Despite its many benefits, science is not the pinnacle of being; neither perfection nor lack of repercussions for our actions are features of the real world. Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus by Mary Shelley, presents thought-provoking ideas about the destructive power of isolation and rejection. Furthermore, Shelley demonstrates in this novel that the people around an individual, or society, are what cause them to feel rejected and lonely.
In a similar vein, the characters in Frankenstein are under the oppressive thumb of the society around them. The monster’s story shows the most obvious influence of the society.
Throughout the book, he comes across as a gruesome, evil figure, largely due to his appearance and his twisted methods of seeking revenge. His monstrous nature comes from the social norm of excluding those who are different, and this is where his manhood comes into play. Because of his appearance, he is treated as an outcast by society; as the “other”. In doing so, society develops its own monster, one that is filled with retaliation and wrath.
How Mary Shelley presents the origin of the monster
The main character, Victor Frankenstein, creates a monster with the goal of making humanity better. Victor’s quest to build the monster dates back to his formative years, when he first discovered his love of science and chemistry. He became obsessed with the idea of making life out of scraps as he grew older. Victor says:
“A new species would bless me as its creator and source; many happy and excellent natures would owe their being to me. I might in process of time (although I now found it impossible) renew life where death had apparently devoted the body to corruption.”Mary Shelley
Nonetheless, he is terrified by his monster’s look and abandons his responsibility to teach his creation about social norms and the way of life. By experimenting with the unholy arts of giving life to inanimate matter, Victor Frankenstein brought tragedy upon himself and his family.
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When the invention comes to life, it terrifies Victor since he looks so much worse than the average person. He shuts himself off from everyone, including his creation, out of fear that his scheme of playing God actually worked.
Due to his conviction that good manners are innate, Victor believes his monster will be able to behave normally in the actual world without being instructed in right and wrong. Unfortunately, the monster turns out to be malicious and lethal.
It seems obvious that the monster created by Frankenstein should be punished for his misdeeds; after all, he was the one who committed them, and yet, in reality, he was pushed into them by society.
Transformation of the being into monster
The monster’s behaviour worsened once Victor severed his ties to it and the rest of the town did the same. Frankenstein did not aim to make the monster as hazardous in nature; society raised him to act that way.
Rejection fuels the creature’s fury, and his acts show that he is held in some way by society, which in turn corrupts his character and makes him more dangerous.
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In fact, it is Victor Frankenstein who first assigns a name to the creation, and it is his labelling of the creation as an evil thing on the night of its birth that sets in motion the prejudice that will ultimately transform it into the monster everyone fears it to be.
After being abandoned by Victor, the monster is forced to venture out into the world on his own, where he will undoubtedly be met with scathing comments and judgments from the general populace.
This treatment will follow him no matter where he goes. In spite of this, his loneliness only made him want a friend more. He blackmails Victor into creating a female monster for him by murdering his loved ones, including Victor’s younger brother, best friend, and bride on their wedding night.
Towards the end of the book, the monster thinks back on this, remembering how his worst impulses were fueled by his deepest desires. The creature appears to have had a moral reversal and now acts maliciously. His personal desires are more important to him than the lives of others, and he is prepared to take life in order to satisfy them.
The creature eventually gives up on ever feeling accepted into any kind of community because he has been excluded so often and treated so horribly. The community’s wrongful ostracism and the resulting painful loneliness lead him to a personal hell. As a result of his work and other factors, he has experienced severe wrongdoing due to his appearance, and this has caused him great distress and filled him with resentment. The “monster” in Frankenstein is thus a product of society as evident from the creature’s claim:
“Everywhere I see bliss, from which I alone am irrevocably excluded… I was benevolent and good; misery made me a fiend”Mary Shelley
Correlatively, according to Noah Heringman, rejection heightens anxiety, rage, despair, depression, and jealousy; thus social isolation and rejection inevitably lead to aggressiveness, which can lead to criminal behaviour.
Mary Shelley blames social exclusion for ills in the novel
The creature’s behaviour is a direct result of his exclusion from society; his unquenchable rage led him to murder three innocent people. The actions of society’s members enrage him and drag him to incurable sorrow, from which he draws the irresistible feeling of revenge that serves as his only motivation to live.
In addition, it is the actions of others that have contributed to his deterioration into a monster. As a result of society’s rejection and the creature’s inability to prove himself, the latter causes the former to become damaged and severely low-spirited, which in turn leads to violent and brutal acts of violence.
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Frankenstein’s creature learns something nasty about humanity from every interaction he has with it. The monster internalises the stereotypes of society and accepts his status as a social outcast and a monstrosity. The creature suffers not only because he has been ostracised from society, but also because he is unable to enjoy the company of others and is therefore repressed, which in turn destroys the lives of people in his vicinity.
The criticism and consequent rejection from society, but especially from Victor, were the catalysts for the change. We see echoes of this pattern in modern culture, when individuals are often marginalised on the basis of their appearance, among other factors like their race or gender identity. When people are rejected by their peers, they often seek vengeance by letting out their own inner ugliness.
Shelley’s monster commits some of the most heinous and immoral acts imaginable throughout the novel, and readers would rightly condemn him and anyone who would commit such acts, but the authoress transcends this through a philosophical and human understanding of him, evoked through his suffering and exclusion. The monster starts off with nothing but good intentions—he only wants to fit in—but the community’s fear of abnormality and the need to maintain its integrity have lasting effects on his character.
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Due to his difficult circumstances, he becomes a monster who is socially alienated, full of hatred, and ultimately does violent acts. Therefore, it is evident that society plays a pivotal role in Frankenstein, as it is society and its unfair rules that ultimately lead the creature, i.e. an individual, to his tragedy.