A True "Monster"

Like most horror stories, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein has a wretched monster who terrorizes and kills his victims with ease. However, the story is not as simple as it seems. One increasingly popular view of the true nature of the creature is one of understanding. This sympathetic view is often strengthened by looking at the upbringing of the creature in the harsh world in which he matures much as a child would. With no friends or even a true father, the creature can be said to be a product of society and its negative views and constant rejections of him. Although this popular view serves to lessen the severity of his crimes in most people’s eyes, the fact remains that the creature is in fact a cold-hearted wretch whose vindictive nature is brought through the killings which take place throughout the story. Regardless of his unfortunate upbringing and life, however, the creature is a being determined to ruin the life of Victor, through being the master of Victor’s life and every day existence, almost in a slave and master scenario, who feels remorse but continues to kill anyway and is therefore deserving of the title, "monster".

Throughout the story, Victor’s life is in peril due to the monster’s extreme vindictiveness. Although the monster is justified in showing anger towards Victor, his killings of Victor’s friends and family is overly brutal. Years of neglect by Victor, which leave the monster fatherless as he grows up, drive him into a vindictive rage, or according to the monster, an "uncontrollable passion". Instead of going after Victor directly and immediately, however, the monster acts to complete what he calls a "demoniacal design". He carries out this plan by methodically killing Victor’s friends and family. This heartless killing of friends and family is one aspect of the creature which makes him a monster, and he even realizes the brutalness of his crimes which make him into this monster; "But it is true that I am a wretch. I have strangled the innocent as they slept, and grasped to death his throat who never injured me or any other living thing"(155). By eliminating Victor’s friends and family, the monster completes this plan of turning Victor’s life into one similar to his own. Depriving one of their family and friends, something which is done by both Victor and the monster, is a truly horrible deed which makes Victor’s creation a true "monster".

Although the plan itself is truly evil, the way in which the monster carries out this elimination of Victor’s friends and family is also a despicable deed which justifies the name, "monster". Instead of just killing Victor immediately, the monster kills Victor’s friends and family in a calculated way, one which serves to torture Victor. In the true sense of torturing an individual, the subject is kept alive as long as possible in order to experience the maximum amount of pain. Like a torture victim, Victor is kept alive to feel this anguish of having lost his friends and family. This gruesome act is carried out both directly and indirectly by the monster. Besides the simple act of not killing Victor until the end, the monster even goes so far as to feed Victor to keep him alive to experience this maximum amount of pain; "Often, when all was dry, the heavens cloudless, and I was parched by thirst, a slight cloud would bedim the sky, shed the few drops that revived me, and vanish"(141). This "slight cloud" possibly represents the monster as he often appears after long stretches without contact between him and Victor, "when all was dry", and feeds him just enough to sustain life or waits for him to rest, "shed the few drops that revived me", and then vanishes as quickly as he comes. Acts of this nature are illustrated later when the monster leaves a note to Victor telling him of the dead hare ahead for him to eat, serving to prolong his doomed life; "... a dead hare; eat and be refreshed. Come on, my enemy; we have yet to wrestle for our lives; but many hard and miserable hours must you endure, until that period shall arrive"(142). This accurately depicts what the monster is doing in his quest to carry out this plan of torture, which is, to maximize the amount of pain felt by Victor, "many hard and miserable hours must you endure", before he completes his plan by actually killing him, "until that period shall arrive". Any individual capable of carrying out such an extreme plan of torture as this is truly deserving of the title, "monster".

Along with torturing Victor, the monster also desires to control his life in every way possible. The monster strives in a way to have control over Victor much like the way Victor originally has control over the monster. Through his struggle for power over Victor, one can see his lust for a power much like the kind a master has over his slave; "My reign is not yet over, you live and my power is complete"(142). This "reign" starts with the monster killing Victor’s friends and continues with the monster keeping Victor alive to further torture him until the time comes for the end of his power, the killing of Victor. Once again the two roles are reversed, as now the monster is determining Victor’s life and existence, much in the way Victor does in originally creating the monster’s life, and Victor is now acting out the subservient role as the monster does in the beginning of the story. Once again, anyone who desires to completely control and ruin the day to day life of another, whether it be Victor or the monster, truly is deserved of the title, "monster".

Besides this desire to control Victor in every way, much like a God, the monster also commits these crimes against his intuitive feelings, a fact which also serves to make the name, "monster", appropriate. If the monster kills Victor’s friends and family merely because he does not know any better, like an animal does due to the presence of an overwhelming urge to survive, he would be merely an animal and therefore his crimes would be somewhat justified. In reality, however, the monster does possess these human feelings of guilt, remorse, and a fair understanding of right and wrong. It is the ignoring of these emotions during his killing spree that makes the strongest point for Victor’s creation to be called a monster; "Think ye that the groans of Clerval were music to my ears. My heart was fashioned to be susceptible of love and sympathy.."(153). The way in which he was created, fashioned from human pieces, gives the monster human emotions like feelings of guilt, remorse, and compassion, all of which can be seen through his interaction with the De Lacy family, and by the multiple killings he commits against his natural feelings of right and wrong. If he were merely a "creature" for example, his killings would be justifiable, however, since he clearly possesses these human emotions and yet still acts in contradictory ways to them, the monster certainly is deserved of his title as "monster".

An increasingly popular way of thinking in today’s society is to evaluate the upbringing of someone in order to condone or at least understand their behavior. Along the same lines, one popular view of the creature in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is to be sympathetic towards the creature due to his poor upbringing and lack of a friends or a traditional father figure. Regardless of these unfortunate circumstances, however, the fact remains that the creature is still a cold-hearted wretch bent on ruining the life of Victor, through being the master of Victor’s life and existence, almost in a slave and master sense, who feels remorse yet kills anyway and is therefore deserving of the title "monster".


Works Cited

 Shelley, Mary. Frankenstein. New York: Norton and Company, 1996.