Society As The True Monster In Mary Shelley's Frankenstein

1868 words - 7 pages

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein originated as a ghost story told among her close friends. "It was a dreary night of November that I beheld the accomplishment of my toils" (Shelley 34) is the first line Shelley conceived when she began composing her famous novel. In this sentence, the "accomplishment" to which Victor Frankenstein refers is the creation, which receives animation on this "dreary night." By calling the creation his "accomplishment," Victor unintentionally names the creation. However, by the end of this "dreary night," Victor names the creation no less than six times, each time getting progressively more derogatory, and more insulting. This evolution of Victor’s attitude about the creation occurs during the time immediately following the creation. In these few hours, Victor’s imagination creates an increasingly grotesque image of the creation. This developed condemnation that Victor imposes onto the creation is similar to all of the creation’s other encounters with human beings. This repeated rejection causes the creation to realize that "All men hate the wretched; how then must I be hated, who am miserable beyond all living things" (Shelley 65). Eventually, therefore, the creation accepts its role as a monster based solely on the reactions it receives from other human beings. However, these spiteful reactions are inspired by irrational fears that result from the human nature of the characters to form preconceptions about the creation based on their prior experiences.

The fantastical response William Frankenstein creates after seeing the creation shows how humans, when faced with the sublime, form preconceptions from their limited knowledge to "name the unnamable." The creation approaches William, assuming he would be innocent enough to perceive kindness beyond his grotesque appearance. However, this is far from true. William shrieks in horror at the sight of the creation, and then commands "Let me go…monster! Ugly wretch! You wish to eat me, and tear me to pieces! You are an ogre" (Shelley96). Not only does William invent the identity of an "ogre" for the creation, but he also suggests he knows what the creation’s plan is. These inventions are both formed from a stereotypical fantasy. An "ogre" is a classic literary beast found in countless fairy tales and romances. Being raised by an educated family, William would have been exposed to many of these stories. This character of fantasy is the exact image William projects onto the creation upon seeing it. William reverts to his limited education to label anything he cannot understand, and this ignorant identification is the reoccurring theme that eventually turns the creation into a legitimate "ogre."

Victor Frankenstein is the first to create (literally and figuratively) an identity for the creation, and his labeling of the creation as an evil thing the night of its creation initiates the process of prejudice that will eventually turn the creation into the monster everyone claims it...

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