Frankenstein is considered one of the pivotal books employed in modern literature for its compelling and rousing story that spawns myriad renditions. It is a fascinating science fiction tale that was written by Mary Shelley in 1818 but was initially published anonymously.
It was much later that the author was identified and she took that opportunity to revise the book, incorporating a number of changes in 1831. Frankenstein’s kernel reveals Robert Walton, an explorer who is travelling towards the Arctic Ocean after departing from the northern coast of Russia.
Walton keeps an account of his journey by writing letters to his sister who lives in London. In his letters, he describes how one day he saw a hideous form take flight across the ice only to rescue Victor Frankenstein, the creator of the monster, from hypothermia and starvation. Frankenstein chronicles his life to Walton and that account forms the foundation of book as Walton relays them to his sister in epistolary form, where a story is told through letters.
The book seems to make use of previous writings like Paradise Lost– one of the books that the monster reads, Shakespeare and Don Quixote– for instance the Arabian lover and the sequence of the monster’s adoption. The author uses the book to satirize the concept of modern science and to reveal the converse perspective of experimentation.
Great Expectations by Charles Dickens is a story of a young orphan named Pip, who is the protagonist as well as the narrator of the story. The book accounts for Pip’s life since he was 7 years old until he is in his mid thirties. The book itemizes the focal points of Pip’s life, and identifies the lessons he learns from every encounter.
Pip lives with his sister who is married to the blacksmith Joe and one day while he’s at the graveyard engrossed in thought, he is confronted by an escaped convict who places demands on Pip and threatens to kill him if he does not follow the convict’s instructions. Pip though fearful treats the convict well by bringing him food and follows his instructions to the latter.
Pip is offered an opportunity to work for Miss Havisham, a spiteful woman who detests men since her bridegroom failed to show up on her wedding day. Miss Havisham has an adopted daughter named Estella whom she raises to break men’s hearts and be spiteful of all men.
Pip is attracted to Estella but the young girl treats pip cruelly with encouragement from her mother. Pip yearns to be a gentleman in order to impress Estella and his ambition materializes when an anonymous person wills Pip a fortune. Pip assumes Miss Havisham is the benefactor and moves to London where he learns the art of rich living and becomes a gentleman.
Frankenstein has three types of narrators due to the fact that the author uses different types of narrations to provide the reader with a multifaceted perspective. The first narrator is Robert Walton, who acts as a dispassionate party in order to give the reader an objective point of view to the narration. The author uses epistolary form, a device which is applied when Walton conveys the prevalent occurrences through the series of letter that he writes to his sister (Marilyn, 1994).
The second narrator is Victor Frankenstein who gives the reader a subjective view on his background. Victor narrates on his own childhood, upbringing, ventures and the unfortunate proceedings which culminated in his auspicious conception of the monster.
The third narrator is the monster and is introduced when the creature breaks off Victor’s narration. The monster gives an account of his existence before victor once more resumes continuing to illustrating what emerged from the creation of monster to the very end. The narrative is once again taken by Walton who provides an ending to the tale.
Walton’s letters are present at the introduction and the conclusion of the narrative reinforcing the theme of nurturing, and a framing device by the author relatively allows for a story to be told within a story. Walton therefore allows for a parallel view of both victor and the monster so as for readers to make their own moral observations and conclusions in reference to the monster and its creator.
Great Expectations conversely has only one narrator, the adult version of Pip who is the first-person narrator (Marilyn, 1994). Pip recounts the events of his younger life from memory and gives his account in his own voice which articulately identifies his emotions as a young boy. Pips recalls intimate details about the voice tones and parlances from his past including the deaf Aged Parent’s loud repetitions, the predictability of Jagger’s speech and the bucolic accent of Magwitch and Orlick.
Through identifying and relating to the narrators in Frankenstein and Great Expectations, readers are able to objectively discern the key arguments in order to support or contradict the narrator’s perspective (Chesterton, 1988). One of the key arguments in Frankenstein is the unpredictability of experimental science which led to the creation of the monster.
Victor Frankenstein while at university devised a way to create a human being only to inadvertently create the monster (Marilyn, 1994). Victor believes that the application of science can bring new life but the current consequence is not laudable.
The third narrator who is the monster brings forth another dimension to the argument by conveying human emotions such as loneliness for lacking friend and destitution for being rejected and hated which leads to the destructive behavior seen in him (Hodges, 1983). Unlike Great Expectations the reader is presented with three view points, two of which are contradictory hence the reader is provides with an open ended understanding to as a basis to derive an opinion.
Great Expectations is a reflective book of Pip, the first person narrator who gives the reader an insight into his past that consequently builds up to his current stature (Dunn, 1978). The narrator gives account of his compassion to a convicted criminal and the mistreatment he received from those close to him while still young. Contrary to Frankenstein, this book identifies with the rewards that come from good deeds and compassion together with perseverance (Dunn, 1978).
In both tales there is eminence of the narrators’ struggle against the monsters spawned out of carelessly human ambition. People create monsters to satisfy their gluttonous ambitions, owing to the power they bestowed upon the monsters they become irrelevant in controlling or subduing the monsters; hence the monsters haunt them and destroy both the creators and the created in the process (Chesterton, 1988).
Frankenstein strives to tame the monster born out of his imagination, the massive creature created out of his scientific connotation and human skeletons; his experimentation brings forth what would not have entered his mind previously and this throws a challenge on the creator as he is awed by his creation (Behrendt, 1995). His creativity becomes his enemy for it renders him helpless in the face of what his imagination has spawned (Brennan, 1989).
