TabulaRasa (Blank State) is an empirical philosophical notion that John Locke used isa crucial factor in analyzing and understanding Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus.
Locke is a philosopher whohad an idea known as Tabula Rasa, which literally means the blank state andLocke implies that individuals are not conceived with innate ideas. Infantsmust learn from an instructor who is mostly the parents of the infant so thathe or she will fill that blank state with knowledge. Locke stresses on the factthat experience is everything in 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 ofthe 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 novel reflects that what the creature thoughtwhen 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 into the world without no knowledge or no instructionsfrom his creator Victor Frankenstein. As Tabula Rasa suggests that if Victorwould not have been abandoned the Creature and instruct him the Creature wouldhave been a completely different character, so Mary Shelley used this notion tostress the fact that the importance of a parental guide.Othersubject to analyze the Tabula Rasa effect on Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus is society and environmentbecause these concepts are a part of John Locke’s Tabula Rasa notion.
When weconsider the Creature as an infant who have no idea about life and moralsbecause there was no parental figure that he should reflect the societal andenvironmental situation of Frankenstein;or, The Modern Prometheus setting, and it was not an ideal society or anenvironment that the Creature lives in and learn about life and morals. “I admired virtue and good feelingsand loved the gentle manners and amiable qualities of my cottagers, but I wasshut out from intercourse with them, except through means which I obtained bystealth, when I was unseen and unknown, and which rather increased thansatisfied the desire I had of becoming one among my fellows.” (142). Thisline from the book shows that the Creature was ready to believe the goodness ofpeople and society and perform good deeds, he was declined and detested by themembers of the society which made him hide and disguise from people in society,but this made the situation worse and slowly turned him into an evil humanbeing that he does not really want to be.
As Tabula rasa implies people are notdriven to develop based on the internal or biological force; they learn anddevelop through interacting with the environment. Contacting with situations inthe environment creates a change in the person. The non-existent relationshipwith the environment and society shaped the Creature and it is understood that theinfluence of environment and society about Tabula Rasa influenced the way MaryShelley wrote and depicted the setting of the book.Toconclude, the idea of Tabula Rasa had a big impact on literary work Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus becausethe way Mary Shelley wrote this novel. In the novel, it is clearly seen thatthe Creature is like an infant with no opinions or knowledge about the world hecame in. He was all alone and there was no one that could teach him what to door how to do even his creator Victor Frankenstein ran away from him. He couldhave been a completely different person and character if his creator or eventhe society had not turned their backs on him, but he was detested so this madehim who he is and how he reacted the situations he was in.
He was basically ababy in a big body that wanted sympathy, love, compassion and human interactionand a parental or societal guidance which maybe would have made him to be abetter person and a part of society. Without John Locke’s Tabula Rasa thisnovel could have been completely different and maybe it would not gain theattraction it had on the literary world as a classic novel it is now.