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Different Shades, Same Color
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     A very generic definition of a tragic hero would be a character, usually of high birth, neither totally good nor totally evil, whose downfall is brought about by some weakness or error in judgment; both Victor Frankenstein of "Frankenstein" and Creon of Antigone fit this description. Although Creon's tragic flaw, namely his overwhelming pride, contribute to his uncompromising stubbornness and accordingly his downfall, his intentions are often honorable. Creon believes the state can only be run on honesty and consistency, saying that it is not wise to "throw out principle for a little fun" or to "be a leader who lies to his people (Sophocles 47)." Thus, he sets irrefutable laws that he feels, if abided by, can do nothing but better the State. His monarchy might have flourished, but because of his own pride, he did not accept the criticism necessary for it to be prosperous and successful. His government revolved around one man's viewpoints and whims, unchangeable and unarguable- a dangerous recipe for government according to history. It matters little how noble the intentions are. Teiresias warns Creon, "Stubbornness is stupidity. It is criminal. No. Give yourself leeway. Yield. When someone has been destroyed, do you stab him (Sophocles 60)?" Creon then realizes the truth in his admonition too late, questioning:

     "Why, when I am destroyed, destroy me again (Sophocles 70)?"

     Creon was never given a chance to prove himself, and he himself knows well that a man not proven cannot be approved by the people. The people are therefore more reluctant to speak to him, and he rules by firm decree rather than mutual trust. He must keep his laws firm and steady, for the projected goodness will prove him to be a great king. Even though he is yet to be proven, he must be obeyed! When one observes the reason for his actions, one concludes that he is rather a good king, eager only in proving himself. He is a tragic hero because this great desire of his to rule well leads him to hubris, and then destruction.


     Victor Frankenstein was also dead set on proving himself, if only to himself. In secrecy he created life-- the one thing that society told him was not possible and would not happen by his hand. However, the man did not seem aware that what he was doing was above and beyond his place, and that it was an extreme combination of pride and insanity that was driving him to complete his work. Socrates seemed to believe that "wisdom was synonymous with virtue, and it was not possible for a person to know the better and then to do the worse (Hollister 117)," but in Shelley's twisted story, it seems Doctor Victor Frankenstein might not have known the difference between what was right and what was good for his ego. It also seems that his desire to play God would wipe out any chance of his appearing a tragic figure, but that is not necessarily the case. Socrates would therefore say Victor has no wisdom, only knowledge of unreal appearances. He must finish his education of enlightenment before he would truly understand the meaning of life.

     Victor, in the emotional excess of his obsession, remembers how he felt: "A new species would bless me as its creator and source; many happy and excellent natures would owe their being to me. No father could claim the gratitude of his child so completely as I should deserve theirs. Pursuing these reflections, I thought, that if I could bestow animation upon lifeless matter, I might in the process of time (although I now found it impossible) renew life where death had apparently devoted the body to corruption (Shelley 52-53)." Victor Frankenstein speaks these words in an illusion of hopes and dreams dealing with creating perfect and untouchable life, but reality turns his dreams to shame. Hollister and Rogers write "In most of Sophocles' surviving plays, tragic characters eventually must come to terms with the fact that what they believed to be true about reality has turned out not to be so- and that what they have done based upon their faulty knowledge is almost invariably connected to the individual's suffering or death (134)." What better words to suit the disillusioned doctor? In this light, both Creon of Antigone and Victor Frankenstein can be considered tragic heroes in their own very different ways. Both ultimately end up wearing the same black veil of tragedy.

Katherine Kennon (2004)