For an audience to understand ‘the relationship between any creator and his creation, the creation process, beginning with developing a thorough awareness of the mind of the creator, is vitally important’ (Rosenberger, 2013) . It is hence interesting that Shelley and Wilde, although writing some 200 years apart, come to similar conclusions in that their respective characters’ downfall is due to their own creations. The novels are not entirely similar however: Shelley’s creation is a physical ‘creature’ that is fused together by deceased body parts; Wilde’s creation is simply a picture painted imagination. It could be argued that these interwoven ideas echo the two elements of mankind (the physical and the mental) which are both prone to corruption, although it may not be down to the individual considering ‘every portrait that is painted with feeling is a portrait of the artist, not the sitter’ (Wilde, 1992). Both authors question the credibility of man in relation to their creations and present the enigma that ‘all men hate the wretched’, but who are the wretched?
Creation is innate within humankind; some may postulate that it is our purpose in order for our legacy to continue. The means in which Victor pursuits his ‘legacy’ however foreshadows the destiny of the novel. Unethically gathering and assembling dead body parts which he ‘selected his features as beautiful’, (Shelley, 1993) Victor brings to life a creature- essentially extracting life from death; only for personal gain. The fact that Victor believes that he ‘could banish disease from the human frame’ through works of his own is where his motive is skewed. Shelley portrays an underlying nature of selfishness and egotism within Victor; as this quote implies he envisages being worshiped- the ideology of being a deity. Wilde shows similar motives within Dorian also: he only desires to be young forever; concerned solely by his looks. This paints the picture of a physical vanity that Dorian possesses as he truly believes ‘youth is the only thing worth having’.
The motives of each character are self-absorbed and could be said to reflect upon their ‘creations’. Dinc states that the monster in ‘Frankenstein’ could be said to be made in the image of Victor which relates to the idea that Victor perceives himself as a deity (Dinc): according to Christianity it is said that all humans are made in the image of God. Shelley’s description, post-creation, of the monster could be described as the antithesis to the creation of life in Bible, in that Victor is not completely satisfied with the creatures’ ‘watery eyes, that seemed almost the same colour as the dun-white sockets in which they were set, his shrivelled complexion and straight black lips’. It is almost as if Victor realises his creation is repulsive and abhorrent, yet when God created Adam ‘it was good’. This could be inferred, for the first time, that Victors’ attempt to parallel himself as an omnipotent being is foolish and forlorn. Shelley refers to this later in the novel as the creature reminds Victor ‘that I am thy creature, I ought to be thy Adam’. Even the creature acknowledges that he is no creature of God.
Wilde describes Dorians’ picture to be ‘looking at him from the canvas and calling him to judgement’ and as it ages and diminishes it loses its desirability. There appears to be nothing except a desire for self-gratification. ‘Calling him to judgement’ could imply that Dorian should be held accountable for his actions, however as he clearly warrants his ownership over the painting, he elects himself as the dominant party- the creator. This demonstrates how both Shelley and Wilde seem to be implying that taking the place of God in creation dooms the future of humanity.
The motives behind each creation could be said to shape their destiny, as each is a moral-double of their creator. Smith argues that ‘the monster is fated to define himself in relation to Victor, becoming Victors’ imaginary double, the mirror-self that haunts his every step’. (Smith, 2000) Although the outside integrity of both Dorian and his picture and Victor and his monster are different, their actions and thoughts could be said to reflect inside of their creations. Basil Hallward forewarns the reader in ‘Dorian Gray’ that ‘an artist’ (or perhaps creator in this exposition) ‘should create beautiful things, but should put nothing of his own life into them’ (Wilde, 1992). Wilde could be insinuating that ‘beautiful things’ cannot be inhabited by those who may have created them; this hence provides an explanation to the reader as to why Hallward’s painting of Dorian is affected by the actions of Dorian Gray. He physically ‘inhabited’ the painting and therefore creates a notion of duality and dependence. (Dinc) Victor’s action of destroying ‘the creature on whose future existence he depended for happiness’ was never to be proved inconsequential by Shelley and the creature itself. In contrast to this Dorian and his portrait are a physical representation of one another: although it is a physical vanity it is not too dissimilar to Victor’s egocentricity.
For what purpose does a creation as such serve to its creator? To Victor it could be the identification that ‘a new species would bless me as its creator and source; many happy and excellent natures would owe their being to me’ (Shelley, 1993). Shelley exemplifies this in Victors’ student years: learning from his professor that in his field of science ‘so much has been done’ (Shelley, 1993), yet Victor considers their work bleak juxtaposed with how much ‘more he ‘will achieve’. The arrogance of disregarding every other professional around himself owes to his belief in possessing ‘a natural talent’ (Shelley, 1993). Hence proving everything that Victor does leads from and to a palpable selfishness, not only within himself but the monster too. Similarly, Wilde emulates this selfishness in Dorian with his provocation of Sibyl Vane’s suicide. Simply because he discovers she isn’t the actress he once assumed, Dorian thinks ‘without her art she is nothing’ (Wilde, 1992) except from ‘a third-rate actress with a pretty face’. The notion of Sibyl’s suicide, and hence disassociation herself from Dorian, is symbolic in itself. ‘Sibyl’ connotes ‘a woman able to foretell the future’ or a woman ‘thought to utter the prophecies of a god’. By Sibyl taking her own life, it could symbolise the demise of Dorians’ only connection to the remanence of a god as well as his foreseeable future. His remark to Sibyl is hypocritical, as Dorian himself possesses no more than ‘a pretty face’. She is a mirror image of himself, physically, making his statement somewhat paradoxical. However Sibyl’s innocence is nothing compared to Dorian’s selfish Mephistophelean streak as ‘he is horribly thoughtless, and seems to take delight in giving me pain’ (Wilde, 1992). Sibyls’ suicide could be seen to alter Dorian’s outlook upon love; rather than a selfish love, he changes to rue his sybaritic decision.
