Compare and contrast Victor and the monster in Frankenstein.

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Initially, one might expect Victor and his creation to be foils. Victor is a normal human being and the creature is decidedly not. Popular culture also often features the creature as a mute incapable of speech or sophisticated reasoning. However, Shelley creates plenty of parallels between the creator and the...

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Initially, one might expect Victor and his creation to be foils. Victor is a normal human being and the creature is decidedly not. Popular culture also often features the creature as a mute incapable of speech or sophisticated reasoning. However, Shelley creates plenty of parallels between the creator and the created in her novel, raising questions as to which one of the two is truly the monster.

Firstly, both Victor and the creature are intelligent. Victor is a scientist able to animate a dead mass of body parts, and the creature is able to pick up reading and philosophy quite quickly. Secondly, both are capable of great cruelty. Victor leaves his creation to die while the creature is willing to murder innocent people to get revenge upon Victor.

Most significantly, both experience loneliness: the creature is isolated from humanity as a result of his grotesque looks and even denied a bride, while Victor's family and friends either die or are killed by his creation, leaving him with nothing but pain and a burning vengeance—much like his creature's grief and burning vengeance.

Of course, the two come from different circumstances. Victor can strike the reader as quite irresponsible and spoiled, creating life then tossing it aside, not caring to deal with the consequences his actions will bring upon himself and those he loves. The creature, on the other hand, tries to be good and make friends with other people, but violent rejections turn him into a murdering fiend.

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The main point of comparison to note between Frankenstein and his monster is that they both want to dominate and control their surroundings. Like the mad scientist he is, Victor created the monster because he wanted to exert more power over the world, to create a race of creatures who would populate the earth and bow down before him like a god.

For his part, the monster also wants control: he wants to break free from the shackles of his being and become more like a human. Over time, he comes to resent being Victor's creature and wants to lead his own life, complete with his very own bride. And this resentment, combined with an insatiable desire for power and control, will manifest itself in a brutal act of violence as the monster strangles Frankenstein's new wife, Elizabeth, to death on their wedding day.

One major difference between creature and creator is that the monster shows a much greater capacity to develop as a human. Admittedly, he starts from a much lower base than Victor, but this is a significant fact all the same. Whereas Victor has degenerated morally, the monster is slowly but surely developing a moral sense that perhaps will one day elevate him above his creator and the common run of humanity.

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At the beginning of Volume II, Victor says, "My heart overflowed with kindness, and the love of virtue. I had begun life with benevolent intentions, and thirsted for the moment when I should put them in practice, and make myself useful to my fellow-beings. Now all was blasted . . .  I shunned the face of man; all sound of joy or complacency was torture to me; solitude was my only consolation."  His creature says, "I was benevolent; my soul glowed with love and humanity: but am I not alone, miserably alone? You, my creator, abhor me; what hope can I gather from your fellow-creatures, who owe me nothing? They spurn and hate me." Both Victor and the "monster" feel that they began with good intentions, that they were—initially at least—benevolent. Victor loved virtue and felt kindly toward his fellows; now, however, he wants everyone to leave him alone. Solitude is his only refuge. The creature, on the other hand, has not chosen to be alone but has been completely alienated and ostracized by humanity. Solitude, to Victor's guilty conscience and tortured soul, is preferable. Solitude, to the creature who craves the love and acceptance of someone, anyone, is torture.

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This is an excellent question to consider, because one of the aspects of this Gothic novel that is so interesting is the way that Shelley creates a series of relationships that feature the "double" or the "doppleganger." There are a number of characters who have profound links with each other, and certainly Victor and the creature he creates are one of these examples of doubles in the novel.

At first glance, Victor and his creation appear to have very little in common. Physically, they are poles apart, with the monster being very tall and strong and of a terrible physical appearance that repels those around him, making it impossible for him to establish relationships. Victor is of course a "normal" human with regards to his appearance, and as such is much weaker than the monster.

However, when we begin to think about it, there do appear to be a number of similarities between the two characters. Both characters are recluses, shunning or shunned by civilisation. Of course, Victor chooses to distance himself from his fellow man, leaving his father, Elizabeth and his family by themselves deliberately to pursue his scientific research. The monster does not choose to shun man but is shunned by them. Yet both experience alienation and isolation.

Secondly, both show themselves to be thinking, rational and intelligent creatures. Victor's scientific knowledge speaks for itself, but the monster, too, shows himself to be an extremely intelligent and thoughtful creation. Note his ruminations on some of the classics that he read whilst observing the De Laceys:

I can hardly describe to you the effect of these books. They produced in me an infinity of new images and feelings that sometimes raised me to ecstasy, but more frequently sunk me into the lowest dejection.

The way that the monster finds literary parallels between his situation and that of Satan in Milton's Paradise Lost, for example, shows his capacity to reflect and think creatively--just the kind of qualities that Victor has already shown in gaining the knowledge necessary to create life.

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