Creativity and the imagination

Romantic imagination

Mary Shelley was associated with a group of writers who believed very strongly in:

  • the creative power of the imagination
  • imagination is emotional, moral, philosophical and political expression in the form of poetry.

Most of the poets we now call the Romantics expressed this belief at one time or another. More on the Romantics and imagination?

Transgression against creative imagination

These views on the power of the imagination are very relevant to Frankenstein because it can be argued that:

  • although Victor imagines the possibility of creating a being by artificial means, by creating the monster in the way he does Victor transgresses against the idea of the imagination as an indwelling, organic and natural capability
  • he creates the monster without any sense of eternal or natural laws, clarity of vision, moral good or holiness
  • there is nothing spontaneous about his work: everything is planned and deliberate, with no room for the workings of the unconscious mind
  • he does not carry out his work with any sense of humility or respect for the powers of nature (another central concern of the Romantic poets) and he works against rather than with, natural laws.

Victor Frankenstein, therefore, transgresses against the true potential of the creative imagination.

Transgression against sympathetic imagination

Victor also offends against the sympathetic imagination:

  • once the creature is animated, Victor displays only disgust and fear
  • he feels no responsibility for the monster and shows no concern for its future welfare, or for the impact it may have on society
  • later in the novel, he experiences strong feelings of guilt and believes that he is ultimately responsible for the monster's crimes; but he is too concerned with what might happen to him to confess to what he has done.

His self-absorption prevents from him exercising real sympathy or empathy and his failure to speak out allows the monster to commit further outrages.

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