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Category: 04. 2/28 Frankenstein (Page 1 of 2)

Nature versus Nurture (or how society reacted)

Carter Liou

2/26/18

Nature vs Nurture.  

The debate over nature versus nurture is a prevalent theme in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.  In the novel the reader is exposed to the atrocities that are committed by Victor Frankenstein’s creature. The question then is: Was it in the nature of the monster to be malicious or rather was it the environment that caused it to commit the heinous acts that it did?  In actuality, both the monster’s nature and the way society reacted to its existence can be held responsible for the murders that arise in the novel.

While Victor’s creation takes the form of a grotesque-like creature, the reader discovers, that despite its deformed appearance, the being possesses kindness, intellect and above all a curiosity concerning the society that surrounds it.  Sadly, these desirable qualities of the creature begin to fade as it is pushed further into isolation first by Victor and then by the people it encounters.  In some sense, the concept of nature and nurture are directly related when it comes to Frankenstein’s monster.  Its horrid appearance – its nature or natural state of being – has extensive influence over the way that both Victor and society treat the creature.  This can be seen in the fifth chapter when Victor flees from his house upon running into the monster, in the fifth-teeth chapter when the monster is driven away by Felix, and in the sixteenth chapter when it saves a drowning girl but is later shot at when a man believes that it is the accomplice.  All three of these instances fuel the monster’s hatred for mankind and ultimately lead him to kill his first victim, Victor’s brother.  In this way, although it is the mistreatment and isolation the creature experiences, that drives it to kill, it is its physical appearance that initially drives such mistreatment and isolation.  

Despite its monsteresque appearance, the reader soon understands, that at heart the creature is not a monster and that its actions reflect the suffering that it has been forced to undergo.  The concept of monsters is obviously a major theme in the novel as the storyline follows the life and actions of Frankenstein’s creature.  The question then remains:  If the creature is not the monster in the story, who is?  A strong argument can be made for its creator, Victor Frankenstein.  Although Victor is not 8 feet tall, or constructed from stolen body parts, he can be seen as the monster due to his passion in the pursuit of dangerous knowledge.  The creation of Frankenstein’s creature can be seen as surpassing the natural human limits of science, and is what ultimately sparks his alienation from his friends and family.  Furthermore, Victor’s hatred and endless obsession with destroying his own creation furthers his unnatural and monsteresque personality given that parents are programmed to protect and care for their children.  All in all, the novel shows the reader how monsters can come in all shapes and forms and fortifies the idea of the consequences of judging a book solely off of its cover.

Frankenstein: The Dangers of Obsession

Victor Frankenstein was a very brilliant scientist when it came to his achievements and what he was able to accomplish in his lab. He was able to reanimate a dead human being that could think for itself and carry out tasks, something seen as an act only gods should be capable of. Where Victor fell short in his prowess as a scientist, was in his ethical approach to the experiment in which he created his “monster”.

Frankenstein was about as passionate as a scientist could get. He spent countless hours tirelessly working on his experiments, which is a major reason why he was successful in completing his goal of bringing a human body back from the dead. But this still begs the question: should he have even attempted this? Are there some things that should be left alone in the world of science?  If you ask the very creation that came from Victor’s experiment, the answer would be an emphatic yes. While Frankenstein was caught up in his own obsession with conquering death, he neglected to take into account the possibility of his creation having feelings and being able to reason and comprehend its own existence. Once back into the realm of living humans, the creature resented Frankenstein for bringing him into this world. On top of this, Frankenstein was disgusted at what he had made saying “never did I behold a vision so horrible as his face”. He had given life to a creature doomed to an existence of neglect, despite any good intentions it may have. This is a main area where I believe his ethics are almost non-existent. Yes, he had accomplished something scientists before him only dreamed of, but perhaps that is how it should have remained: a dream.

Another piece of Victor’s flawed ethics is his lack of hesitance to “play god” with his experiments. There are some experiments that modern scientific ethics simply won’t allow, like using human participants in potentially life-threatening studies without their consent or knowledge. In a sense, this is what Victor did with the monster, but instead of suffering and death, he gave the monster suffering and life. The monster never asked to be reborn, and now it lives a life of loneliness and ostracism. Who was Frankenstein to toy with the forces of nature by bringing back a deceased human? Eventually, his poor ethical choices came back to haunt him when the monster he created whom he could have accepted and marveled at but instead shunned and regarded with disgust destroyed his family and others as well. An effort to give the creation that was the result of his life’s work a comfortable life would have gone so far as to protect the lives of others, but he failed at this as well. Victor Frankenstein wanted to play with death, but did not prepare for the consequences.

