Please note! This essay has been submitted by a student.
What makes someone or something a monster? Many would argue that a monster is something that is cruel, inhumane, and abnormal. In our current society, there are many examples of monsters shown through movies, television, and literature. In the very popular novel, Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley, Victor Frankenstein’s creation is commonly depicted as the only monster. Many believe that Victor’s creation is a monster due to its grotesque appearance and also it’s murderous rage. However, the reasoning behind Victor’s creation’s monstrosity is the alienation he and society has placed upon it. Thus, many argue that the actual monster in this story is actually Victor Frankenstein and his creation is merely a victim. In her novel, Shelley introduces many elements such as selfishness and unnaturalness to define monstrosity in Frankenstein. However, it seems as if a critical component to determine what makes someone or something a monster in the novel Frankenstein is alienation. The isolation that Victor Frankenstein places upon his creation and it’s separation with the people in their society is what led the creature to enact revenge and murder those closest to Victor.
One of the main character’s in Mary Shelley’s novel, Victor Frankenstein, is somebody who’s life has been consumed by the study of science. Victor had spent most of his life alienating himself from the rest of the world due to his thirst for knowledge. Victor himself is eerily obsessed with understanding the nature of the world around him and has chosen to isolate himself from his friends and family in order to construct his creation and experiments, “the same feelings which made me neglect the scenes around me caused me also to forget those friends who were so many miles absent”. However, unlike Victor Frankenstein, his creation does not want to be isolated from the outside world. But due to the nature in which Victor created his creature, his physical appearance makes the creature an “other”. The very first experience that the creature has with humans is the instance in which it was born and opens its eyes to see Victor terrified. Victor in response ran away from his creation, “unable to endure the aspect of the being I had created, I rushed out of the room and continued for a long time”, leaving the creature alone and unaware of who/what it is. Victor leaves his creation based entirely off of its appearance, judging it at first glance to be something harmful. Not only this, but perhaps the creature was so horrific due to it’s human like presence. And by not giving the creature a name, dehumanizes it and makes it an object to be afraid of rather than something to try and understand.
The creature then leaves and comes into contact with more people on its journey. The first group of people that the creature encounters are the villagers. The creature simply longs for a companion and some form of connection with other people. Once he stumbles upon a small village is where the creature begins to realize the nature of his appearance, “I had hardly placed my foot within the door before the children shrieked, and one of the women fainted. The whole village was roused; some fled, some attacked me”. Due to its grotesque physical body, the creature is alienated from every person it comes into contact with, forcing it to flee and scavenge for food and shelter. Due to the reaction it received from the villagers, when it discovers more humans it decides to hide and observe the family from a distance instead, learning from their behaviors and longing for the acceptance and compassion of a family dynamic. However, this ends just like before with the family in the cottage fearing and running for their lives. Here is the turning point for the creature, comprehending that it does not fit in with the world around it and although it is made up of human body parts and reflects human emotion it still is shunned by those around it. This realization is where the monster enacts its revenge, “should I feel kindness towards my enemies? No; from that moment I declared everlasting war against the species, and more than that, against him who had formed me and set me forth to this insupportable misery.” One can see that the creature is merely a victim in the sense that it longs for a companion and does not desire to be isolated, but because Victor Frankenstein not only created this creature to look the way it does but also by abandoning it, it leads the creature to despise man-kind and mostly its creator. Throughout the entire story, it seems as if the creature just wanted to escape the alienation that was placed upon him by Victor and to finally know what it is like to be loved. In this instance, I think that the creature understands that the reasoning behind its misery is not because of the people in the society that shunned it, but rather the one who created it. If Victor had not abandoned the creature or made it look so terrifying, perhaps it would be accepted into society and treated like a person rather than an “other”. Making a point to internalize the violence that it has experienced from the humans and rather than running away, it is going to fight back with force.
In conclusion, in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, the element of isolation is proven to be a critical factor in what makes someone or something a monster. In the case of the creature, the alienation it received from its creator and the world around it caused it to retaliate and show violence towards Victor and those he loves. It can also be said that the nature of monstrosity is created by society and the alienation of anything known as “other.” Alienation, proven in this novel, can drive some people and some things to absolute destruction.