The Monstrous in Frankenstein
Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein or; The Modern Prometheus, released in 1818, is a product of its time. Composed in a world of social, political, clinical and financial turmoil it highlights human desire to reveal the scientific tricks of our universe, yet also verifies the significance of feelings and individual relationships that define us as human, in contrast to the monstrous. Here we question what is meant by the terms ‘human’ and ‘monstrous’ as specified by the book. Yet to fully understand how Frankenstein specifies these terms we should look to the etymology of them.
The novel however, defines the terms through its main characters, through the themes of language, nature versus support, forbidden knowledge, and the doppelganger motif. Shelley also reveals us, in Frankenstein, that although juxtaposing terms, the monstrous being whatever human is not, they are also intertwined, because you can not have one without the other. There is likewise a frustrating desire to understand the monstrous, if only momentarily and this casts doubt on the impact the monstrous has on the human meaning.
The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) describes ‘human’ as being ‘Of, coming from, or attribute of humanity, differentiated from animals by superior psychological advancement, power of articulate speech, and upright posture.’ (OED). The term ‘monstrous’ is described as ‘The condition or reality of being abnormally developed or grossly malformed.’ (OED) Yet, we as people define ourselves not simply on biological terms but socially and spiritually too. In Frankenstein the Monster, who by his very label and beginnings implies an ideal example of monstrosity is, in fact, articulate and put up yet is still not considered human in the standard sense.
It is his eventual spiritual and social malformation that completely specifies him as monstrous. Even as language plays a substantial part in the meaning of human, as taken from the OED, the narrative, and thus language, in Frankenstein likewise assists to specify the terms ‘monstrous’ and ‘human’. As the monster found, language is linked with culture (Brooks 594). He is on the side of nature, a deformed creature of appearance, and upon catching sight of his reflection understands not to reveal himself to the cottagers, of whom he yearns to win the love of, for worry of them getting away (595 ). He is ‘excluded ut learning the ways, by which to be consisted of’ (595) with language. It is the novels stark definition of monstrosity through physical look not through acquisition of language that begins the driver for corruption of the Monster spiritually and mentally. Yet, the monstrous can not be quickly categorized through physical appearance alone. The age old debate of nature versus nurture is a theme that runs strongly through the book. Shelley defines ‘human’ and ‘monstrous’ through examining the supporting relationships of the characters, for Frankenstein’s lack of parental function with his production, is ‘monstrously’ neglectful.
We see Caroline, Frankenstein’s Mother, supporting Elizabeth, his sis, back to health, in which his Mom looses her own life as an outcome and Clerval, his closest friend, nurtures Frankenstein through his health problem. The De Lacey’s nurturing house likewise becomes a source of nurturing love for the Beast, as he begins to return their love, and complete genuinely ‘human’ acts of generosity towards them; for instance; leaving fire wood and cleaning snow in the winter (Shelley 83). Each supporting act contrasts strongly with Frankenstein’s monstrous overlook of the Beast’s requirements.
Although Frankenstein receives the human quality of love in all its types, from his friends and family, he never fully provides it in return, so consumed is he with his production. However, the Monster quickly provides his love to the cottagers and through his expressed wish for companionship reveals that his capacity for love is fantastic. ‘He needs love in order to end up being less monstrous, however as he is a monster, love is rejected him.’ (Oates 546). Shelley is therefore blurring the lines between the definitions of monstrous and human by questioning if monstrous is when one is unable to be enjoyed or not able to give love.
On the borders of scientific and ethical prohibited area wanders the monstrous (Cohen 3) Patrolling the boarders with striking images of what may take place if we ever crossed them. Robert Walton, the frame narrator, and Frankenstein are connected through this desire to cross the borders, either physically into an area that might bring death, or through discoveries in science that bring ethical monstrosities. These characters are another example of how Shelley’s meanings of the terms ‘human’ and ‘monstrous’ are intertwined in Frankenstein.
Frankenstein’s ruthless pursuit to cross into the forbidden destroys lives, the reverse of what he was attempting to attain. Alternatively, Walton wisely takes the course that Frankenstein declined, returning house when reaching the boundary of practically specific damage, in his quest for the North Pole. Shelley allows us to see, through the frame narration of Walton and his surprise to return home, that Frankenstein’s hubris pursuit of knowledge leads to his failure. ‘I trod paradise in my ideas, now exulting in my powers, now burning with the ideas of their results …
Oh! My buddy, if you had understood me as I as soon as was, you would not acknowledge me in that state of deterioration.’ (Shelley 167) Walton see’s that Frankenstein’s mission for understanding, his seclusion from those who enjoy him, caused the damage of himself and those he loved therefore reverses from the verge of his own damage. Nevertheless, it is just after Frankenstein dies, that he completely accepts that it is the ideal choice, as if the monstrous in Frankenstein can be defined as an impact on human actions.
Not only does the monstrous protect versus the unidentified, it stands along side people, representing something ‘other’ to ourselves (Cohen, 6). Traditionally the term ‘human’ might be specified through ‘monstrous’ being whatever human is not. Simply as the Beast in Frankenstein eliminates William, Justine (although not straight), Elizabeth and Clervel he does not see it as murder, but as warranted revenge versus his developer. ‘Have a care: I will work at your destruction, not end up until I desolate your heart, so that you curse your house of your birth. (Shelley 111). This specifies the monstrous as being able to wander outside the boarders of moral convention. Nevertheless, Frankenstein puts a human persona on the definition of monstrous, we see the Beast yearning to be human; he discovers language and craves love, and alternatively Frankenstein as being monstrous; his disregard of his duties, friends and family to the point of destruction of them all. Again, Shelley links the definitions of the two terms through showing that the monstrous is human and the standard definition of human can integrate monstrous.
The strong bond found between Frankenstein and his Beast is generally called the doppelganger result (Oates 550), where a living person has a ghostly double haunting him. Here Shelley illustrates that the definitions of ‘monstrous’ and ‘human’ are often simply parodies of each other. The Beast represents Frankenstein’s dark side and Frankenstein is the animal’s haunting darkness, both denying the other happiness. They are inextricably braided with each other, frequently looking like that of a mind which is torn over a decision; running up and down from each other, never concerning a safe conclusion.
When considered as one person, the mix of Frankenstein and his Monster represents a real definition of human. To express and express and experience that of love and to be liked, pleasure and compassion, to feel and reveal the complete range of emotions from love of humanity to the requirement for hateful revenge, desire for knowledge, joy and worry of death. Frankenstein, defines the terms human and monstrous through questioning what constitutes them.
Love, empathy, a sense of justice specifies human yet these same qualities can be discovered co-existing along side the monstrous. They are terms that represent good and wicked however unlike the clear cut definition of excellent and wicked Frankenstein shows us that the human and monstrous are interchangeable. As shown in Frankenstein, our fascination for the monstrous leads us to be influenced by it. So although we define human as being whatever the monstrous is not, the monstrous is also part of the definition of human.