According to mental health specialists, Borderline personality disorder is a serious mental illness and those afflicted have issues with regulating their emotions, behaviors, and thoughts. On top of that, they have a hard time maintaining relationships with others because of their reactions to certain situations or ideas, and are found to be “unstable”. Not unlike the men in Shelley’s Frankenstein, a person with, the somewhat misnomered, illness is very impressionable to the various occurrences in their life.
It is true that with age and as the story goes on, that the toll of being emotionally unstable and incapable of dealing with the repercussions of their actions increases and is reflected in the personalities of the men in Frankenstein. Starting with the most susceptible of the three main male characters, the Wretch has the least understanding of how the world around him works. He is seen to be pondering the realization that he has been shunned, by the one person who should accept him for who he is, and he instantly feels indignation. “… ometimes I allowed my thoughts, unchecked by reason, to ramble in the fields of Paradise and dared to fancy amiable and lovely creatures sympathising with my feelings and cheering my gloom… but.. [my creator] had abandoned me, and in the bitterness of my heart I cursed him,” (93-94). He is content with the knowledge that people are wanted and treated well by those who care, but is disappointed when he comprehends that he and the people around him are not one and the same. The Wretch struggles to come to terms with this, as he has not been prepared to deal with the cruelty of those who he instinctually admires.
The Wretch takes offense easily, and is hardened by the fact that there is so much good in the world, yet he remains unwanted. The Wretch desperately wanted to be accepted by the cottagers, and is so overcome with grief when they reject him entirely that it oversteps his anger. He is even found to say: “I could have torn him limb from limb… but my heart sunk within me as with bitter sickness, and I refrained,” (97). Sad and confused, the Wretch finds himself alone and dealing with the sudden and all-too-heavy realization that he is not wanted in the world he was brought about into.
The Wretch is child-like, not unlike his first victim, and does not have an understanding of how he is received by others. The Wretch comes across William Frankenstein, Victor’s youngest brother, and wants to be his friend; but his attempts at friendship being dodged by the youngster only confuses and hurts him further. “I could seize him and educate him as my companion and friend, I should not be so desolate in this peopled earth… the child still struggled, and loaded me with epithets which carried despair to my heart: I grasped his throat to silence him, and in a moment he lay dead at my feet,”(102).
Regrettably, The Wretch did not realize his strength and was too taken by the idea of friendship to see what he was doing. Disappointed still at the fact that a young and impressionable child was old and wise enough to know they were different, the Wretch truly feels alone and abandoned by society. Robert Walton is a man who is always changing his mind, and changing his behaviors and focuses. He realizes a new goal for himself, to travel to the Antarctic, and sets out on yet another adventure; he is relishing in the thought that he is finally content with the direction in which his life is going. These reflections have dispelled the agitation with which I began my letter, and I feel my heart glow with an enthusiasm which elevates me to heaven; for nothing contributes so much to tranquilize the mind as a steady purpose–a point on which the soul may fix its intellectual eye,” (2). Walton is quoted several times to have said that he changed focuses in his life. He is inconsistent and fickle about his life’s goals, and never completes anything. Sure he may one day set out and finish something, but the Robert Walton depicted by Shelley and introduced to Victor Frankenstein is not that man.
Robert Walton is a simple man. who is so proud, that he can not bear to be a disappointment to anyone, including himself. While writing to his sister, Walton is addressing the fact that should he fail on his latest mission, he will be far too ashamed to face that and most likely disappear completely. “If I succeed, many, many months, perhaps years, will pass before you and I may meet: If I fail, you will see me again soon, or never,” (3). From the very beginning, Robert is displayed as a character who is unstable and very easily disappointed.
While this is not life ruining, a trait like this surely only complicates life and upsets those around him. In promising to estrange himself from his family solely because of a failure, one that has not even happened yet, Robert is painted as a man who perhaps should not be trusted. Walton’s emotions and how he reacts is everchanging, and he is quick to change his mind about a person or idea solely based on prejudice or the opinions of others. Robert allows himself to feel badly for the monster when listening to his grief over the death of Victor, but his sudden and ery deep obligation to Victor, as well as his prejudice against the Wretch, stops him. “I was first touched by the expressions of his misery; yet, when I called to mind what Frankenstein had said of his powers of eloquence and persuasion, and when I again cast my eyes on the lifeless form of my friend, indignation was rekindled within me,”(164). Perhaps Robert would have felt more strongly about the Wretch and his own story had Robert not known and immediately sided with Victor.
In lieu of assessing the situation and how he felt about the monster, Walton promptly writes off any good feelings for him, because he is an easily-influenced man, who is incapable of really thinking things through. Victor Frankenstein, towards the end of his life, is quick to anger when faced with even the thought of his creation. Robert Walton wanted to know what was plaguing the mind of his new friend, but was taken aback by how upset Victor was when questioned about the monster. After confronting him, Walton says, “As I spoke, a dark gloom spread over my listener’s countenance.
At first I perceived that he tried to suppress his emotion; he placed his hands before his eyes, and my voice quivered and failed me as I beheld tears trickle fast from between his fingers,– a groan burst from his heaving breast,” (11). Victor is a man of prestige and a scholar, to see him break down at the mention of the Wretch is largely an indicator that he is somewhat deranged. He literally breaks down and cries in front of Robert Walton, a man whom he has just been introduced to, and is so moved by his emotions that he has to excuse himself and spend the night calming himself.
Though this is early on in the novel, the actual event takes place at the end of Victor’s tale, and can later be chalked up to the fact that the creation of his monster took so much out of him, that he is a different, and highly disturbed man. Victor is taken so strongly by his emotions and devotion to his project that he jeopardizes himself and his health. Victor explains the struggles he went through to create the monster, but is so enraptured with the idea of making new life, that he dismisses these downsides. He is quoted as saying, “I had worked hard for nearly two years, for the sole purpose of infusing life into an inanimate body.
For this I had deprived myself of rest and health. I had desired it with an ardour that far exceeded moderation; but now that I had finished, the beauty of the dream vanished, and breathless horror and disgust filled my heart,” (35). Taken by his convictions, Victor knows what he is doing is wrong, and continues on with them anyway. He sees that his creating the monster and tampering with life is wrong, but goes through with it because his want to succeed is much greater than the battle within him over how morally right or wrong it is.
As the novel progresses, this eats away at Victor, as he feels so badly about what he’s done. Victor abhors the creation he has made because he is a man who lets impressions fog his view of others. Victor himself feels a general sadness when he hears the tale of the Wretch, because not unlike Victor, nor any other “living” man, the Wretch has feelings. However, Victor openly admits that: “I compassionated him and sometimes felt a wish to console him; but when I looked upon him, when I saw the filthy mass that moved and talked, my heart sickened and my feelings were altered to those of horror and hatred,” (106).
This reflects poorly on Victor, as he is the man who created the Wretch. To feel horror and hatred at one’s own creation, one whom many liken to a son of Frankenstein’s, is abominable of Victor. Victor is just a man who is incapable of looking past his preju. dices and accepting the wrongs he has done. Knowing what kind of man he is, he should not have gone through with the making of the Wretch at all.
However, the drive to accomplish something great and be renown for his advancement in the science community, as well as an arguably deep-rooted want to be distinguished and intellectual, proved to be much greater than any compunction from creating life and tampering with something so delicate as the human emotion. The Wretch, Robert, and Victor are all men who are shown as developing and complex characters. Their decisions and ultimately the way they handle the consequences of their actions is what makes the men of Frankenstein emotionally unstable.