Frankenstein’s Creature, a Natural ‘Catastrophe’?

Mary Shelley’s Victor Frankenstein refers to the long-awaited awakening of his creature as a ‘catastrophe[1]’, a term which echoes his famous description of an oak tree completely destroyed by lighting only a few pages before (‘the catastrophe of this tree[2]’). The word recurs a third and last time at the end of the novel as Walton is about to relate his encounter with the creature over Victor’s body: ‘the tale which I have recorded would be incomplete without this final and wonderful catastrophe[3].’ The meaning of the word evolves and circulates among these three quotations, from the natural (but not only) connotations in the first occurrence to the literary sense of the last, which crowns the ‘tale’ that the narrative of Frankenstein constitutes. How are we then to understand the second occurrence of ‘catastrophe’? Focusing on Shelley’s three uses of this term, this paper aims at exploring the interplay between the natural and the artificial in Frankenstein, wondering what sort of a ‘catastrophe” its creature might be.

Anne Rouhette (Université Clermont Auvergne)


[1] Mary Shelley, Frankenstein; Or, The Modern Prometheus, ed. J. Paul Hunter, New York: Norton, p. 35.

[2] Ibid., p. 24.

[3] Ibid., p. 158.


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