Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein contains overt themes such as paternal love, rejection, and the dangers of scientific innovation. Another perhaps less evaluated underlying theme throughout the novel is music and how it is observed and imitated by Frankenstein’s Monster. In one critical scene, the Monster observes the exiled French DeLacey family as they gather around the father and listen to him play guitar. Emotions are immediately elicited within the Monster and he immediately draws a seemingly inexorable tie to the family. Once he subsequently faces rejection once again now from this family, he pledges to wreak havoc on the world around him and ruin the life of his creator, Victor Frankenstein. This tie to music thus serves as the final bond toward humanity felt by the monster and is thus an important theme to observe within the novel. Initial examination of the passages containing music will illustrate the Monster’s evolving relationship with music throughout the novel and how it affected his cognitive development. Then, the fact that the DeLacey’s are exiled individuals provides an interesting lens to explore the perception of music as an indicator of class status within European society of the 19th century. To determine this, this section will also differentiate between different musical styles and instruments of this time that would have been observed by Shelley. Finally, the close literary reading combined with an examination of music indicating class structure will be synthesized to propose possible implications that Shelley could be making on the rank and status of both the Monster and the DeLacey’s within the novel.
Image: Frontispiece, Theodor Von Holst, 1830 (Wikimedia Commons). This image depicts the creation of the monster which is the action that sparks the ultimate disastrous outcome of the novel. It is thus fitting that the beginning of this project, like the novel, opens with this iconic image.