Mary Shelley explores the idea of monstrosity, in her gothic novel, ‘Frankenstein’. While it may be tempting to label the creature as the monster, a closer examination of the text, reveals that is Victor who deserves the title. From the beginning, his actions are marked with a sense of recklessness and irresponsibility. His ambition and ego knows no bounds. Meanwhile, the monsters actions can be viewed as a response to the rejection he receives from Victor and society at large. As a result, it can be argued that Victor is the true monster of the story.
Victor is extremely reckless in his pursuit of unlocking the secrets of heaven and earth. He shows no aversion of such a blasphemous goal as he studies decaying corpses. He views life and death as the “ideal boundaries” in which he would pour a “torrent of light” amidst our dark world. This demonstrates Victors lack of fear and imprudence as he dares to usurp the role of the creator. Especially since, his creation deviates significantly from its intended perfect form, highlighting his incapability as well. The skin was stretched to tautly that the “workings of muscles and arteries” in which he recoils, were barely concealed. Here, Victor embodies the act of practicing science with no regard for the consequences, in which, Shelley uses to warn about the dangers of playing God.
Additionally, Victors unchecked ambition and ego are what essentially lead to his demise. He works tirelessly to the point point he becomes isolated and detached from the rest of the world. He is consumed by the desire to create a new race that would “bless” him, claiming that no father except him should “deserve the gratitude of his child to completely”. This demonstrates Victor’s wish for glory and admiration, bringing his selfishness to light. Thus when the creature is born, he abandons it, despite having frequently participated in it’s creation. Shelley uses this fatal flaw of Victor’s to then elicit sympathy for the creature, who has been left with no parental figure, suggesting its innocence.
The monster in the novel is the product of the mistreatment he has recieved from others. In the beginning he yearned for the love of the people around him. In this way, Shelley, portrays the monster as innately human since love is a universal human need. The creatures “dull, yellow eye” represents its nature as human, while his “one hand stretched out” and “grin wrinkled on his cheeks” represents his simple desire for paternal connection. This is symbolic of the innocence and naivety displayed by a new born child, suggesting that the monster is similar to one. However, as a result of society’s rejection and lack of compassion, the monster who was once filled with capacity to love becomes bitter and resentful. Shelley uses this to emphasise the importance of a parent’s role in a child’s development, as well as the consequences of being deprived the warmth of this connection.
Ultimately, although both characters are flawed, it is Victor who is the real villain. His delusional thoughts and actions are what set in motion his demise. In contrast, the creature was corrupted by the rejection he repeatedly received. Through these two, Shelley reveals how monstrosity can be present not only externally but internally as well.
By Ruhama Abebe