The Perception of a Monster
It has often been argued that the definition of a monster is something inhuman, something or someone who has no regard for life and nature and that which is good. Many times in literature the word monster is used to refer to men who have done horrible things: rape, murder, mass genocide. The weight that this word carries is many times undermined by things such as Halloween costumes or children’s cartoon characters.
However, the fact still remains that “a true monster is evil, inhumane, and lacks remorse or caring for things that a normal, emotional human being should care for” (Chandler). The term monster lacks what many believe to be the necessary requirements someone needs to be considered human.
Victor Frankenstein’s creation, in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, “is referred to as a monster, yet throughout the novel the reader is made aware of the compassion and morality that Victor’s” creature possesses (Clapper).
The only reason that the being is first associated with the term monster is due to his appearance, because “his yellow skin scarcely covered the work of muscles and arteries…his hair was of a lustrous black…his teeth of a pearly whiteness; but these luxuriances only formed a more horrid contrast with his watery eyes…his shriveled complexion and straight black lips” (Shelley 60). Society judges Frankenstein’s creation before it even has time to show its true nature.
The Frankenstein Complex
The Frankenstein Complex was born out of such harsh judgments against beings of the unknown. The Frankenstein Complex is the “fear of artificial human beings”(Clapper). But in reality, the Frankenstein Complex should be a fear of creators.
Frankenstein’s creation is “born” as a tabula rasa, yet society and Victor label him before even he can form an opinion of himself, and his judgment and constant rejection cause him to react as any human would, by striking out, seeking to eliminate that which caused him harm in the first place. Victor’s creation is not a monster. He is a product of a society’s inability to cope with advancing science and its consequences. His very presence is due to Victor’s experimenting in alchemy, and his greed for fame.
Victor is the one that should be labeled as the monster, since he is the one who shows characteristics of being a monster. Carl Gustav Jung, a Swiss psychiatrist, composed a list of characteristics that define what a monster is. Jung expressed that monsters are “unnatural - aberrations of the nature order… hostile toward others… inspire dread and embody evil…not human – even those that look and act like people are not fully human,” and all of these characteristics can be found in Victor’s personality.
The “romanticism of the 19th century saw monsters as products of man's scientific progress and erring vision,”(Jung) but they are wrong. Monsters are the scientists that create outcasts in society. Victor should be considered the monster. Victor expresses characteristics of what makes a monster. He is “unnatural” in his obsession to create life and his close relationships with others. Victor is “hostile” toward his creation the moment it is “born,” yet the creature has yet to earn such hatred. Victor is the one that has no compassion for others; he turns his back one a creature who needs him; “[Victor] was the one responsible for William’s murder,” and the rest of his family ( Soyka). Society is wrong in placing its fear on creations that are unnatural; they should place their fear where it is due, on the creator.
“Everything is good when it leaves the hands of the Creator; everything degenerates in the hands of man ….He turns everything upside down; he disfigures everything; he loves deformity, monsters.”
– Jean-Jacques Rousseau
Victor is the Monster
Victor is the monster in this horror novel by Mary Shelley, because he possesses many of the characteristics that define what a monster is. Victor Frankenstein created his being due to his thirst for alchemy and his unnatural obsession with being like God, for Victor believes that “a new species would bless me as its creator and source; many happy and excellent natures would owe their being to me. I might in process of time… renew life where death had apparently devoted the body to corruption” (Shelley 52).
Victor does not take into account the consequences of his actions. Victor rejects his creation the moment he lays eyes on its animated form. This cruel rejection is what sparks the beginning of a journey that will ultimately end in the death of Victor. Victor devalued his creation’s life for personal gain, which led inevitably to his own great personal suffering and the suffering of those close to him.
Online Book and Anaylsis
- Literature.org - The Online Literature Library
Mary Shelley's Frankenstein- Free Online Book
- SparkNotes: Frankenstein
From a general summary to chapter summaries to explanations of famous quotes, the SparkNotes Frankenstein Study Guide has everything you need to ace quizzes, tests, and essays.
