Describe the two major conflicts in Frankenstein: Victor vs. the Creature and the Creature vs. Society.
A remarkable novel, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein is in essence a metaphysical work that explores the nature of existence and the interrelationship of beings in this existence. Thus, the conflicts of Victor Frankenstein with his creation and that of the Creature with society are inextricable.
Victor vs. the Creature
Thus strangely are our souls constructed, and by such slight ligaments are we bound to prosperity or ruin.
This reflection of Victor in Chapter 2 suggests the irony of his perception of a "too potent" Destiny as responsible for his actions when his hubris is at the heart of his actions. His battles with his creature are, then, battles with his own unnaturalness. Having rejected the traditional approaches to science, Victor pursues with a "supernatural enthusiasm" the secrets of life, their "cause and generation." He bestows "animation" to a being formed from sundry body parts of stolen cadavers; with the corruption of the power of Nature in lightning, Victor generates life into his creation.
Victor's act is one of irreverance and irresponsibility as he has not considered the magnitude of his actions as a human being who delves into science that reaches beyond the natural. Once faced with the consequences of his preternatural act, Victor is repulsed at the creature's deformity because it mirrors his own spiritual deformity. Fleeing from the creature, Victor hopes to escape his responsibility.
Victor's conflicts with the Creature are, in actuality, conflicts with his own conscience. For, the sight of the misshapen creature reminds him of the grotesqueness of his own soul. As the Creature seeks recognition and love from Victor, Victor rejects him as he rejects his great sin of overstepping the bounds of Nature. When the Creature kills the family of Victor, it is truly Victor who murders them because he has not come forward and confessed his act of scientific hubris. Therefore, Victor's hatred for the Creature who has destroyed his loved ones is truly self-hatred. His dying words describing the Creature's actions are but a mirror of his own malice:
He showed unparalleled malignity and selfishness, in evil: he destroyed my friends....Miserable himself, that he may render no other wretched, he ought to die.
The Creature vs. Society
Often likened to the "noble savage," the Creature smiles upon his maker when he is formed. However, after being rejected, the creature is alone; misshapen physically, he is abhorred by society and feared as a monster. Thus, it is only through furtive acts that the Creature can survive. Surreptitiously, he learns to speak and read from the DeLaceys, but without someone with whom to share his thoughts and feelings, the Creature is bereft. When he does seek friendship by entering the house and talking with the blind father, who accepts him since he cannot see the monstrous shape, the Creature is later rejected and physically harmed, as well, when the son returns.
It is this continual rejection by Victor and others in society that leads the Creature to beg Frankenstein to create for him a mate so that he can have the healing comfort of another being. He promises that if his maker will do this, he will bother no other; however, Victor refuses in the end from fear of recognition for his acts of creation. So, the Creature continues his vengeance upon Victor by killing Elizabeth. In the end, however, the Creature is more human than his maker because his first response to society is benevolent. Notably, critics perceive the Creature as a virtuous innocent who is forced to commit evil because of society's attitudes that first begin with Victor's rejection of him.