Frankenstein Commentary

Melissa Alles

Frankenstein is basically a story about a scientist who constructs a being with more soul than its creator. Few parts of this story may be construed as frightening in the classic sense. Even the scene in which the living, breathing creation of young Victor stands by his bedside, while understandably startling, evokes compassion more than fear. "His jaws opened, and he muttered some inarticulate sounds, while a grin wrinkled his cheeks. hand was stretched out, seemingly to detain me...." His actions suggest reaching out, a desire for contact. Frankenstein's immediate judgment of his creation as a "wretch," a "miserable monster," is cruel, hardly befitting one who has given life to another. I have tried to imagine a being so horrific to behold that it would so completely revile me even through the most innocent of gestures. The fact that his "yellow skin scarcely covered the work of muscles and arteries beneath" is helpful, but it just is not enough. It takes sheer malice and destructive will to put me off, but even that does not cut it in this book; when Frankenstein's "monster" surrenders to his anger and hurt, I cannot help but feel that it is justified.

What I find truly disturbing in this tale is Frankenstein's reaction to virtually everything, particularly his repeated assertions that he, while accepting responsibility for everything that happens to his family to vainly glorify his suffering in his own mind, is guiltless. The man simply enjoys pondering his own tragedy. He is completely self-involved, more interested in the wretchedness of his own fate than any danger posed to his family or the insensitive wrongs done unto his creation. Frankenstein brings his sorrow upon himself, yet at every opportunity he is either crashing about declaring his intention to kill the beast he formed, while still failing even to engage him at every encounter, or indulging in some self-gratifying loss of consciousness and/or clarity combined with fever that lasts anywhere from a few moments to several months.

One thing I wonder is whether the angry villagers and others find the giant man so terrible because he seems deformed, or because his appearance suggests a malevolent nature and they immediately fear for their lives. He is constantly attacked without cause; if people were truly fearful that he was this malicious beast intent upon and fully capable of rending them limb from limb, would they really engage him? Or do they somehow believe that his strangeness is the result of some evil and therefore his very presence is a danger? Perhaps it is his innate differentness that repels them. People as a general rule are not known for their tolerance, much less acceptance, of "other."

I also found interesting (not to mention a bit nauseating) the fondness of Walton for Frankenstein. Walton is a man who is so desperately lonely that he finds value in the companionship of the half-demented Victor, yet he still has no sympathy for the plight of his friend's creation. This guy spends half his letters to his sister talking about how he yearns for one who will understand him, yet takes the first available opportunity to condemn Frankenstein's monster for his actions, even having the audacity to call him a "hypocritical fiend."

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