Often the actions of children are reflective of the attitudes of those
who raised them. In the novel Frankenstein : Or the Modern Prometheus by
Mary Shelley, Dr. Victor Frankenstein is the sole being that can take
responsibility for the creature that he has created, as he is the only one
that had any part in bringing it into being. While the actions of the
creation are the ones that are the illegal and deadly their roots are
traced back to the flaws of Frankenstein as a creator.
Many of Frankenstein's faults are evident in the appearance of his
creation. It is described as having yellow skin, dark black hair, eyes
sunk into their sockets, and black lips (Shelly 56). Frankenstein, having
chosen the parts for his creature, is the only one possible to blame for
its appearance. Martin Tropp states that the monster is 'designed to be
beautiful and loving, it is loathsome and unloved' (64).
Clearly it is
Frankenstein's lack of foresight in the creation process to allow for a
creature that Frankenstein 'had selected his features as beautiful,' (56)
to become something which the very sight of causes its creator to say
'breathless horror and disgust filled my heart'(56). He overlooks the
seemingly obvious fact that ugliness is the natural result when something
is made from parts of different corpses and put together. Were he
thinking more clearly he would have noticed monster's hideousness.
Another physical aspect of the monster which shows a fault in
Frankenstein is its immense size. The reason that Frankenstein gives for
creating so large a creature is his own haste. He states that ,'As the
minuteness of the parts formed a great hinderance to my speed, I resolved,
contrary to my first intention, to make a being gigantic in stature ...'
(52). Had Frankenstein not had been so rushed to complete his project he
would not have had to deal with such a physically intimidating creature.
Tropp however states that ambition may have had a role in the size of the
creation. He says that the creation is 'born of Frankenstein's
megalomania' (81). This may indeed be true as the inventor states 'A new
species would bless me as its creator and source; many happy and excellent
natures would owe their being to me' (52). Frankenstein seems obsessed
with being the father of this new race, so he makes the creature large in
order to assure its dominance.
The more important defect within Frankenstein is not so much shown in
the appearance that he gave his creation, but the manner in which he
responds to it. The first thing that Frankenstein notices upon the
activation of his creation is one of being appalled (56). Frankenstein
sees the creature's physical appearance only, taking no time to attempt to
acknowledge its mental nature. He cannot accept it simply because it looks
too far removed from his view of beautiful (Oates 77). Because of this he
drives the creature away, abandoning it. The creature is 'in one sense an
infant-a comically monstrous eight foot baby- whose progenitor rejects him
immediately after creating him...' (Oates 70). It is due to this
abandonment that the monster develops the murderous tendencies displayed
later in the novel. Even when the creature is shown to be naturally good,
its physical form never allows it acceptance. Whenever the creation
attempts to be rational with Frankenstein it is rejected, with in almost
all cases Frankenstein sighting its appearance as one of the reasons.
'Frankenstein's response to the `thing' he has created is solely in
aesthetic terms...' (Oates 75).
Throughout the novel Frankenstein continually insists that 'The
tortures of Hell are too mild a vengeance for all [the creature's] crimes'
(95). Frankenstein is incorrect, however in assuming that the creature is
inherently evil. Mary Lowe-Evans states that ,'Nothing in Frankenstein is
more unexpected than the Creature's sensitivity' (52). His benevolent
nature described in his story is meant to show that he is not the beast
that Frankenstein has made him out to be (Lowe-Evans 52). The creature is
intrigued by the lives of the people that he finds living in a small cabin,
the De Laceys. The creature loves everything about these people and
attempts to aid them by gathering for them much needed firewood. This
action is described by Tropp as, 'a last attempt to enter its [Paradise's}
gates' (75). He also sympathizes with the plights of other unfortunate
people that he hears of such as the Native Americans (Lowe-Evans 53). It
is only upon being again rejected because of his appearance that the
creature becomes the monster that Frankenstein sees him as.
Just as the creature's love of the De Laceys show that he is not an
evil being and that Frankenstein has caused him to become this way, so does
the creature's constant longing for companionship. The creature says in
regard to originally capturing Frankenstein's brother William, 'If I could,
therefore seize him ... I should not be so desolate in this peopled earth.'
(136). He only murders him upon realizing that he is a relative of
Frankenstein. The creature's ultimate plea for companionship comes when he
requests that Frankenstein creates another monster to be his mate, and that
the two monsters would live in isolation. Tropp acknowledges that this is
truly meant to do no harm to the race of man, and simply to comfort the
creature. He also states, however, that it is in the creation's nature to
look for acceptance by humans, and will if given the chance, return to
human civilization (78).
The most major crime committed by the creature in the eyes of
Frankenstein is the murder of his wife Elizabeth. The roots of the killing
can be traced back not only to the malice displayed by the creature toward
Frankenstein, but also to Frankenstein's own self-centered attitude. The
creature pronounces his threat on Elizabeth's life, after Frankenstein has
done what Oates calls 'The cruelest act of all' (78), destroying the
partially finished monster that was to be the mate of his first creation.
She also states that Frankenstein, 'in `mangling' the flesh of his demon's
bride, he is murdering the pious and rather too perfect Elizabeth...' (78).
Frankenstein wishes for his own happiness through companionship in
marriage, but denies the same right to his creation. Frankenstein can also
be viewed as being responsible for the death of Elizabeth by assuming that
when the creature states 'I shall be with you on your wedding night' (161)
he is going to be killed rather than Elizabeth, even when all of the
creature's prior killings point to the fact that he would attempt to make
Frankenstein's life miserable rather than actually kill him (Lowe-Evans
61). In fact if the creature actually wanted Frankenstein to die, it had
the perfect opportunity to kill him the second Frankenstein destroyed his
would be wife. Lowe-Evans points out that this can be attributed to
Frankenstein's own selfish attitude. She says he 'might feel that even the
attention implied in the Creature's warning rightfully belongs to him'
(62). This fits the spoiled childhood life of Frankenstein, detailed in
the works early chapters (Lowe-Evans 62).
It is stated by Oates that ,'The monsters that we create ... `are'
ourselves as we cannot hope to see ourselves...' (75). This statement is
perfectly applicable to Frankenstein. The qualities that he would most
like to deny are shown through the results that they have had on the being
which he has brought into existence. The results of his flaws take on a
physical aspect, destroying those around him, until he finally dies seeking
revenge on something that he himself has brought about.
Works Cited Lowe-Evans, Mary. Frankenstein: Mary Shelly's Wedding Guest.
New York: Twayne Publishers, 1993.
Oates, Joyce Carol. 'Frankenstein: Creation as Catastrophe.'
Mary Shelly's Frankenstein. Ed. Harold Bloom. New York: Chelsea
House Publishers, 1987.
Shelly, Mary. Frankenstein: Or the Modern Prometheus. New York: Penguin
Tropp, Martin. Mary Shelly's Monster. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1976.