The Reactions that Shape the Creation

A newborn child comes into the world with a clean slate. It has no experience, no worries, no prejudices. As the child grows into an adult, he or she is shaped by the world around them. Parents bestow proper manners, and reprimand the child, making sure that he or she grows up into a proper, well mannered adult. This child will associate with friend who have grown up in similar situations, and will have friendly reactions from other people. However, sometimes the parents are not there to oversee the upbringing of their child, or neglect to do so in a nurturing way. Children in these circumstances grow up in a different manner. They do not receive important lessons for life, and may not be kind towards their friends. The reaction of others towards these children will be less than favorable, but will be one of tolerance. Also, there are children that grow up under parents that are abusive, or not nurturing at all. These children grow up in bitterness, without a loving environment to support them. Lacking this support, they tend to turn to violent acts, and shun society. Other people will react to these children with disgust, fear, hatred, and other negative feelings, further driving the child from society, and completely isolating them. From these three examples, we can see that the way that a child is brought up and reacted to by the world greatly affects how they will live the rest of their life. There are various combinations of the above examples, and if we put them together correctly, then we have the upbringing of the creation. Victor Frankenstein’s creation has a very well educated upbringing, mostly by his own hand. He is well mannered, and has good intentions at first. But because of his appearance, people react to him negatively. This drives him to perform evil deeds and acts, and turn against society. Victor Frankenstein’s creation has a chance at living a normal life, but the negative reactions of the cottage family, Victor, and society cause the creation to become a monster in all senses of the word, turn to murder, and live a solitary life.

The creature is renounced by Victor throughout the book, which removes any positive role model that the creature might have had. The two encounters that Victor has with the creature when it is first created are evidence of his rejection. The first is when Victor finishes creating the creature. During the process of creation, Victor dedicates himself so greatly that he "pursued [his] undertaking with unremitting ardour" (32). He puts aside everything else in his life, and concentrates completely on his purpose, which is to bring a being to life that would serve him. In order to do so, he spent an entire summer "engaged, heart and soul, in one pursuit" (32). Because of the hard work that Victor puts into his work of creation, he never really examines the fruits of his labour. He is too caught up in his work, and has "lost all soul or sensation but for this one pursuit" (32) of finishing his work on making the creature. So in the process of his creation, Victor is never really aware of what he is creating because he is too focused on the actual act of creation. However, when Victor finally finishes the work of making the creature, and takes time to look at what he has done, he is horrified by his accomplishment. As the creation opens an eye, and looks upon his creator, Victor comes to realize what he has brought to life is in no way a good creation, but is horrid to his eyes. Victor describes his first real look at the creature in this sentence: "How can I describe my emotions at this catastrophe, or how delineate the wretch whom with such infinite pains and care I had endeavoured to form?" (34). At first sight, Victor is speechless, unable to find words to describe the "wretch" (34) in front of him. His initial reaction is one of fear, hatred, and rejection against the creation.

The second time that Victor sees his creation is after waking up and finding the "wretch" (35) in his bedroom, and again, his reaction is one of fear and horror, which further cuts off any paternal figure that the creature would need to have a normal life. At this point, the creation "muttered some inarticulate sounds, while a grin wrinkled his cheeks" (35) and reached out toward Victor. The creature is trying to communicate with its creator, or parent, and is reaching out in a gesture of asking for acceptance in the way that a newborn child would reach out to its parents. At this point, had Victor accepted the creature in his arms, then the life of his creation would have been much different. The creation would have know that he was accepted by someone, and turned to a life of kindness, and would at least be accepted by one person, if not society as a whole. However, Victor "escaped and rushed down the stairs" (35), seeking to get away from his horrible creation. His reaction sends the creation off into the night, and Victor does not encounter his creation until much later in his life. These initial reactions to the creation are very important, as they dictate how the creature and Victor will interact in the future. How Victor reacts is how he will continue to react throughout the novel; with disgust and hatred for what he has made with his own hands. It is this reaction that destroys one of the fundamental parts of the creation’s life–that of a parent.

Society reacts to the creation in a similar way to Victor, except that they go to the point of violence to drive the creature away from them, fear more than anything else driving their actions. As the creation relates his story, he tells of many instances where he stumbles upon civilization, only to have the people he happens upon turn against at first sight. The first time this happens, the creation enters a village during his travels. Hungry and curious, the creation goes into the one of the best houses in the village. However, upon entering the home, "the children shrieked, and one of the women fainted" (70), and in a very short time, "the whole village was aroused; some fled, some attacked [the creature]" (70). This early in the creature’s life, the reaction of the village leaves a lasting impression upon the creature. The creation avoids large populations for the rest of his life because of the villagers attacking him. The shock of experiencing physical pain after being so newly created, not to mention having no defense against the attacks of the villagers, is a very traumatic experience for the creation, who "fearfully took refuge in a low hovel" (71) after the attack. He hides from the villagers, only going out at night to gather food, and it is in the hovel that his interaction with the cottage family would bloom, only to later come crashing down and bring him even more despair.

