Gothic horror story that captures reader’s attention leaving them with questions of their own morals and of the main characters. The novel arouses questions like, who should be allowed to create life? Is it right to kill for a greater good? Are some secrets best untold? These are all questions of morality and individuals will come up with their own opinions and answers based on their upbringing.
In Frankenstein, main characters Victor Frankenstein and ‘The Monster’ are morally put to the test with decisions that will greatly affect their lives. In the end many readers find themselves wondering who are the antagonist and protagonist of the novel; Did Victor do wrong by creating The Monster, or did the Monster do wrong by killing innocent people? In this case both made morally bad decisions but in the end one decision had more of a lasting impact. The Monster’s quest of killing is only justified due to the fact that he was hunting his creator.
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To begin with this analysis it is necessary to start with Victor because he is the creator of the Monster. Victor’s passion in the field of science led him to his discovery. Victor was a self educated man until the age of 17 when he left his home in Geneva to pursue higher education at the Ingolstadt University. His favorite professor, Mr. Krempe, pushed Victor to broaden his studies to all fields of science and that is when his fascination with life and living objects began. Victor’s obsession with recreating life kept him at the university for over two years studying cadavers and how the body worked.
Victor’s motive was not to create a human being that would do his chores for him and take care of him, he hoped his “present attempts would at least lay the foundation of future success” (Shelley 33). His mind was in the wrong place; he was set on what doors it could open in the field of science but failed to realize the chaos it would create in society. Problems were sure to arise because Victor’s new creation challenged everything people learned in school and religion. God was to have created humans and life on Earth and gave them the ability to recreate naturally, not some young scientist digging graves and putting body parts together.
Victor’s second poor moral decision was his reaction to the Monster as it was brought to life. The Monster’s size and proportions were that of something superior to anything, yet Victor could not stand to look at how ugly his creation. He rushed out of his room and did not return the next morning to find out the Monster had fled. In reality Victor was the Monster’s father and there was no mother. Victor’s reaction to first seeing the monster and fleeing it immediately were the first memories the Monster had and this had a lasting effect on him.
Not only was the Monster abandoned at birth he was also feared greatly by others, forcing him to live in hiding in the woods. Like Victor the Monster educated himself but in a much more unorthodox way. According to Lawrence Lipking’s, FRANKENSTEIN, the True Story, the Monster sees himself “ In his own eyes, at least, he develops as if nature, not man, had formed him, and rejection by society deforms him” (Lipking 428) . He learned through peeping in on a family that lived in the woods near him. Coincidentally they were also teaching an Arabian to read and write, so the monster observed carefully and learned as well.
The Monster now had a sense of language and what this life was about. He left these woods and began a new journey to find his “unfeeling, heartless creator…on [him] only had I any claim for pity and redress, and from [him] I am determined to seek that justice” (Shelley 98). The Monster greatly sought out a companion after his stay in the woods observing the family. Victor stripped him of being raised by a family so it was the Monster’s intention to find Victor and have him create a female companion for him. Victor was still in remorse from his first creation so he had no intentions to bring life to another.
This dark secret he kept from everyone was coming back to haunt him and those close to him. The Monster gave him a choice; “If you consent, neither you nor any other human being shall ever see us again: I will go to the vast wilds of South America,” or the he would continue with his evil, menacing ways and come after Victor’s loved ones (Shelley 104). At first thought Victor obliged because the truths behind the deaths of William and Justine were in jeopardy of being exposed. How far would he let this lie keep building? Well to no surprise Victor makes another poor decision.
Instead of granting the Monsters one request for happiness he decides not to create a female monster and returns home to Elizabeth and his father. Victor’s decision to not help the Monster came back to haunt and destroy him. First the Monster went after Henry, Victor’s best friend, and next Elizabeth. The Monster promised him that “I shall be with you on your wedding night” and he kept that promise (Shelley 120). Victor assumed this meant the Monster was coming that night to kill him but to his surprise the Monster was after Elizabeth and strangled her the night of their union.
Shortly after Victor’s father passed away due to the sudden deaths surrounding him and the truth that Victor had finally let out about the beast. It was official Victor had lost everything that was dear to him. The Monster had stripped him of everything he loved and this urged Victor to make his last and fatal decision. His intentions were to head north to the icy and deadly habitat where the Monster took refuge. His new obsession was to find and destroy and what he had created in his first obsession. When most hear the word monster they typically identify them as being the antagonist of the novel.
In this case Mary Shelley reverses the roles and makes the Monster the protagonist. Sure he did murder Victor’s entire family, but in a way you can say Victor did the same to the Monster’s family by denying him a spouse and the potential of a family. Lipking describes it perfectly, “Good people do evil, perhaps because of flaws in character but perhaps an excess built into their virtues” (Lipking 433). People acquire their morals on their upbringing and it is safe to say that the Monster really had no morals. The Monster was abandoned the day he was conceived and did not know anything except what he learned from the family in the woods.
The morals he picked up were along the lines of helping others if anything. He first saw the family helping the Arabian learn to read and write, so he learned to lend his helping hand by collecting firewood for the struggling family. Victor Frankenstein makes his first unmoral decision in the novel by taking the role of creating life into his own hands. Second when he abandons the Monster. Third when he hides the truths behind Justine and Williams deaths. Lastly when he denies the one request the Monster had for a mate. Victor did have a proper upbringing but he is the one who struggled with his choices in this novel.
From the beginning Victor should not have taken life into his own hands. Part of what is so special about children is the mystery behind them. You never know if the child will get mom’s blonde hair, dad’s brown, or for some reason ends up with red hair. From birth they are a part of you and you can see that as they age and become more like you. Victor cheated the system by trying to create what he wanted out of a child. Sure his creation was superior in size and strength but there was nothing instilled in this monster that resembled its creator in any way, it was hideous and horrifying.
Lipking quotes Rousseau’s Emile in his essay, stating “everything is good as it leaves the hands of the Author of things; everything degenerates in the hands of man” (Lipking 425). This defines the transformation the Monster went through as he started as Victor’s prized possession and ended up as his enemy. The hidden truth was what brought death upon Victor and his family members. If he had accepted his creation for what it looked like he could have been the father figure the Monster needed to stay away from killing. It could have been their own little secret them kept them closer together.
Victor failed to realize that “perhaps the hands of man can better nature. In that case [his] fault was not his ambition but his failure to look on his work and find it good” (Lipking 432). With the size of the Monster and the knowledge Victor possessed they could have changed the world of science and its limits.