Pip on the other hand faces another monster which is Estella. Notably, Estella is the monsters created by Miss Havisham as a tool through which she would destroy men; as Herbert observes; “Estella had been created to wreak revenge on all male sex” (Dickens, 1946). The monsters created in both tales harm themselves and their creators by becoming despicably uncontrollable (Brennan, 1989).
In myriad ways, Frankenstein illuminates narrators who ape the ideas and events of the author in diverse ways (Hodges, 1983). The knowledge of the author and her life experiences creates a stand point through which the tale can be reviewed. Frankenstein is a story written in relation to the major occurrences which mired the life of the author (Marilyn, 1994).
Mary Shelley lost her mother at a tender age after which her father remarried and his attention was diverted to the new wife. Like the monster created by Doctor Victor Frankenstein the author experienced the agonizing melancholy of lacking parental love, her own father just like Victor became distant when her mother died (Behrendt, 1995).
Even in the time when Mary was in dire need for money during her first pregnancy her father could not bail her out, he refused to have anything to do with her. This is seen clearly as illuminated in Frankenstein where the monster appeals for love and attention from its maker to no avail (Hodges, 1983). Though the monster avenges for its creators misdeeds, Mary does not avenge for whatever her father did to her, she only chose a distinct course of life distant form her father (Brennan, 1989).
When the two antagonizing narrators meet in Frankenstein where the monster confronts its creator victor on an icy glacier; it pours out it heart to the creator and blames him for its isolation and abandonment (Marilyn, 1994). Ironically, Frankenstein does not see the monster as his responsibility, he did not devote his time and resources to love it and care for it just as the parents do.
Even though Victor was well attuned to how the parents should love and care for their children and as evidenced on Frankenstein where he states that his parents expressed “The deep consciousness of what they owed towards the being to which they had given life.” (Dunn, 1978).
Great Expectations on the other hand does not have two opposing narrators rather it takes on a single sided perspective. One advantage Frankenstein has over Great Expectations is the three dimension point of view perpetuated by the narrators which gives the reader a chance to make an unbiased opinion of the narrators based on their personality, expression and argument (Behrendt, 1995).
Great Expectations and Frankenstein illumine into the narrators’ basic requirements of life, and the relationship between the creator and the created beings. Moreover, the tales delve into establishing the collective need for love, affection and acceptance from their homes and their society.
While Pip in Great Expectations aspires to win the love of Estella, the monster in Frankenstein yearns for love and acceptance from the society and its creator. Both the creators have selfish motives and are not willing to face up the repercussions accruing to the monsters of their creations (Chesterton, 1988).
The two epic tales bear a familiar resemblance where the narrators find themselves tethered in their own made confinement created by the monsters they devised for their own delight only to be thwarted in the end (Graham 1982). Explored are similar themes of love and despair, loss and depression, all those elements make human life real.
Nevertheless, the Frankenstein tale comes out as a gothic tale; work of creative imagination whilst in itself it tackles matter which affects human real life (Marilyn 1994). On the other hand Great Expectations is more real and people can identify with it because there is nothing bizarre about its plot and characterization as seen in Frankenstein (Graham, 1982).
Another argument strongly expressed in both books is the conquest of fear by the narrators (Dunn, 1978). Robert Walton is confronted by a frightful being, a monster whose mere sight petrifies the narrator. Walton however musters enough courage to allow him to chronicle the recount conveyed by the monster about its life, thoughts and experiences (Chesterton, 1988). The narrator Pip in Great Expectations is confronted by a similar kind of fear when he encounters an escaped convict in the graveyard at night.
The convict threatens the younger Pip with death if he reveals the convict’s alcove and even under tremendous dread, the narrator proceeds to cater for the felon bringing him food and water (Dickens, 1945). In both cases, it is evident that the narrators even under trepidation went ahead to perform what they felt was right which is indicative of courage, subjugation of fright and the confidence of the narrators in their actions.
Both tales provide a detailed perspective of the narrators’ thoughts, emotions and beliefs which provide the basis of their actions. Frankenstein presents a three dimensional view of the tale through the expressions of the three narrators. The narrator Walton gives readers an unbiased outlook of the circumstances surrounding the monster’s existence to allow readers to draw their own conclusions.
Great Expectations on the other hand has the narrator as Pip who gives an account of his childhood experiences that eventually lead to his current position. The narrators in both books reveal deep emotional undertones in their voices which helps the reader better understand and contemplate their surrounding and hence deeper understanding of the books.
Behrendt, S. (1995) Mary Shelley, Frankenstein, and the Woman Writer’s Fate. Hanover and London: University Press of New England.
Brennan, Matthew, C. (1989) The Landscape of Grief in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Studies in the Humanities, 13:1 Vol 23.
Chesterton, G. K. (1988) Appreciations and criticisms of the works of Charles. University of Toronto: London.
Dickens, C. (1946) Great Expectations.1861. Ed. Margaret Cardwell. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
Dunn, Albert A. (1978) The Altered Endings of Great Expectations: Dickens Studies Newsletter 6:2
Graham, S. (1982) The Letters of Charles Dickens: The Pilgrim Edition. Oxford: Clarendon.
Hodges, D. (1983) Frankenstein and the Feminine Subversion of the Novel. Tulsa Studies in Women’s Literature, 14(23).
Marilyn Butler. (1994) Frankenstein 1818, ed. Oxford University Press.