- Analysis of "Frankenstein" by Mary Shelley : Morality Without God
Throughout Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, knowledge of the existence of a creator has a crippling effect on the creature as he struggles to reconcile his own perception of himself with his maddening desire for divine approval and acceptance.
Many of Victor’s close family and friends experience the direct hatred of Victor’s creature, because they are the only ones that Victor feels any relationship with, but Victor is “unnatural” in his relationships with them. Victor only has one friend, Henry Cherval. Victor seems to have a hard time acquiring close relations with others. Frankenstein marries his step-sister/cousin, Elizabeth, yet his relationship with her seems to be one based on his possession of her versus one of great feelings or love, for Victor envisions that “[Elizabeth] was only to be mine" (Shelley 44).
Victor views Elizabeth as a prize and something to be owned, for Victor “promised [himself] that from [his] detested toils it was the prospect of that day when [he] might claim Elizabeth,” that kept him going (Shelley 130). Victor does not perceive the aspects of a mutual relationship, for all of his relations are based off of his own selfishness.
Frankenstein is also “unnatural” in his quest to become Godlike. Victor has an incredible drive to find out everything that he can in order to animate a human being and find the answer to immortality; “Life and death appeared to me ideal bounds, which I should first break through, and pour a torrent of light into our dark world” (Shelley 51).
Victor wants to achieve Godlike status, and in doing so he creates a creature that will never know love. "After days and nights of incredible labor and fatigue, I succeeded in discovering the cause of generation and life; nay, more, I became myself capable of bestowing animation upon lifeless matter,” and yet after so much time spent on this discovery, Victor cannot stomach what he has done, and he cruelly rejects his creation the moment it is animated (Shelley 51).
Dr. Victor Frankenstein is often cruel and “hostile” toward his creation, and this is another aspect that shows that Victor is a monster. When Victor first lays eyes on what he has created, he is horrified by what he has done, and he abandons his creation, since he is “unable to endure the aspect of the being [he] had created (Shelley 42).
When Victor falls into a deep depression, he blames his creation for not allotting him any peace. When Victor confronts his creation in the Alps, the first thought is to destroy his creation. When Victor starts to show compassion for the Creature, he is yet again telling himself a lie, for “when [he] looked upon him, when [he] saw the filthy mass that moved and talked, [his] heart sickened and [his] feelings were altered to those of horror and hatred” (Shelley 126).
Victor is unable to get pasted the horrid picture that his creature presents, and in the end Victor destroys the only hope that his creature has for companionship when he tears apart his second attempt at animation; “Begone! I do break my promise; never will I create another like yourself, equal in deformity and wickedness" (Shelley 133). Victor’s hostility toward his creature is misplaced. Victor is the monster, for he has deprived a human being of any love and companionship due to his own selfishness.
Victor is, by his own nature, a very selfish person. He does not care for the feelings of others, and only hopes to gain for himself. When Victor created his being, he did it out of a need for fame, and to make a name for himself. Victor “doesn’t value the life he is to create so much as what the creation will give him,” and by using this mindset he creates something that is beyond his mental capability to handle (Lunsford).
When life is brought into the human body, Victor is terrified of his creation’s horrifying appearance. Victor, so caught up in work, never did attempt to create a pleasant looking human. Being terrified of his own creation, Victor does what only the worst of “parents would do – he runs away from it, forcing the creature (as a ‘newborn’) to find its way and survive in the icy and snowy winter in a lone attempt” (Lunsford). Victor abandons his creation because he is horrified that someone will find out what he has done.
While Victor was at first mesmerized by his accomplishment, he soon rejects it after reasoning returns to him. Victor’s most selfish act stems from the murder of his brother William. William is used as a foil to show that Victor is a selfish beast. Victor knows that his creation has murdered William, yet he does not confess to his knowledge. Victor withheld the knowledge that would have spared Justine’s life. “Justine also was a girl of merit and possessed qualities which promised to render her life happy; now all was to be obliterated in an ignominious grave, and I was the cause!”(Shelley 66). While Victor admits to himself that he is responsible for Justine’s death, he thinks he is at fault because he created the Creature, not that he withheld vital information.
