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When one thinks of Frankenstein, Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein is not what first comes to mind. Instead, one thinks of a Halloween monster with bolts in the side of his head or just another horror character. Shelly’s Frankenstein takes the reader into a much more meaningful story. Within the story the reader is introduced to two very different main characters. There is Victor, playing the role of the intelligent creator with nothing but passion and desire to achieve the ultimate understanding of life, yet not grasping the concept about what he is really doing. Then there is the creature, born into a world unknown to him striving for acceptance, love, and purpose in his life. With these two characters Shelly asks the reader to think about life and creation and contemplate the real importance in it. She wants the reader to consider the position of both sides. How would one learn about life with no one there to show right or wrong? What would one do if faced with the responsibility of bringing the dead back to life? Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein shows Victor as a normal, accepted individual while showing the creature as the different, exiled being, both striving for knowledge and understanding of something.
Victor Frankenstein strives for power and knowledge, He wants to better his understanding of life and why it has to end. Victor states, “My temper was sometimes violent and my passions vehement; but by some law in my temperature they were turned not towards childish pursuits but to an eager desire to learnâ€¦the secrets of heaven and earthâ€¦ my inquiries were directed to the metaphysical, or in its highest sense, the physical secrets of the world” (Shelly 37). Victor is so blinded by wanting to achieve something great that he does not truly think things through. Victor is very smart, he has the ability to know the right information he needs but he is trapped within his own selfish motives. He does not stop to think what he will do if he succeeds. There is no consideration taken into the creature being brought to life. Victor does not accept or even entertain the idea that something could go wrong. In his head, only greatness will be achieved. Daniel Cohen states, on the topic of Shelly’s Frankenstein, “We human beings are an adventurous species, not just physically but intellectually. We like new places, new inventions, new ideas. And yet we are also profoundly conservative. We like what is familiar, what is tried and true. We fear the unknown and we fear knowing too much or going too far” (60). Victor is very excited about his experiments until he finds success. He had the knowledge to create something great, but did not understand that it would take careful time and consideration. Victor wants nothing more but to bring life to the dead and make a marvelous discovery in history. He works day in and day out trying to resurrect something that had already left the world behind. The creatures learning and emotions are not planned. All he wants is to make it happen. Striving for selfish knowledge, Victor creates a life in which he is not ready to support. Lars Lunsford states, “Victor Frankenstein doesn’t value life in the absolute. Instead, he places a higher worth on his reputation. He wants to join the new class of learned men”(174). In all reality, he knew nothing to do about what he had just created. Victor only thought of the achievement he would be accomplishing. He did not know where to go from the point of creation. Without an attempt to understand what he had done or the creature itself, Victor flees from the issue, casting his creation into unknown life.
The creation is thrown into a world without properly being introduced. He awakes to learn that his creator does not want him. Not understanding language, words, or even communication he has no way to express himself to his creator. There is no way for him to ask any questions or demand an explanation for his existence. All the creature has are feelings that he cannot explain. He picks up on things, sees how people act and respond to different situations, and examines love and care in humans, along with seeing vindictiveness and unkindness. He notices how people truly are and yet does not understand how to apply these actions and feelings. He acknowledges them and sees them happening but does not truly know their meaning. The creature takes what little concepts he grasps and forms them into his own understanding of them. With no one there to better explain or elaborate on life or reasoning, the creature is left to wander and make of life what he can.
In the beginning of the story, Victor’s life goal is one of great achievement and success. He is very curious and full of knowledge. He strives to learn until there is no more to know. Victor wants his life to be filled with greatness and glory. Victor sees the purpose of life as taking knowledge as far as he can, achieving the ultimate learning. As far as the beginning of the story, Victor’s values are ones that are of nothing more than learning, achievement, and greatness in life. Victor is a very happy young mad who envisions his life as one being full of happiness and accomplishment. Victor never assumes that he will lose it all.
