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The Making of a Monster

In Frankenstein, Mary Shelley illustrates how society plays a large role in shaping

an individual s personality and behavior. Victor Frankenstein s creation is continually

regarded by society as a monster because of his appearance. Though the being has the

physical characteristics of a monster, he has a tender attitude towards humanity in the

beginning of the tragic tale. It is only after he is repeatedly rejected by society that he

takes on the personality and behavior of a monster. Percy Bysshe Shelley remarks that

his mind was…affectionate and full of moral stability, yet the circumstances of his

existence are so monstrous and uncommon, that,…his original goodness was gradually

turned into inextinguishable misanthropy and revenge (14:248). Because society expects

him to be a monster, they treat him as such; thus, they create a monster out of Victor s


The being is considered unnatural from the very beginning–his creation. He is a

construction of corpses body parts sewn together. Because of this, his appearance is

repulsive. Though all of his features are of man, they are at a level of deformity. He has a

gigantic stature that furthers his unnatural appearance. Even Victor, his creator, remarks

that a mummy again endued with animation could not be so hideous as that wretch

(Shelley 40). Victor completely abandons his creation because he cannot endure the

creature s appearance. The being asks Victor, why did you form a monster so hideous

that even you turned from me in disgust? (Shelley 105). With the Victor s response to

the sight of his creation, it can be expected that an unprepared society s response would

be worse.

After Victor abandons him, the creature leaves and wanders into a village. He is

initially delighted by the sight of the village, but immediately:

children shrieked, and one of the women fainted. The whole village was roused;

some fled, some attacked [him], until grievously bruised by stones and many other

kinds of missile weapons, [he] escaped to the open country and fearfully took

refuge. (Shelley 83)

He is driven from the village for no reason other than his appearance. They assume that

he is evil based solely on his abnormalities. Just as the village fears the creature, the

creature fears the village. The only difference is that the being has a reason to fear the

village because it attacked him. Despite this incident, the creature s soul glowed with

love and humanity (Shelley 78). He helps the cottagers with their daily chores, such as

providing them with wood for their fire, which he enjoys doing. However, the cottagers

turn against the being that they once praised for doing some of the chores. Because the

being looks abnormal, the three cottagers assume that he is evil and that he means to harm

them. Felix dashed [him] to the ground and struck [him] violently with a stick (Shelley

110). Although he could have killed Felix, the creature does not even defend himself.

Felix ruthlessly attacks the being, yet the being, not Felix, is the one who is regarded as a

monster. Despite this encounter, the being performs another good deed by risking his life

to save a little girl from drowning. As he is trying to revive her, she is ripped from his

arms and he is shot by a man who assumes that the being is trying to kill the girl. Again

the being who is trying to help is considered the monster.

The creature tries to find companionship many times, but he is only met with fear

and hostility. The being cannot avoid becoming what society expects him to be after he

has been rejected so many times. George Levine states that the monster s isolation derives

from his hideousness and that Victor s revolutionary action causes his isolation; the

Monster s isolation causes his revolutionary action (14:301). Because the being cannot

escape society s expectations, he eventually confirms them and acts accordingly. Atleast

by doing evil, the creature will deserve his treatment. The monster moves from one evil

act to another. The monster intensely desires to be a part of society, even if the only way

he can participate is to indulge in evil. He says to Victor, if I cannot inspire love, I will

cause fear (Shelley 119); and if I have no ties and affections, hatred and vice must be my

portion (Shelley 121). Thus, the being truly becomes the monster that society has feared

from the beginning.

Frankenstein s creation becomes what he is expected to be because of his

appearance–monstrous. Because he was originally a compassionate being, he is unable to

live with what he has become. As the creature says, I was benevolent and good; misery

made me a fiend (Shelley 78). Society created his misery by rejecting him. His repeated

rejections and his intense loneliness lead him to commit acts which he never thought

himself capable of committing. Society s expectations are fulfilled, but at the expense of

the creature s innocence. The monster says to Walton, my heart was fashioned to be

susceptible of love and sympathy; and, when wrenched by misery to vice and hatred, it did

not endure the violence of the change, without torture such as you cannot imagine

(Shelley 188). In the end he realizes the monster that he has become. The creature

became a monster because he was expected to be. He was not seen as the being that he

actually was–selfless and loving. This ultimately shows that society can make individuals

act in ways that they know to be wrong primarily because it is expected of them. Like the

creature, some may think that it is easier to give in to these expectations rather than rise

above them. Therefore, they become what is expected and act accordingly. This tragic

tale teaches us that we should look past our own expectations and prejudices so that we

can appreciate each individual.

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