The True Monster- Victor
Victor is the true monster in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. He is the reckless scientist who unleashed a creature on society that was helpless to combat the horrors and rejection that society placed on him due to his differences. Victor’s goal to generate life causes a great deal of pain through his ambition, selfishness, and hostility, both to himself and others. As a result, these acts caused him to become alienated from his friends and family, and turned him into the true monster in Frankenstein. Victor Frankenstein is The Modern Prometheus, for he made the knowledge of creating life assessable, and by doing so, he is cursed to endure the ratifications of his creation.
A Full Reading Of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein
A Creature Misunderstood
Victor’s creation in this novel is not a monster. He is a being that has been misguided and rejected by society. Someone who is newly born cannot be evil, because everyone and everything is born as a tabula rasa, or “blank slate,” without personality, norms, or a sense of what is right or wrong. Victor’s creation is shown as being fascinated by life, for he says “I started up and beheld a radiant form rise from among the trees. I gazed with a kind of wonder. It moved slowly, but it enlightened my path,” and quite harmless as he learns about the world after his “birth” (Shelley 85).
The Creature is rejected by society, and it is due to this that he reacts as any human would. The Creature is not a demon spawned from Hell. He is a product of society’s unwillingness to accept the consequences of their experiments. Victor’s creation performs many helpful deeds for the De Laceys. His personality is one that cares for others and longs for acceptance and a family. All the creature ever wanted was for someone to accept him, and even his one chance at such an acceptance was brutally stripped away from him before his own eyes, for Victor destroys the Creatures companion, and “[he] saw [Victor] destroy the creature on whose future existence he depended on for happiness” (Shelley 145).
The Creature is not a monster; he is a human being who reacted in a human way due to the stigma that was placed on him by society. The Creature’s actions at the end of the book reflect the influence that society and Victor had on him, because, as Percy Shelley explains, “treat a person ill, and he will become wicked…divide him, a social being, from society, and you impose upon him the irresistible obligations-malevolence.” The Creature’s anger is justified, even if his actions are not.
Rejection at Birth
When the Creature is first born, he is introduced to the world in the most heartless of ways. His creator abandons him. When the creature approaches Victor hours after his creation with a simple gesture of longing, “[the Creature] held up the curtain of the bed…one hand was stretched out,” Victor runs away in terror (Shelley 43).
The Creature is left on his own in a world he cannot possibly understand; “he starts out as an uneducated infant, newly born and innocent to the world” (Clapper). He is portrayed as an infant learning all the things that parents should teach their child. He is rejected by villagers and anyone who sets eyes on him, and at first he cannot comprehend why. He is in that state of infancy that makes children not understand the differences in people. There is no logical way that anyone could judge the Creature as being pure evil, and a monster based off of his mental mind set after his birth.
The Bloom of Compassion
The Creature is not the monster in this novel despite all of the rejection that he has faces, because he still shows compassion toward others. The Creature feels a strong connection with the De Lacey family. His actions toward them are unselfish, for he “stocked the cottagers’ wood pile”(Soyka) and “performed those offices that I had seen done by Felix” (Shelley 95).
By doing this work for them, the Creature “has a place to stay and conduct his self-education by observing the cottagers, for whom his affection increases as if he were an orphan finally finding a family to call his own” (Soyka). The Creature also saves a girl from the horrid fate of drowning. He does not stop and judge whether a human child deserves to die due to the unkindness he has received at society’s hands; no, the Creature jumps in without judgment to save the life of a helpless child.
The greatest act of compassion that the Creature shows is the care that he gives his creator, despite the fact that they are in a race to destroy each other at the at end of the novel. The Creature leaves food for Victor, and is reluctant to let him suffer.
Rejected on Sight
While the Creature is a person of compassion and has a longing for someone to have companionship with, his sweet nature cannot hold up against the rejection of society. It is through the constant rejection that the Creature turns to seek revenge against his irresponsible master. Yes, the Creature helps the De Laceys and feels companionship toward them, but in the end they reject him when he finally has the courage to reveal himself to them; “who can descried their horror and consternation on beholding me. Agatha fainted…Safie…rushed out of the cottage. Felix darted forward…tore me from his father…dashed me to the grounded and stuck me violently with a stick” (Shelley 98).