As the story unfolds, Victor’s goals and values of life quickly change. After manifesting the creature and abandoning the life he created, he no longer has a desire to learn and understand the human life. He simply wants to put everything he has learned in the past. Victor now desires to bury his past and forget what he created. Victor’s values are now ones that relate to starting over and leaving the past behind. Victor now tries to focus on being happy and in love. In Victor Frankenstein’s head, he denies what happened and shuts it out of his life, leaving the creation without a creator. After calming down and understanding what he had done, the creation is no longer important to him. To Victor, it is as if the being was never brought to life.
After the creature is first cast into unknown life, he does not understand or know what his purpose for being is. Yet, while watching and learning from people, he knows that what he really wants is love and acceptance. Daniel S. Burt states, “The creature craves the companionship and affection that he witnesses.” When he witnesses true kindness and romance, he desires it. More than anything, he wants to be normal and accepted in society. The creature does not want to be different. His values are ones that involve the passion for understanding of his self and true kindness shown to him. He wishes not to be rejected.
After constantly being pushed out for being different and shown no love or acceptance, the creature starts to feel a new desire. As a result of being rejected each time he attempts to be a part of society, the creature develops a feeling of hate and despise. The innocence of the creature leaves him and he no longer cares of being accepted by those different from him. Now he desires and wants someone similar to him to feel his void of loneliness. The creature sees this as a way to alleviate his pain of rejection, making it his new purpose to have his abandoning creator make him a mate. The creature’s motives slowly turn to being more and more selfish.
In his attempt to create love and passion for himself, the creature hurts innocent individuals, making the creature seem more of a monster to the reader. Not only has he already committed horrendous acts, after Victor promises him a mate and goes against his word, the creature truly starts to turn evil in the eyes of the reader. Barbara Waxman states, “Victor’s loathing and rejection give the being he created the motivation to kill everyone Victor has ever loved” (14). Now all he feels is pure hatred and anger. The creature does not understand how or what to do to control his feelings, leading him to desire nothing more than revenge on his creator. As Robert Dingley states, “the monster witnesses his intended bride’s destruction, he angrily confronts Victor and promises revenge: ‘It is well. I go; but remember, I shall be with you on your wedding-night'” (204). By the end of the story, the creature has taken on a persona of being evil and wanting nothing more than to bring his despair and pain upon his creator.
Perhaps one of the biggest differences between the two individuals is simply their difference in society itself. Victor is an aspiring young man from a wealthy background that is generally accepted in society. He can walk around peacefully and do what he pleases. He has the ability and knowledge to learn new things and apply them. Victor can travel and enjoy the world without a single worry that he will be shunned for the way he looks. To society, he is a normal, enjoyable individual. He is seen as young, wealthy, and having his whole life ahead of him. He has the ability and resources to accomplish anything he desires. Victor is a very valuable person to the people around him. He is loved and taken care of in any way possible. Victor has a loving and appreciating family to run to when something goes wrong. He has a nice home and plenty of resources. Victor has a normal appearance and is seen as just that.
The creature on the other hand does not have these advantages to his life. He lurks behind the shadows of humanity, hiding like a true monster in the night. Society does not accept him because of his differences. He is not like them, therefore not welcome to walk among them peacefully. Society fears the unknown and unusual, making him a true black sheep in a herd of white. The creature cannot live a normal life. He cannot learn when there is no one willing to teach him. He cannot travel and do as he pleases without the worry of being shunned. The creation is always forced out of society and made to be alone. He is not welcome and there is nowhere for him to belong with mankind. He stays hidden from those who do not accept him as one of their own. Victor’s creation has no value in society. He has no family or loved ones to comfort him or to run to when something goes wrong. He cannot start a family and has no home to come home to. The one person who is responsible for his being wants nothing to do with him. He never experiences romance or love and cannot find friendship or kindness in anyone around him.
