Can we learn more of what it is to be human from the creature than from Victor in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein?Its an essay question and i can't seem to explain anything deeper then the emotions...

Can we learn more of what it is to be human from the creature than from Victor in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein?

Its an essay question and i can't seem to explain anything deeper then the emotions that the monster is able to posess despite evenrything Victor has done to it throughout the story.

Asked on by jess0105

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scarletpimpernel's profile pic

scarletpimpernel | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

I wouldn't say that the monster is more human than Victor because both of them ultimately face human struggles.  My students and I discuss this idea quite a bit--is the monster human?  Many cannot get past the question of whether the monster has a soul.  If the monster does not have a soul or conscience is he truly human?

While the monster certainly exhibits emotion and possesses intelligence, do those two elements make him human? I do think that Shelley was trying to demonstrate that when humans try to dehumanize science and look at it from a purely logical point of view, they often ignore the human consequences or the part that one's humanity will play in human inventions/discoveries. Victor gave no thought as to what he would do with the creature if he was successful, and I think that Shelley was warning against humans practicing that kind of science and the motivation for discovery.  It cannot be based solely on bringing recognition to one's self; it must be based on how science will advance the human condition.

I find it interesting that after reading Paradise Lost the monster does not think of himself as Adam, the first human; but rather, he thinks of himself as Satan--another creature who was "abandoned" by his creator.  This implies that the monster's sense of humanity comes from Victor's creation of him, just as Victor has a monster inside himself that grows as the novel progresses.

akannan's profile pic

Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

I agree with the previous posts' assertions.  I feel very strongly that the monster is more human than Victor.  For me, the compassion evoked by the monster when he becomes conscious of the fact that he will never fit in, never experience social connection, or the face and voice of love is quite humanizing.  Victor, the ultimate representation of science and technical proficiency, has to bear responsibility for creating something and then not providing the nurture and emotional realm for it to develop in a healthy context.  I think that Victor's lack of emotional affect, and the creation's understanding of self and consciousness make it far more human.  I know I have gotten into trouble for coming down hard on Victor, but I cannot help but feel for the one who is abandoned, as opposed to one who does abandon.

herappleness's profile pic

M.P. Ossa | College Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

I will take a stand in favor of the creature- And here's why:

When you first read the story, Frankenstein, you naturally expect that "the monster" would act and react as such. Yet, when the monster's turn comes and the words start coming out of his soul, you instantly feel an emotional connection of human emotion that is not as quick to establish with the character of Victor.

The words and feelings that come as a result of the monster's suffering hold his humanity at a deeper and more complex level. He has experienced not only his own conflicts, but the conflicts of others. He has had the opportunity to reflect on basic human characteristics as he wondered alone through the woods- Victor probably never had that chance to explore himself. Also, the monster would probably be able to analyze at a more intelligent level both the journey of his own life, and that of Victor's as well.

Victor, on the other hand, is a character leaving us more prone to assumption than the monster. His decisions, his behavior, his psychology is something we can ONLY guess and assume to the best of our ability. He doesn't openly come out to make a deep analysis of life, the world, society, himself, and others- he is more centered around himself, and his own problems.

In all, although both characters, like a diamond, show us facets of humanity, it is the monster who holds the center-core of it with a stronger perspective of what it is to be a "person"- although, sadly, he is not one.

hi1954's profile pic

hi1954 | Teacher | (Level 1) Associate Educator

Posted on

I would say both yes and no.  I agree with timbrady that the "human condition" is certainly visible in the behavior and motivations of both Victor and his creation, in both positive and negative ways.  The creature has initially "good" motivations; the desire to belong, the desire to learn, the desire to love and be loved.  It is the rejection by his creator that unleashes the negative within him, the impulse to murder and destroy in every way all that Victor loves.  In the end, the creature is destroyed by his own remorse, in a very Victorian type of noble gesture.

Victor's behavior is entirely different.  He avoids responsibility for his actions, puts his reputation above the interests and very lives of those he professes to care about the most, and denies his creature both his own love and the creation of a female counterpart to comfort him.  He then places the blame of all that is, in the end, his own fault upon his creature and pursues him without mercy.  His own actions lead him to his death, as his creation's actions lead to his own remorseful end.

There's plenty of humanity in both Victor and the creature.  My personal opinion is that the creature's initial motivations and his desire for a mate show us more of what it is to be human in a positive way than Victor's selfish behavior.  But the creature's reaction to Victor's irresponsibility leads him to take revenge in the same sort of awful ways humans have performed throughout history.  One can learn a great deal of what it is to be human from both characters, although the creature's remorse certainly seems, in the final analysis, a more positive act than all of Victor's.

timbrady's profile pic

timbrady | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator

Posted on

I'm not sure about this.  The creature certainly experiences some very noble and human emotions, and asks questions that make his creator seem less than human.  Certainly Victor's rejection of his creation when it comes to life doesn't teach us much about what it means to be human.  But in many other areas of his life, including his initial motivation, to destroy death, and noble human aspirations.

The creature aspires to be human, but he is also the only killer in the story.  Although it may be easy to understand his motives, this certainly is not human behavior in its most noble.

To answer your question, then, I think we learn a little from each about what it means to be human --- and to be less than human.  Framing the question in terms of more/less seems counterproductive when you're trying to understand their complicated behaviors.

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