Frankenstein by Mary Shelley Book review
Without the basis of learning and influence, people tend to stray away from the preferred, or accepted way of life. With a lack of affection comes an intense need for acceptance and recognition that most people would go to any extent necessary to receive. This is prominent in the book Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, as the book exemplifies the effects and behaviors of life made with nature compared to life made with nurture, or in this case, lack thereof. The monster's deficiency in nurture is his downfall; the underlying cause of many of the bad decisions he makes in the book. Mary Shelley relays this theme with great significance in terms of characterization, situation, attempts for redemption, and allusion.
A child's personality develops mostly throughout the adolescent years. If a parent is especially distant from the child, the child will inevitably become distant with the world as a whole. This lack of a solid relationship within the household will potentially account for personality deficits later in life. When Victor introduced his interest in science and natural philosophy, his father wasn't particularly supportive. When Frankenstein's mother dies, he is urged by his father to to attend school in Ingolstadt, leaving his family behind in Geneva. At school, he was again given disapproval for his scientific interests, pushing him to become obsessed with more modern day studies of the human body. Following his tendency to run away from things, he isolates himself for months as he begins to create life from death. Once the creature is born, the reader notices that many characteristics prominent in Victor are also found in the monster. The monster pervades a shocking truth to Victor through a comparison between them, saying "You accuse me of murder, and yet you would, with a satisfied concience, destroy your own creature" (82). They share an underlying temper and a will to learn and understand things. They are both lonely without many reliable and healthy influences. They have a longing need for power and acceptance, and they are both drowning in the guilt they created for themselves. Although Victor was far from a father figure to the monster, you can see the correlations between them and how much influence Victor had on the monster despite being absent in much of the monster's formative years. The lack of nurture each of them encountered in life, by choice or by situation, made each of their characterizations unique, yet similar.
After the monster was rejected by Frankenstein, he experienced life alone for a long time. During this time, he wasn't always the "bloodthirsty" monster that he turned out to be. Before he resulted to murder, his intentions were almost pure. He was in a search for acceptance. First, he scouts a family in a village. He analyzes their routines, and essentially gets to know them prior to their actual interaction. When he finally works up the courage to attempt at a relationship with them, he is faced with the same dismissal and repudiation that Victor introduced to him shortly after he was given life. At first, a blind eye was compassionate. The man who could not see his physical appearance was the only person who even thought of giving him a chance. When the rest of the family entered the room, chaos entered with them. They yelled, cried and beat the monster, kicking him back into the lonely world that he came from. The monster repaid their lack of kindness by setting their house on fire, letting his temper take over him. The monster suggests a second attempt at peace to Victor after this failed attempt. He asks Frankenstein to create a female version of himself so that he would no longer feel forlorn and desolate from humanity. At first, Dr. Frankenstein considered this accommodation. If he creates this second monster he will be at peace forever. On the surface, this was thought to be a potentially good idea before Victor analysed the possible outcomes. The guilt he was already burdened with for bringing the monster to life would now be doubled. They could reproduce and take over the entire world. They could continue to kill people together despite the monster's promise for tranquility. Also, the female's feelings may not be as admirable toward the monster as they would hope, resulting in more anger and loneliness in the monster. Victor changes his mind before the completion of the monster's much desired companion, and destroys her before she is given life. In each of these cases, the hope for happiness was ripped from the monster's hands and his mindset fades to misery and agony once again. "There was none among the myriads of men who existed who would pity or assist me; and should I feel kindness towards my enemies? No: from that moment I declared everlasting war against the species, and, more than all, against him who had formed me, and sent me forth to this insupportable misery" (116). The monster's experience with nature was not enough to form his morals. Without nurture, the monster had no basis for relationships, and no past experience to help him understand how to act upon his disappointments.
For a moment, the monster was Victor's sole devotion. Frankenstein wanted to be a creator of something new and astonishing; a breakthrough in scientific history. However, when the monster first gained life, he was abandoned and degraded immediately. It was no surprise when Victor partook in a cowardice approach to his actions, saying "... I escaped and rushed downstairs. I took refuge in the courtyard... where I remained during the rest of the night, walking up and down in the greatest agitation, listening attentively, catching and fearing each sound as if it were to announce the approach of the demoniacal corpse to which I had so miserably given life" (43). Without Victor allowing the monster a chance to prove himself worthy, the monster decided to become what he was said to be. The instant hatred Victor displayed toward his creation left the monster feeling alone. The only person he knew in the world, the same person who created him with his own hands, was exceptionally disappointed and cruel to his monster. With this, the monster runs away and is forced to fend for himself in the woods. Since he had no reference to social cues, or anything to base his life off of in terms of his actions, some could say his lack of nurture left him not knowing that his crimes would be so detrimental to the world. Essentially, he didn't know any better. Since he was left without anyone or anything, he turned to something that he knew would get Victor's attention. He wanted Vicor to understand the feeling of having nothing, so he took away the people that were most important to him. WIthout a strong father-son connection, or a connection with anyone, really, the monster loses a very important aspect in building character that accounts for his immoral decisions.
While the monster was residing in the woods, he turned to reading as an attempt to gain an understanding of human interactions and the world that existed before him. Mary Shelley chooses "Paradise Lost" as one of the monster's stories of choice and preference. In doing so, she allows the reader to recognize comparative connotations between the two books. In "Paradise Lost", God allows Satan a chance to escape from the Lake of Fire. He was trapped in the lake as punishment, alongside other fallen angels that followed Satan as their leader. God gave the possibility of a second chance to Satan not completely out of an act of kindness and forgiveness, but more an allowance to make their own mistakes and learn from these decisions. The monster reads the words of John Milton as his own "Did I request thee, Maker, from my clay/ To mould me man? Did I solicit thee/ From darkness to promote me?" (743-745). The monster relates to Lucifer, with empathy for his so familiar loneliness. He responds to the poem by saying, "... I was apparently united by no link to any other being in existence but I was wretched, helpless and alone. Many times I considered Satan as the fitter emblem of my condition" (116). In both cases, the character was left to make their own decisions and each of their attempts, they end up turning their loneliness into anger. Lucifer and other fallen angels joined forces to create an evil empire, and Frankenstein's mindset was shifted solely to hurting Victor through acts of homicide. Both of them, in their own way, exposed the potential results of behaviors that correspond with a lack of nurture.
The monster's deficiency in nurture is his downfall; the underlying cause of many of the bad decisions he makes in the book. This theme of nature vs nurture is prominent within Frankenstein and is represented in many ways such as characterization, situation, attempts for redemption, and allusion. While the entire plot of the story relies on Victor abandoning the monster, how would the monster's life and character change if Frankenstein had raised him the proper way?
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