Thursday, September 15, 2011

Born Monster or Human - Amanda Klepes

“I had admired the perfect forms of my cottagers — their grace, beauty, and delicate complexions: but how was I terrified, when I viewed myself in a transparent pool! At first I started back, unable to believe that it was indeed I who was reflected in the mirror; and when I became fully convinced that I was in reality the monster that I am, I was filled with the bitterest sensations of despondence and mortification.” This image of the creature glaring at his reflection in the pond is a clear interpretation that the creature indeed is human. It is clear that the creature was unaware of his physical appearance and harmful actions, but rather wished he was like everyone else. More specifically, he wished to have the family that he was never born into.

Throughout the text, the creature has a mixture of human emotions, both gentle and harsh. "Was man, indeed, at once so powerful, so virtuous, and magnificent, yet so vicious and base? He appeared at one time a mere scion of the evil principle, and at another as all that can be conceived of noble and godlike" (Shelley 80). A social label has been created for the creation as “monster”. He does not understand the reasoning why and solely is looking for acceptance; however, because of the loneliness he experiences and rage from the separation and differences he has he declares a “war on the species”. Because of the social label given to the creature, the creature himself is unable to truly see that he too is human.

Taking a closer look at the image, the creature has large, innocent eyes. In comparison to other images in the novel, the creature’s face is finally shown. His eyes are not filled with rage and anger, rather with a kind of loneliness and emptiness. This sadness can be taken as his unacceptance into society or to the idea that he is lost in a position that he is unaware of what he is or what he is there to do. Just like “puppy dog” eyes, the monster is looking for acceptance or possibly recognizing his damage and wrong doings. Possibly, the large innocent eyes can be seen as a child as well. A child looking into the world trying to find himself, but clearly very lost. He can be seen as looking to cleanse himself by stepping back and taking a look at himself and his actions that he has taken.

Using his innocence to show the creature is human can be seen as Shelley’s way of saying monsters is not born monsters. It is due to the social label and being outcaste that the creature rages out in revenge; “…finding myself unsympathized with, wished to tear up the trees, spread havoc and destruction...I declared everlasting war against the species, and, more than all, against him who had formed me, and sent me forth to this insupportable misery" (Shelley 92). The creature is able to feel happiness just as humans do. He wants to feel accepted into society and cannot understand why he is being shunned until the moment that this illustration comes in.

Moreover, the monster is conscious of his frightful actions and damaging ways. Throughout the text, the monster does take responsibility for his actions; he understands what he is doing, but in his mind is doing it as revenge. He has never had the nurturing family upbringing with the attention and love from others. Rather, he has been brought into a life where he is disconnected and isolated. This isolation is clearly shown in his big eyes. As the images of Elizabeth and Victor both portray big eyes, it is almost as if the creature is trying to fit into the aristocratic family he always wished to be a part of.

The audience gets a feeling of empathy for the creature as he looks into the pond. It is not a monster that he wants to see; rather, he would prefer to look like a real human and to fit in with all of the rest. Shelley really tries to portray that a criminal or monster is not born that way, rather created and underneath it all they are all human. "Oh, Frankenstein! Generous and self-devoted being! What does it avail that I now ask thee to pardon me?" (Shelley 153). The creature, although not accepted by others, does eventually repent his actions; proving that he may have wreaked havoc and raged causing extreme damage and hatred, but despite it all, he is still human with a good side somewhere inside him. This image of him looking at himself portrays his repent from early on.


  1. Amanda,
    I also responded to the 'monster or human' prompt. I really enjoyed how you opened with a quote of the monster looking at his reflection. That does indeed support the fact that the monster is human regardless of his physical appearance. To be honest, I didn't even think to include that in my essay. One thing I would suggest, however, is to have a small introduction so there is a clearly stated thesis.
    The second paragraph of your essay talks about the monster's emotions. I, too, talked about that in my essay, but you went one step further by connecting his emotions to the social label that was created. The emotions the monster expresses also confirms that he is human because I believe part of the definition of a human is to have emotions. One other piece of advice for revision is to include a definition of a human in the beginning of the paper. With a definition, you will be able to use examples from the text that support the fact that the monster is indeed human. Other than that I think your essay was great! Keep up the good work!!!

  2. I, too, really enjoyed the opening quote. Christina's point about a thesis is well-taken. I'm not a complete fanatic about every essay having a thesis (although usually it's best), but think about this: how could a thesis help clarify and the develop the argument.

    Reading through this, I was generally happy, but your focus was incomplete - one way this is illustrated is by the fact that you have a lot to say about the "big eyes" which are, as far as I know, a thing of the illustrations and not the text. But you are drawing attention to important material: the "monster" thinks a lot about what it means to be human or monster. He is working on the same problem that you are, and his *self-image* has everything to do with it.

    Example thesis: "the monster is human until he asks himself whether he's human or not; at that point, he begins to become a monster."

    I'm not saying that you actually think that - your somewhat vague but genuinely interesting insights into the monster's self-image (literally and metaphorically) could be focused further. How much does his self-image and self-understanding have to do with with his understanding of himself-as-human or himself-as-monster?

    The mirror you open with may be even more important and revealing than you think, and it can certainly do even more work than you have it doing.