The Nature of Humanity in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein Essay
The Nature of Humanity in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein
Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein examines the very nature of humanity through the juxtaposition of two characters, Victor Frankenstein and the creature. The curious creature has an innocent desire to learn whereas Victor Frankenstein pursues his blasphemed ambition. The creature has a sincere desire to belong in the human world but he is incapable of properly presenting himself whereas Victor Frankenstein isolates himself from humanity to hide his guilt. The sympathetic creature is an innately good being who was turned evil by a rejecting society whereas Victor Frankenstein is full of hatred and revenge.
The creature’s actions and qualities weighed against those of his creator in a moral standard combine to make him more qualitively human than Victor. Victor Frankenstein’s pursuit of knowledge is deleterious to himself and everyone around him whereas the creature has a genuine desire to become more human. Frankenstein fails to preserve his morality by attempting to attain god-like power. His curiosity for the secrets of life is sinful, like Adam and Eve who ate the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
Frankenstein “seems to have lost all soul or sensation but for [his] one pursuit. ”1 1 Mary Shelley, Frankenstein (New York: A Division of Random House Inc. , 2003) 40. From the beginning of his work, Frankenstein is becoming dehumanized. His mind being completely occupied with the creature and its murderous endeavors, Frankenstein moves farther and farther away from humanity. Victor Frankenstein’s interests in alchemy and ancient science are worthless in his modern world.
However, Victor ignores Mr. Krempe’s suggestion of studying natural philosophy and furthers his interests in discovering the secrets of life. Victor Frankenstein has the potential to become a helpful being to the world but his mistaken choice leads him to become a destroyer of several lives. Unlike Victor Frankenstein, the creature’s desire for knowledge brings him closer to humanity. The creature applies his whole mind to learning the language of the cottagers as he prepares to reveal himself to them. The creature wants to be accepted as a humanly individual.
His curiosity for the language of the cottagers is innocent, like Adam and Eve before they ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The creature, without shame or guilt, becomes closer and closer to humanity. The creature’s innocent desire to learn weighed against Victor Frankenstein’s sinful intellectual pursuits make him a more conscientious human being than his creator. Their intellectual pursuits lead to their isolation from humanity as Frankenstein secludes himself from his family and friends and the creature fails to be accepted by humans.
Victor Frankenstein continues his secrecy out of shame and guilt, whereas the monster is forced into seclusion by his revolting appearance. Victor Frankenstein is a selfish character who isolates himself from humanity because of his unspeakable crimes. Although Victor is aware of the death of William and his murderer, Victor does not proclaim the creation of his creature, even to his closest relatives, for fear of being accused of being insane. Victor becomes the true murderer as his failure to take responsibility for his actions causes the deaths of two members of his family.
He attempts to escape his guilt by creating a cloak of secrecy which secludes him from his family and friends. His relationship to humanity is damaged, making him less human. Victor Frankenstein loses the ability to respond to his needs and wants. After the murder of his wife, Elizabeth, Victor Frankenstein indulges in destroying the monster, even following him to the cold arctic. He “determines still to trust [himself] to the mercy of the seas rather than abandoning [his] purpose. ”2 Victor Frankenstein has a stronger desire to destroy the monster than to survive.
His humanity has reached its greatest downfall as Elizabeth, his lover, is destroyed and he is incapable of feeling happiness and joy. Unlike Victor Frankenstein, the creature has a sincere desire to belong but is isolated by humanity because of his grotesque appearance. Being innately good, the creature is aware that people are afraid of him and hides himself from the world. The creature shows his kind spirit by collecting wood for the cottagers at night and saving a woman from drowning. However, he is brutally rejected by them and is forced to become lonely and revengeful.
The creature’s attempt at integrating himself into humanity makes him internally human. The creature shows a stronger desire to be accepted into humanity than his creator, making him a more amatory human than Victor. The creature’s abandonment and the death of Victor’s family and friends cause the two characters to be vengeful against each other. Victor Frankenstein acts upon the results of his own mistakes whereas the creature is forced to act upon the circumstances that are given to him by his creator.
The creature’s actions mirror those of his creator, like a son and a father. The creature, rejected by society and his creator, becomes a vengeful character. 2 Mary Shelley, Frankenstein (New York: A Division of Random House Inc. , 2003) 199. After the creature was miserably abandoned by Victor Frankenstein and stolen of his only future companion, he vows to return the offending actions to his creator. The creature vindictively destroys Victor Frankenstein’s friends and family, leaving his creator as lonely as himself.
The creature’s reaction of rage is expected from an infant without care. “A frightful selfishness hurried me on, while my heart was poisoned with remorse. ”3 The creature, like an infant, imitates the actions of Victor Frankenstein, his father. The innately good creature fathoms that murdering is wrong but he is misguided by Victor’s immoral actions. After the death of Frankenstein, the creature deeply sympathizes his creator. “I pitied Frankenstein; my pity amounted to horror; I abhorred myself. ”4 His guilt in causing the death of his creator leads to his suicide.
The creature’s vengeance is a mere representation of his anger and contradicts his sincere love for Frankenstein. Unlike the creature, Victor Frankenstein fails to recognize his mistakes and blames his misery on the creature. Victor Frankenstein completely abandons his creation because of its revolting appearance and refuses to take responsibility for the creature by denying him a suitable companion. His selfishness blinds him from his mistakes towards the creature, and deprives him of empathy and remorse.
Instead, Frankenstein tries to rationalize his immoral behaviors by destroying the creature. His inhumane actions against the creature create an everlasting battle between the two characters. “Swear to me, Walton, that he shall not escape, that you will seek him and satisfy my vengeance in his death. ”5 3 Mary Shelley, Frankenstein (New York: A Division of Random House Inc. , 2003) 209. 4 Mary Shelley, Frankenstein (New York: A Division of Random House Inc. , 2003) 210. 5 Mary Shelley, Frankenstein (New York: A Division of Random House Inc. , 2003) 199.
Frankenstein’s sole purpose in life is to destroy the creature. He has no sympathy towards the creature, only a strong desire to take revenge. Victor Frankenstein’s vengeance towards the creature is a representation of his hatred towards the creature. The creature’s sincere love for his creator compared to Victor Frankenstein’s irrevocable hatred towards his creation makes the creature a more ethical human than his creator. The creature is more qualitively human than Victor Frankenstein as his actions and qualities are increasingly moral than those of Victor’s.
The creature’s naive curiosity to learn to communicate with the cottagers qualifies him as a more conscientious human than Victor, who has a sinful ambition to discover the secret of life. The creature is a more amatory human than Victor Frankenstein, as his longing to be accepted surpasses those of Victor’s. The creature is a more ethical human than Victor Frankenstein, as he shows regret and sympathy to his creator for his destructive actions although the creature was abandoned by him. Thus, in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, the creature is a more conscientious, amatory, and ethical human than Victor.
University/College: University of California
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 16 February 2017
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