Thursday, October 13, 2011

The creature that Victor creates shows emotions and feeling that are only exhibited in humans. He is not a beast, neither animal nor monster, but a simply a lonely and tortured human. Soon after his creation he learns what he is missing out on, chiefly championship, and longs for it dearly. He studies the Delcay’s and learns about what he is missing out on. Ashley Montagu said, “Everything human beings do as human beings they have had to learn from other human beings.”(Morris p.113-114) He sees the love and compassion that they show each other and decides that he too deserves love. This discovery is what leads him to commit merciless acts, but because of his reasoning he is human. The fact that he commits these heinous acts because he all he wants in a friend is what makes the creature absolutely human.

The creature learned some of the more positive human emotions from the Delacy’s. As he watched them he learned to speak and read, but he also learned of emotions like love and concern. He saw that the Delacy’s cared for each other and that was something that he hoped and dreamed for. “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.” (Shelley 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. He watched and learned from the Delacy’s and learned of the love and compassion that humans are capable of and longed to be included. It is the only thing that he ever truly wanted and strived for. The desire for love and acceptance is what drove him to learn to speak and perform secrete labors and what drove him, in later chapters, to commit horrid acts of violence against Victor and his family. Once the Being learned of love he desperately longed for companionship of his own. 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 appearance. He looks at them and then compares his own reflection. His previous experiences tell him that he is the abnormal and ugly one. Victor immediately detests him and the villagers he meets attack him; he has learned that there is something undesirable about him and it vexes him. 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. These were difficult but relatively happy times for the Being. He was still hidden from the world and continued to retain his childlike optimism, but he, as with many adults, was about to get a reality check as his optimism turns into pessimism.

These characteristics describe an innocent and positive being, but the creature soon turns to show that he has also learned some of humanities more negative aspects. There is a very distinct turning point for the being. He even recognizes a change in himself. Right as he gets to the turning point in the story he is telling victor he stops and says “I shall relate events that impressed me with feelings which, from what I had been, have made me what I am.” (Shelley p.127) He signifies that a change is coming and seeing how the paragraph prior to this describes his hopes for a happy future we know it is about to take a turn for the worst. He then describes his interactions with the Delacy’s in which he is cast out and unjustly beaten. After this he becomes jaded and more negative human reactions appear. His sweet nature disappears and out comes his aggression and anger. In a fit of rage he kills victor’s brother. The first of many murders, but different from his later ones. This murder was committed by an enraged grief-stricken being. He did it because he was lonely and wanted attention. He fears he may never be accepted by anyone and now that his chances with the Delacy’s have been dashed, his one and only hope remains in Victor. Afterwards he exclaims, “I, too, can create desolation; my enemy is not invulnerable; this death will carry despair to him, and a thousand other miseries shall torment and destroy him.” (Shelley p.160) The murder of Victor’s brother is like a coping mechanism for the Being. He is reacting to his belief that the world has been unfair to him. He feels that everyone he has met has been cruel to him and this was a reaction to that. He is proving that he too can be just as cruel. He was taught about cruelty on many accounts and now he is demonstrating what he has learned from other humans. Morris discusses a theory in which man’s aggression can be bottle up and will inevitably lead to war (Morris p.113) The Being had been treated with cruelty since the moment he was born and the incident with the Delacy’s was the final straw. His humanly aggression unleashed itself and he declared war on the only person he could. This was his first attack on Victor. He did not kill William to punish William; he did it to punish Victor. He committed the murder to deal with his anger and to prove to his fellow humans that he too is capable of the cruelty that they constantly show him. It was also a personal attack on victor. He wanted to get Victor’s attention and he knew this would pain him. This murder was different from the others because it was a combination of a stubborn retaliation and a cry for attention.

