Is the monster human? This question depends heavily on the definition of human. I would like to examine the definition of humanity: “The quality or condition of being human; human nature. The quality of being humane; kindness; benevolence” (Dictionary.com). The monster has many characteristics that follow that of people and he tries to carry himself as such. How can this abomination of man be considered a human? How can something that did not have the same birth or the same creation as a person be human? The argument that the monster was not created the same does not hold merit to the bigger picture of the monster. He exhibits acts of kindness, caring, and compassion. He is a very humane creature that should be defined as such.
For the majority of the first half, 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, an impressive feat indicative of humans. Throughout the next part of the book we see a lot about the monster’s humanity in his actions and even in the ability of the speech. The skill of speech that he picked up on his own depicts the capabilities of his brain. Children grow up hearing words and learning to use them, in whatever language that may be. The monster from Frankenstein picked up speaking in the same regards as children do, but with an advanced brain it took him less time and trial.
If we look at the body of the monster in question we have to understand what it is that created the monster. Seeing the parts of the monster and how they create an entire being, we are also simply made of the same parts that the monster is made from. Who is to say that the arrangement of our body parts is any better than that of the monster? There is only diversity in the parts that make up the monster. “What is terrifying to the reader of Mary Shelley’s work, or the viewer of the numerous films made about Frankenstein, is not only that the monster is piecemeal, stitched together, highlighting the capacity for the human body to be carved up into independent fragments, but that the body as we know it is the sum total of all its separate parts.” (Zylinska page 39). It is the realization that both the classically defined humans and the monster are made of the same parts that help us put aside the thought that because he is not a human.
We see in the illustrations that Ward provides; the shocking realization that the monster is disfigured and very diverse in the parts that he is comprised of. On the page opposite of 124 Ward depicts the monster of Frankenstein looking into water after finding that the people in the village. This is important for understanding the confusion of the monster, he knew his body, the limbs that he had and the body parts that were given him. He associated himself with humans being made in likeness to them. Ward does a nice job with the picture that he provides. The monster is terrified and shocked at the sight before him. The monster was make from flesh very similar to humans, and is treated differently and poorly because of his looks. I believe that the torture that the monster goes through was not fully depicted in the text and can be seen in illustrations such as this. He exhibits such a deep and emotional burden from realizing that he does not look like the other humans in the setting. I have never known any creature to exhibit emotion quite like the monster does. The only emotions that I have seen in an animal in any real depth were happiness, sadness, anger, and lust. None of these emotions really carry with the animal, but the emotions of the monster depicted in the illustration opposite of page 124 stay with the monster throughout the book. It haunts him until he dies; being made different and being made an abomination that detaches him from the people that he longs to be with, the people that he belongs with, it bothered him.
The monster shows his humanity in the morality that he displays. Caring for people and showing his humane side shows a lot about his character. 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.
We see later in the text an illustration that accurately characterizes the longing of the monster to be accepted by the people that he has been helping and attempts to not cause them harm. He is truly a misunderstood person and in the illustration opposite of page 150 in the text shows this. Throughout the pages prior to this picture, the monster is looking for chances to reach out to the humans that he has longed to connect with. When he is talking to the old man in the house and Felix comes back into the house it is described as this: “Felix darted forward, and with supernatural force tore me from his father, to whose knees I clung: in a transport of fury, he dashed me to the ground and struck me violently with a stick. I could have torn him limb from limb, and the lion rends the antelope. But my heart sank within me as with bitter sickness, and I refrained.” (Shelley 151). The monster has the capabilities to harm and to use the human limbs that he was given to defend himself, but his heart aches with the thought of driving himself further from the people that he longed to be with.
It is in animal nature to attack what is attacking the animal, to run away from the attacker, or to defend from the attacker. The monster is seen doing none of this in the illustration of the text, he is reaching up and exposing himself. He could have easily attacked Felix and killed the whole family as it is described in the text. With the muscles that were provided to him he is capable of a lot of power and strength and the only strength exhibited here is in his will. He is a very agile creature (Shelley 105) and has the capabilities to run and move faster than any other human; he could have run away if he wanted to. The monster could have defended himself as well simply by covering himself with his arm or moving into a position that was less open to harm. He has a lot of options and if animal instinct would have been the goal of Shelley or Ward to depict, he would have attacked, defended, or fled instantly. He only flees after realizing that Felix will not stop his assault to defend his family. This separation of thought and action proves real cognitive and emotional power in the monster that is not seen in anyone or anything besides humans.
The monster is filled with the sadness once more that was seen originally when he realized the disfigurement of his face and that the people wouldn’t look past the face that he had to the compassionate human behind the mask. He reaches up in the illustration opposite of page 150 and wants the help and company that he so desperately desires. It a quality of human nature that we want company and companionship from the people around us, and to not be granted this is a travesty for the monster.
The last example given in the book of the monster is him talking to the captain. The monster explains the agony that he is going through because of the murders he committed to get back at Frankenstein. This sort of regret and anguish show more of the humane side of the monster. He did not want to hurt anybody except the person that hurt him (Doctor Frankenstein) and he regrets the method that he used to get back at him. The monster cannot live with the anguish and the regret that he is faced with and goes to end his life after seeing his revenge is complete. He could have gone and lived in the jungle like he proposed earlier in the novel, but the pain was too much. Animals and creatures do not have regret or sadness after they are done killing another creature for a meal, this is something that is seen among sane humans and the monster in this book. “The quality or condition of being human; human nature. The quality of being humane; kindness; benevolence” (Dictionary.com). The monster clearly shows the qualities of being humane, having kindness, and showing benevolence.
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 can be considered a human.
Dictionary.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 Oct 2011.
Zylinska, Joanna. The cyborg experiments: the extensions of the body in the media age. 2002. 39. eBook,
Shelley, Mary. Frankenstein. Illustrated. Mineola, New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 1934. 105, 121, 124, 150, 151. Print.