Frankenstein is the story of an incredibly smart man carrying out a groundbreaking experiment, but lacking the ethical competence or foresight to reap any sort of benefit from his “achievement”. Whether or not he should have attempted the reanimation was a decision he tackled rather hastily, and it shows that sometimes, having all the passion and obsession in the world is not necessarily a recipe for becoming great.

Was Frankenstein a monster?

Despite the misleading nature of the popularized conception of the horror story, the character Victor Frankenstein in Mary Shelly’s novel was certainly not a physical monster. However, by creating a monster who murdered multiple innocent people, should Victor be considered a monster himself? In order to answer this question, one must consider what defines a monster. When the word “monster” is mentioned, the first thing that is brought to mind is a grotesque form from a horror movie. But in describing a human, the most relevant definition of the word ‘monster’ is actually “an inhumanly cruel or wicked person”.  So the real question is, was Victor’s act of creation inhuman? 

Victor created life, in an unnatural way, which is arguably very unethical. He was passionately driven by an inexplicable burning desire to create the creature. He was obsessed with his studies that would allow him to create this life form. In his rash succession of actions, he did not think ahead at all about the implications of his work. He did not have any concrete plan about what he would do once he successfully created his creature. In this way, his actions were very maniacal. He went about his creation with the obsession of a madman, in a way very reminiscent of Edgar Allen Poe’s short stories. These stories often focus on a deeply troubled and obsessed man, who performs a horrendous act and suffers a terrible, often self-inflicted, punishment. In these ways, Victor was very similar to the characters of these stories.

Victor was constantly sickened with guilt after completing his work, and after each terrible act the monster committed. He did realize that his actions were wrong, yet he did nothing in attempt to right them. In this way, it is arguable that Victor was not completely a monster, as he still felt the natural human emotion of guilt. However, this in the only area in which he seemed to maintain some sanity.

The nature of this tale seems to suggest that Victor’s actions were not appropriate. Victor was severely punished by his actions, as he was morally tormented by his creation. He was bothered and sickened so much that over time he became so agonized that he died from his guilt. The novel also portrayed the criminal acts committed by the creature to be much more the fault of Victor, despite the fact that the monster was the one performing the murders. The reader even goes so far as to somewhat pity the monster as a lonely and helpful creature, further putting Victor at fault for creating such a miserable creature. This punishment and portrayal seems to indicate that Victor has overstepped the bounds of human control and gone past the limits of what is ethical in creating his monster, an inhuman act.

So yes, Frankenstein was a monster. But not the Frankenstein from the movies, not the creature, but Victor Frankenstein, the crazy man who became possessed by his act of unethical creation, and tortured himself to death with guilt because of it.

Frankenstein: an end or justification to science?

Frankenstein” is the first sci-fi novel written in 1816 by Mary Shelly. Despite its two-decade age, it still resonates with the current movement of modern sciences. It can be interpreted as either a warning to a limit in our desire and ability in the advancement of science and technology; or justification in our attempt to defy any boundary in the field. Personally, I prefer the latter interpretation for I believe it is the message that Mary Shelly hid in her work.

Continue reading

Who is the real monster?

Having looked the monster in the eyes, Viktor was frightened of his own creation. Even while looking into its eyes, he was not able to grasp the consequences of his creation, he was in denial. The thoughts about his own competence and scientific accomplishment, however, turned fearful and repulsive. What has he brought to this world? Everyone who sees this hideous creature immediately runs away from him. However, who is to blame here? The monster reaches out to people to connect with them and learn their ways. The people reject him because of his appearance. On the other hand, there is Viktor, a brilliant scientist who had somehow forgotten to think about the consequences of giving someone such a life. Can we really blame Viktor’s creation here? Or do we need to focus on the brilliant, yet irresponsible scientist?  Furthermore, I think we can draw parallels without own irresponsible use of science and technology in the 21st century. Continue reading

How to Make a Monster: 101

          It is inhumanly tall, with a mutilated and malformed physique, devoid of emotion or sympathy, it is a murderous fiend; this is the description the society in Mary Shelley’s novel gives to Frankenstein’s monster. Nowhere in their summary of the creature would society mention the creatures love, compassion, or heroic acts. They judged him based on his intimidating appearance, and when he did begin to murder, they blamed him for his actions, assuming that he was innately violent and cruel. Victor Frankenstein and others did not acknowledge the fact that their actions, their judgments, exclusivity, and hatred contributed to the monster committing crimes. The premature judgment of the monster is an allegory for the real world; criminals are judged based off of their actions alone, with little thought given as to why they were driven to their wrongdoing. Creatures are rarely born monsters, but rather, they are created when they are not given adequate parental guidance, are excluded from society, and experience excessive feelings of animosity.

