Dear 100 Hour Board,
I recently read Mary Shelley's Frankenstein for school. For those of you who have read it, who do you think the actual "monster" of the novel is and why? Frankenstein? His creature? Both or neither? The DeLacey's? HUMANITY?
It's easy to say that Victor Frankenstein is the real monster. He dug up dead bodies to create an undead creature. Creepy, dude. Also, because he didn't show his creature any love, it murdered most of his friends and family.... so it's kinda his own problem.
That being said, the creature is still a murderer. After spending some time observing human beings, the creature has emotions and morals and follows social norms in many ways. I mean, he weeps over Frankenstein's dead body at the end. Also, just because Frankenstein was a brat to him and whatever doesn't mean it's an excuse to kill people. What's the death count for the monster? At least 5 or 6. Just because bad things happen to you in life doesn't really mean you should murder people. (Granted, the first one was seemingly an accident and he didn't know any better. He kept killing because he saw he could use the pain as leverage to get Frankenstein to do what he wanted.)
But... what about the De Laceys? Couldn't they have perhaps made up for the horrible life that the creature had had? His rejection by his creator? Sure, but the hideousness of the monster made Felix turn on him. Felix couldn't reconcile differences and he let his pride and his anger get in the way of what could have been something good. And that brings me to the final conclusion:
The true monster is US! It's society! And that's really the point, isn't it? Shouldn't people have had compassion for the plight of the monster? How many of the tragedies could have been avoided if someone could have looked past the face of the creature and gotten to know his heart and genuineness? As a reader, you hear the journey of the creature, so you learn to empathize a bit with him. Everyone finds themselves justifying the murders and blaming Dr. Frankenstein for not being more loving. After all, isn't he the real monster? It IS his fault. But you have to think more than that. Who is Frankenstein, but a structured society that rejects the "unlovable"? The socially undesirable? How often do we look down on the impoverished, the homeless, the drug addict, the chronic alcoholic, the unemployed, the immigrant? The way we treat these out-groups is the same way that Frankenstein and Felix De Lacey treated the creature - with abhorrence. We tell ourselves a narrative that erases the humanity and goodness of these people and instead labels them with only what makes them different. When you allow yourself, and as society structurally allows itself, to depersonalize these marginalized groups, you lose your human connection to them. Instead of being blind***, like the elder De Lacey, to the differences between you and another, we cause more anger and self-loathing to burn into the hearts of those who already struggle enough by refusing to acknowledge their humanness and their kindness and their hardships. The ramifications we see because of that (higher crime rates in poorer areas and among drug users, etc.) only serve to reinforce our prejudices, much like the murders of the creature deepened the divide between him and Frankenstein. To stop ourselves from becoming the monster, we have to be like the elder De Lacey, as well as Robert Walton. We must listen to and appreciate the stories of those who are hurting, and do what we can to assist them.
But then, maybe that's just my inner sociologist speaking. (Or not, because if you know anything about Mary Shelley, that's almost definitely what she was thinking.)
*** In case you were wondering, differences do exist, and being blind to them in real life only allows for the systematic stratification to persist because we refuse to address the real problems. But this is a simplified and idealized example, so I'm using the word blind here because not only was De Lacey literally blind, in an ideal way, we should be blind as people to differences, but not allow the system to be blind. Blah. I know you didn't want to hear about that, but I felt like I had to explain it so I didn't get someone coming to me telling me that real social difference blindness doesn't exist. I promise, I know.
I actually just finished reading this for the first time a few weeks ago! And I was going to write something thoughtful and eloquent but I actually agree with Guesthouse 100%.
Both. Dr. Frankenstein for giving life to a creature and then deserting it, causing it to go kinda crazy and not be taught love and respect. But also the monster, because a horrible childhood does not justify murdering people. But if we had to choose just one I'd say Dr. Frankenstein was the real monster.
Also I went to a haunted house when I was 14 and, while I'm usually terrified of those things, I spent most of the ride upset because one of the first monsters was Frankenstein's monster in a jail labeled "FRANKENSTEIN". The actor growled and tried to grab me as I angrily lectured him on how he wasn't Frankenstein, he was Frankenstein's monster, his creator was Frankenstein and how hard was that to remember, and he wasn't the true monster of the story, he was just misunderstood and why did no one understand this.
If we want a real monster in haunted houses we should put the Phantom of the Opera in there because he's a sexist murdering jerk who doesn't respect boundaries. He's killed at least 2-3 people (depends if we're looking at the movie or book) which doesn't even include all the people killed in the fire at the end. I wanna see him in a haunted house. He's more of a monster than Frankenstein's monster, because at least Frankenstein's monster didn't pose as a girl's dead father/angel and kidnap her with some intention of assaulting her.
Question: Frankenstein or Frankenstein's monster? Conclusion: Phantom of the Opera.
-guppy of doom
Both Victor Frankenstein and his monster suck*. I'm sorry to say it but they do. I just spent an entire semester studying this novel, and that is my qualified opinion.
What I really came here to say is that the DeLaceys are absolutely blameless in all of this. The monster just straight up peeping tom-ed them for months, first of all. Then, they return to their home one day to find their sweet, blind old father seemingly about to be attacked by a monster made of reconstituted cadaver meat. You try keeping your cool when confronted with all of that. They did what they needed to do, and honestly? The monster should have thought about all this before he even did it. The dude read Paradise Lost essentially as an infant and yet couldn't figure this out? Higher intelligence, my butt.
*Look, they do. This doesn't mean that I don't like the novel. The novel is great, Mary Shelley is great, and the story is very interesting and compelling. I just think the two main characters are the worst.