Frankenstein: Fate Vs. Free Will

Victor the Victorious? Or Victor the Victim? We can’t seem to decide which name better fits Victor Frankenstein. But we’re pretty sure whichever we land on will be his WWE name. Something tells us he’s rooting against Victor the Victim.

LiteratureFrankenstein

Transcript

00:19

Frankenstein a la Shmoop

00:23

Fate versus Free Will

00:24

[ whale sounds ]

00:26

Fate versus free will is one of these themes

00:28

that pops up in so much literature.

00:31

And it's really at the basis of a lot of,

00:34

you know, Christian doctrine.

00:36

So let's take a look at Victor's name.

00:40

"Victor" means, you know, "the winner."

00:43

But it also sounds a little bit like "victim."

00:45

So the question is

00:47

is Victor a victim of fate?

00:52

Was he destined to the end that he had?

00:55

Or is he -- Does he come out victorious?

00:58

Is he the one who is --

01:00

Has the agency and makes the choices?

01:02

And then we ask the same thing

01:04

of the Monster, who, you know, again,

01:06

we conflate with Victor.

01:07

Where is this question of -- Kind of it comes back

01:09

to the tabula rasa question.

01:11

Where is, you know, was he destined to be this way?

01:14

Or did he make these choices?

01:15

Is Frankenstein's monster

01:17

a victim of Victor Frankenstein having abandoned him

01:21

or was it his own choice to kill all these people?

01:25

You know, this is a question we can't answer.

01:27

We can't get into Mary Shelley's brain

01:29

and know exactly what she was thinking.

01:30

But one way that we can use the text

01:33

to help us determine

01:35

is if we look at the two different editions of the book,

01:38

which we talked about way back

01:40

at the beginning of the course.

01:41

We have the 1818 edition

01:43

and the 1831 edition.

01:45

The last line of the 1818 edition

01:49

has the characters actively doing things.

01:53

Pushing themselves off of the raft and

01:56

Walton uses the word "I."

01:58

You know, uses this kind of, we call it agency,

02:02

that the people are acting and actively doing something.

02:05

In the 1831 version,

02:09

not so much.

02:09

Everything passively happens to them at the end.

02:13

So we kind of can see that maybe

02:16

in the original version,

02:18

Shelley did think, you know,

02:19

"It's these people or these characters' fault.

02:20

They could've done something differently.

02:22

They made these choices."

02:24

Then, with the help of Percy,

02:26

who helped edit to the 1831 version,

02:30

we end up with,

02:32

"No. It's fate. They were destined to be this way

02:35

and they couldn't have done anything differently."

02:38

If we're thinking biographically, again,

02:40

we have the woman saying

02:41

in 1818 when she wrote it on her own,

02:43

saying, you know, "Yes, we have agency.

02:46

We have free will. We can make changes."

02:48

And then Percy comes along,

02:49

helps out a little bit, and all of a sudden,

02:51

you know, "Nope. Whatever happens happens."

02:53

So there's a lot you can read into that.

02:55

Interesting. Okay.

02:57

That was Frankenstein with Dr. Deb,

02:59

PHD from Shmoop.

03:02

What is fate?

03:03

What is free will?

03:05

Does Frankenstein take one side over the other?

03:08

How has the message changed

03:09

between the two editions of Frankenstein?

03:14

Tales of Frankenstein