The idea of duality permeates the literary world. Certain contradictory commonplace themes exist throughout great works, creation versus destruction, light versus dark, love versus lust, to name a few, and this trend continues in Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. The pivotal pair in this text however, is monotony versus individuality. The opposing entities of this pairing greatly contrast against each other in Frankenstein, but individuality proves more dominant of the two in this book.
According to Harriet Hustis in her essay “Responsible Creativity and the ‘Modernity’ of Mary Shelley’s Prometheus,” many themes circulate throughout the text, including responsible creativity, parental guidance, and compassion, but all are centered on individuality, especially in reference to inter-character relationships. The creature, upon which much controversy is based, is continuously searching for guidance and societal acceptance, thus implying that the heart of human consciousness and the human identity is compassion (Asquith). The candor of this statement however, is heavily reliant on the world views and values of the characters in question. Subsequently, these values and world views shape and define the individual’s identity, ultimately granting them a niche in society.
The novel’s protagonist, Victor Frankenstein, emphasizes the importance of having an identity by exemplifying the dissatisfaction that accompanies contorted character-to-character relations. What makes his relationships particularly perverse however, is Victor himself as a person and family member. Often, male “participants in a moral conflict,” such as Victor, “may invoke ‘justice’ and insist on theoretical objectivity” to avoid taking responsibility for their actions, creating purely logical worldviews that eliminate room for error and thus eliminate room for growth and humanity (Hustis). This defense mechanism renders Frankenstein incapable of coping with his surroundings or the repercussions of his past actions. This obliviousness hinders the scientists ability to grow as a person, hindering his ability to forge a socially acceptable and beneficial identity. Unfortunately for this protagonist, the actions of his past literally follow him wherever he goes.
In attempts add the identity of a child to his life, Victor’s neglected creation trails the scientist in the hopes of finding a compassionate and loving father figure. Instead, he finds a broken man that condemns his progeny as a “fiend” with “unparalleled barbarity” and a countenance to horrid to behold (Shelley 138). To fulfill his need for a father, the creature searches endlessly for relations and friends from whom he can receive empathy, leading to his run in with the De Lacey family. This family though seemingly kind and accepting, finds him too freakish and monstrous to associate with. Still, Shelley seeks to “arouse compassion within readers” for the monster as he attempts to fulfill his utmost desire (Asquith). These...