Being monstrous covers a broad category. Sometimes, it is defined as a being who is non-human and has a horrid appearance. Nevertheless, it also describes one who is inhuman, has no regard for life, or possibly someone who has committed horrible a crime such as rape, murder, or even genocide. The novel Frankenstein by Mary Shelley expands on the word monstrous extensively by having the readers consider which character is most suitable for this term. In the novel, Victor Frankenstein is a man who plays God and gives life to a creature of his own.
When analyzing the reasons behind his thoughts and actions, the audience can clearly see hostility and selfishness runs deep into his personality. In contrast, Victor also establishes great self-sacrifice in the duration of the narrative. Correspondingly, his creation also displays negative traits such as violent and manipulative behavior due to the creature’s rejection by mankind. Through the story, the author makes the reader constantly redefine what it means to be good or bad, for Victor and his creature display that both can coexist within the same person. Both of these aspects are fluid concepts in human nature and often susceptible to circumstance. Undoubtedly, at the beginning of the story Victor appears to be an inquisitive and a family oriented man who thirsts to unlock the secrets of life. On the other hand, his relationship and hostile treatment of his creature paints him in a far less honorable light. For instance, Victor judges his creature heavily based on his frightfully malformed appearance.
Within the first few moments of the monster’s life, Victor immediately thinks to himself how “ he had worked hard for nearly two years, for the sole purpose of infusing life into an inanimate body… but now that he had finished, the beauty of the dream vanished, and breathless horror and disgust fills his heart” (Shelley 42). Right away, Victor is seen to greet his creation with fear and revulsion, the sole reason being the creature’s countenance. Though he is unaware of his creature’s gentle nature, he automatically characterizes him as bad and fiendish. Even so, it is important to note that Victor is physically, emotionally and mentally unwell in this point of time. He has little to no contact with his family or the outside world, has sacrificed his health and himself to give life to this being. Considering this, Victor is not in the correct state of mind when he first encounters his creature, due to his wariness clouding his judgment. Yet another instance of Victor’s hostility towards his creature is when he abandons his creation. After fleeing the scene, Victor encounters Henry and takes him back to his apartment, where the creature is last seen.
However upon seeing its vanishment, Victor foolishly rejoices: “ I could hardly believe that so great a good fortune could have befallen me, but when I became assured that my enemy had indeed fled, I clapped my hands for joy” (46). Instead of pursuing after his creation like any amiable parent or caretaker would do, Victor is instead seen practically celebrating its disappearance. As previously mentioned, Victor is in poor health at this time, and traveling would only further worsen his already critical condition.
Not only was he unfit to pursue his monster, but Victor reasonably feared for Henry’s safety for he lacks any knowledge towards the creature’s temperament. Along with Victor’s hostility towards his creature, he is also incredibly selfish. Victor’s selfishness can be distinguished in his pursuit of knowledge. When he searches relentlessly to unlock the secrets of life and begins to work on his creature, Victor does not stop to think of the possible ramifications of his deeds to the point that “ he could not tear my thoughts from his employment, loathsome in itself, but which had taken an irresistible hold of his imagination” (40).
Victor’s obsessive pursuit of knowledge is the primary cause of his creature’s desolation, for if Victor questions himself, he would approach his studies more tactfully and with care. Nevertheless, considering Victor works so hard due to his curiosity and his want to cure the permanency of death, his intentions were virtuous. An additional selfish decision Victor has made is his choice of destroying his creature’s mate. After a few days of constructing the new female monster, Victor has time to ponder the effects of creating another one like the male creature. Soon it dawns on Victor: “ He had been struck senseless of the monster’s fiendish threats; but now, for the first time, the wickedness of his promise burst upon him; he shuddered to think that future ages might curse him as their pest” (145). Victor then breaks his promise to his creature and destroys his would-be mate, and by doing so, Victor actively ignores his creature’s feelings and needs. At the same time, Victor dreads the possible consequences of creating a new one, the worst being it would mean the end of humanity itself.