Victor Frankenstein refuses to face his problems. After creating the creature and believing he had done something horrendous, he ran. Victor did not want to deal with his creation. He feared the unknown. He had no clue as to what he should do if he had succeeded. Then when faced with the reality of achieving his goal, he ran away, scared of what he had just done. The creation is not the only situation Victor ran away from.
While conducting his experiments, Victor Frankenstein alienated himself from the world. He left his friends and family to worry about him with no response. When confronted with the issue or writing to them or comforting them, he did not. He ignored the situation at hand so he could finish what was on his mind. He did not think about informing his family that he was well and just really busy. Victor did not stop to think about anything but his wants and desires. Nothing could turn his mind away from what was important to him.
After the creation snuck back into Victor’s life, he focused on what was important to him. He left his love, Elizabeth, wondering furiously what was going on and his friends and family worrying about him once again. He did not take into consideration how they were feeling. He did not even entertain the idea of informing them on what was going on. He kept his feelings bottled inside while pushing away the important feelings of others in his life. Victor kept leaving his loved ones in the dark about what was going, avoiding telling them, getting their help, or easing their minds. Instead, he ran from their issues and focused on what was his own.
The creation wore his emotions on his sleeve, not knowing how to hold them back. He faced his problems because he did not know how to run from them. He did not know how to control what he was feeling, so all he could do was react. The creature knew that his creator did not want anything to do with him. He could have ran from this and not done anything about it. Instead, he tried to fix it. Although his methods were not the best approach he could have taken, he did not know any better. They were unethical and not likely to lead to a result of love, but the creature tried his hardest to be accepted and wanted by his creator. He did what he had to make his creator pursue him. In an odd way, this was his method of solving his problem.
When faced with the issue of not knowing how to communicate or understand what was going on around him, the creature taught himself. He learned things, and although he may not have understood what he was learning, he made an attempt to fix this problem. He wanted to know how to communicate with the ones around him and understand what they meant with their actions and words. Therefore, he watched them and studied their actions and words, learning how to use them himself.
There is also the instance of him not being accepted. The creature knew he was an outcaste. He knew that he was different and that people did not like that about him. The creature understood that he looked different and was not the same as everybody else. Although, he did not understand why, he found himself a solution to his problem. He decided that, instead of forcing himself into a society that did not want him, he would have a mate of his own. He would start his life with someone like him who would accept him and not judge him for his appearance. The creature had a way to face and fix his problem.
In conclusion, Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein shows the reader two very different characters who share a messy relationship. She introduces the reader to the importance of a purpose to life, striving for greatness, values, and the significance of acceptance in others.. Both Victor and his creation strive for a meaning and purpose to life while they both also have passion and desire for something more. Neither of them is truly ever satisfied. They both spend their lives running and waiting for an end to their suffering.
By not giving the characters a true piece, Shelly invites the reader to understand their pain better. Shelly makes the story more effective by giving it a realistic ending to their fates. Given the amount of grief they had caused each other, there could be no happy ending between them. Victor would never accept the “monster” he had created. Victor’s character was too denying of the creature along with being too selfish. He refused to think about helping or trying to understand what he had created. Also, the creature, after a while, had stopped trying to make things better with his creator. Instead, he tried to make his life a living hell. With neither of them trying to work on their relationship, they were doomed.
Shelly shows their differences and likenesses in a way that makes them stand out as two very strong characters. One as a smart, independent individual who could not face his problems head one; the other as an outcast in a world he would never be accepted in and could never find love or kindness. Mary Shelly gives the reader two characters with two very different goals and understandings. Shelly makes a point to use these characters to show want, desire, and passion. Also to show the difference between knowledge and understanding, the symbolism of corrupt innocence, and the effects of not being accepted and being different to those around one. She also shows the value of having a purpose and place in life and makes the reader wonder about what it would be like if one did not have a purpose in their life. Overall, Mary Shelly sends a strong message of life, death, knowledge, power, corruption, love, and acceptance.