Adam Smith's View on the Humans' Sense of Sympathy in Relation to the Novel Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

When Adam Smith defines sympathy as a sentiment that is not “confined to virtuous and humane people” that even “the greatest ruffian, the most hardened criminal, has something of it”, it makes us further question Frankenstein’s and his monster’s humanity or lack thereof. If as Smith suggests that moral sentiments are so deeply rooted within us that our immediate subconscious response to other people’s misery is compassion then, why did the author of Frankenstein choose to leave the monster misunderstood and rejected by all? Even in the end, at the moment of the monster’s death, no other characters can feel any sympathy or even pity him.

Again, the monster shows more humanity and wisdom when he cries over the dead body of his creator because although his feelings were never reciprocated, he was attached to Victor and he realized the error of his ways. What particularly struck me in the end was the monster’s monologue which states: “I shall die, and what I now feel be no longer felt.

Soon these burning miseries will be extinct. / shall ascend my funeral pile triumphantly and exult in the agony of the torturing flames.” This suggests that only in death, can the monster find inner peace as he knows that no one will accept him but will the “burning miseries” truly end? In this sense, it may refer to the agony he feels from total rejection but it could also refer to the abstract concepts of isolation and dejection themselves.

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Thus, we could argue that since these miseries will never disappear, the suffering will continue as the issues raised in this novel from societal constraints to the moral debate on right and wrong will never cease but keep moving in a vicious cycle. Also, by letting the monster regain control of the narrative in the end, Mary Shelley implies the idea that hope is not completely lost as we all have the capacity to feel for one another like Smith suggests but we must not restrict those feelings. By making such an uncanny resemblance of humanity the martyr of the story, she makes us question the core of our humanity and the moral obligations we have to one another.

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Adam Smith's View on the Humans' Sense of Sympathy in Relation to the Novel Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. (2022, May 10). Retrieved from

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