The story of Frankenstein by Mary Shelley evolves around its characters and the complex emotions of love, fear, and revenge. Victor Frankenstein starts off at the beginning of the novel with an outpouring of love for his family and friends. That quickly fades as he becomes drunk with the knowledge, focus, and determination to become a name known in science. "I believed myself to be destined for some great enterprise. My feelings are profound, but I professed a coolness of judgment that fitted me for illustrious achievements" (Shelley). It does not take long for Victor to shut himself off from the world, with declining health in tow, to create the semblance of Victor's soul one simply known as the Monster. Thus marks the beginning of a downward slide in both creator and the mirrored monster from loving, passionate 'humans,' to the wretched souls they become throughout the novel. For Victor the road he walks is littered with family, ambition, and madness. It is common, although misguided, for most to believe that the novel of Frankenstein consists of a good guy (Victor) and the bad guy (the monster). The monster's life is one of love, abandonment, alienation, and revenge; mix that with the torments of his creator's life and it is no surprise that the characters succumb to the Shakespearean style tragedy.
Spoken by Victor after seeing the first outcome of events that started four chapters prior; the abandonment of his creation, "Nothing is more painful to the human mind than, after the feelings have been worked up by a quick succession of events; the dead of calmness of inaction and certainty which follows and deprives the soul both of hope and fear" (Shelley). After pouring himself into his work, literally almost to the point of death, Victor is unable to accept the monster he has created and abandons him to seek solitude in his room. "For this I had deprived myself of rest and health. I had desired it with an ardour that far exceeded moderation; but now that I had finished, the beauty of the dream vanished, and breathless horror and disgust filled my heart" (Shelley). Victor's cowardly reaction to what he has created kick starts the demise of both creature and man. Victor, whom had diligently worked towards this goal in one way or another seems to be changed for the worse in its completion, he is almost instantly consumed with what he has lost in reference to his accomplishment and dreams. One would start to question the sanity of Victor, was he not aware of the monster's features, did he not construct him himself? How could he run away without any thought of the repercussions? Was Victor not aware when he took on this monumental task that there was possibly a reason why the dead should stay in their permanent state?
When given the abrupt and ghastly entrance into the world, I was surprised to learn about the monster's life up until the point of the pivotal meeting in the mountains with Victor. The monster speaks of the "pleasant sounds" he heard of birds and nature in his time in the mountains. He divulges to Victor that he has taught himself to read and write while observing his beloved cottagers, an immense accomplishment given the unknown from which the monster came from. The love he felt for the cottagers was felt in the passage, "The gentle manners and beauty of the cottagers greatly endeared them to me; when they were unhappy, I felt depressed, when they rejoiced, I sympathized in their joys" (Shelley). There was a little happiness I felt for the monster, a sort of hope, that despite his grotesque appearance he might be able to find the companionships he longed for. The monster was quick to point out what events "made me what I am" in his hillside talk with Victor. He spoke about the rejection of his creator, the knowledge of who he really was, "an unfortunate and deserted creature," and the heartbreaking rejection he got from his cottagers. "Felix, in a transport of fury dashed me to the ground and struck me violently with a stick. I could have torn him limb from limb, but my heart sank with sickness, and I refrained. Overcome by pain and anguish, I quitted the cottage and returned to my hoval" (Shelley).
Alienation was a constant for this beast; the love once felt now overshadowed by rejection and the need for vengeance. Thus the standoff between the created/creator, man/monster began with an ultimatum; "create me a companion or suffer my wrath." It was here, again, where Victor had the chance to take action and stop the madness that was about to commence- but why didn't he? Isn't it evident that Victor is the same monster he shuns; the monster being the outward projection against Victor's facade. Do you believe, like so many others do, that the monster was simply just misunderstood? In one online post an author feels pity for the monster, likening him to "a puppy who lashes out at people because he is hurt and misunderstood." Or like another author who describes the monster's "grotesque physical appearance in explicit contrast to the monster's inner beauty." I could see the appeal of both arguments if I myself didn't understand the impact and choices that each of them had made. Did not both man and monster have a choice in what road they walked down?
When we run so blindly towards our own selfish goals, we are hastened in the roads we choose to get there. The monster and Victor alike were mirror images of one another, both were quick to play out their own desires- but it was the inaction that lead to the loss of hope, fear, love, companionships, and in the end; their lives. There are lines in this world that one should never cross, and death is one of them. True monsters are those who feel that they are justified to give life and to take life. In the last chapter of Frankenstein both Victor and the monster compare themselves to Satan: "both feel they have fallen from a great height to end in ruin and decay. Once again, they are indissolubly linked it is as though they have become the same person. It is therefore only logical that the creature should die now that Frankenstein is dead: he has lost his animating principle, the person who made his life worth living" (Shelley, Study Guide of Frankenstein).
Shelley, Mary. Frankenstein or The Modern Prometheus. South Australia: [email protected], 1831. eBook.
Shelley, Mary. Study Guide of Frankenstien. New York, NY: Simon , 2004. eBook.