“Was there no injustice in this? Am I to be thought the only criminal, when all of human kind sinned against me? “(273) When Frankenstein’s monster asks this question of Robert Walton in the final dialogue of Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein, he displays the complete transformation of his views on society, justice, and injustice since his creation and initial introduction into the world.
The monster’s first experience of the world, as he describes it to Frankenstein during their cave meeting, was one of awe and beauty.
He narrates his first experience of nature, recalling, “a gentle light stole over the heavens, and gave me a sensation of pleasure. I started up, and beheld a radiant form rise from among the trees. I gazed with a kind of wonder. ” (118) The monster views humans with this same kind of wonder and respect, and desires to be accepted by them, despite his hideous appearance.
However, through a series of rejections from his creator and other humans that he has felt a close relationship to, the monster comes to view the world as a place of evil and becomes obsessed with gaining justice for the sins committed against him, even if involves the death of innocents.
The creature quickly learns that the beautiful, fair world he had so wished to believe in cannot exist, especially for someone as appalling as he.
Even though the monster’s first ventures into human civilization are met with rejection and horror, he persists in the belief that he might someday be accepted by the same people that scream in terror at his approach.
The definition of justice is, to the creature at this point, acceptance. He was created into this world, so it seems only fair to him that he receive a rightful place in it alongside his human counterparts. This becomes a reality for the monster through his encounters with the De Lacey family.
While he does not have a complete understanding of the make-up of a family, the monster senses the care and love that the three people have for each other, and desires to share in this closeness. The monster becomes a secret member of the family, observing the habits of Felix, Agatha, and old man De Lacey. For the first time in his short life, the creature feels that he has found his place in the world, his justice. He finds great pleasure with his current residence in the hovel besides the shack, stating, “It was indeed a paradise, compared to the bleak forest, my former residence, the raindropping branches, and dank earth.
I ate my breakfast with pleasure” (123). The creature’s time with the De Laceys exposes him to the love and connection shared by these people, but it is through the family that he also comes in contact with his first example of evil and the vices of mankind, through the story of the newcomer, Safie. Frankenstein’s monster comes to an even greater understanding of humanity and justice through his readings of the books he found one day while scavenging for food. Milton’s Paradise Lost is particularly influential to the creature; the creature thinks of this work as nonfiction, and compares himself to Satan, “wretched, helpless, and alone. The creature tells Frankenstein that the books “produced in me an infinity of new images and feelings, that sometimes raised me to ecstasy, but more frequently sunk me into the lowest dejection” (151). While these books teach the creature about the failure of society and the lack of justice in the world, the rejection by the De Laceys once he finally reveals himself to the family is his first real example of this. Although this was not his first time being rejected from society, it is by far the most traumatizing, forever changing his views on the supposed goodness of humanity.
The other major event that forces Frankenstein’s monster to reconsider his views of justice and injustice occurs when, after realizing that he will never be a part of human society, the monster begs his creator to make him a female, a partner with whom he can satisfy his desire for the love and care that he did not receive from the De Laceys. Frankenstein, however, cannot live with the implications of such a creature and destroys it before it is completed, at the same time destroying the monster’s last chance at happiness. After this, the monster begins to seek a justice not of friendship and acceptance, but of revenge for his creator’s sins.
The creature’s need for vengeance becomes all-consuming. Since Frankenstein ruined the monster’s only hope of love, it is only fair and just, in his eyes, to destroy those people that Victor holds dearest. With these murders, the creature opens his soul up to the same evil that hangs over society. The monster’s final interview with Walton is the most telling of the drastic changes in his views on society, justice and injustice. He speaks these words to Walton, “Once I had falsely hoped to meet with beings, who, pardoning my outward form, would love me for the excellent qualities which I was capable of bringing forth.
I was nourished with high thoughts of honor and devotion. But now vice has degraded me beneath the meanest animal” (273). The creature, who once saw beauty in hope in nature and humanity, is now filled with darkness. “Evil thenceforth became my good,” (272) he speaks. This thorough change in mental state was brought upon by his incessant rejection from those he most admired. Frankenstein’s creature finally receives the justice he had been seeking as he stands over his creator’s lifeless body, but still feels sadness at his master’s passing.
Victor was his last connection to the human world, a society that he had once been so envious of but now felt only contempt for. Now that he had completed his transformation from “fallen angel” to the “malignant devil,” the creature realizes that he has no other choice to but let death overcome him as well. The creature’s shift in attitudes regarding society, justice, and injustice is finalized in the final chapter of Shelley’s novel, but it had been occurring since he very first opened his eyes. The monster’s admiration for society turns to abhorrence at the crimes that it had committed against him.
Justice, which the monster once believed could be obtained by finding his place in the world, becomes defined by his utter need for revenge. And the greatest injustice, in the monster’s eyes, is the disdain with which he was treated by humanity, including his own creator. If he had not been a monster before, he surely was then. James A. Baldwin once said, “The most dangerous creation of any society is the man who has nothing to lose. ” This is true in the case of Frankenstein’s monster. Once he loses any chance of anything other than a life of solitude, he comes the despicable and destructive monster that he had always been viewed as.
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