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Mary Shelly: Victor or Frankenstein, the Real Monster

There has always been debate over what the real concept of a monster is, and the simplest definition that anyone can come up with is that a monster is something that is evil or anyone who loses respect for nature and existence, as well as something that is good; be it in thoughts or acts. In fiction, a monster is often used to refer to humans, objects, or animals that do bad things or hurt society. Mary Shelly's book Frankenstein gives the audience a challenging platform on who is the real monster in the story between Victor, the god, Frankenstein, the creation of the creation, it is the creator that is to blame (Sunstein, pg 59). Despite the fact that people would argue that it is the monster that Victor created that is to blame for the violence and destruction in the story, it is Victor himself who is responsible for all of it since he set everything in motion.

What is a monster?

In basic terms, a monster can be defined as a hideous creature that causes fear and harm through its appearance and actions on its victims. In this definition, there are two terms that easily connect with this story: hideous creature and something or someone that causes harm. Yes, Frankenstein is a hideous creature in comparison to human nature of design, and this is owed to his monstrous looks. Victor on the hand is physically a perfect person but with horrible intentions such as greed and lack of empathy. Victor evidently has not thought about the consequences of bringing a dead person to life or how this would alter the individual's being. These are things that he could not accomplish not because of lack of time, but rather a lack of patience as his passion was driven by the fact that he wanted to be famous for being the first scientist who brings a dead person to life. This same greed is what drove Victor to isolate himself from family and friends and therefore proves that in his quest he never thought of anyone but himself, not even Frankenstein.

On the other hand, the most monstrous thing about Frankenstein is the fact that he is hideous in nature and the killing of the child. The rest of him can be seen as compassionate to the extent that when he learned about the death of Victor, he found no bliss in it but the sense of finality. Frankenstein wept over Victor as he felt this was the only person he had a connection with. This relationship can be said to be a juxtaposed connection as Frankenstein was a monster physically but Victor was a monster emotionally and psychologically. This relationship later stirs up a relation where the two are on a quest to destroy each other. Victor wanted to kill Frankenstein as he felt that what he had created was inhuman while Frankenstein, on the other hand, wanted to destroy Victor as he felt that his god was heartless to grant him such misery he could not get rid of. Generally, Frankenstein only wanted everything that Victor had, a family (Fearn, 2012)

The society too can be accredited for being a monster on how it treated Frankenstein. The world around Frankenstein can be seen as heartless first when his creator abandons him and secondly when the community around him rejects him. Frankenstein grows from being an uneducated infant who grows in a world he does not understand and a world that seeks not to understand him. His state of infancy is in the sense that he is left by himself without knowledge of the world around him. It is these early stages that play a significant role in what he later becomes. He is rejected and treated as a monster that is born of pure evil, and as he emotionally and psychologically grows, he becomes the product of his original mindset (Reisner, pg 43). Like previously stated, the society plays a significant role in shaping what we become in the end and most cases we only turn out to be what the community sees us as.

In both three cases, it can be noted that there is a monster in everyone and Frankenstein is an evidence of the monster that humans are. Frankenstein, though deemed a monster, he is only a victim of Victor. Victor is naturally a selfish person and so is the society because they both jump into conclusions about Frankenstein before giving him a chance to show his human nature. In the society and this story, there was an exception, and it was the De Lacey family who welcomed him and let him work for them, and in return, he found a place to stay. It is through staying with the De Lacey family that he gains self-education through observing others, and it was during this time that his affection increased, like an orphan finally finding the sense of family (Shewin, pg 883).

Victor vs. Frankenstein

As previously stated, Victor is selfish in his true nature. In his quest to create Frankenstein, it is easy to note that his idea of giving life to a corpse is not noble. Victor is much more concerned with the glory he will get when he accomplishes his scientific journey than the creature he was creating. It is because of this that he does not consider the consequences of bringing someone back to life or the life that his creation would leave. In creating Frankenstein, it is very evident that it is not the physical features of the creation that he is troubled by, all he wants to see is the corpse come to life, and after achieving this, he is quickly terrified at the monster he has created. This shows that Victor never valued the life he was creating but what his creation would give him, fame. In the end, it is notable that he created something that way beyond his mental capabilities and this is why he dashes away (Bann, pg 42).

His selfishness is met when he is in denial of his mother's death. In the book, there is no clear evidence that Victor took the time to grieve his loss. Instead, he locks up all of his feelings and ends up abandoning his family to isolate himself in work. Victor is seen to be suffering unconsciously as he buries himself in work and cutting himself from the loved ones. Being a successful scientist, he becomes egotistical and self-righteous, venturing into a task that no man has ever performed before. This maybe was a way to avenge the loss of his mother that he mentioned as "bitterness of grief" (Shelley, pg 35). Hence he attempts to play God.

Monsters are often associated with darkness and surrounding themselves with the dead. In his experiment and laboratory, Victor lives amongst the dead as he spends all of his time in charnel houses collecting body parts from the dead. Both before and after his creation, he faces death sometimes, but he totally seems not to get the message that he is sending to himself. As Will Adams state (Shelley, 67), "he must confront death, not just bring a creature to life, but more profoundly because he never mourned the loss of his mother." This lack of grief displays him as dead inside but only alive physically, quite the contrary to his creation. His selfishness and monstrosity come to life when his creation comes to life; this can be a representation of himself. The first thing Victor did when he saw the life he had created, he ran away from it. Then later when his brother was killed he takes no necessary action and fails, to tell the truth in the event of Justin being wrongly accused of the murder of William. His behaviours are self-centred as he declines to reveal the truth about himself and his creation and hence because of this Justin is executed.

