Thursday, September 15, 2011

The monster's humanity - Ben Carlson

Is the monster human? This question depends heavily on the definition of human. I do not want to examine the creature from a scientific and biological standpoint since it cannot really be classified as a species, even though it was created in human likeness. I want to examine the humanity of the monster and understand more of the philosophical meaning of what it is to be human. The monster has many characteristics that are like people and he tries to carry himself as such. The monster was not born in a typical human fashion with conception, growth, and delivery in an anatomical way, but the creation does go through these steps in other ways.

Dr. Frankenstein conceives the “child” in a cognitive fashion. He was obsessed with the idea of creating life and taking that power from God. The conception of this idea and the thought of implementation consumed him until he could complete his task. This is similar to parents that struggle with conception, it haunts them and it can be unhealthy for them mentally. Dr. Frankenstein was not in a healthy mental state because of his obsession with creating life. The growth of Frankenstein’s monster was not like that of a normal human, there were parts that were stitched together instead of growing limbs and body parts. The birth of Frankenstein’s monster is seen as the opening of his eyes, breathing hard, and adjusting to the body parts that had been given him (pg 53, Shelley). This part of the chapter grabbed me and led me to believe that Mary Shelley had intended for the readers to grasp this section and be reminded of child birth. A baby when it is born is always checked to make sure that it has the functions to live; they are checked on their ability to breathe and it can be seen that a baby moves its arms and legs shortly after birth. Frankenstein’s monster went through these same steps, only with the advanced muscle development that was given him.

For the majority of the section read, the monster is only seen as a demon that haunts Victor Frankenstein, but when he makes an appearance that lasts longer than a couple of minutes, he speaks. This skill that he picked up on his own in only two years is his way of explaining what he has been through and he describes some good points that depict the humanity of this “monster” in the story. He stole from villagers and felt bad about it and made a conscience effort to not harm the villagers but rather help them, he saw the need for firewood that consumed the time of the youth during the day and he wanted to help. He took the tools necessary to collect the wood and brought enough supplies to last the people several days. (pg 121, Shelley). The creation finds himself caring for people that he doesn’t know, and not wanting to harm them in any fashion. The monster is instilled with a good sense of morals that display his humanity, without being raised and taught what is right and what is wrong.

The morals of the monster are for me what ultimately determine that it is human. Humans are the only creatures that I see on the planet with a conscience and morals. There are some animals that stay in packs, or they are civil towards each other, but I don’t see that as being anything more than utilizing groups for protection or for hunting. The monster does not think along those lines, he wants to help and care for people and longs for that connection that is tough for him because of how he was created. He did not even think that he was that different until he looked in water and saw his reflection (pg 124, Shelley). I don’t think he understood why people would be afraid of him, or what it was about him that scared them until this point in the book. He being able to recognize how he was different from the people whose company he longed for, the ability to speak fluently, and his caring and compassion for people really show his humanity. The only reason to doubt the humanity of the monster is the context in the story as it is delivered, even with Victor Frankenstein telling the story, the monster comes across as a very humane and gentle person. If the story was told from the perspective of the monster, I think that it would be even more obvious that he is a human.


  1. I completely agree with your argument concerning the monster's justification of being a human. You make an interesting point to compare a normal human to the monster in terms of the way they were born and I think Mary Shelley incorporates human child birth by emphasizing on the senses that are initially evident during child birth. This blog also ties together with Victor's mentality of being more powerful than any other human and essentially give birth to a human being thru science. I think its intriguing how sophisticated the Monster is at such a young age makes me to believe he's not like any other normal human. The irony of morals is evident in this blog, the Monster has morals and a conscious but it contradicts Victor Frankenstein (the creator) because he seems to lack morals throughout the entire novel.

  2. The first paragraph has no content. If you want to give a philosophical definition of humanity, do it! You say you're going to, but there's no actual definition there.

    Your discussion in the 2nd paragraph of the monster's birth is interesting, but your larger purpose is unclear - I would like to see an argument that begins from the monster's motions, and you're clearly interested both in how this is like and unlike natural birth, but there's no clear direction ultimately.

    The 3rd and 4th paragraphs, when you discuss the monster's morality, are when you both formulate an argument and begin to try to defend it. Defining humanity in terms of morality is fine (although some biologists do, in fact, see morality as biological/evolutionary in character: see Trivers to start with), and your initial defense of the monster as a moral being is fine (although one might ask both whether the monster is honest, and whether Victor is a moral being - and if he isn't, is he therefore inhuman?).

    The problem here is that your argument is wortwhile, but you needed to start with the argument being articulate instead of finishing with it, which is basically what you do.