The interaction that occurs between the creation and the family is essential to forming the creature’s ideals, educating the creature, and teaching him that there is love and acceptance in the world. The creation spends much of his time around the family, observing them and learning about their lives. Through his observation, he learns about family life, how they care for each other, help each other, and try their best to stay happy, no matter what situation they are in. The creation envies this happiness that the cottage family has, because he knows that he must remain in hiding, unable to interact directly with anyone for fear of them attacking again. So the creation begins to learn from the family, trying to know as much as he can about them. He is completely enthralled with the way that the family acts, which is conveyed in his thoughts: "The gentle manners and beauty of the cottagers greatly endeared them to me: when they were unhappy, I felt depressed; when they rejoiced, I sympathized in their joys" (75). The creation is moved by these emotions, and longs to join and become part of the family, to fill the empty space that was left by the rejection of his ‘father,’ Victor. As the creation becomes closer to the family emotionally, he begins to learn from them. Through observation, he comes to understand words and speech, and upon learning what books are, steals one from the cottage and teaches himself to read from their example. At this point, remembering the journal in the coat pocket that he had taken from Victor when he left the house on the night of his creation, the creation takes it out to read it. And he discovers the past behind his creation. The creature finds out the circumstances through which he comes to live, and how he is truly wretched. Upon discovering this, the creature’s attitude changes, and he yells out, "Cursed creator! Why did you form a monster so hideous that even you turned from me in disgust?" (88). This is another part of the rejection of the creature by Victor, and also the first point in which the creature actually names himself as "hideous" (88). The creation no longer even has a chance at a father figure, and must search elsewhere for this affection.

Finding himself even further from Victor, the creature plans to try and introduce himself to the cottagers, but their final reaction when they finally see the creature is what makes the creature begin to turn to hate and violence. The creation plans to approach the blind old cottager, Mr. DeLacey, and plead to him to take the creature in and shelter it, and give the creature the love and protection that it has never known. Whether the creature is accepted by society as a whole hinges on this encounter, because if the creature is refused by the cottage family, then he can never find refuge among the world of men. Time passes, and finally the opportunity presents itself; the rest of the family leaves the cottage to go out on a walk, and the creation goes in to introduce himself to old man DeLacey. His first words, "Pardon this intrusion" (90), speak volumes about the creations mannerisms and hints that the creation might actually have a chance at living in the world of men. If the creation can speak properly, with good manners, then what is to keep him from being accepted into the world of men? But it also foreshadows what is going to happen, as he is "intruding" (90) upon DeLacey, and likewise, upon the world of men, which he fated to not be accepted into. The creation attempts to talk the old man into accepting him as a traveler who needs a place to rest, and that the creature is seeking to be accepted by a group of friends, which is the cottage family. Everything is going well, when the rest of the family returns early from their stroll, and the creation panics. Clutching the old man’s hands, the creation pleads "Save and protect me! You and your family are the friends whom I seek" (91). However, as soon as the family enters the cottage, they are horrified by the apparition before them; Agatha faints, Safie runs, and Felix attacks the creature; all of them rejecting the creature for what he is, even though the creature was able to prove his kind intent, and was even accepted by DeLacey.

The creature, rejected by the cottage family, runs off to find his creator, in the hope of one last chance of being accepted; but is rejected for the final time by his creator, and becomes a true monster at this point, not just in physical appearance, but in actions and mannerisms also. After finding Victor, the creature relays the story of his encounter with the cottage family, and how he was taught indirectly by them, and learned how to be well mannered. But, being rejected by them in the end, the creation has come to know that he cannot be accepted in the world of man, and pleads for Victor to make him a female companion that the creation may be able to live the rest of his life apart from the world, but still have a companion for itself. Victor, after hearing the creature’s argument, is moved, as the creature’s "words had a strange effect on [Victor]" (99), who decided that if the creature leaves the world of man, then no more harm can come from it. Agreeing to create a companion for the creation, Victor undertakes his task, but the entire time "the promise [Victor] had made to the [creature] weighed upon [Victor’s] mind" (101). As the second creature nears completion, Victor comes to realize that he is bringing another wretch into the world, and "trembling with passion, [Victor] tore to pieces the thing on which [Victor] was engaged." (115). The creature sees this happen, and as a result of it, is driven over the edge of civility into hatred and anger. Goading Victor, the creation escapes into the night, threatening to "be with [Victor] on [Victor’s] wedding night" (116). The creation kills Victor’s best friend, Cerval, as well as Elizabeth on Victor’s wedding night, and taunts Victor into following the creature to the ends of the earth.

In the end, the creature is unable to live in the world of man, driven from them by their rejection and fear, and turning to hatred and anger himself. The creature, who is born as an innocent babe, is time and time again rejected by his creator and father figure, Victor; by the people who live in society; and by the cottage family who he attempts to befriend, but is rejected by in the end. It is the reactions of these people that shape the creation’s life, and slowly rob him of hope. They drive him into utter despair and hatred of the world around him, which is allowed to live in happiness, while he must live on in solitude, never to experience the emotions of happiness or acceptance that the world of men will always have for each other.

 

Works Cited

 

Mary Shelley. Frankenstein. Ed. J. Paul Hunter. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. 1996.