The term “human” is commonly used to refer to one’s ability to think rationally, use complex tools, experience certain emotions and show empathy. In “Frankenstein”, Victor is an ambitious scientist whose thirst for knowledge prompts him to create a new human life form, thus bending the laws of nature in an attempt to assert his power and intellectual superiority. Despite his creature being undoubtedly evil and murderous, over the years many critics have argued that his feelings, desires and empathetic nature make him more human that his creator, whose “hubris” and refusal to take responsibility for his actions end up having a devastating impact on both himself and his loved ones. In view of these considerations, the present paper seeks to demonstrate that in spite of his apparent cruelty and bloodthirsty nature, the monster is capable of a vast array of human emotions, which Victor fails to experience until the very end of the story.
Victor is so determined to create a sapient creature that he shows no respect for human life: he robs graves, engages in an experiment that could have a negative impact on other human beings and, once he succeeds in creating a new life form, he rejects and abandons his creature, thus exposing him to mankind’s hatred and violence. After killing William, one of Victor’s brothers, the creature confronts his maker, begging for love and compassion and pointing out that his soul would glow with humanity and benevolence were it not for him and his fellow creatures, who have always abhorred him and would certainly destroy him if they had the chance (Shelley 114). Here, the monster tries to reconcile with his creator, admitting that his deplorable behavior simply results from Victor’s failure to love him just like any parent would love their child. As the monster acknowledges his mistakes and identifies his early abandonment as the main reason behind them, his humanity stands in stark contrast with Victor’s inability to share his own creature’s feelings. This passage is clearly meant to show the reader that the monster learned to act in an inhumane way by observing and imitating his creator, as well as the entire human species, whose lack of compassion played a key role in triggering the creature’s violence.
Even when the monster threatens to kill Victor’s remaining friends (Shelley 113), he does so out of his desire for companionship. Since nobody loves him, the monster wants Victor to make him a mate, with whom he promises to leave for a remote place, never to reappear. Victor could easily put an end to his creature’s pain – as well as to mankind’s troubles – by simply complying with his conditions and trusting that he will keep his promise. However, he fears that the female creature will also turn out to be evil, and decides to destroy her in an attempt to save the world. Victor’s disregard for the feelings and lives of others is a theme that emerges repeatedly throughout the novel. Even though the creature clearly tells him that he will be with him on his wedding night – thus implying that he has every intention to murder his future wife – if he does not grant him his request, Victor refuses to make him a mate. His coldblooded nature becomes even more evident when he lets Justine – William’s nanny – be convicted for William’s murder even though he knows that his creature is responsible for it.
Similarly to all human beings, the monster longs for human companionship more than anything else. Following his birth, he tries his best to make friends but is constantly shunned by humans as a result of his hideous appearance. Nevertheless, the story emphasizes how important social interactions can be to one’s development and growth; looking beyond the creature’s unpleasant appearance, it is evident that he was not born a murderous monster. It was actually humans’ prejudice and misconceptions that made him feel abandoned and rejected, thus turning him into a vengeful monster. During a brief monologue, the monster defines himself as a “deserted creature” with “no relation or friend upon earth” (Shelley 159). Despite his isolation, he still believes that human hearts are full of brotherly love and that if he succeeds in making those around him overcome their prejudice, he will certainly find many good friends. He encourages himself not to despair and acknowledges that while humans are the most excellent creatures in the world, the only reason why he has not been able to experience their kindness is because they see him as a threat – even though he has always been good to them (Shelley 159). Victor, on the other hand, is perfectly comfortable living his life away from everybody, devoting most of his time and energy to his one true love, i.e. science. Even though his parents ask him to remain in touch with them, he selfishly chooses to ignore them, thus saddening his loved ones. Moreover, while the creature depicts humans in a very positive way, stressing their friendly and caring nature on multiple occasions, Victor does not seem to feel the same way about his own species, which he even defines as a “a multitude of filthy animals” torturing him and making him scream like a monster (Shelley 160).
In conclusion, the monster’s good intentions, ability to express his feelings in a clear and free manner, respect for others and desire to live a fulfilling life make him way more human than his creator, who, on the other hand, is a selfish, insensitive, indifferent and self-centered man whose main purpose is to use his knowledge to challenge the laws of nature.
- Shelley, Mary. Frankenstein. London: Lackington, Hughes, Harding, Mavor & Jones. 1818. Web.