Overall, Victor’s original intentions were innocent, he is only a man who seeks death’s cure for the benefit of mankind. However, Victor’s traits of selfishness and hostility that dominates his nature results in his motives to take priority over his rationality, practicality, and concern for those he holds dear. Thus, Victor cannot be solely defined as a monster, for one to be evil, one must intend evil. Simultaneously, as the reader’s perspective of the creature is the same as Victor’s, it is initially misjudged. When the beast tells his tale, he reveals that he has a gentle nature and is very child-like.
Nonetheless, it is undeniable that the monster commits violent actions towards Victor. For example, the creature murders Victor’s little brother and fiancée, William and Elizabeth. When the monster is in search of Victor to unleash his vengeance, he comes across William one day in the forest. Upon learning that William is part of Victor’s household, the creature exclaims, “ Frankenstein! You belong then to my enemy- to him towards whom I have sworn eternal revenge; you shall be my first victim” (122). Clearly, the creature’s reasoning behind the murders is simply to make Victor suffer for his lonely existence. Yet, his choice of slaying Victor’s innocent family members is initially due to the creature’s good nature being corrupted by the discrimination and misunderstanding of others. Another occurrence of violent behavior of the creature is when he claims eternal vengeance on Victor. Following the demolition of the female creature, he confronts Victor and curses, “ You can blast my other passions, but revenge remains-revenge, henceforth dearer than light or food! I may die, but first you, my tyrant and tormenter, shall curse the sun that gazes on your misery” (146).
After Victor denies his creation the only chance to find acceptance, the creature is reasonably infuriated and his outrage is exceedingly similar to the tantrums of a lonely child who seeks attention. As he is now damned to a life of solitude, the creature then loses all reason to remain docile and embraces his darker desires to make Victor endure the same pain he has. In addition to violence, the creature exhibits manipulative behavior towards his creator. For example, the creature’s decision and ability to plant William’s murder on Justine. After committing the butchery, the creature finds Justine’s sleeping form in a barn close by. Upon seeing her, he strategizes that “ not him, but she, shall suffer..
. Thanks to the lessons of Felix and the sanguinary laws of man, he had learned now to work mischief. he bent over and placed the portrait securely in one of the folds of her dress” (123). The creature’s trickery to frame Justine and how he came to acquire the knowledge through the DeLacey household confirms that society is not only responsible for his involuntary isolation, but also provides the creature to implant devious mastery into his villainous plans. Lastly, the creature utilizes manipulation while convincing Victor to make him another creature to be his mate. Originally, the creature approaches Victor civilly in attempt to sway him towards his cause.
When Victor holds his ground and persistently denies his request, the creature begins to threaten him: “ I will revenge my injuries if I cannot inspire love, I will cause fear, and chiefly towards you my arch-enemy, because my creator, do I swear inextinguishable hatred. Have a care; I will work at your destruction, nor finish until I desolate your heart, so you shall curse the hour of your birth” (125). Although in this passage the creature is seen as menacing and threatening, his outlash is because of his crippling loneliness from being shunned by society. At this point, the creature is so desperate for Victor to comply to his wishes to make him a mate that he is attempting every persuasive technique he can come up with. Keeping in mind that the creature’s true nature is originally innocent, it is important to note the monster is capable of good as well as evil, and so is not purely an evil being.
Not to mention his quest for revenge develops from the sense of injustice and misery he encounters, therefore, he is not truly the monster that the other characters depict him to be. Altogether, readers can tell that Mary Shelley’s intent is trying to convey that good and evil are concepts that are ever changing as well as vary in definition. She eloquently demonstrates this by showing Victor’s selfishness and hostility, as well as his creature’s violent and manipulating behavior. Furthermore, the author allows the reader to explore how each negative trait has a meaning behind it that blurs the lines of morality. There is a lot of controversy among the readers of Frankenstein that question which of the main characters is the true monster of the story. However, the answer is both Victor and his creature. Victor should have taken responsibility for his creation, but the monster is guilty of killing innocent bystanders due to his conflict with Victor.
Both of them are responsible for their fate. Even so, the author deliberately leaves the reader to make their own judgment and assessment of the story. Human nature is infinitely more complex than simply defining people as good or bad. Most often, our definitions are made through social construct by creating them with reference from others who deviate from social norms that can be judged or criticized. Even so, the reader still has the choice of overcoming our societal learning by choosing to see both sides of the story instead of viewing it in a critical “ black and white” perspective.
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