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Essay: The nature of Frankenstein’s creature

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  • Published: 25 July 2022*
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  • Tags: Frankenstein essays

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Frankenstein’s creature made first appearance in chapter 5. It was described by Victor Frankenstein sarcastically as “Beautiful! Great God!” (p68). The use of exclamation and “God” could indicate how wrong Frankenstein feels to describe the creature as “beautiful”. The exclamation exaggerates his thoughts and also gives the reader a sense of wrongness in using the adjective “beautiful” to describe the monster. The use of “God” could only empathise this use in order to convey how oxymoronic he would be if one was to compare the creature with “beautiful”. Already, from just Frankenstein’s exclamation, the reader could already know that the creature isn’t beautiful and that he would probably not be accepted in a society due to his appearance. Without even knowing what the creature actually looks, the readers could already assume the worst or at least some features that would be different from their own. The creature is “yellow skin”, “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.” (p68) The description starts with the skin colour of the creature which might be due to its distinct contrast with the white skin sene among the Victorian society that the book was based upon. By suggesting that the creature has “yellow skin”, it already differentiate the creature from everyone else within the society. In 1816, it would be believed that people with yellow skin would be rare or even non-existent in their society, by having the monster with a different skin colour, this would have already placed the creature as a target of discrimination and prejudice, generally not accepted by the society. The creature’s hair was then described as “lustrous black, and flowing” which contrasts with his “pearly whiteness” teeth. This comparison could create an absurdity within the readers due to the contrasting of colours. The “dun-white sockets” in his “watery eyes” and “straight black lips” enhances this comparison by using the same colours of black and white. These contrasts of colours may create dysphoria as “dun-white” emphasis on the unnaturalness of his eyes plus the describing the eye as close to the colour of the socket takes away the sign of life as it could be said that the eyes are often the window to one’s soul and when a person’s eyes loses its color, it would usually indicate a lifeless state. Furthermore, the straight black lips also contribute to the unease as lips are not suppose to be black. When one’s lips are black, it usually suggest illness as a healthy person would have red lips. This associates the creature with illness and death, therefore create a dysphoria among the readers. By creating this dysphoria, the readers might be disgusted by the creature’s appearance whereby affect the portrayal as a sympathetic character. Differ the creature’s appearance from the rest of society could generate prejudice ideas against the creature even if he wasn’t a real person. This prejudice would might then affect one’s sympathy for the character as when one hold prejudice against another, they would often view that person in a negative light which in turn makes it much harder for the reader to sympathise and care for the creature. To further extent, the only one among the cottagers who had shown kindness to the creature is the blind man. With the old man being blinded to his appearance, he was touched by the creature’s confession to their kindness and was not terrified of the creature when he showed up, unlike the other cottagers who can see the creature’s appearance. When the three younger cottagers that could see rushed into the cottage, one fainted; one rushed out; and one tore the creature away from his father. The reactions of the cottagers could represent the societal views on the creature’s appearance shown in a negative light. Even though they have not seen the creature do anything that would be deemed immoral or evil, they still acted negatively at the sight of the creature. This would then be one aspect that suggest Shelley wasn’t portraying the creature as a sympathetic character as the appearance of the creature is shown in a negative light.

On the other hand, despite appearances, the creature’s kind and curious nature may help shape the creature as a sympathetic character. The creature’s kind nature could been seen with his interaction with those in the cottage. When he found that “in doing this [he] inflicted pain on the cottagers, [he] abstained and satisfied [himself] with berries, nuts, and roots” (p133). This scene shows his compassion towards strangers, changing his own behaviour to suit others. The choice of using the verb “inflict” shows that the creature think that he is forcing the pain on others, which might convey his guilt for stealing their food, and acknowledge that his action was wrong. By using this verb instead of “afflict” which means to cause unhappiness, it shows the scale of damage the creature think he caused, and this indicates that the creature does not like to make others suffer, suggesting his kind personality to the readers. In addition, this could also show the control the creature have over himself. The use of “abstained” and “satisfied” suggest that he has his own wish and control over himself. This makes the creature resembles more like a human because he is able to control himself and also feel the pain he caused to the cottagers. Obvious emotion shown here not only help the reader connect with the creature as mentioned, he also appeals to constructing his kind personality. This kind personality would then also contribute to depicting the creature as a sympathetic character.

Apart from his kind nature, the curiosity of being alive likewise could form a sympathetic character. The creature, new to the world was seized by “A strange multiplicity of sensations” (p122). Once again, the choice of diction could suggest the creature’s curious nature. The word choice of “strange” emphasises on the confusion he felt when the senses first appeared. By using “strange” it would appear to the readers that he has not experienced this before, which could then indicate the confusion that he is feeling due to these senses. Moreover, by emphasising on the “multiplicity of sensations” shows the reader just how complex the creature is. From this word, “multiplicity”, it allows the creature to seem more human. This word implies that the creature could feel as much as humans do and because of the amount of senses there are, it would be fair to be confused over the copious amount of information intake from the surroundings. This not only highlight the confusion that the creature must have felt when encountering sensory information, he also brings the creature closer to being a human, making the reader able to connect with even more.

Adding to the kind and curious nature of the creature, he has also showed remorse over the death of his creator which could indicate his acknowledgement of his flaws and ability to change, allowing the reader to feel pity and understand his character more, and thus portrayed as a sympathetic character. At the scene where the creature sits by Frankenstein’s bedside, mourning for the doctor, his language becomes very formal and the sentences are lengthy and complex. In his speech, he uses “thou” as a replacement of “you”. This replacement of pronouns is very old, dating back to the shakespearean time. This could then create a serious tone as “thou” is often used in formal speech and not daily as it is quite hard to use. Furthermore, the lengthy and complex sentences adds to the formalness and seriousness of the event of Frankenstein dying. With this, it would seem as though the creature is making a speech at Frankenstein’s funeral (“Characters – AQA – Revision 2 – GCSE English Literature – BBC Bitesize.”). In the speech, he mentioned “for the bitter sting of remorse will not cease to rankle in my wounds until death shall close them for ever.” (p267) This could indicate that the creature feels sorry for Frankenstein and regrets that he has destroyed all that Frankenstein ever loved. Also, a plea for forgiveness could be seen in his remorse, considering that he claims that the remorse will not “cease to rankle my wounds” allowing the reader to presume that the guilt is keeping him unable to heal and the word “rankle” creates a more sincere feeling. This then could be viewed as a request for forgiveness .

In comparison to the points above, the creature was also shown in a gothic style that portrays him more as a horrific monster that Frankenstein believe he to be. This might then affect how the audience feels about him and contradicting the believe that the creature is formed as a sympathetic character. In chapter 17, the creature made a promise to “watch their progress with unutterable anxiety;and fear not but that when you are ready I shall appear” (p177). This indicates that the creature will always be watching over Frankenstein in a threatening way (“The Gothic Nature of the Monster in Frankenstein | BritLit.”). With this said in a threatening tone, reinforcing the anxiety and fear that Frankenstein will be experiencing by adding “unutterable” as an exaggeration to emphasis on the fear. This creates the gothic nature of the creature and also shine him on a negative light, giving the reader as well as Frankenstein an association with fear. This fear that the creature gives off might be repelling towards the readers. This might then lead to the readers to have resentment towards the creature, which discourages the readers into connecting or sympathise with the creature, countering the characterisation of a sympathetic character.

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