It is difficult to define evil. As a society, it is easier to find examples of evil people than it is to define the force itself. Ted Bundy, the Zodiac Killer, John Wayne Gacy and many more, are all considered in our society to be evil and to be sociopaths. In today’s culture, word sociopath is almost synonymous with evil, someone who acts without regard for others and cannot foresee the consequences of his actions. So is the case with Victor Frankenstein. He was not only wicked, but was a full-blown sociopath. Victor fits a majority of the seven diagnostic criteria outlined by the DSM-IV-TR (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), although only 3 are necessary for a diagnosis for the following purposes: “failure to conform to social norms,” “reckless disregard for safety of self or others,” and “lack of remorse, indifferent to or rationalizing having hurt, mistreated, or stolen from another.”(Tami Port). From the time Victor Frankenstein began studying the books of Agrippa, he became not only evil but also a sociopath.
Frankenstein admitted that he never had many friends, a fact that yields to his nonconformity. He was obsessed with books of the occult, which despite his father telling him that they were “sad trash,” he still delved into (Shelley 40). “The raising of ghosts or devils was a promise liberally accorded…[to] the fulfillment of which I most eagerly sought.” Frankenstein said that he often tried to raise the dead as a child (Shelley 42). Now that young Victor believed every word of these books as law and studied them as such, did he think of what might happen to himself or anyone around him if a demon did spawn? Of course not. He had no concern for the adverse effects of his actions. While recounting his tale Victor finds himself totally blameless for his fate. According to him, his father should have explained to him why the book was bad, his guardian angel should have done a better job, and he was even narcissistic enough to think that the combined forces of destiny conspired against him (Shelley 41-43). Never did he blame himself for his insatiable need for knowledge and glory.
When Victor matured and the veil of childhood was lifted, his sociopathy could no longer be considered childish actions. At Ingolstadt he still related to the professors that he had studied the schools of the occult, “I replied carelessly; and, partly in contempt, the alchemists which I had studied.” Even in conversation he found himself unable to conform to the norm (Shelley 47). Once again Frankenstein found himself friendless. Sure he had associates, but no friends to speak of, and he took no time to take care of his own health, so dedicated was he to his sick ambitions. He occupied his time with grave robbing and experimentation on rotting flesh, “a churchyard was to me merely the receptacle of bodies…I was led to examine the cause and progress of this decay” (Shelley 53). This is hardly normal behavior breaking again and again the taboos of typical society. Echoing the days of his youth he nefariously attempted to raise the dead. Not through an incantation, but by the work of his own hands and “modern” technology, Frankenstein was completely blind to any repercussions. All he saw was a challenge and glory for himself nothing beyond that (Shelley 54). When Victor actually succeeded in raising his monster he, instead of facing up to his creation, ran. When the monster left he was so unable to think that what he did was wrong, his body could not handle it and he fell ill.
Frankenstein rationalized all the travesties that befell him as acts of the monster, even when he returned to Geneva and William was killed. “I had turned loose into the world a depraved wretch whose delight was in carnage and misery” (Shelley 78). Frankenstein proceeded to spend the night out in the rain without concern for his own well being. He recognized that he created the monster, but blamed the creature itself above all other things. His rage for the monster was unequaled; it was responsible for what happened to William, it was responsible for what happened to poor Justine, and yet again, in his own mind, Frankenstein was blameless but for his creations acts. Not once did he apologize for his actions; he only suffered because of them.
Victor was the abomination, not his creation. He was raised in polite society and still turned into the sociopathic villain of the story—his creation never new anything else. Frankenstein could not live with the social norms in his society, could not think of the safety of himself or others in his fervor, and could not put the blame where it belonged—on himself. Victor Frankenstein truly was a sociopath, and therefore, he was truly evil.
Port, Tami. "What Is Antisocial Personality Disorder?" Symptoms, Diagnosis & Prognosis of APD, ASPD, and Psychopathy. 17 Aug. 2007. 20 Jan. 2009
Shelley, Mary Wollstonecraft. Frankenstein : Or, the Modern Prometheus. Ed. Maurice Hindle. New York: Penguin Books, Limited, 2003.