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Throughout the novel it becomes apparent the Frankenstein is a morally weak person. His creation kills Frankenstein’s younger brother, William, and Justine Moritz, a young girl adopted into the Frankenstein household, is blamed for the murder. Although Frankenstein knows Justine is innocent, he doesn’t come forward because he fears no one would believe him. His courage does not match his arrogance and his grandiose ideas of himself. He might feel bad that Justine would have to hang, but he isn’t brave enough to do anything about it.
‘I was firmly convinced in my own mind that Justine, and indeed every human being, was guiltless of this murder. ‘ p. 62 Towards the end of the novel, many changes, somewhat ironic, become apparent. Firstly is the transformation of Victor Frankenstein from a happy, innocent and bright little boy with a loving family and a contented childhood to a guilt-ridden man, obsessed by his work. He becomes despondent, and at times suicidal, not to mention homicidal.
By the end of the novel Frankenstein is ill beyond cure and so traumatised from his lifelong battle with his creation that he has little strength to recount his tale to a his friend, Robert Walton. The ‘Monster’ has murdered most of his family, and those left of his family are distant from him. Another ironic change to Frankenstein is that at the start of the novel he is so obsessed with the creation of a ‘super’ human being that he gives up everything else in his life to focus on this work.
Then, through the rest of the novel, Frankenstein becomes possessed with destroying his creation, because of the wrong it has done to him. Although Frankenstein realises that he has made a mistake, and regrets bringing the being to life and recognising that he has ventured beyond the acceptable boundaries of science, by the end of the novel, when he is with his friend Walton on a boat in the Arctic, hunting down the monster, he urges them forward even though they will probably die, showing that he never really learned his lesson that sometimes there is point when you should stop, even if it is possible to go on.
‘This ice is not made of such stuff as your hearts may be; it is mutable and cannot withstand you if you say that it shall not. ‘ p. 164 In contrast, his friend Walton is more sensible and concerned about the lives of the seamen and does not want to go on. ‘Alas! yes; I cannot withstand their demands. I cannot lead them unwillingly to danger, and I must return’ p. 165 He is taking responsibility for his crew; something that Frankenstein could never to do. Walton learns that you have to consider other people’s lives and feelings before trying to achieve your own goal.
Throughout the novel, Frankenstein hardly ever thinks about other people’s feelings, whether it is his creation, his father, Justine, or Walton and his crew. Frankenstein’s Creation The second main character of the story is Frankenstein’s creation. His creation is also a complex character and it is through him that Shelley deals with issues of identity, prejudice and responsibility. Frankenstein doesn’t give his creation a name, something that denies the ‘Monster’ an identity. This implies that the ‘Monster’ is not unique or an individual, which at first denies him a real existence.
Frankenstein calls the creature various names such as ‘It’ showing he doesn’t regard the creation as having a soul, ‘Monster’, ‘Wretch’ which are both derogatory terms implying monstrosity and ‘Daemon’ implying he is naturally evil or even possessed by an evil spirit. Ultimately, Frankenstein implies that the being belongs in Hell. From this, the ‘Monster’ starts to believe he truly is a fiend and actually a ‘fallen angel’ but refuses to accept that it is his own fault and warns Frankenstein to take responsibility for his actions. One night the creature takes refuge in a small hovel adjacent to a cottage.
In the morning, he discovers that he can see into the cottage through a crack in the wall. Observing his neighbours for an extended period of time, the monster notices that they often seem unhappy, though he is unsure why. He eventually realizes, however, that their despair results from their poverty, to which he has been contributing by surreptitiously stealing their food. Torn by his guilty conscience, he stops stealing their food and does what he can to reduce their hardship, gathering wood at night to leave at the door for their use.
Vowing to learn their language he acquires a basic knowledge of the language, including the names of the young man and woman, Felix and Agatha. Unobserved and well protected from the elements, he grows increasingly affectionate toward his unwitting hosts. The monster’s growing understanding of the social significance of family is connected to his sense of otherness and solitude. The cottagers’ devotion to each other underscores Victor’s total abandonment of the monster; ironically, observing their kindness actually causes the monster to suffer, as he realizes how truly alone, and how far from being the recipient of such kindness, he is.
