In Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, how does the monster learn about history, which then causes him to weep?  

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booboosmoosh's profile pic

booboosmoosh | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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In Mary Shelley's Franeknstein, Felix's sweetheart, Safie (the "Arabian") arrives to stay with the DeLaceys due to the tragic misadventure of her family. She does not have a command of the language, and so Agatha teaches Safie, unknowingly teaching the creature as well. Not only does Agatha teach the other woman about speaking the language, but also about letters for reading (and writing). As the lessons continue, the creature learns more and more.

However, the creature's understanding of the world comes from Felix who reads Volney's Ruins of Empires. Through Felix's careful explanations, the creature learns about, among other things, the governments and religions of the empires of the past, including the Asiatics, the Greeks, the Romans (and their decline), as well as the concept of "chivalry, Christianity and kings."

I heard of the discovery of the American hemisphere and wept with Safie over the hapless fate of its original inhabitants.

As Felix reads on, the creature learns about humanity:

These wonderful narrations inspired me with strange feelings. Was man, indeed, at once so powerful, so virtuous, and magnificent, yet so vicious and base?...For a long time I could not conceive how one man could go forth to murder his fellow, or even why there were laws and governments; but when I heard details of vice and bloodshed, my wonder ceased, and I turned away with disgust and loathing.

The very knowledge that so inspires the creature as he learns from the DeLaceys, and again with Safie during her lessons, soon gives way to a clearer insight of the world beyond the walls of the cottage. Whereas the creature had originally seen mankind as wonderful and superior, he now sees its true face, and is horrified, ironically, much the same way that humans are horrified not by his actions, but simply by his appearance. One begins to question: who is the true monster in the novel, an idea that will continue until its conclusion.

herappleness's profile pic

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

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In the novel Frankenstein the creature learned about history through listening to Felix De Lacey reading Volney's Ruins of Empires to his Arab girlfriend, Safie. The book talked about the many different cultures of the world, about major milestones in history, and about the evils of war which can destroy a civilization.

In the monster's own words:

Through this work I obtained a cursory knowledge of history, and a view of the several empires at present existing in the world; it gave me an insight into the manners, governments, and religions of the different nations of the earth. I heard of the slothful Asiatics; of the stupendous genius and mental activity of the Grecians; of the wars and wonderful virtue of the early Romans—of their subsequent degeneration—of the decline of that mighty empire; of chivalry, Christianity, and kings. I heard of the discovery of the American hemisphere, and wept with Safie over  the hapless fate of its original inhabitants.

It was Spring, and the creature found itself feeling more emotional than ever seeing the changes in nature, and learning more and more from Felix. As he learned about the evils and milestones of history, he became more connected to humanity, which made him even more aware of how bizarre his existence really was. Another thing that made the creature emotional was listening to Safie sing. Safie once played her guitar and sang songs whose sounds and melody brought tears to the creature's eyes. The exposure of the creature to the most emotional aspects of humanity were a bigger punishment and a harsher reality for him to accept.

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