The Halloween Countdown: 8 – The Monster from Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein

Number Eight: The Monster from Mary Shelley's Frankenstein

“His yellow skin scarcely covered the work of muscles and arteries beneath; his hair was of a lustrous black, and flowing; his teeth of a pearly whiteness; but these luxuriances only formed a more horrid contrast with his watery eyes, that seemed almost of the same colour as the dun-white sockets in which they were set, his shrivelled complexion and straight black lips.” – Mary Shelley, Frankenstein

One of the most famous monsters in the entire history of horror, the inspiration for countless adaptations, and also the blueprint for the character of the crazy professor, the Monster of Frankenstein definitely deserves a place in the list for scariest literary monsters. However, for those who have read the novel, the question arises whether this nameless creation by Victor Frankenstein truly was a monster at the core of his being, or whether he was made this way by his environment.

Granted, when you read the quotation above, uttered by Victor Frankenstein at the moment his monster, after years of hard work and experiments, finally came alive and opened his eyes for the first time, you cannot help but notice that this creature isn’t much of a looker. Add to this the fact that he couldn’t talk but merely grunt, and that he consisted of dug-up, sewn-together body parts, and there seems to be no hope for this creature. However, Victor Frankenstein might have given his creation a chance, instead of running away in horror. He wanted nothing to do with this wretch, as he called it, leaving it all alone in the wild. When the monster eventually, by the aid of books, did learn to think and speak, it set out to take revenge upon his creator for leaving him at his birth. He decided to kill Victor’s family, but this only meant that Victor, in his turn, wanted to avenge his family members; causing the hunter to be the hunted.

What I like so much about this book, is that it defies the definition of monstrosity. While it is easy to argue why Victor’s creation is a monster, it isn’t too hard to also claim that his creator, Victor Frankenstein, is a monster, too. He defied God by creating life and was punished for it (hence the subtitle of the book, The Modern Prometheus), and left his creation behind the moment it opened its eyes. Clearly, it isn’t always as clear-cut as we think it is.

What do you think, should Victor have taken more care of his creation? Would you have responded differently? Was the monster evil at birth, or was it the people he met who made him a real monster? Do leave your opinion in the comments!

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