The most obvious comparison between these two works appears on the title page to Frankenstein, which quotes “Paradise Lost” directly:
Did I request the, Maker, from my clay
To mould me man? Did I solicit thee
From darkness to promote me? (Milton, Book 10, 743-745)
Just as Adam, who spoke the above lines, did not request God to create him from clay, the creature in Frankenstein was not created at his own request. The sense of betrayal and being thrust into situations beyond their understanding and ability to cope is similar between both Adam and the creature.
A second comparison between the two comes when the creature in Frankenstein comes across a satchel of books, one of which is “Paradise Lost.” The creature comments, “Many times I considered Satan as the filter emblem of my condition, for often, like him, when I viewed the bliss of my protectors, the bitter gall of envy rose within me.” (Shelley, Chapter 15, [vol. 2, ch 7], p. 978). The creature identifies his state with that of Satan, cast out of Heaven, and desperately jealous of those still basking in Heaven’s glory. The creature, like Satan, is all too aware of the benefits his protectors have of being fully human and not being created by God as they were.
Yet another example comes in the search for knowledge and wisdom in both works. Just as Adam and Eve are tempted by knowledge and eat of the fruit of the tree when they should not, the creature discovers how to read, and thirsts for knowledge. In both cases, that search leads to disaster. In the case of Adam and Eve, of course the result is the fall from Eden into the real world. In the case of the creature, his search leads him to the truth of his creation in the form of Dr. Frankenstein’s journals about the creature’s creation. The creature is horrified by what he discovers:
“I exclaimed in agony, ‘Cursed creator! Why did you form a monster so hideous that even you turned from me in disgust? God in his pity made man beautiful and alluring, after his own image, but my form is a filthy type of your’s [sic], more horrid from its very resemblance.” (Shelley, Ch. 15 [vol 2, ch 7], p. 978)
The sense of rejection is profound here. Adam and the creature were both rejected by their creators and cast out of the light of their presence. Both are mere copies of ineffably superior originals. Both feel that lack of authenticity in their creation. Both feel inadequate and rejected by the one who should love them best.
- Milton, J. “Paradise Lost.” Norton Anthology of English Literature, Volume 1, 7th Edition. Ed, M. H. Abrams & S. Greenblatt. New York, NY: W.W. Norton, 2000. Pages 1815-2043. Print.
- Shelley, M. W. Frankenstein: Or, The Modern Prometheus. In Norton Anthology of English Literature, Volume 2, 7th Edition. Ed, M. H. Abrams & S. Greenblatt. New York, NY: W.W. Norton, 2000. Pages 905-1033. Print.