Is the monster in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein good or evil?

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amy-lepore eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The creature responds to his surroundings, and Victor is largely responsible for the things that occur where the creature is concerned.  Think of this:  a baby is fed peas and does not like them.  He throws them back at his mother and covers the room in green slime.  Is he a "bad" baby for not liking peas?  No, and he's not bad for throwing them, either.  It's an instinct...a reaction to distaste, but it is not a premeditated least not the first time.

The creature is the same.  When he is created, he smiles at Victor.  He even tells us in his own chapters that he was benevolent and kind and full of love for his "father" and humankind.  Victor abandons the creature and leaves him to the harsh world of judgemental humans.  The creature is abnormally tall, ugly, and strong.  People predetermine that he is something to be feared and struck down...rather like the pitchfork scene in Shrek.

The creature is beaten, chased, and when the De Lacey family leaves him, he is without all hope of ever being accepted into society.  He therefore decides to seek revenge on his creator, Victor, who has carelessly thrown the creature to the destiny that fate holds for him. 

The creature explains that he just wants to be happy.  When Victor again denies him this by refusing the female, the creature swears that Victor will not be happy either.  I don't think this makes him evil...just human.

amy-lepore eNotes educator| Certified Educator

You have to decide whether you think the creature is good or evil. There is plenty in the novel to support either side.  If it were me, I would lean toward good.  The creature smiled benevolently at Victor through his bed curtains.  He suffers from abandonment.  He learns the hard way that fire burns and that he is ugly.  He is tormented and targeted because of his displeasing appearance.  However, even while Felix is beating the creature to save his blind father, the creature does not strike back.  He never kills anyone out of spite UNTIL he discovers the nature of his creation and how Victor just left him.  His anger toward Victor is justified.  He does not mean to kill William...or you could suggest this...the creature is just so much stronger than feeble human bodies.  He is a creature who thinks, feels, suffers, desires, and reasons.  He is unfairly judged by his appearance (this happens all the time...obese people, too skinny people, tattooed people, etc.).  Focus on the beginning chapters and the chapters the creature tells us his story (11-13 or 14) for your info if you are proving he is a good creature who resorts to revenge after dealing too long with undeserved torment (think the kids at Colombine who killed all their classmates and a teacher for ridiculing them).  You can't agree with what he did, but you can understand his reasons.

bmadnick eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The monster is just like a newborn baby when he's first created. Instead of a"mother" nurturing him, however, Frankenstein runs away from his creature because of his horrific appearance. The De Lacey family provides the creature with a view of how wonderful life can be with people who love you. This is why the monster asks the doctor to create a mate for him, someone with whom he can share love and life. Frankenstein rejects this idea, taking away any chance the creature might have for happiness. Frankenstein's refusal and society's fear of the creature leaves the monster with a taste for revenge. Then the creature kills Frankenstein's brother and sets up Justine to be accused of his murder. His last two murders are Clerval and Elizabeth, Frankenstein's wife. The creature wants his creator to feel the loneliness that he feels without anyone to love and care for, so he kills everyone who is important to the doctor.

Only you can decide if you think the monster is bad, or is it his creator who is evil? The creature's environment determines his actions, so do you think Frankenstein should have provided his creation with a proper environment? Go to the links below for a more detailed explanation that will help you decide how you feel.

linda-allen eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Since your question is the basis of an essay that you have been assigned to write, you need to decide for yourself whether the monster is good or evil. I presume that you are supposed to write a persuasive essay. In that case, you need to choose a side and make your best argument for it, giving examples from the book to back yourself up.

For instance, if you decide that the monster is evil, your essay will be all about trying to prove that to your reader. Find examples in the story where he does something that can be considered evil. Perhaps just the fact that he's made of parts of dead people can be considered evil by some people. The same things goes if you decide that the monster is good; find examples from the book to illustrate your point.

What might be more interesting would be to argue that the monster is neither good nor evil but a victim of Dr. Frankenstein's desire to resurrect dead bodies.

Decide which side to argue from, find your examples, and good luck with your essay!

accessteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This is a massive question and a favourite one for assessments of this novel. It is key to realise how in Gothic fiction the binary opposition of man/monster is played wth and manipulated to not give us any definite answers. It would be very easy to consign the creature to the category of monster, as Frankenstein seems to do, but to do this ignores the way that he shows himself to be capable of the same kind of independent creative thought and emotions as humans. Indeed, some argue that he shows himself to be more of a 'man' than mankind itself, that is characterised in the novel as a bloodthirsty pack of hounds hungering for the unjust execution of Justine and expelling the creature. He himself suggests that he commits evil crimes as a direct result of the way that he is treated by mankind, forcing us to ask hard questions about whether mankind is the real monster in this novel.

mejwestut eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Frankenstein is a wonderful story of man's attempt at playing creator. In the beginning of the novel Mary Shelley references several books Victor is reading. Look them up. You'll find they deal in "magical" and ominous thoughts, very relevant to your question. Is the monster good or evil...he is created without malice and has a tabula rasa (blank slate) view on life. The monster is lonely. He wants a companion just like anyone else. When denied,he retaliates. Is he good or evil? What would you do? Also look at Maslow's hierarchy of needs. Where is Victor and where is the monster on the pyramid? Analyze who is more advanced than whom.

