Frankenstein

by

Mary Shelley

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Frankenstein: Situational Irony 1 key example

Chapter 5
Explanation and Analysis—Frankenstein's Creation:

Highly ambitious, Victor Frankenstein channels his extensive scientific knowledge in order to create a “new and improved” version of man. However, the exact opposite occurs, as he creates a degraded version of man instead. In a twist of fate, Victor ends up repelled by his creation. In Chapter 5, he states:

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? 

Through this instance of situational irony, the novel offers a lesson on the limits of scientific discovery and human fallibility. Though nineteenth-century readers might be primed to expect that the pursuit of scientific knowledge would lead to beneficial outcomes for humanity, in this case the pursuit leads instead to "catastrophe" and the creation of a "wretch." Victor, believing himself to be all-powerful, abandons his responsibilities and relationships in the pursuit of achievement. This backfires, both for him and for everyone he loves. In the end, Victor’s work is a failure. Due to his actions, the Monster becomes a danger to society, not a benefit. Frankenstein, as an allegory, warns that actions have consequences and that humans cannot always predict the future or outcome of even well-intended actions.