We use allusions all the time even in a modern world. They are intrinsically woven into our fabric of life. Just the other day, I overheard one in a camera shop. “I thought he had emailed me a picture but it was a Trojan Horse (virus related). This is an allusion to Homer and the Trojans.
We all grew up with the allusion of “He tells so many fibs his nose should be growing” this is an allusion to Pinocchio. This was an allusion I have heard parents and teachers say without them realizing what it actually is.
There are many types and styles of illusions. These are unwittingly attributed to many life situations as life evolves.
In Shelley’s Frankenstein allusions are common though they can be subtle unlike the appearance of Frankenstein himself.
Whilst it is universally accepted that the monster created is called Frankenstein the reality is that it is not his name. Victor Frankenstein was the creator and the monster is referred to as “creature” etc. In Frankenstein, Victor is the creator of life and the monster becomes a victim with Victor cursed until death.
Shelley uses many allusions which on closer analysis show up clearly. In the story, Frankenstein watches those he love die around him whilst he remains. An allusion here is to a poem written by Coleridge whereby the characters share a parallel life that is cursed. The Rime of the Ancient Mariner is a poem where the mariner is cursed to live whilst his crew dies.
The curse was the result of killing an albatross with redemption coming when the Ancient Mariner repents. There are clear Christian overtones here with strong religious symbolism. Is Shelley’s Frankenstein and the cursed life of Victor and the creature a general allusion with religion itself?
If you study the work of the great artist Da Vinci conclusions are drawn as to deliberate hidden religious symbolism. This is a powerful and controversial subject and association.
Adam and Eve
A closer look at Frankenstein allusions reveals the allusion to Adam and Eve. John Milton wrote a significant poem about Adam and Eve. Again here we have dark and light, good and evil and the allusion that not all that is created is good.
In addition, the monster also compares himself to Adam. The monster looks at Victor as his creator – his god. But Victor cannot bring himself to love the monster or act with mercy.
Creator of Life – Greek Mythology
Perhaps the most obvious allusion is to Prometheus. Prometheus in Greek mythology created man whilst Victor wanting to create man creates a monster. Prometheus and Victor both live a cursed life with seemingly no redemption. Both reached for something they could not achieve nor could they atone for the sin of divine creation.
The underlying message is that perhaps only a true god can create life. Thus the allusion reinforces the religious belief that god creates mankind. Whilst this alludes to Christianity in Shelley’s Frankenstein it also is the bedrock for most religions.
A general allusion is that “Love conquers all”, this is clearly identified in Rime of the Ancient Mariner and had Victor accepted that allusion then all would have been good. Prometheus, however, fell in love with his creation which led him to steal from Zeus. The result was eternal damnation and punishment.