Virtue is found at the margins of society more often than at its center. In Frankenstein, the novel by Mary Shelley, the monster exemplifies virtue to a greater extent than his creator, Victor Frankenstein. Shelley’s creature is an isolate of great sensitivity, kindness, and insight. Contrary to James Whale’s 1931 film, Frankenstein, which portrays the creature as a lumbering dolt, Shelley’s monster was modeled on Rousseau’s notion of humanity as the “noble savage”. The nobility of the creature is evident as encounters a simple French family and observes and draws form the quirks of humanity.
A naturalist, the Monster responded to nature with appreciation and joy. With the eye of a scientist, he gradually differentiated one object from another. He observed, experimented and made use of the benefits of the created order. This contemplative naturalist distinguished the call of each bird species and attempted to imitate their song, despite his rough voice. Similar to a newborn adapting to the jolt of being, he painfully adjusted to harsh light and sound, quickly learning the lesson that perception and consciousness hurt. Shying away from the glare of sunlight, the Monster was cradled by the moon’s subtle radiance. The moon provided an omnipresent companion, and a source of spiritual awe. Loneliness insisted that he personify the moon as a special sponsor, but the moon’s accompaniment was too subtle for the nurturing of the Creature. His craving for relationship was heartfelt and intense.
While his creator, Victor Frankenstein, shrouded himself in secrecy to avoid his fellow scientists, family and friends, the Monster drifted toward civilization to find comfort and fellow feeling. However much he wanted to have and to be a friend, community was unimaginable. His hideous disfigurement obliged the Monster to live as a clandestine observer of humanity. The De Laceys, a family in exile, became his model of human culture. The family unsuspectingly mentors the Monster. They had withdrawn from the heart of urban Paris to a rustic German village for political and legal reasons. Their suffering and isolation evoked their sensitivity and humaneness. Their virtue was found at the margin, in extremity. In them the Creature had the model and the location to grow toward maturity.
The Monster’s emotions stirred while scrutinizing family life. He admired his human exemplars for their deep love of one another and their sacrifice in times of poverty.
Social Responsibility in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein
Frankenstein: Social Judgement
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley is a complex novel that was written during the age of Romanticism. It contains many typical themes of a common Romantic novel, such as dark laboratories, the moon and a monster; however, Frankenstein is anything but a common novel. Many lessons are embedded into this novel, including how society acts towards anything different. The monster fell victim to the system commonly used by society to characterize a person by only his or her outer appearance.
Whether people like it or not, society always summarizes a person’s characteristics by his or her physical appearance. Society has set an unbreakable code that individuals must follow to be accepted. Those who don’t follow the “standard” are hated by the crowd and banned for the reason of being different. When the monster ventured into a town”…[monster] had hardly placed [his] foot within the door …children shrieked, and …women fainted” (101). *** CAN YOU USE [HE] HERE AS A PRONOUN SINCE YOU JUST SAID “MONSTER”?***From that moment on he realized that people did not like his appearance and hated him because of it. If the villagers hadn’t run away at the sight of him, then they might have even enjoyed his personality. The monster tried to accomplish this when he encountered the De Lacey family. The monster hoped to gain friendship from the old man and eventually his children. He knew that it could have been possible because the old man was blind; he could not see the monster’s repulsive characteristics. But fate was against him and the “wretched” had barely conversed with the old man before his children returned from their journey and saw a monstrous creature at the foot of their father attempting to do harm to the helpless elder. “Felix darted forward, and with supernatural force tore [the creature] from his father…” (129). Felix’s action caused great inner pain to the monster. He knew that his dream of living with them “happily ever after” would not happen. After that bitter moment, the monster believed that “…the human senses are insurmountable barriers to our union [with the monster]” (138) and with the De Lacey encounter still fresh in his mind along with his first encounter of humans, he declared war on the human race.
The wicked being’s source of hatred toward humans originates from his first experiences with humans. In a way, the monster started out with a child-like innocence that was eventually shattered by being constantly rejected by society time after time.