The Creature loves this family, yet they are horrified of this demon that they see, even though he is far from demonic. While the Creature saved the girl from drowning, the girl’s father is horrified by the being that saves his daughter, and he shoots at the creature. The final act that causes the Creature to turn on his master is the destruction of its potential companion.
The Breaking Point
When Victor destroys his Creatures companion, the Creature has reached his breaking point. Never knowing a kind gesture, act, or friendship would make anyone reacted in a way that the Creature did. The Creature promised Victor that “I shall be with you on your wedding-night (Shelley 147). Though the Creature gives Victor this warning, Victor still marries Elizabeth, but loses her to the Creature’s need for revenge. Victor stole from the Creature his only hope at companionship, therefore the Creature stole Victor’s only love. Victor finally decides to take action against his Creature, yet this race for revenge that the creator and creation engage in only strengthens the point that the Creature is not a monster. Even at his worst, the Creature cannot bring himself to see Victor suffer over much, and at Victor’s deathbed, the Creature weeps because there is not any peace or triumph to be found.
Even in Death, There was no Joy
The one act that proves that the Creature is not a monster is the fact that even when he learns of Victor death, he feels no joy, only a sense of finality. The Creature weeps over the only person that he felt he had a connection with. The Creature understands that there cannot be anything to come of Victor’s death. This is evident in his confession to Walton:
"You… seem to have a knowledge of my crimes and his misfortunes. But…[Victor] could not sum up the hours and months of misery which I endured wasting in impotent passions, for while I destroyed his hopes, I did not satisfy my own desires. They were forever ardent and craving; still I desired love and fellowship, and I was still spurned. Was there no injustice in this? Am I to be thought the only criminal, when all mankind sinned against me?…Nay, these are virtuous and immaculate beings! I, the miserable and the abandoned, am an abortion, to be spurned at, kicked at, and trampled on" (Shelley 183).
The Creature is content to go off and die after he finds Victor dead, for there is not any joy to be had at Victor’s death, only a sense of agony and acceptance of the fact that he will never be accepted by anyone.
“Hateful day when I received life!' I exclaimed in agony. 'Accursed creator! Why did you form a monster so hideous that even you turned from me in disgust? God, in pity, made man beautiful and alluring, after his own image; but my form is a filthy type of yours, more horrid even from the very resemblance. Satan had his companions, fellow-devils, to admire and encourage him; but I am solitary and abhorred.' - Frankenstein”
― Mary Shelley, Frankenstein
Society's Misconception of a Monster
Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein presents the false perception that Victor’s creation is a monster, yet this is not true. The real monster in this novel is in fact Dr. Victor Frankenstein himself. Victor is a hostile and selfish being whose rejection of his creation led to his demise, and that of his family. Victor’s only goal in creating his creature was to gain fame, and when it becomes evident to him that the only thing that his creation could gain him would be public shame, he turns his back on the creature; “my tale [is] not one to announce publicly; it’s astounding horror would be looked upon as madness by the vulgar” (Shelley 127).
Victor’s Creature is not the monster in this novel, for the Creature is kind and compassionate toward those that he encounters. It is not until he is constantly rejected by society, and the final straw of the destruction of his companion that the creature reacts in a destructive manner totally bent on revenge against his creator. But in the end, the creature does not take any joy upon finding Victor upon his death bed. The one difference that really sets Victor and the Creature apart is the fact that Victor still believed that the Creature was evil in the end, but the creature realized that the crimes he had committed were wrong.
A Breif Overview
Caldwell , Tracny M. “Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein or The Modern Proetheus.” Literary
Contexts in Novels pl-8,8p. Literary Reference Center. RochelleTownship High
School. 6 May 2011. Web.
Chandler, Daniel. “Imagining Futures, Dramatizing Fears.” Literary Reference Center.
RochelleTownshipHigh School. 8 May 2011. Web.
Clapper, Tara M. “Frankenstein’s Monster: A Product of Society.” Literary Reference
Center.RochelleTownshipHigh School. 5 May 2001. Web.
Jung, Carl. “Archetypes.” 9 May 2011.
