In Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, what does the monster learn by observing the DeLacey family?

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booboosmoosh eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, the creature learns a great deal from observing the DeLacey family.

The creature learns what a family is, how they share each other's company, and how they support and love one another. He is amazed at the simple things they employ: tapers (candles) to lengthen the day, a guitar to create music. He comes to understand the concept of reading aloud. He learns that others are unhappy, as he is, though it amazes him that those who are beautiful and enjoy good company could also feel the unhappiness that engulfs him.

The creature comes to understand poverty and hunger.

A considerable period elapsed before I discovered one of the causes of the uneasiness of this amiable family: it was poverty, and they suffered that evil in a very distressing degree...They often, I believe, suffered the pangs of hunger very poignantly, especially the two younger cottagers; for several times they placed food before the old man when they reserved none for themselves.

In seeing their hunger, the creature, who had been eating some of their food, abstained from doing so, knowing what harm it caused the family. Here he learns compassion, though none has been shown to him. The monster learns charity, by doing work that will help the family to survive, such as gathering wood.

Soon the creature began to understand that the family communicates with each other using words.

By degrees I made a discovery of still greater moment. I found that these people possessed a method of communicating their experiences and feelings to one another by articulate sounds. I perceived that the words they spoke sometimes produced pleasure or pain, smiles or sadness, in the minds and countenances of the hearers. This was indeed a godlike science, and I ardently desired to become acquainted with it.

The creature comes to understand the concept of reading, but has no way to master this skill. And it is also from Felix, the young DeLacey, and his sweetheart, Safie (who appears one day on horseback), that the creature learns of love.

favoritethings eNotes educator| Certified Educator

From the DeLaceys, Frankenstein's creature also learns of human history, both of our incredible accomplishments and our goodness and compassion and of the horrible things that we do to one another and all of the evil deeds of which we are fully capable. He tells Victor, "These wonderful narrations inspired me with strange feelings. Was man, indeed, at once so powerful, so virtuous and magnificent, yet so vicious and base? He appeared at one time a mere scion of the evil principle and at another as all that can be conceived of noble and godlike." Therefore, the creature not only learns about human history, but he also learns a great deal about human nature—namely, that we actually possess a dual nature and are capable of great goodness and great evil. This becomes yet another aspect of himself that the creature soon comes to understand: he can save a drowning girl from the creek, and he can strangle a young boy because he happens to be related to Victor Frankenstein.

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Frankenstein

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