Frankenstein

It is a commonly held belief that it is the child’s parents or guardians who teach a child right from wrong, and shape his or her disposition towards the surrounding world, but in the case of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein the Creation is denied such a parental figure. Furthermore, as a result of his outward appearance, he is refused any social contact with people. Answers to these questions must then be sought elsewhere. The Creation learns to survive on his own; he masters speech and behavior by observing a family undetected through a hole in a wall. The Creation is never given the luxury that most people take for granted as a basic staple of human existence: a family. What then are the origins of the Creation’s characteristics? The only answer left to this question is that he is shaped by his first experiences in this world and by his own train of logic. As a result of this, the creation’s actions can often be explained by examining his early life. The Creation is not a thing of evil; he commits evil acts only because he perceives them to be the only available course of action. Therefore, the Creation is, at his core, a good and wholesome being, but his education and situation lead him to commit acts of cruelty and evil.

The Creation’s first thoughts after being created are centered entirely on survival. After gaining refuge in the forest around Ingolstadt the Creation’s only desires concern food, drink, and protection from the elements, all of which he procures for himself (Shelly 68). These things are done out of necessity. The Creation learns about nourishment, the importance of warmth, and how to survive because he is left with no other alternative. In fact, the only reason the creation leaves the Ingolstadt forest is because "food … became scarce" (69). Had it not been for this lack of food, the Creation would have lived out his life in the forest of Ingolstadt without ever desiring more than what he needed. Again, it is necessity that drives the creation into the next stage of his life.

It is in this next stage that the creation learns to desire more than his simple needs, but the knowledge he gains is skewed by the fact that he is learning from the observation of a single family. The De Lacy family becomes the Creation’s source for this education. Since the Creation has witnessed the reaction he invokes in people, he decides to watch this family in secret so as not to frighten and horrify them, as occurred with others. This is where the Creation’s education begins. He is educated in a multitude of subjects by observing the De Lacys. He learns everything from speech and proper behavior, to affection and the desire for love; it is the nature of this education that is the cause of many of the later actions of the Creation. While the Creation’s learning is extensive, he is not given the objective kind of education that a normal child would receive. Since the creation learns by observation his learning is skewed by the inherent prejudices of the De Lacys. These prejudices contribute to the Creation’s growing hatred for Victor, helping him to justify his later actions toward his creator.

Before he begins to develop these feelings of hatred and revenge, the Creation’s disposition is completely lacking in hostility, as is seen when the Creation views himself for the first time in a "transparent pool." When the Creation fully recognized the image as himself, he is "filled with the bitterest sensations of despondence and mortification" (76). Sorrow is the Creation’s only reaction. Nowhere is a reaction of anger, or a desire for revenge seen. The Creation’s anger developed within him; it was not a part of his nature previous to his education.

The first and most general part of the Creation’s education is that he observed a loving and caring family. The De Lacys, made up of the father; Felix, the son; Agatha, the sister; and Saphie, Felix’s love, all lived together in harmony. None of them ever become angered with another, or do anything to hurt each other. From this example the Creation must then assume all beings live this way, and wonder at why he has no family and must hide from humanity. This contributes to the Creation’s anger toward Victor for not being the father the Creation sees him as, and for not creating him a family of his own. Other large contributors to the Creation’s later actions are the books he found in the forest: Paradise Lost, Plutarch’s Lives, and Sorrows of Werter. These books, along with the book that Felix teaches Saphie with: The Ruins of Empires, form an unbalanced foundation to the Creation’s learning.

From Ruins of Empires and Plutarch’s Lives the Creation a skewed version of the world’s history since they only tell stories of great empires and leaders. The Creation reads and hears glorifying tales of people like Julius Caesar and Alexander the Great. Their stories of conquest make them great men, in spite of the destructive nature of their lives. These books teach the Creation "to admire and love the heroes of past ages" (86). Therefore he learns to admire their actions as well, including such things as conquering entire nations through battle and destruction.