Lunsford , Lars. “The Devaluing of Life in Shelley’s FRANKENSTEIN.” The Explicator.
Vol. 68. Literary Reference Center.RochelleTownshipHigh School. 5 May
Shelley , Mary. Frankenstein. 1816 New York: Penguin Group. 2000. Print.
Shelley, Percy. “On Frankenstein; or The Modern Prometheus.” Athenaeum. 10 November 1832.
Soyka , David. “Frankenstein and the Miltonic Creation of Evil.” Liturary Reference
Center. RochelleTownshipHigh School. 5 May 2011. Web
Larry on June 23, 2019:
My comment comes a long time after you wrote your article, but I can only hope you'll still receive it, and you'll read it and make a reply.
I'll try and keep my comment short and to the point -- leaving out a lot of evidence in the process.
So, as I interpret the story, I concede that the monster is Victor Frankenstein and Victor Frankenstein is the monster. Why else does Victor not name his creation? Victor was repulsed time and time again by his first creation; and by his second creation he was so repulsed he had to destroy her so that his first creation would find no love and be further rejected. And then Elizabeth is destroyed by his first creation. To me, the implication here is that all these events are projections of Victor Frankenstein the scientist. When his first creation finds the woman asleep on the hay, he doesn't kill her. He just plants the locket, or pocket watch, or whatever it was, in her apron pocket. But the people who did see his first creation, his first creation murdered.
I therefore think you are right when you say that Victor Frankenstein was the monster. But I would take this one step further and say that his first creation's name was Victor Frankenstein. That the monster was Victor Frankenstein's projection of how ugly and deformed he was on the inside. The thing is that Shelly needed her readers to see the monster. It's the same as in Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, or in the Portrait of Dorian Grey, or even in even I Dracula, where the count was a normal man at one time and the got bit and changed. All these stories try to show man's double nature. Even the bible calls attention to the fact that the beast is in man, although this is done a little more subtly. In Revelations the beast is given a number:666. But if you add these numbers up what do they equal? 6+6+6=18; 1+8=9; and 9 is the numerical symbol for consciousness. I think the implication here is that the beast in all of us; and that we are the creators or destroyers of the beasts we create within. The lesson is to learn how to come to grips with the monster(s), or Demon(s) we inevitably create in our own minds as we grow from childhood to adulthood.
Anderson on December 12, 2017:
That is what I've been looking for this whole semester! I studied this novel in my British Literature classes on College and my teacher told us this story about Victor being the real monster of it all but only after reading this article I was able to understand what my teacher was trying to say! Thank you for an incredible jorney!
Blackest Kat on December 06, 2017:
This is really good. I enjoyed reading it and I was really intrigued by how I couldn't stop reading it. Also, Victor did allow the creature to sit with him while the creature told his story, Leon.
Connie on October 25, 2017:
An excellent outlook on the role of 'the monster' in Frankenstein. Your writing and thoughts are very thought-provoking and I will be using them with my secondary school classes who have been studying this novel. Thank you
Sonic on May 08, 2017:
Anonymous User's the Name! on October 28, 2016:
To: antwon coleman
You must form your own opinion! Believe that you know the answer, but accept others' beliefs without a trace of disgust! There is your answer good man.
Gilbert Arevalo from Hacienda Heights, California on April 16, 2016:
You show great compassion for an artificial being that had no fair opportunities to get along in society. Who is the true monster Victor Frankenstein or the artificial man he created is a matter of debate, but I agree with you about one strong point, Victor didn't consider the consequences of reanimating dead body parts, and there is much pain harbored in a human heart.
Swagg @ on November 02, 2015:
Pls reply to me the writer of this article, i strongly believe you are wrong in small parts. I really enjoyed your article, but you said that Victor was doing this with the love of fame. I see your point, but then i don't. Technically, he was already famous, his dad, Lalphonse was a huge part in his society. He was richer than most people who lived in his time.
I really enjoyed your article, but some places you were wrong. Although I am not a professional, i think you should read the book again. Although the companion which was destroyed was only the creature hope for love, who knows:
The companion might not like him.
Might be destructive
Might make children more powerful than the creature.