Victor’s reception of the monster is with ‘breathless horror and disgust’. It changes Victors imagination as his ‘dream vanished’. Perhaps as Shelley’s mother, Mary Wollstonecraft, was seen to be one of the first feminists, the reader is invited to interpret that this is a message from Shelley. It could possibly be a homage to her mother, who died four weeks after giving birth to Shelley, referring to how despite Shelley’s upbringing was attributed to her father, William Godwin, the feminist views prevail in the novel. The inference being that a man without a woman cannot produce successful life and care for it as the offspring’s life is inevitably doomed; in the case of Frankenstein not even human. If the child is a monster, then why would the parent want to care for it?
As a creator there comes a sense of parental responsibility, however in Dorian and Victor paternal qualities are scarcely demonstrated.
NEITHER SHOW PATERNAL COMPASSION TO CREATION- VICTOR DISREGARD TO MONSTER ‘REMEMBER THAT I AM THY CREATURE; OUGHT TO BE THY ADAM, BUT I AM RATHER THE FALLEN ANGEL’
Hence if the reader were to look into the formative years of Victor and Dorian respectively, it can be noted that each are somewhat unblemished; so much so that their doomed endings become inevitable. Wilde introduces Dorian in an enigmatic manner, to the extent that Hallward ‘didn’t intend to tell’ his name. Hallward’s desire to withhold Dorian’s name presents an inference that he is of a special decent, and perhaps sheltered too. Not only is Dorian physically sheltered by his name but also through the way in which others describe him. Therefore, Wilde suggests that Dorian, ‘whose mere personality was so fascinating that, if I allowed it to do so, it would absorb my whole nature, my whole soul’, is a superlative character who is incapable of wrongdoing. The ability to ‘absorb…my whole soul’ invites Wilde’s 19th century audience to notice his use of foreshadow- and also irony- as Dorian later enables the painting to ‘absorb’ his own ‘soul’. Due to this it is unsurprising that Wilde’s ‘charming boy’, who has been mollycoddled by those who surround him, concludes that his looks are an entitlement that permits any action. However, through cause and effect, there is consequence as Dorian’s soul remains as ‘hideous’ as his actions.
Shelley’s audience are similarly immersed in the ‘sheltered’ early life of Victor Frankenstein. His parents ‘were indulgent’ and his ‘companions amiable’. Intriguingly, Victor was said to be ‘bestowed on them by Heaven’. Shelley demonstrates Victors’ parents heavily doting upon him, to the extent that Elizabeth Lavenza is considered his ‘promised gift’. Therefore, it could be inferred that Victors’ parents apotheosise him as ‘their plaything and their idol’ (Shelley, 1993), which could be an attributing factor to Victors’ conceptualisation of being invincible. Through this installed belief, Shelley portrays the image that Victor’s parents condemned his future from the beginning; again inferring that the creators are at fault for how they raised their creation- through a parental outlook. The flawless outset of Victors’ early life proves for his inescapable desire to chase the beauty in life, as does Dorian, however both Shelley and Wildes’ ‘picture’ perfect scenes loom over the rest of their respective novels.
The ideology of beauty intertwines heavily in both novels. As soon as Victor realises that the creature is this overtly hideous creature his desire is to abandon all knowledge of its existence ‘QUOTE’. Similarly, Dorian sees his own beauty as the only positive quality that he bestows ‘QUOTE’. The inside (soul) of both creatures are the key points Shelley and Wilde make. Dorian may be beautiful but his soul is murky; the creature may be unprepossessing however his mind and soul are intelligent. Wilde shows the reader that there is no true perception of beauty, as ‘at least you are like it in appearance. But it will never alter’. The defect of Dorian is that he only cares about his appearance and hence doesn’t care about the picture and how he affects it ‘QUOTE’. However, unlike Victor, Dorian cannot completely disregard his painting as it is similar to his counterpart ‘QUOTE’. (Dinc) argues that ‘Dorian Gray can neither embrace nor deny him. He cannot embrace him because he is the physical representation, in a way emblem, of his corrupt soul which he refuses to confront. On the other hand, he cannot deny him because he is a part of himself, a part which resembles Dorian Gray in his entirety, no matter how unpleasant it is for him to admit.’ This is the fatal flaw within Dorian: because he can physically see his disabilities the picture is more reminiscent of a mirror than a painting. It is almost as if Wilde makes a reference to the saying ‘the eyes are the window to the soul’, except in Dorian’s case the painting is his eyes and the soul.