English Literature Essay
“Yet I seek not a fellow feeling in my misery. No sympathy may I ever find. When I first sought it, it was the love of virtue, the feelings of happiness and affection with which my whole being overflowed, that I wished to be participated. But now that virtue has become to me a shadow, and that happiness and affection are turned into bitter and loathing despair, in what should I seek for sympathy? I am content to suffer alone while my sufferings shall endure; when I die, I am well satisfied that abhorrence and opprobrium should load my memory. Once my fancy was soothed with dreams of virtue, of fame, and of enjoyment. Once I falsely hoped to meet with beings who, pardoning my outward form, would love me for the excellent qualities which I was capable of unfolding. I was nourished with high thoughts of honour and devotion. But now crime has degraded me beneath the meanest animal. No guilt, no mischief, no malignity, no misery, can be found comparable to mine.
When I run over the frightful catalogue of my sins, I cannot believe that I am the same creature whose thoughts were once filled with sublime and transcendent visions of the beauty and the majesty of goodness. But it is even so; the fallen angel becomes a malignant devil. Yet even that enemy of God and man had friends and associates in his desolation; I am alone.” [Text from Mary Shelley, Frankenstein 2nd Ed (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1996), pg. 159 -160.] In the above passage Mary Shelley uses the monster of Frankenstein view of himself to depict some of the major themes in the novel such as monstrosity and abandonment. The themes of monstrosity and abandonment both appear repeatedly throughout the novel and can also be seen in the above quote. Monstrosity is one of the more prevalent themes in Frankenstein as the central character of the novel is a monster. Frankenstein’s creation is rejected by society because his unnatural physical appearance leads people to characterize him as a monster. Victor’s first reaction when he sees the monster is telling: “I beheld the wretch — the miserable monster whom I had created” (Shelley, 36).
This further compounds the established idea that Frankenstein created a monster and as such he is treated as one. Upon entering the cottage in search of a place to rest, the monster encounters the children of the cottage. The children’s reaction when they first see the monster further demonstrates that people categorize Frankenstein’s creation as a monster because of the creatures’ physical appearance. In the text, the monster describes the children’s reaction saying: “(…) their horror and consternation on beholding me. Agatha fainted; and Safie, (…) rushed out of the cottage. Felix darted forward, and with supernatural force tore me from his father (…), he dashed me to the ground, and struck me violently with a stick.” (Shelley, 94). The monster refuses to harm Felix even though he was violently attacked by him. This is shown in the following passage: “I could have torn him limb for limb, (…). But my heart sunk within me as with bitter sickness, and I refrained.” (Shelley, 94-95). Therefore, one can see that the perception of Frankenstein’s creation as a monster is based solely on his appearance as the characterization of the creature as a monster in complete contrast to the monster’s response, when refuses to harm the person who attacked him though he could have easily done so. Monstrosity is also demonstrated by the following quote “crime has degraded me beneath the meanest animal. No guilt, no mischief, no malignity, no misery, can be found comparable to mine.
When I run over the frightful catalogue of my sins (…) the fallen angel becomes a malignant devil” (Shelley, 160). The author uses the language of the fallen angel and the devil as a symbol. This particular symbolism is presented as a contrast between “good” and “evil.” The monster believed himself to be an angel because of his internal characteristics though his physical appearance causes people to see him as a monster and therefore treats him as a monster. He is deeply affected by this; he fells isolated and alone and this feeling is intensified when Frankenstein refuses to create a female companion for the monster. The monster was very hurt by this and therefore he starts killing. This explains the imagery created by the author who uses the monster’s words when he states that “the fallen angel becomes a malignant devil.” The monster sins and truly becomes a monster and a devil after he begins to kill. An act that the monster was, arguably, forced to commit because of his isolation which deeply impacted him. The abandonment of Frankenstein monster is also a recurring theme throughout the novel.
The monster is abandoned by his creator and when he tries to integrate himself into society, he is shunned by the people solely because of his physical attributes which are beyond his control. He is rejected only because of his physique, an aspect of his persona that overshadows his, at first, gentle and kind nature and prevents society from seeing the good in him. This is made clear when Victor says, “When I thought of him, I gnashed my teeth, my eyes became inflamed, and I ardently wished to extinguish that life which I had so thoughtlessly bestowed.” (Shelley, 62). Frankenstein shares similar feelings; he does not believe that he is worthy and he also feels that he should be abandoned. This is shown when he states “I, the miserable and the abandoned, am an abortion, to be spurned at, and kicked, and trampled on.” (Shelley, 160). This shows the protest against the monster’s existence as the monster does not feel he is worthy and even his creator wishes that he had not created him. The theme of abandonment is also present in the novel through the following quote “the fallen angel becomes a malignant devil. Yet even that enemy of God and man had friends and associates in his desolation; I am alone” and “I am content to suffer alone while my sufferings shall endure” (Shelley, 160).
This quote is significant because when the monster speaks his tone evokes a reaction of sympathy from the audience. The sadness and loneliness in the monster’s speech can be felt by the audience and becomes intensified when he states “even that enemy of God and man had friends and associates in his desolation; I am alone” (Shelley, 160) the monster is communicating how alone and abandoned he feels and when he states that even people who have committed worst acts than he has, the enemies of God, have friends and he does not the audience cannot help but feel a sense of sympathy and compassion for the monster based on the tone in his language despite his physical appearance. Society’s treatment of the monster also shaped his view of himself. The monster views himself as an angel who is made into a monster “I cannot believe that I am the same creature whose thoughts were once filled with sublime and transcendent visions of the beauty and the majesty of goodness.
But it is even so; the fallen angel becomes a malignant devil.” (Shelley, 160). Frankenstein once viewed himself as a beautiful creature who was inherently good, which is demonstrated when he helped the peasants and saved the girl from drowning (Shelley, 77). However, society continually shunned and rejected the monster and he was therefore forced into solitude and this is what caused him to start committing evil acts. This is demonstrated when Frankenstein murders Victor’s younger brother, Victor’s best friend, and Victor’s wife after Victor aborts the creation of a female monster which the monster demanded so that he would no longer be in solitude. The following quote also reflects some of the sentiments that the monster experiences throughout the novel:
No sympathy may I ever find. When I first sought it, it was the love of virtue, the feelings of happiness and affection with which my whole being overflowed (…) But now that virtue has become to me a shadow, and that happiness and affection are turned into bitter and loathing despair, in what should I seek for sympathy? This quote summarizes the emotions that the monster feels throughout the novel. One can sense the despair in his voice and that he has lost all faith that he will ever be loved and accepted by others. He has accepted that he will always be abandoned and will forever remain alone. In conclusion, the chosen passage is representative of the entire text of Frankenstein as it demonstrates some of the most prevalent themes in the novel such as monstrosity and abandonment.
The text demonstrates the monster’s loneliness and other people’s belief that he is a savage. These are recurring themes throughout the novel as the monster has to constantly deal with the consequences of people’s judgment of him. These themes are also important for the body of work in general as it drives the monster and has significant influence on his actions.