Thursday, September 15, 2011


While reading Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein one connects with the humanity that the “monster” exhibits. Biologically speaking the creature is made of the same matter as other humans, but what truly defines him as being human is his imagining, understanding, wishing, and dreaming. He has emotions that are distinctly human. While reading, one forgets that he is this “horrid beast” and starts to feel and sympathize for this innocent Being. In majority of the book the creature is a more likeable character then Dr. Frankenstein himself.

The creature, or rather Being, is compassionate and self-proclaimed benevolent. He worries about the safety and feelings of others. He does good deeds purely to benefit others. To call him a monster would require one to also call Dr. Frankenstein and therefore all humans monsters, for Victor has committed more inhuman acts then the “monster” e.g. abandonment and abuse. The most monstrous act that the Being commits is he claims to have killed Victor’s brother. Murder is a truly horrid deed, but it is also one that human beings commit everyday. This action does not disqualify him as being a human, for no human is prefect. Given his “upbringing” the murder is understandable, but it is still not acceptable. Victor also commits a more roundabout but no more acceptable murder, in the form of Justine. If we accept Victor as being human, which is arguable, we must also, and with more ease, accept that the Being is also human.

If we look instead at the good the Being has accomplished we see once again that he is clearly human. Looking at his actions involving the Delacy’s we see the compassion and kindness that optimists like to say all humans are capable of. We see the Being is capable of the complex emotions that are distinct to humans. We see that he hopes and dreams and imagines a happy future. He ponders what-if scenarios and wishes to someday be happy. And he has the ability to communicate these feelings through the use of language. “I formed in my imagination a thousand pictures of presenting myself to them, and their reception of me. I imagined that they would be disgusted, until, by my gentle demeanour and conciliating words, I should first win their favour and afterwards their love.” (p.125) This quote is one that is undoubtedly from a human being. Not only is he imagining future outcomes, but he is also demonstrating other distinctly human characteristics. First there is the want and need for friendship and love. Humans are social creatures. We need companionship. This passage shows that the Being too desires love. It is the only thing that he ever truly wanted and strived for. The desire for love is what drove him to learn to speak and perform secrete labors. Another aspect of the Being that we see in this passage is the all too human characteristic to be self-conscious. He fears that the Delacy’s will reject him based on his appearance. He hides himself away and only comes out at night and fears that he will always be detested because of his looks. This leads instantly to another solely human trait, optimism. He fears rejection but hopes that these people are able to look past his appearance and accept him. He holds the Delacy’s up so highly and thinks that if he can just get a chance to explain himself they will except him and maybe even love him. He shows the naive optimism that is common among innocents and children, believing the best in everyone and expecting the best outcomes.

If we compare the Being to Victor we see that both are flawed humans. The Being is superficially deformed and he is driven to murder, but he was once good. “I was benevolent; my soul glowed with love and humanity: but am I not alone, miserably alone?” (p. 107) He is a human being with a human soul ingrained with goodness but he is lonely and in need of company and love, as all humans need. When lacking his love and friendship he commits the act of murder in a fury of rage and loneliness. Victor’s flaws are underneath the skin. He too is involved in a murder, but for reasons that are harder to legitimize, even though murder is never acceptable, it is comprehensible in some cases. Victor never did anything that was not for himself. He is an extremely melodramatic and selfish character, in contrast to the introverted and selfless characteristics of his counterpart. To consider Victor Frankenstein a human is to also consider the Being he created to be a human as well.


  1. This is a fantastic piece, comparing Victor and the "monster" to really bring into question the "monster's" humanity is a great idea. It is a great comparison that really drives home the point that Victor is the monster and the being is human. You raised very good points about the thinking of the "monster" and how he operates. I appreciate how you covered emotional and logical thinking on his behalf, this clearly shows the humanity of the "monster". There is not a single doubt in my mind that the "monster" is indeed human, very nice job.

  2. Let's look at your definition: "but what truly defines him as being human is his imagining, understanding, wishing, and dreaming. He has emotions that are distinctly human."

    To me, this is really two definitions, which opens up a kind of contradiction or duality in your essay. First, you give a list of particular, more or less positive emotions; as an aside, I'll point out that this range of emotions could certainly be associated with romanticism as an intellectual and artistic movement. Then, you say that his emotions are distinctly human - curiously, though, after making this broader claim, you continue to focus on a narrower range of *positive* emotions.

    Are these, in other words, the emotions which most define humanity, in contrast with other beings? You never really justify the claim that *these* emotions define humanity, or explain why you have chosen them instead of other (likely more negative) emotions. Nor do you raise any questions re: the monster's honesty when he claims to experience a range of positive emotions.

    All of that being said, it's an interesting reading of the monster's character. Your insistence on calling him the Being was compelling (it seemed like an attempt to step outside Victor's rhetoric, which was worthwhile, even if not explained), and your argument re: Victor's possible monstrosity was good.

    So this piece had several strengths. I would have liked to see a much better, clearer explanation of why *these* emotions define humanity, and a little more self-awareness when you basically embrace the monster's viewpoint over Victor's. This is not a bad thing - just something that could have stood a little more explanation.