Sorrows of Werter provide the Creation with a much different education from the grand tales of conquest in Plutarch’s Lives. In Sorrows of Werter the Creation is encounters a man (Werter) who is very emotional and deeply afflicted by his sorrows. Although this gives the Creation an idea of the boundless nature of human emotions, the novel ends in the suicide of the Werter, therefore reestablishing the theme of destruction as a logical course of action.

While the previous novels inspire the Creation towards destruction, Paradise Lost affects him in a much different and more powerful manner. This novel concerning the battle between God and Satan, and the creation of Adam and Eve causes the Creation to examine how he fits into the story of the origin of human existence. In doing this the Creation found he couldn’t sympathize with the character of Adam, but often "considered Satan as the fitter emblem of (his) condition" (87). The Creation was not a perfect being formed in his creator’s image, as Adam was. Instead the one who created him cast him away, much like Satan was cast down by God. This grim comparison formed by the Creation not only serves as a way to further justify his anger towards Victor, but it also places him in the position of Satan. At times, the Creation verifies this link. When explaining his actions to Walton, the Creation says, "evil thenceforth became my good" (154), a direct reference to Paradise Lost where Satan says "all Good to me is lost;/ Evil be thou my Good" (qtd. in Shelley 154).

All of these lessons contribute to the Creation’s future actions, but none so much as the history of the De Lacys does. The reason the De Lacys are living in a small cottage away from their native land of France is because Felix committed an illegal act. Felix rescued a man from jail whom he thought was put there unjustly. For this reason he and his family had to flee the country for fear for their lives. Felix broke the law, but is not seen as an evil person for it. In fact, the De Lacys, and the Creation in turn, see his actions as just and right. As a result of this, the Creation is given the impression that laws can be broken justifiably with sufficient reason. Put together, these lessons provide the Creation with his train of reasoning. He is lacking, yet deserving of a family and happiness. He sees destruction as an intrinsic part of human society, inherent in everything from personal struggle to the conquest of empires. He identifies himself with Satan, the original case of rejection and the original cause of destruction in the human world. And finally, he sees himself as justified in the pursuit of his happiness even if laws are broken in the process. This background serves as the Creation’s justification for the terrible deeds he later commits.

As the Creation sees it, these atrocious acts are simply necessary steps in his attempt to acquire a female from Victor, the creator who denied him, and owes him some form of happiness. The Creation can find no other way to go about reaching his goal but to murder the people closest to Victor so as to coerce him into making a female simply avoid any more death. He sees this female creation as "a right which (Victor) must not refuse" (98), and will exact that right from his creator whether Victor wishes to or not. The Creation first tries to reason with Victor, but when refused he begins to give in to his growing hate for his creator. At this point the Creation truly begins to desire the misfortune of Victor. This hatred springs from feelings of sadness and anger at the rejection of his creator and the denial of a family, each of which are valid reasons, but are blown out of proportion by the Creation. For these reasons, the Creation haunts Victor and causes him pain. He continues to torment Victor until he finally collapses of exhaustion aboard Walton’s ship.

Upon Victor’s death, the Creation begins to regret his actions. When speaking to Walton he says:

You hate me; but your abhorrence cannot equal that which I regard myself. I look on the hands which executed the deed; I think on the heart in which the imagination of it was conceived, and long for the moment when they will meet my eyes, when it will haunt my thoughts no more. (155)

Here the Creation shows his inner feelings. He despises himself for the deeds he has committed. His horrible actions "haunt" his thoughts. At his core, the Creation is a thing of morals and regrets, like any other person.

Like other people, there is nothing intrinsically evil in the Creation. He was driven to evil through a lack of caring people in his life, and a misguided sense of justice. After everything is over the Creation is a sorrowful, and repentant being. His only desire is to die, so as to pay the price for his actions against Victor and his loved ones.