless of this murder… My tale was not one to announce publicly; its astounding horror would be looked upon as madness by the vulgar. Did anyone indeed exist, except I, the creator, who would believe, unless his senses convinced him, in the existence of the living monument of presumption and rash ignorance that I had let loose upon the world?” (Shelley 53).
Victor is forced to keep his secret of the existence of his terrible monster, who actually murdered William, as Justine is condemned and executed falsely for this crime. Although he wished to show the error of the court’s condemnation, he knew he would be perceived as a madman if he suggested such an existence of a creature. Had he also not kept the secret of this creature’s existence that he was responsible for, he could of saved Justine from her terrible fate.
In Frankenstein, the metaphysical secret, the ability to reanimate dead tissue, intrinsically influences beyond its initial conception as it leads to Frankenstein’s eventual demise; the death of his friends and family, the loss of ardor in the work that had been his life’s goal, and his eventual transformation into the horrible monster that he had created.
When Frankenstein learns of the secret of creation of life, he decides to keep its knowledge to himself and decides to construct a creature of enormous stature in order to further show his intelligence in brilliance in finding the secret of life and controlling it for himself. This decision of keeping the secret as pride and glory for himself ends up becoming a curse as the glorious creature which he wished to use to further his glory ends up being a monstrosity, leading to the deaths of those that he loved and the destruction of any part of humanity left in him.
When Justine is in trial for the accused murder of young William Frankenstein, Dr. Frankenstein is put in a state of agony. The poor doctor, already knowing Justine to be falsely accused and the creature being the daemon behind all the darkness transpiring in Geneva, must keep the knowledge of the creature’s existence to himself as not to be deemed a madman, leaving Justine to inevitably be executed for her false crime. This agony that Frankenstein feels begins his growth of loathing towards the monstrosity that he has created, leading him to the eventual destruction of his humanity.
“During this conversation I had retired to the corner of the prison room, where I could conceal the horrid anguish that possessed me… the poor victim, who on the morrow was to pass the awful boundary between life and death, felt not, as I did, such deep and bitter agony” (Shelley 59).
In this quote, Mary Shelley emphasizes the somber and mournful tone using words such as horrid, anguish, awful, bitter, and agony. By using words with such a negative connotation, Shelley is able to convey to the reader the agony Victor feels knowing that the creature he created is responsible for not only William’s death, but Justine’s as well.
“Thus spole my prophetic soul, as torn by remorse, horror, and despair, I beheld those I loved spend vain sorrow upon the graves of William and Justine, the first hapless victims to my unhallowed arts” (Shelley 60).
Throughout the novel Victor constantly struggles with coming to terms with his creation and what he’s done. From the first time he laid eyes on the creature, he’s disgusted and can’t believe he’s created something so vile and abominable. The death of Justine and his brother William is almost unbearable for Victor, as he is overwhelmed with depression and guilt at the thought that he himself is responsible for the death of these two innocent souls. These inner conflicts present throughout the novel show that Victor’s obsession with the reanimation of dead tissue turned out to be a curse, not a blessing.
“Begone! I will not hear you. There can be no community between you and me; we are enemies. Begone, or let us try our strength in a fight in which one must fall” (Shelley 69).
“Believe me, Frankenstein: I was benevolent; my soul glowed with love and humanity; but am I not alone, miserably alone?” (Shelley 69).
Although Frankenstein is written in first person, throughout the novel Mary Shelley switches between Victor’s point of view as well as the creature’s. By doing this, Shelley gives the reader the opportunity to see both sides of the story. When reading from Victor’s point of view, you see how Victor struggled with the guilt and depression that came from creating the creature, and how disgusted he is with his creation. Reading from the Creature’s point of view shows you how alone the creature feels, and makes you want to sympathize with him. Ultimately in the end the reader is left with the decision of if the creature is really a monster, or just a lost soul looking for acceptance in the harsh world he so deeply wants to be a part of.