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Millhauser,Milton."TheNobleSavageinMaryShelley'sFrankenstein."NotesandQueries190.

12(15June
1946):248250.Rpt.inNovelsforStudents.Ed.DianeTelgen.Vol.1.Detroit:Gale,1998.LiteratureResource
Center.Web.13Mar.2012.
DocumentURL
http://go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?id=GALE%7CH1420019671&v=2.1&u=ccl_deanza&it=r&p=LitRC&sw=w
Title:TheNobleSavageinMaryShelley'sFrankenstein
Author(s):MiltonMillhauser
PublicationDetails:NotesandQueries190.12(June15,1946):p248250.
Source:NovelsforStudents.Ed.DianeTelgen.Vol.1.Detroit:Gale,1998.FromLiteratureResourceCenter.
DocumentType:Criticalessay
[ImageOmitted:]
FullText:
[Inthefollowingessay,MillhauserconsidersFrankenstein'smonsterinrelationtothetraditionofthenoble
savageinliterature.]
TheestimateofMaryShelley'sFrankensteinfamiliartousfromliteraryhandbooksandpopularimpression
emphasizesitsmacabreandpseudoscientificsensationalism:properlyenough,sofaraseitheritsprimary
conceptionorrealizedqualitiesareconcerned.Butithastheeffectofobscuringfromnoticecertainsecondary
aspectsoftheworkwhichdid,afterall,figureinitshistoryandweighwithitscontemporaryaudience,and
whichmust,therefore,betakenintoconsiderationbeforeeitherthebookortheyoungmindthatcomposedit
hasbeenproperlyassayed.Onesuchminorstrain,nottoowellrecognisedincriticism,isathinveinofsocial
speculation:astereotyped,irrelevant,andapparentlyautomaticrepetitionofthelessonsofthatschoolofliberal
thoughtwhichwasthentermedphilosophical.
IntheworkofGodwin'sdaughterandShelley'sbride,somereflectionofcontemporarysocialradicalism
crude,secondhand,veryearnest,alreadyalittleoutofdateoccursalmostasamatterofcourse;what
deservescommentisjustthatthiselemententeredtheauthor'snotionofherplotsolateandremainedso
decidedlyanalieninit;foritgovernsthestoryonlytemporarilyand,sotospeak,extraneously,andconfusesas
muchasitpromotesthedevelopmentofthecharacterofthecentralfigure,themonsteritself.Whereonemight
haveexpected,fromMary'scharacter,thatitwouldproveamainmotifofthenarrative,itisactuallyboth
detrimentaltheretoandillassimilated,andmustbediscardedaltogetherbeforethestorycanadvancetoits
principaleffect.
For,throughoutaconsiderablepartofthebookroughlyspeaking,thefirsthalfofthemiddlesection,
beginningwithchapterxithemonsterissofarfrombeingthemoralhorrorhepresentlybecomesthatitis
hardlycredibleheshouldeverbeguiltyofwantonbrutalityatall.(Thetransformation,bytheway,iseffected
mostabruptly,withouteventhedegreeofpsychologicalconsistencyappropriatetofantasy;twoviolentrebuffs
andanastonishinglyrigidlogicalityoftemperamentturnthemonsterfromhislonelyandcontemplative
benevolencetoacourseofharsh,melodramaticvengefulness.)Rather,inthesolitarystudentofVolney,musing
onthepageantofhumanhistory,oronthecontrastbetweenman'saccomplishmentsandhisfailuresWas
man,indeed,atoncesopowerful,sovirtuousandmagnificent,yetsoviciousandbase?itisnothardto
recognisethatgentlelayfigureoflateeighteenthcenturysocialcriticism,thenaturalman,bringinghis
innocenceintoforcefulandoversimplifiedcontrastwiththecomplexitiesandcontradictionsofourcivilisation.
Or,moreprecisely,maywenotseeinhim(becauseofhisstrangeoriginanduntutoredstate)something
approximatingtothatvariationofthegeneralchildofnaturepatterntowhichProfessorFairchildhasattached
thenameofNobleSavage?Likethesavage,themonsterapproachesoursocietyasanoutsider,testsitby
naturalimpulseandunsophisticatedreason,andrespondstoitwithamixtureofbewildermentanddismay.
Now,thisaspectofthemonster'scharacterisbasicallyunnecessarytothehorrorplot;heneednotpassbythis
roadtoferocityandmisery.(Theremight,forinstance,aseasilyhavebeenanoriginalmoralflawinhis
constitution,parallelingthephysicalone;hemight,asinthevulgarimagination,havebeencreatedbestial.)
Indeed,themorethisphaseofhisdevelopmentisdweltupon,thelessconsistentwiththelaterstagesdoesit
appear.NorishisexperienceasaNobleSavagetoocloselyintegratedintothestory;itisconnectedrather
arbitrarilytohiseducationinlanguage,butthesocialreflections,aswellasthenarrativewhichistheirmore

