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Frankenstein, with its fascinating literature and its thrilling horror… has been split into two categories: good and evil. The whole book is a contrast of good and evil, something I believe Shelly has deliberately put into her book to make the reader begin to judge the characters and to show everyone that no living thing is pure evil and that no living thing is perfect either. Also, it shows how people are affected by nature and outside influences. As I read this thrilling book of terror and fright I began to wonder, what is a monster?
Is it because of their grotesque appearance? If so, should we shun away from the disabled and ugly… are they born wicked? Or do they have wickedness thrust down upon them? These are some of the types of questions that Mary Shelley’s novel throws up. Nature vs. Nurture is a major theme in the novel and questions beliefs of the time. Jean-Jacques Rousseau (a natural philosopher during the time when Shelley wrote her book) argues that all things newly born into the world are born innocent.
He believed that every man is born pure; it is the cruelty of man that makes them evil. This is related in Shelley’s book, Frankenstein. It was a highly debated idea at the time. In Frankenstein, an example of this idea was that Victor was born ‘innocent’. This is shown when it says: “I (Frankenstein) their (his parents) play toy, I was their idol and something better- their child, the innocent and helpless creature bestowed on them by heaven… ” (Chapter I page 33).
The words “play toy” and “helpless creature” are a parallel with the creature that Frankenstein creates as Shelley is trying to show you the verity of the monster’s upbringing compared to Victor’s, as the monster also calls himself “helpless and alone. ” This shows that although Victor and his creature are main contrasts with each other, they are bound to each other and most of their lives mirror each other as both were ‘born’ innocent and ‘helpless’.
For example, Victor was treated like a “play toy” which then plays a part in Victor’s Social development (him thinking that he can become god by creating life and the ‘creature’ being his “play toy”) and that’s what he then created. He created his ‘child’ to be a “play toy”… what goes around comes around… Whilst reading this book the creature also gives an account where he is describing himself to the cottagers saying: “up to this point my life has been withered to harmless” .
The word “withered” simulates the imagery of the monster being a fragile living being, instead of a monster which has been left to rot without sunshine. In this case the sunshine would represent a loving parent. The plant (THE MONSTER) without a loving parent would rot and die. This is a contrast and parallel between Frankenstein and the monster. The monster is shunned away, even from his ‘birth’, as he was left to wander the world without any loving parents or any one to guide him. This reflects Frankenstein’s own selfishness to abandon his ‘son’/ creation.
This also could relate to the nature Vs nurture theory as the “monster” was created through science and is turned away by man and Frankenstein. The creature spends several months of his life in a “squalid hovel”. Shelley uses the words “squalid hovel” to describe the transformation from the city houses to where the monsters life began to where his life has led him. The setting reflects his own life as the people inside the cottage were born naturally and are living in a nice secure environment whereas he was born unnaturally so he must spend his life alone and in a ‘squalid hovel’.
When the monster gazes at himself he is disgusted with himself. With him referring to himself as having a “miserable deformity”. This goes a lot deeper when the monster is shunned away from the cottagers. He becomes angry and vengeful, so “‘from that moment I [the monster] ,declared everlasting war against the species, and more than all, against [Frankenstein] who had formed [him] and sent [him] forth to this insupportable misery. ‘” (Chapter 16, pg. 121)
Shelley is giving the reader a message that the way people are treated would effect them later in their lives and the way they were brought up could effect the rest of humanity. During the time he observes the cottagers, a new character is introduced. This is deliberately done for effect to parallel the monster’s lack of knowledge, as she is taught lessons in English by Felix De Lacey. Safie is an outsider (Shelley makes it seem as if she is an immigrant or alien) and there is a similarity with the monster, both are exiles, not accepted and needing to learn a new language to be accepted.