          In Mary Shelley’s novel, and in the real world, beings struggle when they are not given adequate care, guidance, and love, leading to criminality. When Victor Frankenstein abandoned his creation, the result was disastrous; his monster was left alone, not knowing what to do, or how to live. Miraculously, he managed to survive, and become knowledgeable on his own. However, he still felt angry and injured by how Frankenstein, his father, had abandoned him, and so the monster ended up seeking revenge by killing all those that Victor held dear. Lack of care, let alone abandonment, has been proven to negatively affect children. Neglected children often have psychological disorders, depression, and struggle to have lasting relationships and friendships. Furthermore, these children are more likely to be prosecuted for juvenile delinquency (SPCC, 2014). If one is not loved and cared for, they would likely not love and care others, as no one set that example. Without guidance in social interactions, education, and life in general, it is impossible to thrive and fit into society, which can lead to resentment and anger. This is shown both with Frankenstein’s monster, and with neglected children; they are not loved, and as a result, they are angered and confused, leading them to commit crimes, which further distances them from society.

            When one is excluded and abused by society, naturally, they will want to rebel against it, which can have violent results. This case is clearly shown in Shelley’s novel. When Frankenstein’s monster, with the utmost politeness, tries to join the family living in the cottage, a man beats him viciously with a stick. Then, after rescuing a drowning girl, he is “rewarded” with her father shooting him. No matter how kind and helpful the creature was, society rejected him. Hopeless, he accepted that humanity would never do anything but despise him, so he began to hate humanity, and eventually became a murderer. The creature’s situation and reactions are also reflected in the real world. Mass murderers often feel victimized and removed from society, and as though the only way they can do anything meaningful and fulfilling is through slaughtering human beings (Stanford, 1994). Though disturbing and extreme, this reaction to being excluded is to be expected. Without positive societal relations, an individual will have no reason to care for the society, on the contrary, they will likely want revenge on its members for leaving them in such a miserable situation.

          Moods and feelings are infectious, and when one is exposed to a negative atmosphere for a majority of there lives, the outcome can calamitous, both for the individual and society. There is, in fact, a psychological term called the “emotional contagion,” a process by which moods and emotions are transferred from one person to another. This phenomenon is manifested in the case of Frankenstein’s monster. While he is initially benevolent, as he experiences more and more negative feelings, namely hatred and disgust, these feeling begin to rub off on him. This idea can also be clearly seen in marriages where, if one spouse is unhappy it will likely be that the other is unhappy as well. Additionally, people in prisons, who reside in environments filled with hatred and depression, are likely to be feeling those emotions themselves as a result of the “emotional contagion”(Lewandowski, 2018). If one were to experience exclusively negativity and unpleasant emotions, they would likely become desperate and angry, which could result in them acting on these feelings in the form of murder.

          Parental guidance and societal relations play an incredibly large role in the formation of creatures, good and bad. Humans and Frankenstein’s monster are not solitary creatures; they require love, compassion, and inclusion. If not given these things by their societies, they will be angry and resentful, and potentially, they will try to harm the societies that hurt them. So, while murderers are responsible for their actions, one must also consider what made the felon do what they did, and how that can be resolved. This does not mean locking them in prison, leaving them to rot alone and angry. It means reconciling with them, empathizing with them, and trying to understand them. I am not saying that we should let mass murderers run free in the streets. But, perhaps, we should consider their story, help them rehabilitate, and try to integrate them into society, something which they may have never been part of. There are dangers, and this issue is clearly not black and white, and nor is it easy. However, it is, without a doubt, of exceptional importance to try to communicate with and aid those who we may rather not associate with. For that is how to deconstruct a monster.

 

Literature Cited

Shelley, Mary Wollstonecraft, 1797-1851. Frankenstein, Or, The Modern Prometheus : the 1818 Text. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 1998. Print.

 

SPCC, et al. (2014, July 17). Effects of Bad Parenting on Your Child. Retrieved February 28, 2018, from https://americanspcc.org/effects-bad-parenting-child/

 

Stanford University News Report. (1994, May 31). Graduate student examines America’s fascination with serial killers. Retrieved February 28, 2018, from https://web.stanford.edu/dept/news/pr/94/940531Arc4242.html

 

Lewandowski, G. W., Jr. (2018). Is a Bad Mood Contagious? Retrieved February 28, 2018, from https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/is-a-bad-mood-contagious/

 

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