Unlike Victor, the creation Frankenstein is grotesque on the outside but is depicted to be more humane than his god. This contradiction is evidently illustrated at the fact that Frankenstein has a sense of belonging, something that Victor entirely lacks. What then makes Frankenstein a monster he is said to be? Frankenstein's problems began when life got in him. The first encounter is his creator abandoning him, and this shows the unnatural side of Victor's relationship, and this is the first notion he imparted on Frankenstein, abandonment. As he left to venture the world he has no idea about, the creature faced rejection from the society and these scar his first encounters with humans making him believe that he is truly a monster or probably, hostility is the way of human life. This level of hatred fostered anxiety in Frankenstein and can be described as an emotionally painful experience (Cervone & Pervin, pg 589). It is because of this that Frankenstein isolates himself in the woods to avoid encountering humans who would only judge him by his appearance.

Frankenstein is also noted to develop sympathy towards the poor DeLacey family and seeks out to help them in any possible way in return all he wanted was for the family to overlook his deformities and accept him for his good heart, sensitive nature and intelligence. But this was in vain when he attempted to reveal himself to the family as the family drove him away with much brutality than what he faced from the townspeople.

It does not to mean that Frankenstein was never a threat to humans. After all the rejection and hostility he faced, he was determined that he was never going to accept the human race and thus vowed vengeance. He killed Victor's little brother William. On several occasions, he also threatened Victor that he would kill him for the pain that he put him through; for example before Victor's wedding to Elizabeth, Frankenstein threatened Victor that he would be with him on his wedding night (Shelley, pg 163).

Despite being miserably treated by the society around it, Frankenstein often rose above the moments without showing anger or despair. He often chose to look on the bright side of life such as enjoying the "blessed sun" as he mentions it (Clemit, pg 162). After all the constant rejection, one would easily assume that Frankenstein would be overwhelmed by unpleasant feelings and start doing terrible things, but his humanity is depicted again when one day while hiding in the woods, he rescued a little girl from drowning and the only gratification was the community shooting at him. In his desire to find a companion, Frankenstein requests Victor to create him a companion that would ease his loneliness.

Conclusion

This essay has clearly argued that the creature, Frankenstein, is not the monster he is assumed to be, but rather it is Victor and the society that are monsters in the story. Despite the fact that Victor has often been perceived by his family and friends as an individual who is kind and loving in nature, he in his real nature an empty human without empathy and who is self-centred. Victor is a reckless scientist who is driven by passion of satisfying no one but himself and this is why he ran away from his family, instead of thinking about what he was creating, he was consumed by the need to be famous, when Justin is accused of murder he stays silent instead of being responsible and when Frankenstein threatens him on his wedding day he only thinks about protecting himself and not the bride. Frankenstein is only a victim of circumstances and is seen to be humane than any human he encountered in his life. His life is filled rejection, and even his creator does not take pride in him as he describes him as an animal instead of looking at him as a human. In his struggles to be part of the high society, it is notable that humans are the monsters and every evil thing originates from our doings and preconceived ideas. Frankenstein criminal career is as a result of the injustice he faced (Baldick. 1987). This is to mean that he only killed because every day he met his demise in the presence of humankind and this might have convinced him in a manner that it is in human nature to be ruthless. Though he is judged for his deformities, it is Victor who is the real monster in the story because of his hostility towards the creature, his sense of abandonment, his strange ways of living such as marrying his stepsister and creating life to satisfy his thirst for alchemy and finally his selfishness. This book by Mary Shelley offers the false perception that the society holds towards what a monster is, which is often prejudiced. A monster cannot be judged by his looks but rather his deeds.

Works Cited

Baldick, Chris. In Frankenstein’s Shadow. Myth, Monstrosity, and Nineteenth century Writing. Oxford: Claredon Press, 1987. Print.

Bann, Stephen. Frankenstein, creation, and monstrosity. London: Reaktion , 1994. Print.

Cervone, Daniel, and Lawrence A. Pervin. Personality: theory and research. 10th ed. New York: John Wiley & Sons, 2008. Print.

Clemit, Pamela. "Frankenstein: Mary Shelley's Myth-Making." The Godwinian Novel (1993): 139-74. Web.

Fearn, Christy. "An Interview with Mary Shelley, author of 'Frankenstein'" YouTube. YouTube, 18 July 2012. Web.

Johnson, Barbara, Nancy Friday, and Dorothy Dinnerstein. "My Monster/My Self." A Norton Critical Edition. Shelley, Mary. The 1818 text, contexts,nineteenth-century responses, modern criticism. 12.2 (1982): 2-18.

Reisner, Gavriel. The death-ego and the vital self: romances of desire in literature and psychoanalysis. Madison, NJ: Fairleigh Dickinson U Press, 2003. Print.

Shelley, Mary Wollstonecraft. Frankenstein, or, The modern Prometheus. London: Penguin , 2003. Print.

Sherwin, Paul. "Frankenstein: Creation as Catastrophe." Pmla 96.5 (1981): 883. Web.

Sunstein, Emily W. Mary Shelley: romance and reality. Boston: Little, Brown, 1989. Print.

July 24, 2021

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