Contents Index

I ought to be thy Adam; but I am rather the fallen angel, whom thou drivest from joy for no misdeed

The Creature delivers a sudden telescoping and radical interpretation of the mythic text that stands behind this entire narrative, Milton's Paradise Lost. The point behind the Creature's distinction is that Adam fell by knowingly commiting a sinful deed, whereas Satan, in contrast, in this reading was intended to fall from heaven as an intrinsic part of the conception of God's new creation. Most readers of Milton's epic would not countenance a reading of Satan as more sinned against than sinning, but it is the general interpretation that Percy Bysshe Shelley offers in the famous passage of his "Defence of Poetry" devoted to the poem. Since that document dates from 1821, five years after the beginning of Frankenstein, however well it glosses the antagonism of Victor and his Creature, it ought not to be read in retrospect as explaining this usage. One might, however, wish to argue that the representation in Mary Shelley's novel either influenced her husband's interpretation or was worked out as a reading in tandem with him. Whatever the case, the emphasis is unmistakeable here, that the Creature sees himself as like Satan, "irrevocably excluded" from bliss, which -- although Milton (in Satan's soliloquy on Mount Niphates, IV.32ff.) tries to finesse the issue -- is how received theology forced him to represent the fallen archangel in his epic.