Appearance and Acceptance in Frankenstein and the Modern World
One of the main themes in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein is the importance of appearance and acceptance in modern society. In today's society, and also in the society of Frankenstein, people judge one often solely on their looks. Social prejudice is often based on looks, whether it be the color of someone's skin, the clothes that a person wears, the facial features that one has and even the way one stands. People make snap judgments based on these and other considerations and they affect the way that they present themselves to one, and also the way that the treat the judged person. In Frankenstein the society of that time is much like our own today. It is an appearance based society, and this is brought to the forefront by the extreme ugliness of Victor Frankenstein's monster to a common human being.
On of the most blatant parallels in Frankenstein and today's modern world is that of racism. These parallels are shown from the very first moments of Frankenstein's creature life. One of the first things Victor says about his newly alive creation is that "His yellow skin scarcely covered the work of muscles and arteries beneath;" (Shelley 42) and he viewed his creation with "breathless horror and disgust..." (Shelley 42). Here one finds that like the vast majority of people then and today, Victor notices the color of his creatures skin first and judges it to be horrible. Also in this novel, the example of racism is again brought to our attention with the history of the cottagers. Safie's father, a Turkish merchant living in Paris, was sentenced to death for a crime he did not commit. The reason for this injustice is clear, the reason for it is "...that his [the Turkish merchant] religion and wealth rather than the crime alleged against him had been the cause of his condemnation." (Shelley 107). Obviously, if this foreign merchant had been a good Catholic Frenchman he would not have been sentenced to death. We today can see numerous examples today of racism in the justice system, think of Louis Riel being hung because he was a Metis, and also think of the modern classic novel, To Kill a Mockingbird in which a black man is unjustly sentenced in a racist southern town. However, in one of the biggest acts of hypocrisy and treachery, the same Turkish merchant shows his true racist self when he plans to leave Italy with the daughter he had promised in marriage to the Frenchman that saved his life. It seems that although some progress has been made throughout the centuries, racism still exists and "colors" our vision of other people. (Pardon the bad pun.)
Another similarity in the novel Frankenstein and today's society is that of snap judgments based solely on appearances. Doctor Frankenstein himself does this throughout the book. He shows this when he "...selected his [the creature's] features as beautiful." (Shelley 46). This shallowness is shown again when he...