TabulaRasa (Blank State) is an empiric philosophical notion that John Locke used is a crucial factor for analyzing andunderstanding Frankenstein; or, TheModern Prometheus. Locke is a philosopher who had an idea known as TabulaRasa, which literally means blank state and Locke implies that individuals arenot conceived with innate ideas. Infants must learn from an instructor whichare mostly the parents of the infant so that he or she will fill that blankstate with knowledge. Locke stresses on the fact that experience is everythingin terms of education. Locke’sconcept of “tabula rasa” affected the development of Shelley’s character,Frankenstein’s creature.
It is understood that she was under the influence ofJohn Locke’s theory as she was reading Locke’s book Essay Concerning Human Understanding while Shelley was writing Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus.AsJohn Locke states in his book An EssayConcerning Human Understanding that “Letus suppose the mind to be, as we say, white paper, void of all characters.” (78). This notion is applied in Frankenstein;or, The Modern Prometheus and it influenced the cognitive development forthe creature in the novel. This idea is supported by the writing of MaryShelley and it is understood in the novel from the words of the creature suchas, “I was benevolent and good; misery made me a fiend. Make me happy, and Ishall again be virtuous.” (207). Thisstatement is made by the creature when he was trying to explain his murderousactions.
It is understood from this line that Mary Shelley’s depiction of thecreature had a blank state when he was first created by Victor Frankenstein,but he became that way because he was rejected by his creator and society.Another example of how did Tabula Rasa influenced this literary work is that, “Itis with considerable difficulty that I remember the original æra of my being:all the events of that period appear confused and indistinct. A strangemultiplicity of senses seized me, and I saw, felt, heard, and smelt, at thesame time; and it was, indeed, a long time before I learned to distinguish betweenthe operations of my various senses.” (213). This line from the novelreflects that what the creature thought when he was created and how blank,empty state he was in.Anotherinfluential subject that Tabula Rasa influenced Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus and Frankenstein’s creatureis that the idea in Locke’s Tabula Rasa that the infant should be educated byher or his parents and when Victor Frankenstein created the Creature heabandoned him, and this shaped the actions of the Creature. It can be explainedfrom these lines “But where were my friends and relations? No father hadwatched my infant days, no mother had blessed me with smiles and caresses; orif they had, all my past life was now a blot, a blind vacancy in which I distinguishednothing. From my earliest remembrance I had been as I then was in height andproportion.
I had never yet seen a being resembling me or who claimed anyintercourse with me.” (142). From these lines Shelley wanted to explain thatthe Creature was pure from the beginning of his life but the absence of afamily, friends or at least a father figure shaped him the way he is nowbecause there was no one to teach or instruct him about life and morals so thatthe Creature had to dive in to the world without no knowledge or noinstructions from his creator Victor Frankenstein.
As Tabula Rasa suggests thatif Victor would not have been abandoned the Creature and instruct him theCreature would have been a completely different character, so Mary Shelley usedthis notion to stress the fact that the importance of parental guide.Othersubject to analyze Tabula Rasa effect on Frankenstein;or, The Modern Prometheus is society and environment because these conceptsis a part of John Locke’s Tabula Rasa notion. When we consider the Creature asan infant whose have no idea about life and morals because there was noparental figure that he should reflect the societal and environmental situationof Frankenstein; or, The ModernPrometheus setting, and it was not an ideal society or an environment thatthe Creature live in and learn about life and morals. “Iadmired virtue and good feelings and loved the gentle manners and amiablequalities of my cottagers, but I was shut out from intercourse with them,except through means which I obtained by stealth, when I was unseen andunknown, and which rather increased than satisfied the desire I had of becomingone among my fellows.” (142).
This line from the book shows that theCreature was ready to believe the goodness of people and society and performgood deeds, he was declined and detested by the members of the society whichmade him hide and disguise from people in society, but this made situationworse and slowly turned him to an evil human being that he does not really wantto be. As Tabula rasa implies people are not driven to develop based on theinternal or biological force; they learn and develop through interacting withthe environment. Contact with situations in the environment creates a change inperson.
The non-existent relationship with environment and society shaped theCreature and it is understood that influence of environment and society aboutTabula Rasa influenced the way Mary Shelley wrote and depicted the setting ofthe book.Toconcentrate my thoughts, the idea of Tabula Rasa had a big impact on literarywork Frankenstein; or, The ModernPrometheus because the way Mary Shelley wrote this novel. In the novel itis clearly seen that the Creature is like an infant with no opinions orknowledge about the world he came in.
He was all alone and there was no onethat could teach him what to do or how to do even his creator VictorFrankenstein ran away from him. He could have been a completely differentperson and character if his creator or even the society had not turn theirbacks on him, but he was detested so this made him who he is and how he reactedthe situations he was in. He was basically a baby in a big body that wantedsympathy, love, compassion and human interaction and a parental or societalguidance which maybe would have made him to be a better person and a part ofsociety.
Without John Locke’s Tabula Rasa this novel could have been completelydifferent and maybe it would not gain the attraction it had on the literaryworld as a classic novel it is now.