Who Is the Monster in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein
The novel ‘Frankenstein’ by Mary Shelley is an extraordinary one. Before the writer dedicated one of her works to the issue of people creating life, other works describing such a miracle were similar to fairy tales. ‘Frankenstein’, on the other hand, is closely entwined with realism, that is why it is easy to see the feelings and behavior a real person would have if s/he created a living being and was responsible for it. This essay investigates if Victor’s actions turned him into a monster.
As Watkins puts it, people often mistakenly call the monster created by the scholar as Frankenstein. This is conditioned by the frequent misuse of the name in films. However, this may be not only a mere coincidence. According to the plot of the book, the Creature animated by Victor Frankenstein was the monstrous one. The character was made of the parts of the dead people’s bodies; it was a supernatural being; the monster had no gender; it looked ugly; the Creature haunted and killed people and destroyed its creator’s life. However, Victor’s guilt in the tragedies that followed his big discovery was not smaller than that of the monster. The scientist was very proud to discover the secret of life. Nevertheless, it was rather the secret of existence. It turned out to be much easier to find out how to give life, than how to help a person develop and find his/her place in the world. The real life is only given with love, and Frankenstein had no feelings while making research except for pride. The man wanted to be distinguished and respected for his knowledge, but he did not contemplate what he would do with the Creature he was going to give life to.
It is necessary to hold the close analysis of the scientist’s and his creation’s actions in order to understand who of them was the real monster. First of all, the behavior of Doctor Frankenstein should be regarded. The man was really obsessed with his idea of discovering the secret of life and he was working very hard to achieve his goal. However, the actions of a person are very often judged by the intentions s/he has while taking them. The main character of the novel had no good intentions when he was working on giving life to the monster. He did not mean to help anybody by conducting the research. Frankenstein only wanted to be better than all of his colleagues; he wanted to get famous.
While being strong in his knowledge, Doctor Frankenstein was not strong at all morally. When he saw his monster awakening, he did not care of what the Creature might do to others or to itself. The scientist was only thinking of how to escape and how to save his own life. Thus, the main character of the book was a very selfish person. Another manifestation of Victor’s selfishness is the episode where the monster threatened to hurt him. Frankenstein did not even assume that any of the people he loved might have been in danger. He was only afraid for himself.
Berman pays attention to the discussed feature of the Doctor, and maintains that the title for the book should have been ‘Frankenstein: Modern Narcissus’ rather than ‘Frankenstein: Modern Prometheus’. The author also mentions that Victor could not accept criticism regarding his discoveries: he either reacted with indifference or with rage. The critic compares the story of Frankenstein and his monster to the myth of Narcissus and Echo: Victor constantly rejected the Creature asking for love (the same way Narcissus does), and the monster, like Echo, remained devoted to the one who was important to him.
Another thing that should be mentioned is the way in which the Doctor was achieving his goal. No matter what purpose one has, there are also limits in means of accomplishing it. Victor went far beyond the limits of the moral laws by going to the charnel houses and cutting the bodies of the dead people to use them for his experiment. Again, he considered his own scientific experience to be more important, than the feelings of the people he might have hurt by cutting the corpses of the ones who were dear to them.
As for the monster, it is hard to call him a good character as well. The Creature did few good things throughout the book. He was only killing innocent people and ruining their lives. Swingle maintains that the monster was not an innocent victim. Watkins supports this idea by stating that the Creature was aware of what it was doing, since it was well-educated. While reading Milton’s ‘Paradise Lost’, the character compared himself to the rejected Satan, not to Adam. Apart from that, the monster was able to make plans in order to implement his evil ideas of murdering people.
Nevertheless, the monster is not the only one to be blamed for that. First of all, its creator, who was supposed to be responsible for it, did not teach it how to live, and left it in loneliness and bewilderment. Secondly, even if the Creature tried to help anybody, they would most likely not accept it, since it is hard to expect anything good from the one who has appalling appearance. Thirdly, the monster did not have any good examples to follow. It could observe how bold was its creator’s behavior, and acted in the same way. Victor could give life to somebody and avoid the responsibility for that, so it is possible that the Creature assumed it may have taken somebody’s life without caring about that. Macdonald et al. emphasize that the wicked things done by the Creature were caused by its creator’s behavior. If one is treated as a bad person, s/he will behave in the corresponding way. If a social being is separated from society, s/he becomes selfish and evil.
Claridge writes that the story is indeed about the failure of a person to bear the responsibility for their offspring and bring them up in such a way, that they manage to become a part of the society rather than to isolate themselves.
According to Macdonald et al, the monster’s ugliness is the reflection of Victor’s narcissism and the pride which made him feel as if he had been the second God. Although there are the differences between the two discussed characters, they may be regarded as a single unit. Different works always reflect the inner world of their authors, or at least some of their personal features. The appearance and actions of the monster were the embodiment of its creator’s soul. The outside ugliness of the Creature resembles the Doctor’s inner ugliness. Apart from that, it is important to note than in some respect the monster was more a human than Victor. The scientist isolated himself from others for a long time while working on implementing his idea, unlike his creation who felt miserable because of his loneliness. There is the parallel between the lives of the two characters. The Doctor had a big and loving family and the woman he loved. However, he did not spend much time with them. In the same way he deprived his creation of the opportunity to enjoy human company. As a result, the monster killed its creator’s closest people to make him lonely as well. However, the Creature accepted its guilt in killing Frankenstein, whereas Victor did not blame himself for causing big tragedy. Thus, it becomes obvious that Frankenstein ruined his own life as well as the lives of several more people and that of the Creature he made.
It is also worth mentioning that Doctor Frankenstein conducted his experiment consciously, whereas his creation usually acted impulsively, since it lived too little to learn how to control himself.
To conclude with, it is worth saying that both Frankenstein and his creature were the monsters. The Creature killed people with its own hands, whereas the Doctor ruined the lives of the people who surrounded and loved him indirectly. The two characters are the reflection of one another: the ugly appearance of Victor’s creation is the reflection of his ugly inner world. Apart from that, the monster follows his creator’s example in his bold behavior. However, unlike Frankenstein who isolates himself, the Creature longs for the company. Loneliness makes him miserable. It may be assumed that Victor was more of a monster, than his creature, because he rejected to bear the responsibility for what he had done even knowing the potential outcomes. The Doctor did nothing to save the people who could have become the victims of the monster he gave life to. Apart from that, the only thing the Creature asked for was love and care, and only monsters can refuse to give such things to the ones they love.