According to the American Heritage Dictionary, one meaning of “to rebel” is “to resist or defy any authority or any authority or generally accepted convention.” With this definition in mind I consider Victor Frankenstein a rebel. In Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein Victor Frankenstein rebels against divinity. Growing up, Victor was fascinated by all types of sciences. He began studying natural sciences while attending the University of Ingolstadt. Hoping that he could discover how to overcome death and decay, Victor began an intense course of study “discovering the cause of generation and lifehe became capable of bestowing animation upon lifeless matter”(51). After years of effort his creating was complete, but ended up being a disaster. As soon as the creature comes to life and victor looks into its eyes, he is “Unable to endure the aspect of the being he had created, he rushed out of the room”(56). The consequences of this rebellion had a major impact of the rest of Victor’s life. His Creature kills his brother William, his dearest friend Henry Clerval, and the person he cares most for his wife Elizabeth Lavenza. “One by One my friends were snatched away; I was left desolate”(188). Alceste in The Misanthrope and Stephen Dedalus in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man can also be considered rebels.
In Joyce’s novel, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Stephen Dedalus is a character in the clearest sense of rebellion. He was raised in Ireland in a very strict and devout Christian home and was schooled for much of his formative years in Catholic Schools. Stephen’s ultimate rebellion is evident in his struggle against conformity demanded of him by society. His rebellion is obvious in his rejection of the bonds of a religion that restricts his natural impulses. This leads him to find solace in the brothels of Dublin, “It was too much for him. He closed his eyes, surrendering himself to her, body and mind.”(108). Catholicism then seemed to impose a burden of guilt that weighed him down. After a period of sinful living, Stephen attends an intense three-day spiritual retreat. During this time Stephen suffers from a vision of his own hell; he believes that father Arnoll is speaking to him directly. The image is so real. Later that night he is overcome by so much fear and guilt, that he becomes sick, “he vomited profusely in agony”(149). Stephen seeks a kindly old Capuchin priest to confess his sins. With his confession, Stephen pledges moral reform, and rededicates himself to a life of purity and devotion.
In The Misanthrope Alceste is rebel against dishonesty in society. Alceste is an upper-class man living amongst the elite of Paris. Alceste wants everyone “to be sincere, and never part with any word that isn’t from the heart”(17). As a result of this rebellious attitude, Alceste ends up hurting himself. One can see this very clearly when Oronte wishes to be Alceste’s friend, and even help him with a lawsuit he is undergoing. Alceste refuses his friendship “we may discover it would be unwise, to try to make our natures harmonize”(32). In addition he insults Oronte’s sonnet, stating that he “might by chance write something just as shoddy; But then I wouldn’t show it to everybody”(42). When Alceste losses his lawsuit, he feels let down by his friends, not understanding that it was his rebellious attitude that lost him the lawsuit. We learn that Alceste is in fact the ‘Misanthrope’; he hates society, and will only be happy on a secluded desert island.
I believe that the most significant of the three rebellions is that of Stephen Dedalus. Alceste’s rebellion toward dishonesty in society was a major handicap for him. As the play progresses we see more clearly how his rebellion hurts his chances with C’elime’ne and his chance at winning his lawsuit. Alceste is just a cocky young man who refuses to admit when he is wrong. Although Victor Frankenstein’s intensions are good his creation ends up a disaster. For these reasons I see both Victor and Alceste’s rebellions as negative. Stephen Dedalus’s rebellion help him to ‘see the light’ and grow as person, both body and soul.