Metaphors and Stereotypes in “Frankenstein”
For centuries, society has placed stereotypes on those individuals who are different. Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein is an example of one specific stereotype, which is the discrimination of a person because of a physical deformity. Frankenstein shows how social prejudices against physical deformities can automatically classify a person as bad or monstrous. In gothic novels, visual codes were used to identify good from bad and socially acceptable from socially unacceptable. By using these codes, it was possible to tell if a person was bad or, as in the Creature’s, case, dangerous just by looking at his or her outward appearance. The Creature walks, talks, thinks, and educates himself with the hope of becoming truly human and taking a place in society. The flaw in his plan is that he cannot overcome his physical deformity, which in society’s eye proves his monstrosity.
The Creature is Victor Frankenstein’s creation, built from old body parts and chemicals and brought to life. This Creature enters life at eight feet tall and very strong, but with the mind of a newborn baby. From the instant the Creature opened his eyes; he had all of human society against him. His own creator is terrified by the look of the Creature he has brought to life. He states, “”Now that I had finished, the beauty of the dream vanished and breathless horror and disgust filled my heart.””(47) Victor discards the Creature as a wretched, deformed monster. Although he is a giant man of grotesque proportions, the Creature is, at heart well intentioned and gentle.
Abandoned by his creator and confused, the Creature goes off on his own into the world. He tries to integrate himself into human society, but the people he meets either attack or run away. The Creature is never given the chance to show them that he is good and only wants to be friends. He realizes, after looking at himself, his physical bizarreness, an aspect of his character that blinds society to his initially gentle, kind nature. He longs to be accepted by humans and hopes to live among them, but he is repeatedly beaten and chased away because of the way he looks.
Throughout the story, there are examples of society’s cruelty towards him. The cruelty in humans is shown when he was attacked after saving a human girl who had fallen into a river. After risking his own life to save the girl, he was shot at by a man with a gun. This was then the reward of my benevolence! I had saved a human being from destruction, and, as recompense, I now writhed under the miserable pain of a wound.””(121) The man with the gun had decided that because the Creature is hideous that he must be dangerous, so he shoots him without thinking that he had just saved someone’s life.
The only time that he was able to successfully approach a human is when he went to the old man in the cottage when his children were away. The only reason that the creature is accepted here is because the old man is blind. Without having the ability to judge the creature by his looks and only by his way of speaking, is the old man able to determine that he is a nice, young traveller and allowed to stay in the cottage. The old man says to the Creature There is something in your words which persuades me that you are sincere. I am poor an exile, but it will afford me true pleasure to be in any way serviceable to a human creature.””(114) Unfortunately, as soon as the old man’s children come back home, they throw the Creature out. Felix darted forward and with supernatural force tore me from his father … he dashed me to the ground, and struck me violently with a stick.””(114) It was after this act cruelty that the Creature vowed eternal hatred and vengeance to all mankind.”” Torn between vengefulness and compassion, the creature ends up lonely and tormented by remorse for the horrible acts, which he has committed.
The real monster here is not the Creature. The Creature had no success or happiness in doing good, because people hated him for the pure fact of the way he looked, and people would never give him a chance to do good and be noticed! Since he could not achieve anything by doing good, he then started doing evil, and who could blame him? It is humanly impossible for someone to be consistently nice and kind and generous when all they get in return is slander and unkindness; logic would then reveal to the person that they are doing something wrong by being nice all the time, if all they get in return is hate. The Creature learned from his experiences that he could never achieve anything by being nice and helpful, so he took this lesson and applied it to his life, and started being mean to people, thinking it could change people’s reactions.
Therefore, when Frankenstein was nice to the De Lacey family by bringing them wood and supplies, “”this Woodland spirit”” suddenly turned from friend to foe as he was noticed by Felix. He then changed, as he knew that he would not be accepted if he were nice and consequently became mean. From his studies, he picked up that sometimes one must be assertive and not so nice in order to get attention and to achieve goals. Paradise Lost glorified Satan and showed how he was expelled from heaven, so he took this and figured that he must be like Satan, so thus, he diverted to evil.
We also see how the Creature’s misery and sense of loneliness is increased as he overlooks onto Safie and Felix’s relationship. He becomes aware of his own need for never-to-be granted sexual satisfaction. Self-destruction proposes a decisive way out of pain and rejection. “”Cursed, cursed creator! Why did I live? Why, in that instant, did I not extinguish the spark of existence which you had son wantonly bestowed?””(117) Living, however, seems to offer more to the Creature as he wishes for answers. Despite his external faults, we see that the Creature has more intelligence, sensitivity, and compassion than many humans do. The creature wonders if he was worthy of redemption.
The most incredible aspect of the story is that the Creature might be the most moral of all the narrators in this novel, as he understands his mistakes whereas Victor and Walton do not due to the fact they are blinded by their ambition. The creature is complex and several times contradictory, but the reader has no choice but to sympathise with this character who was doomed from the beginning of his life due to his physical appearance. The character at heart was extremely kind, but before the opportunity to speak to people ever came, the Creature was shot, bashed, wounded, and consequently, resorted to evil. The creature was subject to the visual codes used in gothic novels, and as a result was doomed to an eternity of misery as he was denied the attention and love, which he so passionately searched for in his life. In my opinion, Frankenstein’s monster is created a friend, but as time wears on, has nothing left but hate inside him. He wants so badly to fit-in with society, but because of the cruelty that this world holds, he is given no reason to be kind anymore. As the friendliness has leaves his soul and hatred and anger begin to radiate over his enormous body, he turns into an enemy to all. However, I also think the struggle to understand who or what the monster really is-Adam or Satan, tragic victim or arch villain- will always continue.