Frankenstein or the Monster? (Frankenstein by Mary Shelley) Essay
Frankenstein or the Monster? (Frankenstein by Mary Shelley)
In Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein, the main character Victor Frankenstein, becomes obsessed with the notion of bringing a human being to life. The result is the creation of a monster only known to us as ‘the monster’. The monster is hideous, and is therefore rejected by Victor and by society to fend for himself. He soon commits many murders, as a result of his dejection, including Frankenstein’s younger brother, best friend and newly wed wife. He also set up the killing of Justine. Frankenstein created the monster and then rejected him, but it was the monster who actually did the killings, who was to blame.
To start off with there are obvious similarities between Frankenstein and his creation, both have been isolated, and both start out with good intentions. However, Frankenstein’s ego conquers his humanity in his search for god-like powers. The monster is nothing but gentle until society rejects him and makes him an outcast on account of his deformities. The monster is more humane than his own creator because his immoral deeds are committed in response to society’s corruption, while Frankenstein’s evil work begins from his own selfishness.
Frankenstein and the monster are abandoned by their creators at a young age, Frankenstein is left without his mother after her death, and the monster is rejected by Frankenstein. Frankenstein and the monster are also similar in that they are isolated and outcasts of society. Frankenstein is most likely an outcast when he consumes himself in work and is isolated when the monster kills those he loves, and the monster is obviously isolated as an ugly, deformed outcast of society. Therefore Frankenstein seems less human than the monster, he displays this by deserting the monster, declining to visit his family for two years and by declining to save Justine. Frankenstein starts out with good intentions, he is merely seeking to gain knowledge of natural beliefs. Soon, his greed for god-like power overcomes him and he becomes consumed with the idea of creating life, “Summer months passed while I was thus engaged, heart and soul, in one pursuit” (32).
The monster also starts out with kindness, he tells his creator, “Believe me, Frankenstein: I was benevolent, my soul glowed with love and humanity: but am I not alone, miserably alone?” (66). However, after society refuses to accept him based on personal appearance, the monster becomes angry. The monster has an overwhelming capacity to love as can be seen in his admiration for the peasants, “The monster’s thoughts now became more active, and he longed to discover the motives and feelings of these lovely monsters… he thought, that it might be in his power to restore happiness to these deserving people” (77). The monster’s display of care and compassion for the cottagers is more humane than most humans are. He retains the innocence and naive characteristics of a child. The monster’s grasp of human-like qualities allows the reader to possess sympathy for his situation, he is a victim and Frankenstein is to blame.
A true monster would, by definition, have no emotions or remorse, while Frankenstein’s creation has a very natural, human desire to be loved and accepted, “Once the monster falsely hoped to meet with beings, who, pardoning his outward form, would love him for the excellent qualities which he was capable of bringing forth”(154). Another human characteristic that the monster holds is his conscience, as can be seen at the end of the book after Frankenstein dies. The monster tells Walton, “It is true that I am a wretch. I have murdered the lovely and the helpless, I have strangled the innocent as they slept…You hate me, but your abhorrence cannot equal that with which I regard myself” (155). Compassion, fear, desire to be accepted, and guilt are all very human emotions and characteristics that the monster displays.
While Frankenstein is consumed in his work, he feels none of the emotions that the monster feels in his first years of life, Victor says of himself, “Winter, spring, and summer, passed away during my labours, but I did not watch the blossom or the expanding leaves- sights which before always yielded me supreme delight, so deeply was I engrossed in my occupation” (33). Frankenstein is obsessed with holding god-like powers, “I ceased to fear or to bend before any being less almighty than that which had created and ruled the elements” (78). At several points in the book Victor has the chance to prevent harm being done to others, but each time he is only concerned with himself. It is ambiguous, but Victor could have warned the family, or gone to protect innocent little William. More obviously, he could have spoken up about the monster and saved the life of Justine.
Instead, Frankenstein chooses to let Justine die and wallow in his own guilt, “Anguish and despair had penetrated into the core of his heart” (57). After the monster’s threat, Victor is concerned only about his own life and fails to see the threat to his bride Elizabeth. Victor is weak in love, he has difficulty expressing his feelings and controlling his impulses, and he is self-cantered. Many contrasts can be made between Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and Milton’s Paradise Lost. Victor’s character is paralleled directly with Satan’s, both succumb to selfishness when they fall. Much like Satan, Victor is forced to carry his anguish with him constantly, “Frankenstein bore a hell within himself which nothing could extinguish” (57).
The monster is a portrayal of Eve’s role in Paradise Lost. The monster is persuaded by the behaviour of others to take his fall into wickedness, much like Eve was pushed by the serpent to eat the forbidden fruit. Shelley blatantly makes this comparison when Frankenstein gets a first glance of himself in a scene that mirrors Eve’s first look at herself. The monster tells Victor, “I was terrified when I viewed myself in a transparent pool! At first I stared back, unable to believe that it was indeed I who was reflected in the mirror, and when I became fully convinced that I was in reality the monster that I am, I was filled with the bitterest sensations of despondence and mortification” (108). Despite their similarities, Victor and his creation differ greatly. Only after rejection does the monster turn to evil, while Victor acts out of greed. Victor’s self-centred behaviour affects everyone in the novel, he hurts his family’s feelings, he lets those that he loves die, and abandons his own creation. Even the monster couldn’t have committed such horrible acts before the effects of society’s rejection.
Frankenstein is mainly to blame for what happened in the novel because he created the monster and then rejected it. If he had shown the monster more fatherly care, the monster would have been more kindly disposed towards the human race. We see the monster’s admiration of the human race at first, with the De Lacey family, but you can imagine how he must have felt, being excluded from any activity in the world involving humans. The fact that it is Frankenstein’s fault is portrayed in the monster’s innocence and naivety early on. The monster however, did refuse to show human qualities in his mass murdering, he showed no guilt until the end of the book, when he realised what he had done.
Frankenstein himself had many opportunities to stop what happened in the book, for instance by finishing off the monster’s female companion. He had a chance to stop Justine’s death, but instead wallowed in his own misery. It is clear that although the monster showed huge brutality with little guilt and did actually commit the crimes, Frankenstein is to blame for what happened in the book because he created the monster, rejected him, and failed to stop the events which resulted, although he had a chance.