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When the monster recounts the early memories of his life, he explains: “it was a long time before I could distinguish between the operations of my various senses. ” This helps us to sympathise with him as we view him similarly to a helpless new born child. By Shelley providing this knowledge of his innocence, it acts as evidence that he is not an evil creature, and started his life with no malicious intentions, which helps us to identify his motives which occur later in his narrative and drive him to commit his crimes.
In his narrative the monster also tells us of the “friendship” he formed with the cottagers during his observation of them from his “hovel. ” He expresses how he “longed to join them, but dared not” because the only interaction he has had with humans before this point had left him “miserable… from the barbarity of man. ” We sympathise with the monsters feelings of isolation and loneliness as it is clear that the monster longs to feel compassion and belonging, but knows from his previous human reception that this is not a possibility.
He takes to doing favours for the cottagers, such as collecting firewood, in an effort to ease their sadness and poverty. We find it endearing how the kindness of the cottagers towards each other inspires the monster to show kindness towards them, this shows evidence of the monster longing to be part of the family which he so avidly admires, thus furthering our sympathy towards him. As the monster’s knowledge develops it brings him both happiness and misery.
He first feels happiness, as his new found knowledge of language instils him with the hope that this acquired skill will ensure the acceptance of the cottagers. He hopes that upon presenting himself to them his “gentle demeanour and conciliating words… should win their favour and afterwards their love. ” This hope is heightened by arrival of spring causing his past recollections of cruelty and the hard learned lessons of the barbarity of man to be “blotted” from his memory with the disappearance of winter.
This increases our sympathy as these delusional hopes he has created for himself emphasise his desperate longing and determination to be accepted and loved. As the monster then continues to observe the cottagers with his new found understanding of their language, he comes to learn more about the “strange system of human society. ” He discovers that he does not possess any of the qualities that will allow him to be accepted amongst mankind, which brings him great misery.
He comes to question his existence: “was I, then, a monster, a blot upon the earth…? ” This realisation brings the monster great pain, which Shelley emphasises by its contrast with the hopes and happiness that his earlier knowledge gave him. The monster tells of when he went to speak with De Lacey, the blind man who lives in the cottage, in an attempt to gain his friendship. De Lacey responds to the monster with kindness and sympathises with his plight.
He cannot see the monster and believes him to be human, so here Shelley is convincing the reader of the monster’s humanity by showing us that only his appearance sets him apart from other humans. The children return home to the cottage during the conversation between De Lacey and the monster. Upon seeing him they react with “horror and Conternation. ” When Felix “struck” the monster “violently with a stick”, we feel greatly sympathetic towards him as he was not given the chance to prove himself the way had done to the old man.
Shelley’s use of this anti-climax reflects the monster’s disappointment at the outcome of his plan and helps the reader to empathise with him. This empathy is also created through his language, as he expresses his feelings of “pain and anguish” and how his “heart sank within him as with bitter sickness. ” The fact that he “could have torn [Felix] limb from limb” but refrained, conveys how defeated he feels at the loss of his only chance of being accepted by his “protectors”, who have now become his attackers.
The monster’s final appearance in the novel shows his reaction to seeing his creator’s dead body. He is immediately filled with remorse for his crimes and begs for Frankenstein’s forgiveness: “Oh Frankenstein! Generous and self-devoted being! What does it avail that I now ask thee to pardon me? ” The fact that the monster mourns his creator’s death, after Frankenstein had shown him nothing but rejection and hatred, shows that the monster is a very compassionate creature.
This helps us to feel that we can still sympathise with monster, despite his crimes, as it reassures us that it was the cruelty that life had dealt him which drove him to commit these murders. I think Shelley wanted us to realise that Frankenstein was not born evil; it was the brutal treatment he received by mankind that turned him to be bitter and resentful. Perhaps Shelley’s intended to convey that society could have this same effect on anyone, and urge readers to think of the consequences that their actions could have on the lives of others.
Or perhaps Shelley is simply urging us not to “judge a book by its cover”, as the monster is judged solely on his appearance throughout the novel. More specifically, this could be aimed at scientists, like Frankenstein, warning them to think of the potential consequences of their work. Although Shelley’s motive for this novel is unclear, evidently she intended for her novel to teach readers a lesson, and I feel the sympathy she creates for the monster helps us to appreciate the value of these lessons.