Frankenstein: “Cruelty Breeds Evil”- Analysis of the novel
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There is nothing worse than feeling detested and abhorred by society, especially if this hatred is caused solely by one’s physical appearance. In Frankenstein, Mary Shelley uses the Creature to show how people are inherently good, but compelled to become evil only when ostracized by their fellow man. Although the Creature is initially full of love and is surrounded by examples of human happiness, he finds himself excluded from this happiness, through no fault of his own. The creature turns to evil only after he is spurned by humanity. Two tragic events lead to his transformation: being rejected by his ‘family’ – the De Laceys, and being rejected by his creator – Victor Frankenstein.
It is only through contact with humans – the De Laceys – that the Creature realizes that he is an outcast, isolated from society. The Creature is originally only concerned with responding to his physical needs – food, water, and shelter. As his intelligence grows, however, he becomes self-conscious and realizes that he will never fit in with humanity. In comparing himself to them, the Creature feels himself to be a monster. He is shocked by his own reflection, and is nearly unable to accept it as his own: “At first I started back, unable to believe that it was indeed I who was reflecting in the mirror; and when I became fully convinced that I was in reality the monster that I am, I was filled with the bitterest sensations of despondence and mortification” (Shelley, 80).
Despite his physical appearance, the Creature is seen as sympathetic, caring, and sensitive to humans. He aids the De Laceys by gathering firewood for them. He also sympathizes with the plights of other ostracized people such as the Native Americans. “I heard of the discovery of the American hemisphere and wept with Safie over the hapless fate of its original inhabitants” (84). Despite hearing some of the horrors of humanity, the virtues of the De Laceys give him hope. The De Laceys never turn a stranger from their door. The creature reasons that the family might welcome him.
The Creature is at first accepted by the old man De Lacey because he is blind. Shelley cynically implies that for humans to be unbiased or unprejudiced, we would have to be blind. However, when the rest of the De Laceys see the Creature, they scream in horror and flee the cottage. The Creature is infuriated that he is abandoned by the closest thing he has to a family.
The creature compares himself to Adam: “Like Adam, I was apparently united by no link to any other being in existence,” but unlike Adam, the creature was “wretched, helpless and alone” (92). He will never fit in with human beings who cannot see past his hideous exterior and into his beautiful heart and soul. Shelley correctly points out that no matter how beautiful a person might be on the inside, society refuses to accept those who are different. The Creature’s inability to have personal human contact and the resulting isolation is what drives him to commit his horrific crimes. His alienation makes him feel hatred and revenge directed towards his creator.
From the moment the Creature is brought to life, Victor abhors him. He makes his creation hideous, even though he said he made him to be beautiful. “”His yellow skin scarcely covered the work of muscles and arteries beneath” (35). The Creature’s physical appearance is the sole cause of his isolation from society. It is interesting to note that God created man in his image, while Victor’s creation resembles a monster.
When the Creature innocently reaches out to his creator, Victor escapes and abandons his creation because he is “unable to endure the aspect of the being [he] had created” (35) He leaves the Creature to fend for himself, alone in the world, innocent and as defenseless as a human infant.
The creature is denied everything he needs, especially love and acceptance. Once the creature grows up and learns the origins of his creation, he has already experienced much rejection based on his hideous appearance and is already miserable because of the companionship that he lacks. As he reads Victor’s journal detailing his creation, he becomes even angrier and refers to the “hateful day when [he] received life”(100) and bitterly curses his creator. The creature’s misery and the events leading up to it are a direct result of Victor’s neglect to take responsibility towards his creation.
Even Frankenstein, who gave the Creature life, cannot look past his physical appearance. Whenever the Creature attempts to rationalize with Victor to make him a partner, he is rejected, with Frankenstein sighting its appearance as one of the reasons. Even in moments of sadness, Victor still sees him as a demon and a monster.
The most heartbreaking moment in the novel is when the Creature curses his creator and realizes he is utterly alone: “Accursed creator! Why did you form a monster so hideous that even you turned from me in disgust? …Satan had his companions to admire and encourage him; but I am solitary and abhorred” (93). And yet, despite all the anger and hatred filled within him, he would cease his vengeance upon Frankenstein and humanity if only he had one companion. This shows that despite the Creature’s bitterness, he still needs to feel loved.
Although it may seem difficult to excuse the hurt, suffering, and loss the Creature causes in his quest to seek happiness, he does explain his actions by saying that he is wicked because he is miserable. One cannot help but share the creature’s fury and resentment. Even though he means no harm, his appearance is enough to make him an outcast. He is, through no fault of his own, deprived of all hope of love and companionship. As a result, his desire for revenge against his creator and humanity is understandable. It is tragic, when at the end of the novel, the Creature realizes that the only way to bring an end to his misery is by bringing an end to his own life.
In all of his encounters with humanity, the creature is met with horror and disgust. After being rejected by his ‘family’, the De Laceys, and his creator, Victor Frankenstein, the Creature abandons all good and seeks out revenge against Frankenstein. Even though the creature is inherently good, the lack of a loving and caring parent as well as companionship and acceptance from society leads him towards the path of destruction. As a result, humanity’s cruelty breeds evil.