Thursday, January 23, 2014

The Absence of Love leads to Viciousness

            As humans, we are born with a natural need to be loved and accepted into a social community. But what if you had such a deformity that others would refuse to accept you despite your compassionate and benevolent nature? In Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein, Victor Frankenstein’s monster looks so abnormal to the point that everyone automatically assumes he is evil by taking one glance at him. The monster makes the argument that since no one has shown him love, it has led him to become a murderous creature. Since Frankenstein’s monster harbors a great inner need for love and does not receive it even though he innocently searches for it at first, he later murders when he continuously is deprived of the attention that he craves. Rejection is what has led to the change in his disposition and actions.
            In the beginning of his existence, Frankenstein’s monster searches for love amongst the people that he encounters. He observes the cottagers for a long time, and remarks, “I should first win their favour, and afterwards their love” (125). Through his language, we can see that the monster is using rationality and logic. He already knows that love is not freely given, that it must be earned. This passage is a good example of the monster’s mind when it is at its most innocent – before he faces rejection.

            Eventually, there comes a point where the monster sees his reflection and realizes that he looks different from the other humans, and he recounts, “I had admired the perfect forms of my cottagers – their grace, beauty, and delicate complexions: but how was I terrified when I viewed myself in a transparent pool!” (124). His realization of his deformities makes him self-conscious, and for the first time he becomes aware of the fact that others may see him in the same way that he sees himself. The visibly distressed tone he speaks in, apparent in the word “terrified”, and the use of an exclamation mark, proves that his image has shaken his confidence. An added contrast is made when he describes the humans as “delicate”, which is the furthest thing from the monster he sees in his reflection. This passage is evidence in favor of the theme that people reject those who are not like themselves.

            The monster’s last chance for acceptance comes in the form of a little boy: Frankenstein’s brother William. The monster has an idea that, “this little creature was unprejudiced, and had lived too short a time to have imbibed a horror of deformity” (159). The tone here is hopeful – he gravitates to the most innocent human possible, for if he cannot love him, then those that have already learned about the harshness of the world surely will not either. This is the turning point in the monster’s state of mind, for he soon learns that William, too, rejects him.
            Frankenstein’s monster, after he has been constantly rejected, turns to murderous ways. When he finds out that William is related to Frankenstein he proclaims, “Frankenstein! you belong then to my enemy – to him towards whom I have sworn eternal revenge; you shall be my first victim” (160). His change is clear – the use of the exclamation mark shows that the monster is immediately angry. He wastes no time in informing William that he is about to die. The rashness of the change shows that the monster is susceptible to alteration, and after all the rejection that he has been through, him reacting in a murderous rage is inevitable, especially since he has the same amount of emotions as the other humans. Another theme that arises from this situation is that people, by rejection and lack of acceptance, push other people into acting out.

            Towards the very end of the novel, Frankenstein’s monster realizes that he has changed, and he remarks that he “once falsely hoped to meet with beings who…would love [him] for the excellent qualities that [he] was capable of holding”, but now he cannot believe that he is “the same creature whose thoughts were once filled with sublime and transcendent visions of the beauty and the majesty of goodness” (256). By Frankenstein’s monster acknowledging that he changed, he is arguing to Walton (and by extension, the reader), that the way people treat each other can alter their character beyond repair.

            Conclusively, rejection and hate has altered a creature desperate for love and affection from one of peace and tranquility to one of destruction and ruin. The monster is desperate to teach this lesson to Walton by the end of the novel, so that others do not have to suffer like he did. Thus, the public has a massive impact on how one person can view themself.
Works Cited
Shelley, Mary Wollstonecraft, and Lynd Ward. Frankenstein: The Lynd Ward Illustrated Edition. Mineola, NY: Dover Publications, 2009. Print


Maggie Stankaitis said...

I agree completely with your argument that the monster’s loveless life is what leads him to his destructiveness. In my essay, I compared the differences between the 1931 film and the book. I think you would find it very interesting, as I did. Instead of the monster’s destructiveness due to his maltreatment from Frankenstein and lack of love, his destructiveness, in the movie, is attributed to an abnormal brain in which Frankenstein created him. I would be interested in knowing how you react to the movie regarding the argument you are making in this essay.
In regards to your essay I think you did a great job analyzing your argument with a variety of examples that link together quite nicely. You have a great understanding of what is going on, and what (I think) Mary Shelley is trying to achieve.

Adam said...

You aren't following the prompt here. There are moments when you seem to come close, but the prompt is concerned with *rhetoric* - with arguments made, and then changed, through the course of the novel. Now you might argue that the monster is arguing that he is more or less innocent of his crimes because of the appearance which has been imposed upon him, and *then* argue that there are contradictions in *this* argument. That would be an example of something which more or less follows the prompt. So you could have followed the prompt while still being primarily focused on the monster's appearance, and especially on what he has to say about his appearance.

How to evaluate something which doesn't really follow the prompt? You have a clear focus, at least, and you do make effective use of the text. The danger here is of being too simple and too obvious: no reader is likely to think that the monster's appearance doesn't have some impact upon him. So even taking it for what it is, rather than what it is not (that is, it isn't really following the prompt), it's a little on the obvious side to be highly effective.