Throughout Shelley’s novel, Frankenstein is shown to understand the world in terms of in-between-ness—as both a world of reality and of “dreams…undisturbed by reality.” This is due to the fact that some of Frankenstein’s most striking character traits—such as being observant, quiet, and an overall genius —allows for him to be placed in a perpetual liminal consciousness and inspiration. Specifically, Frankenstein produces thoughts that are precariously and intermediately grounded on reality and his own interpretation of reality. Therefore, an important question to consider is how does Frankenstein understand life? He does not try to understand the origin of creation via classical methods by starting with live organisms. Rather, he focuses on the process of decay. Therefore it seems that his understanding comes from thinking about life in a backwards yet scientifically based method. Frankenstein relishes in his amalgamation of reality and science when it comes to enjoying knowledge as he as always “urged by application.” For instance, this duality is clearly demonstrated in Frankenstein’s physical description of the creature before and after it’s animation.
The setting itself is imbued with an in-between dream-like quality as it opens on a “dreary night of November” with the “rain pattering dismally against the panes” that is lit “by the glimmer of the half-extinguished light…” Frankenstein’s reaction to the creature that he had tried to make “beautiful” becomes monstrous as the “luxuriances” he had tried to include “formed a more horrid contrast.” Frankenstein fully recognizes that his initial thinking that his labor of love being “beautiful” is actually something he is “unable to endure,” and this cognition is what places Frankenstein in a dual conscious state. It is this clashing of perceptions that make his revelation terrifying. Frankenstein is more interested in attempting to understand the world around him in terms that is blinded by his attempt to stay purely science based instead of checking to see if the anticipated reactions of his actions is true (or rather, if it can truly fit into actual reality). This unique combination of longing to understand without the desire to know if what he is doing can function within society is what places Frankenstein in a liminal consciousness.
As the novel progresses, this liminality is inherited by Frankenstein’s creature and consequently brings up interesting nuances. Frankenstein is horrified by the life he created and consequently has a revelation that he was acting dysfunctionally within society. His creature experiences many calamities and horrors as it interacts with society, but has no placement in it because of its otherness. Therefore, the question to wonder is what makes any creature’s life valuable within society? What makes the creature “monstrous” society’s eyes? Is it because it exists in a state between life and death or because it simple lives outside of society? How does the monster understand life therefore in comparison to his creator?