What are three main characteristics that make a monster? Explain why.  

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literaturenerd eNotes educator| Certified Educator

A monster, as defined by Merriam-Webster, is as follows:

1 a : an animal or plant of abnormal form or structure b : one who deviates from normal or acceptable behavior or character
2: a threatening force
3 a : an animal of strange or terrifying shape b : one unusually large for its kind
4: something monstrous especially : a person of unnatural or extreme ugliness, deformity, wickedness, or cruelty.
Based upon these four definitions, one can define what makes a monster in many different ways. Since your question is posed under Frankenstein, it would be pertinent to address the monster depicted in the novel first. Victor's monster can be justified as a monster based upon all four of the definitions given. The monster deviates from the acceptable form of what one considers human. Throughout the story, the monster becomes a threatening force. Lastly, the monster is also seen as possessing a terrifying shape and extreme ugliness. That being said, there are also other ways society defines a monster when adhering to the definitions provided. People who commit crimes so hideous against society are, many times, deemed monstrous. For example, in  Walter Dean Myers' novel Monster, Steve Harmon is considered a monster simply based upon the fact he is being tried for murder. Lastly, is the supernatural monster. The monsters depicted in epics like Beowulf (Grendel), current nonfiction texts like Twilight (Edward and Jacob), and the mythological texts like The Labors of Hercules (Medusa) all are defined by the characteristics above. 
Therefore, a monster comes in many different packages. The defining of a monster is simply based upon a personal interpretation of what they deem monstrous.

droxonian eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There's an anonymous quotation often seen in discussions of Frankenstein, and of language: "Knowledge is knowing that Frankenstein is not the monster. Wisdom is knowing that he is." Humans constantly measure themselves against rules established within society. A monster is defined by the society he challenges or horrifies: we create our own monsters, and they are reflections of ourselves. This is a key theme in Frankenstein, a novel which was written during the rise of science, at a time when society was very uncomfortable with questions of God and his relation to man, in the face of man's growing power over life itself. 

Frankenstein's monster does possess three main characteristics that make him monstrous, in keeping with the Oxford Living Dictionary definition: 

1. He is a large, ugly, and frightening creature, unlike anything else in nature. And although he is not imaginary in the novel, he was designed out of Frankenstein's imagination. 

2. He is a thing of extraordinary and daunting size.

3. He is a "malformed or mutant" animal or creature. 

However, while the creation exhibits all these physical characteristics of a monster, it is interesting to note that his creator alone can be said to exhibit the definition that pertains to one's character: "an inhumanly cruel or wicked person." Should Frankenstein have brought this being to life—a being portrayed in his own words as a feeling, sensitive, and thoughtful person, trapped in a life of suffering—for the sake of science? Or was he monstrous to do so, a man behaving outside of the rules of society?

megantheresefiscus | Student

In Mary Shelley's Frankenstein I think that it is important to consider the juxtaposition of both a living thing with the physical appearance of a monster (the creature Frankenstein creates) and also the monster within (Frankenstein himself).

There are a number of things that we think about when the word monster comes up in literature or speech. These things can be physical representations of a monster: something that makes the creature physically repulsive or scary such as claws, hair or a scar; being unusually large and thereby giving the impression that they could harm you; a shroud or some article of concealment implies that something even worse might be hiding just below the surface. All of these devices are used to convey the inhumanity of Frankenstein's creature, yet the creature himself remains curious and relatively passive until provoked by a sense of self preservation and the accumulation of knowledge, which begs the question of what a true monster really is. Frankenstein himself has an abundance of knowledge, and without a care for the repercussions of his actions develops this creature, then refuses to take responsibility for it.

Here we have the monster within. When a person with education in the ways of what is morally just and socially acceptable chooses to flagrantly ignore these things in the interest of self and desire to have success in one's endeavors which ultimately leads to the harm of others and oneself, can we not consider this person to be a monster? Perhaps this definition of a monster is even more apt than merely a physical description and is much more sinister in context, especially given that Frankenstein realizes his violation of natural order and yet does nothing to resolve it. In fact, each action he takes until the very last possible moment in his life only adds to the severity of the crime, and none more spectacularly than when he brings his beloved, Elizabeth, into the realm of his "children" by reanimating her in order to save himself the grief of her death. The definition of insanity is to do the same thing repeatedly, expecting to achieve a different result. Frankenstein is obviously insane, and this equates to his monstrosity.

The two of these characters are guilty of utilizing the guile of manipulation which can be considered monstrous as well. The creature uses his brute strength to threaten, and in fact kill, Frankenstein's loved ones in order to get what he wants (a partner in life), therefore using Frankenstein's fear to achieve his aims. Frankenstein himself is a bit more complex in this regard, as he has had a longer time to master the art of manipulation. Elizabeth agrees to marry Frankenstein, though seemingly against her best judgement and at much the behest of Frankenstein himself. However, Frankenstein knows that his creature is on a path of murderous revenge against him. Does he mention any of this to Elizabeth? No. He continues to assume that his indisgressions against humanity will disappear if he can't see them, which leads him to lull those around him into a false sense of security thereby allowing him to get what he wants, though only for a short period of time.

Which is the more monstrous of the two? Certainly one is apparently more monstrous  and the other is more subtle, but I suppose that is the social experiment that Mary Shelley intended when she wrote this incredible tale. Physically a monster but otherwise more morally responsible versus visibly neutral but mentally corrupt, both eaqually manipulative, the choice of monster is yours.

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