As we read more of the book the being gets progressively more pessimistic. Victor destroys his last hope for a companion, and the being, tired of the injustice, reacts harshly. He has learned that humans are social creatures and that he too deserves companionship. He begins to see how unfair it is that he is not allowed to be happy. After Victor destroys his last hope at happiness the Being decides to drag Victor down with him. Misery loves company. He murders Victor’s best friend. This is truly a monstrous act, but it does not disqualify him as being human. Humans are not perfect and murders occur everyday. Given his “upbringing” the murder is understandable, but it is still not acceptable. Victor even commits a more roundabout but no more acceptable murder, in the form of Justine. And what reinforces the Being’s humanity is his reasoning behind his later murders. He is not murdering because he thinks it is fun or because he gets pleasure from it, as a monster might, but because Victor had what he wanted, the chance at happiness. After he killed Henry he started to feel bad for Victor, but then Victor still had Elizabeth, whereas he had no one. “But when I discovered that he, the author at once of my existence and of it’s unspeakable torments, dared to hope for happiness; that while he accumulated wretchedness and despair upon me he sought his own enjoyment in feelings and passions from the indulgence of which I was forever barred, then impotent envy and bitter indignation filled me with an insatiable thirst for vengeance.”(Shelley p.255) This is not an explanation a monster would give, if monsters gave reasons for murdering. He is describing very human emotions; jealousy and envy of Victor. He felt as long as Victor still had family and friends he could still be happy and therefore he must take them away from him. He longed for these things and since Victor refused to give them to him he thought his only course of action was to punish Victor. Victor is being a given chance at something that the creature has no access to and the creature thinks this is unfair. This is common in human thinking; we should all have the same opportunities. “And what is the human emotion of envy, after all, but the ire aroused by the feeling that someone has gotten something that he does not deserve? We do not become automatically envious of those who are better off than we are. We experience that emotion only when we believe that someone else’s good fortune, or our own bad luck is unjust” (Morris p.182) the creature sees that Victor has a chance of happiness, yet he has completely taken away every possibility of happiness from his creation. The creature clearly thinks this is unjust and reacts to it accordingly. The creature figures why can’t I also be happy? This is the creature’s human reasoning behind the murders of Henry and Elizabeth and the prolonged torture of Victor himself.

The creature shows a variety of emotions, both positive and negative but all human. He possesses the ability to learn and through watching the Delacy’s he realizes what he is missing out on. He is missing companionship and love. He strives desperately to achieve these things but to no avail. Anger about the injustices that continently plague him consume his every thought. This anger leads him to commit monstrous acts with all too human intentions. It is the reason behind why he does certain things that defines him as human. He never kills just to kill. He kills because he is lonely and wishes to punish Victor for making it that way. The Being shows emotions that are far too human for him to be called a monster.

Works cited

Morris, Richard. Evolution and Human Nature. New York: Seaview/Putnam, 1983. Print.

Shelley, Mary. Frankenstein. The Lynd Ward Illustrated Edition. Mineola, New York: Dover Publications, Inc, 1934. Print.



  2. I'm pretty happy with the definition in the intro, and with the content of the intro, although mechanical (even including spellchecking) it's pretty terrible. Proofread again next time. (worst example - Delacy's is possessive, not plural).

    Now, I'm going to focus on characteristics of the essay as a whole, rather than specific examples. Throughout the essay, you are on the brink of simply summarizing the novel, albeit summarizing it from a particular point of view. What you're doing isn't quite a summary (I'm exaggerating for effect), but you go through such large parts of it, so quickly, without any clear sense of what (other than the Delacys) is actually vital to your argument, that it often becomes *like* a summary, at least.

    A matching issue is that, while you start out with an interesting definition of the human (people are distinctive because they learn everything, basically), you don't really use it. You do don't have a relentless focus - a focus which is perfectly possible! - on what the monster learns, how he learns, and how that learning process (whether he's learning things that are good, evil, both, or neither) makes him human. That's what you prepare us for, and it's a good idea. But instead of doing that, you get into an increasingly broad description of the Being's emotional life. You summarize too much, generalize too much, and it's all too much for you to successfully do - after all, not all of the emotions you discuss are by any means exclusive to humanity. Your use of Morris is interesting, but brief, and disorganized.

    A word on structure: your paragraphs are very long, and internally disorganized. Each paragraph should have a single, clear, guiding idea. You should be able to ask, and answer, the question: "how does this paragraph contribute to my argument as a whole?" If you can't answer that, there's something wrong with the paragraph or the argument, or both.

    I'm not saying that you don't have an argument - I'm saying that it's somewhat muddy and shifting, and that your initial version is more promising than the broader one on human emotion that eventually emerges. And I'm also saying that you're not focused enough on using the text to prove your argument.