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Essay: Humanistic qualities of Frankenstein’s creature

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  • Published: 25 July 2022*
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Mary Shelley’s novel, Frankenstein, contradicts ideas of monsters that we have imagined, such as monsters show or feel no emotion except for anger and the stereotypical idea that monsters are bad regardless of how they are inside and out. Frankenstein’s creature fits the description many would picture a monster with, “His yellow skin scarcely covered the work of muscles and arteries beneath; his hair was of a lustrous black, and flowing; his teeth of a pearly whiteness; but these luxuriances only formed a more horrid contrast with his watery eyes, that seemed almost of the same colour as the dun white sockets in which they were set, his shrivelled complexion, and straight black lips” (Shelley, Ch 5). On the outside, this creature appears as if you would see him in a modern-day horror film, but on the inside he is nothing short of human having emotions and feelings that are very much real and easily connected. The idea that monsters do not think like humans or that they do not have feelings is dismissed throughout Shelley’s novel on many occasions. Frankenstein’s creature throughout Shelley’s novel is humanized allowing him to be separated from the stereotypes which is new kind of bold for literature. Many of the horror novels for this time do the opposite of Shelley, setting her novel apart.

The creature has the ability to want and need for all the basic human comforts such as friends, family, and love. From the moment the creature is abandoned by Frankenstein up until the very end, he feels this emptiness and want for a companion like we as humans do. The creature makes his desires known and expresses his emotions throughout her novel. His ability to do these things is not the typical move for a writer, the readers are expected to be frightened by the thought of a monster much less having the thought of a monster wanting to be loved by us.

Shelley uses personification in allowing Frankenstein’s creature to be able to think, learn, and react like most humans would. In the beginning of the creature’s life, he is very childlike and has to learn through observation just as a child would, it seems as if Shelley is basing the creature off of a human child. The way that the creature is able to stumble upon a village and is unable to understand why he cannot go into the houses and eat the food that they have is something that had to be learned and understood. Most monsters are not made to be as intelligent and humanizes as Shelley has made this creature to be. She may break the standards for horror novels by making this novel much more complex by playing on the ideas of revenge and the creatures lack of understanding with most things. The creature says, “I cannot describe to you the agony that these reflections inflicted upon me; I tried to dispel them, but sorrow only increased with knowledge” (Shelley 83). With increased knowledge, the creature has only become more aware of his lack of three very important things we as humans want and need in our lives. From the very beginning of the novel the creature is unaware of the fact his appearance and presence is terrifying and that he has been abandoned. As the novel progresses the creature is able to become aware of these things adding to suspense and the readers idea of him. The creature said, “God, in pity, made man beautiful and alluring, after his own image; but my form is a filthy type of yours, more horrid even from the very resemblance” (Barbara 95). The creature is not only aware of his hideous image, he is becoming aware of discrimination, developing emotions, and the need for acceptance in human society. This novel can relate to todays world as we humans struggle day to day with acceptance allowing Shelley to play on irony and the readers emotion.

The creature wants all of the three things we consider humanistic. These things are the want for family, friends, and love. Without these basic things the creature is lonely and has started down his own path of destruction. Much of the creature’s loneliness is sparked by his abandonment by the one who created him. Even others would agree, “For Dr. Frankenstein’s crime was not that he invented a creature through some combination of hubris and high technology, but rather that he abandoned the creature to itself” (Latour, 19). The way the creature feels emotions over his abandonment and thinks makes him different from what we would consider a true monster. The abandonment by his creator has left the creature damaged and heartbroken leaving him to feel and express this want for the three human desires. The creature is most tormented because through all of his observations, he has learned the fact that each living creature as some form of companion and is hurt deeply by this realization. As said by the creature himself, ‘“Remember, I am thy creature,” the monster beseeches his creator, “I ought to be thy Adam; but I am rather the fallen angel, whom thou drivest from joy for no misdeed… I was benevolent and good; misery made me a fiend. Make me happy, and I shall again be virtuous” (Latour 19-20). After learning that he is truly alone in this world, it becomes a key turning point in Shelley’s novel. This craving for a family and love is understood by Shelley through her experience growing up much like the creature with very similar and devastating details in which they can relate. Shelley can also relate to Victor and the creature with her descending down a path of self-destruction in her own way at some point, “For by dramatizing herself-just as she does the 1831 Frankenstein-as the victim of forces beyond her control, she elevates the dilemma of the female artist to the status of myth and sanctions the very self-expression she professes to regret” (Poovey 333). In other words Shelley has forces in her life she could not control such as Victor with his creature. For example, in Shelley’s novel, the creature is abandoned and alone and while Shelley was not completely alone, she was not far from it.

The idea of perception based thoughts and emotions are played strongly throughout Shelley’s work. The creature is made to be hideous on the outside but with a heart of gold until it is turned cold by constant rejection. The creature cares for and has feelings of love towards the Delacys in the novel, but only to be rejected by the ones who he thought could accept and love him unconditionally as a part of their family. This rejection of the creature from the Delaceys is due to the way that the creature looks on the outside, not considering the creatures feelings that he has on the inside. Even though he was rejected, through careful observation of the Delacey family the creature learned many things from them such as language, literature, music and much more. At the beginning of the creatures stay, he would take food from the garden of the Delacey family to ease his hunger not understanding the damage that was done to the poverty stricken family. Upon learning of the scarcity of food at the cottage the creature began to do good deeds for the family. These tasks consisted of things such as collecting wood and doing various chores outside to try and make up for his actions. The Delacey family was oblivious to these actions the creature had done to help them throughout his time observing, this is what causes part of the growing problem. Shelley makes the creature human like. By doing so she gave the creature the emotions and a connection felt with the Delacey family. In the beginning, these positive emotions and connection to the family pacified his loneliness as he began to think of himself as part of their family causing a soothing effect, until the humanization of the creature begins to go a different direction.

The creature faces rejection throughout the novel, Victor Frankenstein created the creature yet he is the first to reject him, “If God has not abandoned His Creation and has sent His Son to redeem it, why do you, a human, a creature, believe that you can invent, innovate, and proliferate — and then flee away in horror from what you have committed?” (Bruno, 26). This point made by Bruno brings a new insight to the creation of Victor’s creature. Is it possible that Victor did not think through the consequences of his actions when creating the creature? The creature awakens in the mental state of a baby, resulting in the need for love, guidance, family, and acceptance to be able to develop properly. These needs are common sense when raising any child except Victor chose to run from his responsibilities after failing to realize the consequences of creating life. If the actual creation of a living creature from body parts of the dead is not criminal enough, Victor proceeds abandon this creature, “For Dr. Frankenstein’s crime was not that he invented a creature through some combination of hubris and high technology, but rather that he abandoned the creature to itself” leaving the creature to learn and fend for itself with not a clue on how to do it (Bruno 19). The rejection from the Delacey family is potentially the most damaging and crucial of them all. Due to his humanistic flaws by being childlike and immature, following this rejection the creature became so enraged he acted on his emotions without ever thinking of the damage done or even the consequences that he could potentially face. Sadly this is not the only rejection that the creature faced. While he was in the woods he stumbles upon a girl drowning in a creek, as he is saving her a villager discovers him and thinks that the creature is trying to kill her and shoots him. This constant rejection among many others was the final straw for the creature and he begins the desire for revenge on the very person who created him.

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