allyson eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The creature is born like a fully grown newborn; despite its size, it knows nothing of the world. It can be argued that the creature's mind is like a "blank slate" and that it only learns to be good or bad from its experiences. Therefore it is not born good or bad, but learns the bad behavior we see in the novel from those around him. When Dr. Frankenstein abandoned the creature, it became angry and vengeful. Also, the encounters the creature has with people that he meets reinterate his self-hatred and need for vengeance because they react to his grotesque appearance with fear and detest.

kwoo1213 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The monster is not bad.  He has been created through no fault of his own.  He is a product of someone who is trying to play God, which is very dangerous territory.  I've always felt sorry for the monster because he experiences human emotions, yet he also has such anger built up inside of him because he doesn't understand who he is and why he is so hideous.  He only seeks revenge because he is frustrated and angry.  I don't believe he truly intended to do great harm at all.

bettykirkers | Student

The monster in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein complies with John Locke’s theory of ‘Tabula Rasa’; the mind is a “blank slate” when we are born and therefore our life experiences are what shape our character. It is generally agreed by critics that Locke’s ideas influenced Shelley; therefore as readers we are to believe that the Creature is not inherently good or bad, but forced into his wrathful behaviour as a result of the suffering he endures. The abandonment of the Creature by Victor Frankenstein enables the Creature to develop morally independent of a parental figure.

The lessons he learns and the ideas he develops are principally derived from literature; specifically Paradise Lost, Sorrows of Werter and Plutarch’s Lives. He tries to be ‘good’, mimicking the behaviour of the De Lacey family and attempting to alleviate their hardship by chopping wood and leaving it for them. He learns about the cruelty of mankind, and when he is rejected by the De Lacey family which he yearns to be a part of, the switch in his brain flips. Instead of being a tender, compassionate individual, the Creature transforms into a brute; using his superhuman strength and cunning to murder William and frame Justine for his deeds.

The framed narrative used by Shelley ensures that the reader – much like Frankenstein himself – is prejudiced towards the Creature. We believe that he is a monster, until it comes to hearing his tale and we realise that Frankenstein’s rejection of his creation has made the Creature behave the way he does. This is epitomised by Frankenstein’s line “I, not in deed, but in effect was the true murderer”. He recognises, albeit too late to save William or Justine, that his actions have had repercussions for his family.

The monster is not ‘good’ because he is denied the opportunity to be thus, by both his creator and the De Lacey family who reject him because of their “fatal prejudice”. The monster in Frankenstein is therefore ‘evil’ because he feels alone and resentful towards humanity who love and cherish one another. Yet the ‘evil’ nature of the Creature is not intrinsic, it is instilled in him by his experiences and subsequently the character of Victor Frankenstein is accountable for the Creature’s ‘evil’ deeds. When Victor Frankenstein “did not dare return to the apartment which I inhabited” for fear of his creation contained within, he ensured that his scientific accomplishment would haunt him and the Frankenstein family for the rest of his life. 

furnadno | Student

It really depends on whos story you believe the most. Frankenstein or the monster. If you believe in Frankenstein then the monster is evil and is full of lies and deciet. If you believe in the monster's story then you would think that it is Frankenstein's fault for not educating him.


metallica101 | Student
Is the monster in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein good or evil?

Is the monster in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein good or evil? 

I have to write an essay with this as a title. I'm finding this novel hard to get into and only have a few days until deadline. Help!!!!


if you have an essay, just read the book. trust me it is a really good book. i have to do a project that is due possibly next week. i am freaking out. all i need are 40 sticky notes of examples from that book. it really sucks. i haven't even started on the stupid project. so your not the only one that has something due soon. my theme is Good/Evil. i have to show good and evil examples.

marry-me-bury-me | Student

This is a pretty controversial question. First of all, the creature was, in fact, 'born' with the basic qualities of love and compassion that one would expect to find in the average human being. However, Victor couldn't see this due to the creature's hideous exterior. As well, it seemed that the rest of humanity would shun him too, without even giving him a chance to prove himself to them. Up to this point, the creature, safe to say, was certainly not evil. However, after being thrown into misery from being an outcast, the creature fell into a haze of hatred towards his creator, and he became possessed with a sense of vengeance. This is where he starts torturing Victor by killing off his loved ones one by one. I think that this is what makes the creature evil. Yes, Victor was wrong and irresponsible to neglect his creation, but he certainly did not deserve all of the agony that the monster made him endure. So, he could have been good, but because he was unable to deal with his emotions properly, chose to be evil instead.

zumba96 | Student

I do not believe that the monster was born evil. I believe the monster was forced to mold into the strict rules of society and conform into the inner monster role he fulfilled. In the beginning the monster tries to read and become knowledgeable in order to communicate with other humans despite his appearance, yet he is spurned because of his face and not from his deeds. Despite becoming fluent, the deeds he commits are only against human kind, and while the monster did not have to turn this way and fulfill the mold of the monster, this is still partially the effect of the monster and society that turned him into becoming in such a manner. 

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