P.S. Really loved the article
Anna Marie (author) from New Mexico on February 22, 2014:
That's awesome! And a really good look at it as well. I really like how you summarized how society taints us, because it is very true. I wish you well on you paper. Mary Shelley's book has always been a great one to get the brain gears turning.
Anna Marie (author) from New Mexico on February 22, 2014:
First off why the need to be so attacking of my article? Most literature teachers will agree that it is either Victor or Society that is in the wrong. I wrote this paper based on that assumption. I see Victor of being the one in the wrong, the one who is the true "monster." As John Lock believes, everyone is born a clean slate and we are products of what we are tough throughout our lives(though I would argue that our genetics do have a say as well, though not as much). And throughout the novel, Victors creation is rejected time and time again be society. His entire existence is one of shame, rejection, deprivation, and injustice. I really believe you are getting lost in what I defined as a monster.
You really have to view Victor's creation as a baby.
How do you believe a baby/young child would react if the first thing they witness is their "father" screaming in horror at them. To be forced away from your only home without food, shelter, understanding?
From a psychological standpoint, it is not like the monster registers on a scale with sociopaths and psychopaths. Everything he did was tough to him. Victor killed his mate, so he killed Victors wife, etc...
I really don't feel the need to counter your view. We all have our interpretations on the book. My article was my interpretation on the novel(that got me an A from my teacher who just happens to have a Ph.D in Lit & Comp).
Really? Porn pics, that's not very mature.
Honor on February 20, 2014:
It's a very thorough and well presented essay, and I am writing one myself about Mary Shelley's portrayal of monsters.
However my main point is that Society is the true monster. As I understand that the monster is a product of society's nurture (and lack of Viktor's nurture), I similarly understand, that Viktor is a product of society's nurture as well. Viktor is only a materialistic snob because that was what society, in the nineteenth century, nurtured him to be. He was rich and therefore spoilt unconditionally by the nineteenth century.
So rather then Viktor or his creation being the monster, the real monster is society. Society's influence is what we base our morals/right and wrong on, so if society is tainted, we ourselves shall become tainted.
Leon on February 17, 2014:
Umm... No one ever gave the creature a chance to sit down with them.
0_O on February 17, 2014:
Are you going to respond?
0_O on February 16, 2014:
You are very very wrong. Victor was the victim of the Being who killed most of his family. Nobody cares if his feelings were justified. A person's true value is determined by others. When somebody is going around killing all the judges, that person will not get a very good score. Society may have created the being, but that is not the question, is it?
The question is who is the monster? And it is most definitely the Being.
At first, yes, the Being was judged by its appearance, but after everyone got to sit down with him, see what he was like, and maybe get throttled, he was still a monster. A monster, in your definition, is "evil, inhumane, and lacks remorse or caring for things that a normal, emotional human being should care for" Like life? "hostile toward others… inspire dread and embody evil" Sneaks through the night and kills people? "not human" Made of dead body parts? People rejected him, not because they thought he was evil, but because he was ugly (I would have done the same with you).
Yet, you said Victor was the monster. You said Victor was possessive of Elizabeth. In Victor's time, women were viewed as property. You said Victor was driven towards fame, but he was driven by the pursuit of knowledge, in no way intending to get famous. You said Victor was wrongly hostile towards a creepy, giant visiting him at night. I would love to see, in that situation, you giving the Being a hug. Also, after his little brother was killed, You said that hostility was misplaced. Exactly. You then said Victor did not make the Being look good. He is a scientist, not a contestant on project runway. Then Victor, after a death threat from the Being, promises to create a companion for the Being. After seeing the death of two of his loved ones at the hand of the Being, Victor is reculant to have another two die with the new creature. So, he destroyed it. Victor did nothing but create the being. All actions that followed could not have been foreseen by Victor.
At the end of the novel, the Being does want Victor to suffer by sending him on a wild goose chase and giving him just enough food to survive. After Victor dies the Being had nothing left to accomplish. so, he killed himself.
The Being was interpreted as he was because of what he did. If he had been less hostile towards everyone, he could have been a human, but he is not. He is and always will be a monster.
P.S. Love all the porno monster pics.