This lack of interaction with others, in addition to his namelessness, compounds the monster’s woeful lack of social identity. Formerly a mysterious, grotesque, completely physical being, the monster gradually becomes a verbal, emotional, sensitive, almost human figure that communicates his past to his creator, Victor Frankenstein in eloquent and moving terms. But, far from seeing the monster’s humanity beneath his grotesque appearance Victor just fears him more. Before, it was the monster’s physical strength, endurance, and apparent ill will that made him such a threat; now, it is his intellect.
The monster clearly understands his position in the world, the tragedy of his existence and abandonment by his creator, and is out to seek either redress or revenge. For the first time, Victor starts to realize that what he has created is not merely the scientific product of an experiment on dead matter but an actual living being with needs and wants. While Victor curses the monster as a demon, the monster responds to Victor’s coarseness with surprising sensitivity, proving him an educated, emotional, exquisitely human being.
For the reader, whose experience with the monster’s ugliness is second-hand, it is easy to identify the human sensitivity within him and sympathize with his plight, especially in light of Victor’s relentless contempt for him. The gap between the monster and Victor, and between the monster and human beings in general, is thus narrowed. One of the ways in which the monster demonstrates his eloquence is by alluding to John Milton’s Paradise Lost, one of the books he reads while living in the peasants’ hovel. The first of these allusions occurs in these chapters, when the monster tries to convince Victor to listen to his story.
He entreats Victor: “Remember, that I am thy creature: I ought to be thy Adam; but I am rather the fallen angel. ” P. 73 By comparing Victor to God, the monster heaps responsibility for his evil actions upon Victor, scolding him for his neglectful failure to provide a nourishing environment. In this part of the novel, the Monster starts to question his own existence, after reading work of literature. This shows he is now intelligent and philosophical. In contrast to this, Frankenstein takes life for granted. Without a real identity, the Monster needs more information about himself.
He is self-aware, which is the main quality that separates the Monster from animals. This is unlike Frankenstein who has little self-awareness. My person was hideous and my stature gigantic. What did this mean? Who was I? What was I? Whence did I come? What was my destination? These questions continually recurred, but I was unable to solve them. P. 99 The Monster also questions why humans are always the victimised ones, and why he is always the perpetrator. He is bemoaning man’s narrow-mindedness and injustice. While everyone else has rejected and committed crimes against him, he is still the one to be prosecuted.
He then talks of the innocent people he has killed, and begins to feel remorse for his deeds: ‘You hate me; but your abhorrence cannot equal that with which I regard myself… ‘ This shows his guilt for what he has done, in contrast with Frankenstein who never seems to learn his lesson and never shows remorse. The Monster requests a partner from Frankenstein, a basic request and a basic counterbalance to the immense loneliness the Monster feels. What I ask of you is reasonable and moderate; I demand a creature of another sex… and it shall content me. Oh! my creator, make me happy…
do not deny me my request! This shows the Monster is very realistic compared to Frankenstein and also that he desires someone that will accept him for who/what he really is. This is compared to Frankenstein’s ideas which are God-like in proportion. Through out the novel the two main characters take on reversed roles. The monster starts to hate Victor because he has no one to relate to and so tries to make Victor feel the pain of his loneliness and so kills anyone close to Victor, finally killing Victor’s new wife and indirectly Victor’s father, who dies a few days later, of the shock.
Like the monster, Frankenstein finds himself utterly alone in the world, but instead of pity for his creation, he just feels hatred and with his hatred he soon takes on very inhumanity of which he accuses the monster. He becomes very ill by his worry and obsession and follows the monster to the barren Arctic north to track him down to murder him, just as the monster has murdered his loved ones. There he meets his friend Walton who helps him search for the monster. They become trapped in ice and Victor, knowing that he is near death, urges his friend Walton to carry on their search.
Frankenstein dies and Walton finds the monster crying over his creator. The monster tells Walton of his sufferings and how he regrets killing people and now that his creator is dead, the only person he ever related to, he, too, is ready to die so he leaves for the Northern ice. This open ending leaves the questions in the mind of the reader to ponder. 1) Through the character of Victor Frankenstein, we are invited to ask what makes us human and what are our limits. 2) Through the character of the monster, we are left asking, was he Adam or Satan? Was he a victim or a criminal? And so what does it mean to be human?