immediateoccasion,arepureinterpolation,andleadtonothing.Thisisarealflawinthestory,feltbythereader
asexpectationdisappointed;theauthorfailstomakeuseofallherspeculativepreparation.When,forinstance,
themonsterishurtbrutallyattackedbythosehetrusted,itisbecauseoftheirhumanignoranceandnatural
terror,notsociety'sinjustice;sothathisradicalobservationsareirrelevanttohisownfate.Beforelong,indeed,
theauthorisabletoforgetthatthemonsterwaseveranaturalman(andconsequentlygentleandjustby
inclination)atall,withoutapparentlosstothedramaticvaluesofthestory.Everythingpointstothewhole
idea'shavingbeenanafterthought,arising,perhaps,beforethefulldetailofthebookhadbeenworkedout,but
wellafterthegeneralmoodanddriftandstructureoftheplothadbeendecided.Thechanceforitwasoffered
bythestory,andMaryShelleycouldnotdeclineit,butitwasnotanessentialpartofheridea,andcouldonly
befittedinasadisproportionedandalmostpointlessinterpolation.
Thetemptationseemstohavebeenofferedbytheproblemofthemonster'sintellectualdevelopment.Theeffort
tomakehercreaturepsychologicallycrediblemusthavetroubledMrs.Shelleymostinhisearlydays.Whatthe
difficultywasappearsasonewritesofit;howisonetospeakoftheyouth,thechildhood,ofabeingthat
appearedupontheearthfullgrown,andyethowelseisonetospeakofhisperiodofelementaryignoranceand
basiclearning?Theauthorcannotallowhimthenormalprotractedhumaninfancyandgradualeducation,for
theplotdemandsthatheescapefromhiscreatorandfendforhimselfatonce;yetbothplotandprobability
demandthatheescapeunformed,thathebeconfusedandignorantintheworldintowhichhehasblundered.As
aresult,theauthorbestowsuponhimacuriousapprenticeship(tocallitthat),anamalgamoftwoquite
differentratesofdevelopment:forheisatthesametimebothchildandman,andlearnsalternatelylikeeach.
Thushecanwalkandclothehimselffromthemomentofhiscreation,yet,infantlike,hastroubleforalong
whileinseparatingtheeffectsofthevarioussenses;helearnstheuseoffire(bystrictinductivereasoning!)ina
fewminutes,yetitisyearsbeforehecanteachhimselftospeakorread.Forthemostpart,however,hisstoryis
thatofanadultinthestateofnature,withfacultiesfullgrownbutalmostliterallywithoutexperience,and
thereforemakingtheacquaintanceofthemostprimitivesocialfactsbytoilsomeandunguidedindividual
endeavour.Ifonedistinguishesthedifficulties(possibletoanadult)ofignorancefromthose(peculiartoa
child)ofincapacity,thereisreallyonlyasingleefforttomakehimbehavelikeonenewborntheconfusion
ofthesenses;thereafterheisafullgrownanddecidedlyintelligentbutextraordinarilyinexperiencedman.
NowthiscomesclosetobeingadescriptionoftheNobleSavage:anadult,butanalientoourworld.Ifatthis
point(thatis,chaptersxithroughxv)hediffersmarkedlyfromtheaverageofthetype,itisonlyinbeingnotan
averagebutanextreme;theactualsavagehashisowncommendableifelementarycivilisationthathecan
comparewithours,butFrankenstein'smonsterhasonlytheimpulsesofhisnaturewhichare,tostartwith,
absolutelygood.ButthismixtureofinnocencewithignorancewastheverypointtobeexhibitedbytheNoble
Savageorthenaturalmanmanasheisnotbothformsfamiliartotediousnessintheliteratureupon
whichearlynineteenthcenturyingenuousradicalismfeditsmind.Sothat,havingbroughthermonster,
untutoredanduncorrupted,intothewilderness,theretospyuponandsostudycivilisedways(allofwhichwas
demandedanyhowbytheplot),Mrs.Shelleywouldhavefoundithardnottofallintowhatmusthavebeena
veryfamiliarhabitofthought.Shemustsurelyhaverecognisedthatshewasstrayingfromtheplottedpath,
whethersheidentifiedthenewinfluenceornot;butshewastryingtowriteafulllengthnovelonthebasisofa
ratherslimidea,andinthosedaysinterpolationwasnotyetasin.So,notdeliberatelyandyetnotunwillingly,
shepermittedtheassimilationofherstoryandhercreatureintothewellwornpatternstheyhadskirted;none
thelessgratefully,perhaps,becausetheygavetheyoungrebelanopportunitytoutteralittleofwhatwas
seethinginherenvironmenttheShelleyatmosphere,crossedbyByron'ssulphureoustrailandinherown
eagermind.
Butifthetemptationwasstrongenoughtoattractherintoaratherlongandsomewhatincongruous
philosophicaldigression,itwasstillsubsidiarytoherinitialimpulse.IfGodwin'sdaughtercouldnothelp
philosophising,Shelley'swifeknewalsotheeeriecharmsofthemorbid,theoccult,thescientificallybizarre.
Herfirstpurpose,whichwasmelodrama,stood.Thereforethealienfigureappearsinthenovelonly
momentarilysolongas,withalittleeffort,theplotaccommodatesitselftohim;whenhereallythreatensto
interferewithit,heisabandoned.Butifheneverdominatesthestory,hedoesfigureinit,andshouldbe
reckonedwith.Howeverrelentlesslythefirstluridvisionisfinallypursuedtoitsend,thefamiliarlineamentsof

theNobleSavage,thechildofnature,didcomeforalittlewhiletobevisibleinFrankenstein'simpious
creation;howeversharplyhishideousfeaturesandterriblecareermayhavedistinguishedhimfromthe
broodingislanderorhaughtyIndiansachem,thecentraltheme,theuncongenialityofouractualworldwitha
certainidealandtouchinglybeautifulsimplicity,servedtoassociatehishistory,insomedegree,withtheirs,and
soattracthimtemporarilyintotheirform.
SourceCitation
Millhauser,Milton."TheNobleSavageinMaryShelley'sFrankenstein."NotesandQueries190.12(15June
1946):248250.Rpt.inNovelsforStudents.Ed.DianeTelgen.Vol.1.Detroit:Gale,1998.LiteratureResource
Center.Web.13Mar.2012.
DocumentURL
http://go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?id=GALE%7CH1420019671&v=2.1&u=ccl_deanza&it=r&p=LitRC&sw=w
GaleDocumentNumber:GALE|H1420019671