Mary Shelley’s ‘Frankenstein’ is normally taken in the context of a single monster i.e. the one created by Dr. Frankenstein. The truth is, however, that different facets of monstrosity are brought to life in the book in terms of not just the monster but a variety of other characters from the plot as well. Verily, the author expands the definition of monstrous to other characters as well as a few institutions within society. The question is: what is a monster? Does the idea lie in the physical appearance of a creature or does it have a deeper implication in terms of one’s morality and actions? The plot remains intertwined with exhibitions of one’s need for domestic affection and connection to humanity, and the risks of alienation.
Shelley highlighted the main aspects of monstrosity; on a shallow plane it is the physical appearance that would make one a monster, however, on a more profound scale, it is what one has on the inside than the outside that would factor into a monstrosity. A person with less than desirable physical features maybe one of the kindest people to walk God’s great earth and vice versa. The collective monstrosity of people and their aims result in coalitions in the form of institutions. The characters of Victor and Robert Walton are both examples of monstrosity; Victor is too focused on his independent studies and is motivated by nothing but his own selfishness. Robert, on the other hand, cares about nothing but securing all the glory for himself, regardless of the number of people that lose their lives.
Frankenstein’s monster primarily requires love, when he is rejected by both his creator and the Delacy family his desperation to find a place where he belongs grows. At first glance both these parties seem exceedingly innocent, however, as the plot unfolds we see a different picture altogether. When the monster realizes that he is unwanted and unwelcome by the very person that created him and those that he cares about, he becomes, understandably, bitter, angry and increasingly alienated. The monster within him only develops after he has been wronged by humans. For Victor and the other characters in the book the creature is monstrous because of his outward appearance.
Monstrosity is all around us, religion, economics, the social stratification system; Justine uses faith to get what she wants, she does not consider the implications of her actions but only her desired end result. Our world economic systems produce inequality, where the rich get richer and the poor get poorer and injustice prevails. The society, in short, shuns Frankenstein’s monster regardless of the kind of being he is. His sense of homelessness is what carves a monstrous element in his identity. Shelley paints a very miserable picture of a society that consists of only selfish and self-motivated individuals. In a way, the work can be seen as a social commentary where he tries to shed light on the fact that even those that start off in the hands of innocence are turned into monsters by so-called humanity.
References made throughout the book depict this state i.e. Victor’s workshop is seen as a metaphor for the industrial atmosphere of that era. The severe lack of humanity in the church authorities, the victor and the class system which perpetuates injustice is also highlighted in the text. The creature becomes a metaphor for the disenfranchised. We can gauge the desperation the creature must have felt when he implores with his creator to give him a chance as he is all alone. He too has a soul and he too needs love. Victor could have at that point saved some humanity in the creature by accepting him. His actions against the creature at that time are also inhumane as the creature is baring his soul for Victor so that he can see how hurt and alone he is but to no avail (Shelley, p.82).
Victor tries to find solace in nature repeatedly (Shelley, p.58-59 & p.777), the very nature he tried to manipulate at the start. The beauty of nature brings him closer to the idea that the world is not a terrible place and gives him a sense of peace. Victor goes through a terrible transformation after he creates the creature. He becomes more and more vengeful because of the creature and his actions and his misery is reflected in his face as he beings to resemble the very creature he wanted to destroy (Shelley, p.74).
The monster was not created with feelings of ill will or violent tendencies; it is what he experiences of humanity that turns him into the worst possible kind of monster. The author shows a sense of remorse for this lack of humanity and monstrosity in her character Victor when he tells Walton not to go down the same path of ruthless ambition that he had. What Shelley is trying to highlight is that deeds are what make a man a true monster. Frankenstein’s monster was a kind creature that wanted to help people around him and was only looking for love. It was the hatred people had for the appearance that forbade them to give him even a single chance. Shelley places greater emphasis on moral behavior than anything else. The monster is like a child, he becomes what he learns through observation the very same way he learns to speak through the Delacey family. The fact that he becomes a monster is a direct reflection of where humanity stood at that point in time as per the author. The typical definition and world view of monstrosity are challenged in the book as it looks into the concept in an entirely unique light. Shelley pulls in the problems with humanity and how society is turning into a cesspool of monsters that act upon their own selfishness without thought for others.
References: Shelley, Mary Wollstonecraft, Walter James Miller, and Harold Bloom. Frankenstein, Or, The Modern Prometheus. New York: New American Library, 2000. Print.