Importance of Language and Appearance in Frankenstein
The individual identified as the monster in Frankenstein demonstrates, through his own problems with understanding and being understood by the world, the importance and power of language on the one hand and of outward appearance on the other. As this essay will show, the novel shows these two factors to have very different functions indeed.
First, let us look at the function of appearance as the monster perceives it. From the first time he views himself in a pool of water, he knows that he has the features which make up a monster. Then he states: "Alas! I did not yet entirely know the fatal effects of this miserable deformity" (p. 109). After this he experiences time and again how people, including the one who created him, flee in terror from his deformed shape, and finally, when all hope of a reversal of that situation has disappeared, he starts to use this deliberately for purposes of revenge.
The incident where he loses his last hope of ever being seen as anything but a monstrosity is when William Frankenstein, the younger brother of his creator and also a young and hopefully unprejudiced child, proves to see him the way any adult would, with disgust and horror. After completing the act of killing the child, he resolves to "carry despair to [Victor Frankenstein], and a thousand other miseries shall torment and destroy him" (p. 137). According to the monster, the function of appearance is to make society react to you. Whether the reaction is appropriate or not is beside the point; all that matters is the way you look.
Then we have language and communication. The first time he encounters spoken words, the monster reports that "this was indeed a godlike scene, and I ardently desired to become acquainted with it" (p. 108). During the course of one year, he learns to understand, speak, read and write French, intending to use this knowledge to gain acceptance into society. He also finds three books, from which he gleans what knowledge he can about the world and about moral values, and the values he gains are indeed both commendable and honourable.
It is worth mentioning that none of the three books are in their original language: Milton's Paradise Lostis originallly in English, Plutarch's Lives in Latin and Goethe's Sorrows of Werter in German, but the monster finds French translations of all three. This is in accordance with everything else the monster ever learns, except for his experiences of beauty and ugliness, in that it is second-hand information. He learns French through a series of lessons meant for someone else; he has to rely on laboratory notes to understand what he is and where he comes from; he needs the books to learn what life is, and yet, what he gets is still nothing but translations of someone else's observations.
In the beginning of his existence, the monster notices the ractions he elicits from others, and by...