In Frankenstein, how does society turn the creature into a monster?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Society causes the creature to become a monster because of the reactions to his physical appearance, for he is rejected by his maker, excluded from society, and misjudged.

When people see Victor Frankenstein's creature, they are terrified and repulsed by his physical appearance; consequently, they shun him. Even his creator, Victor Frankenstein, reacts in horror when he views his completed attempt at creating man. He says the following:

How can I describe my emotions at this catastrophe, or how delineate the wretch whom . . . I had endeavored to form? (Ch.5).

Horrified by what he has created, Victor rushes out of the room, "unable to endure the aspect of the being [he] had created" (Ch.5). Wrongly, he thinks of the creature as his "enemy," and he wishes "to extinguish that life which [he] ha[s] so thoughtlessly bestowed" (Ch. 5).

The abandoned creature has to fend for himself. When he finds what he believes to be an empty hut, the creature enters it, hoping to locate food. However, an old man inside this hut rushes out, shrieking in fear. When the creature later enters a village, the people who see him scream and run in terror. Finally, he discovers a hovel that is attached to a cottage. He notices that there is a split in the wood through which he can hear and see inside the occupants of the cottage. Each day he watches through the crack and carefully listens until he can understand the language spoken by the occupants. He also becomes aware of the affection that the family members have for one another. This awareness of loving interaction in the DeLacey family causes the creature to feel more deeply his isolation. 

One day when the other members of the family are out of the cottage, the creature decides to visit the old father, who is blind and, therefore, cannot see his ugliness. The creature explains the following:

"this was the hour and moment of trial which would decide my hopes or realise my fears" (Ch.15).

He introduces himself as "a traveler" and explains that he is friendless, but would like to disabuse [persuade against] the family of the opinion that they have of him that he wishes to harm them. He hesitates to express himself to the old man until he hears the younger members of the family returning. Desperately, he quickly reveals that he speaks of the old man's own family. Just then, the cottage door opens and the young members of the family enter. They are horrified when they see the creature. Felix rushes forward, pushing the creature down; then, Felix strikes him violently with a stick. The bruised and rejected creature hurries back to his hovel.

After this experience, the creature resolves to avenge himself against human beings, especially his creator. However, as he travels back to Geneva, he notices a young girl, who has slipped into the water and is drowning. The creature pulls the girl from the water and tries to "restore animation" to her, but "a rustic" approaches and grabs the girl away from the creature. When he follows this man, the man shoots him, and the creature falls to the ground. The creature cries, "this was then the reward of my benevolence!" (Ch.16).

After he has been shot, the creature's "daily vows rose for revenge" (Ch.16). But, one day as he naps, a beautiful child runs into his hovel. The creature gazes at the innocent child. He, therefore, considers the following:

this little creature was unprejudiced, and had lived too short a time to have imbibed a horror of deformity. If, therefore, I could seize him, and educate him as my companion, I should not be so desolate in this peopled earth (Ch.16).

However, when the creature seizes the boy as he comes nearer, the child screams and struggles violently as he cries to be released:

"monster! ugly wretch! you wish to eat me, and tear me to pieces—You are an ogre—Let me go, or I will tell my papa!"

The creature ignores the child's efforts to free himself and his name-calling. He chokes the boy to death. Later, he tells Victor, "I am malicious because I am miserable."

scarletpimpernel eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In addition to Victor's ill treatment of the creature, society does bear some of the blame for the creature's downfall. First, when the creature escapes from Victor's apartment, the first humans he encounters chase him out of town when they see him. This causes the creature to realize that appearance is important and that his falls short of what society expects.

Secondly, the creature learns much about society and seemingly about human kindness through his observations of the De Lacey family and his reading. Through them, he realizes again that appearance is important even to the seemingly benevolent De Laceys when he is run off by Felix De Lacey. After burning down the De Laceys' cottage, the creature ponders where to go. In Chapter 16, he explains to Victor that society has so demoralized him that even though he knows that he can physically go wherever he wants, he thinks,

"but to me, hated and despised, every country must be equally horrible."

Finally, when the creature kills little William, it is society's final rejection of him. He perceives William's fear and negativity toward him as another part of society (even such a small innocent part) discarding him. While he still chooses to approach Victor, by that point, he simply wants a female monster who will not reject him, and he does not expect Victor's acceptance.

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