The Connections Between Genesis and Frankenstein
Every religion has its own creation myth. It is easily one of the biggest questions that a civilization would have to answer for themselves; how have we come to be? The most widely known of these creation stories is that of Adam and Eve. Though even that story seems to have been influenced or at least has similarities to Greeks’ own creation myth involving a titan named Prometheus. Nonetheless, thanks to the popularity and the saturation of Christianity and the undertaking of the King James Bible which acts as a sort of definitive version of the Bible, the influence of the work continues to permeate and influence the literary world. This paper will aim to draw connections between Genesis and Frankenstein.
Firstly, what is the Christian creation story laid out in Genesis? In short, after God “created the heaven and the earth,” (18) and populated the Earth with animals, he decided he needed a helper. Thus, on the sixth day, God, “created man in his own image” (19). ( “Helper” may not be the right word for what this creature was, but he did give “dominion… over every living thing that that moveth upon the land” (19), so there is an argument for God stepping down from control for a moment.) There are seemingly two versions of this told, one in which Adam and Eve are created simultaneously and the other in which Eve is made sometime later. For the point of this paper, we will focus on the latter in which Eve is made from Adam’s rib after “there was not found an help for him” (20). The last point of importance is their fall, the original sin being disobedience as they ate fruit from the tree of forbidden knowledge. For their insubordination, they are cast out the Garden with some other sizable punishments as well but not of any importance to us.
Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein is published in 1818 and therefore 207 after the King James Bible was published and yet the title page alone shows its influence. The full title of Mary’s book is “Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus.” While that doesn’t directly recall Genesis, it does reference a creation story, that of the Greeks, and allows us to think about the potential theme of the book. There is still more on the title page in the form of an epithet that quotes Milton’s Paradise Lost which itself is a retelling of Genesis. The creation of life is definitely in mind before starting this book. And Victor Frankenstein, the titular character does just that, created life. Victor says in volume I Chapter IV, “I had worked hard for nearly two years, for the sole purpose of infusing life into an inanimate corpse” (35). How then does he view this creation? He is “Unable to endure the aspect of the being I had created, I rushed out of the room…” (36). He rejects the creation, wants nothing to do with it, and is horrified by it. It is easy to see the resemblance here between God and Adam: Victor would represent God, the creator, and the Being is Adam, a creation. Another interesting way to look at this is the moment of aversion. God loves Adam up until he eats the forbidden fruit and understands right and wrong and Victor loves the Being and thinks it is beautiful just before giving it life.
In a way, one could look at the moment of Adam knowing as a moment of being animated, as truly coming to life. It even says of Adam and Eve after eating the fruit, “And the eyes of them both were opened…” (19) which seems to hint they their eyes weren’t quite open before as if in another state of mind. We can see God and Victor in the same light, both liked the idea of their creation, but were afraid of being overtaken or being equal to their creations. We can also look at Victor as Adam eventually creating another creature as a sort of never-ending loop a nod to the Prometheus story; a “turtles all the way down” situation. The ties to Genesis don’t stop at Adam though and there is an “Eve” in this story as well. After the Being tells Victor his story, he asks a simple favor: “I demand a creature of another sex” (102). He wants a bride, a companion, another beast. It’s a fair request, to be honest, Adam had Eve and every animal had a partner as well. The Being is already alone in life and a disgrace to humans, he just wants someone beside him to make his life less miserable. However, just there was the forbidden fruit in the Garden, this is a request that Victor just can’t quite bring himself to accept. A companion would remain the Being’s forbidden object of desire though, unlike Adam, he never gets his fruit.
To conclude, the story of Genesis is pretty clearly mirrored in Frankenstein. Both can teach us a lesson in unknown consequences and to always think ahead. Adam and Even were given one rule not to break and paid the price for breaking it. Victor got so obsessed with his experiment that he forgot to think about the long-term effects of what his creation could be capable of. In both stories, we leave with the sense that the creator could have done better to give his respective creature a fighting chance. Adam and Eve didn’t know right from wrong before breaking a rule and the Being wasn’t raised by Victor to learn right from wrong either. Perhaps both are highlighting the reliance on a father figure (creator) to guide us and support us but to also punish us accordingly when needed. Instead, the creators in both seem to fall short and abandon/banish their creatures during the time of their greatest need.
Texts used: Norton Anthology of World Masterpieces and Frankenstein (Norton Critical Edition)