Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Humanity, not the creature, the real monster in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein

Frankenstein (Signet Classics)Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Who's the monster?

Humanity is. The creature never has a chance. He is created, and as soon as Victor Frankenstein gives him life, he abhors what he has done and abandons his creature. The creature, hideous and monstrous in appearance, never gets a break. All his human interactions are negative. He is singularly reviled by every human being he comes in contact with except for one blind man. By his own testimony he was originally good, loving goodness and beauty and desiring companionship, friendship, and the mutual exchange of kindness and love. But humanity's consistent mistreatment drove him finally to declare war on humanity.

While Victor is the narrator, one struggles to fully sympathize with him. His drive to create life was humanitarian, but his sudden abhorrence when the creature first lives is never explained. Two years later when the creature tells his tale of woe and attempts to reason with his creator, Victor never fully accepts the logic of the creature's pleas, though the reader does. One thinks that if just someone could have gotten past the creature's monstrous looks, things would have turned out so much different.

The creature becomes a monster to humanity because humanity first acted the monster towards him. Victims become victimizers. It is easier to sympathize with the creature (who is, significantly, never given a name) than it is with his creator, though the creator (Victor Frankenstein) spends the whole book trying to justify himself. If this is Mary Shelley's intention, it is brilliantly done.

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