Why does Shelley not give the monster a name in Frankenstein? Who is the real monster?Are there many monsters in Frankenstein?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, the evil of science taking precedence over nature is proven in the two characters of Victor Frankenstein and the creature that he creates.  While the creature is hideous in appearance, his soul is innocent at his moment of life:  He smiles at his creator on whom he has fixed his adoring eyes, with one hand stretched out; but, horrified at what he calls a "demoniacal corpse," Victor flees and deserts him.  In his search for Victor, the creature comes across little William, who fatefully mentions his father's name.  When the creature hears the name Frankenstein, he kills William.

Later, when the creature finds refuge in a hovel in the country, he vicariously shares in the lives of the loving De Lacy family by secretly watching them.  From their readings and conversation, the creature learns to talk.  In appreciation for what he learns and in sympathy for their impoverished condition, the creature cuts their wood each day. However, in his hunger for companionship, the creature enters the cottage when Felix and Agatha are out.  Because the old man is blind, he talks with the creature, but when Felix returns, he fears the huge, hideous-looking creature and attacks him. Alienated and bereft of any companionship, the creature finds Victor and pleas with him to create a partner for him, promising to do no more evil and leave the area if Victor will do so.  Frankenstein at first agrees, but later, changes his mind.  As a result, the creature seeks revenge by killing Victor's fiancee. 

While the creature does murder, he acts mainly as Victor's "darker side," acting out of his deep hurt. For, without the rejection of humanity, he would not have committed his evil deeds.  Towards the de Laceys he is kind, affectionate, and loving in his thoughts and actions.  He saves a girl from drowning, but he is rewarded only with beatings and repulsion. When Victor dies, the creature cries and mourns the death of his creator whom he loved; and, he expresses grief over the deaths he has caused.  Indeed, in this scene, the creature is a poignant character.

Thus, in her narrative, it would seem that Shelley suggests that Victor is the veritable monster as in his pride he rejects what he has created, and he does not confess his actions, allowing innocent people to die.  Even in his death, he expresses no sympathy for the creature who cries over him later.  Victor's obsession with science and his pride at presuming to be the creator of a living being are what make him more of a monster, a monster against what is natural, than the creature in whom he injects life.

Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

For me, this one is easy.  Victor is the monster.  I rarely speak with such moral clarity, but I speak with it on this one.  Victor is the monster.  He is the one who engages on a "truth be damned" approach to scientific inquiry in the creation of the monster.  He is the one who discards all other warnings and all other established boundaries to pursue his vision.  He does this without any regards for the consequences.  At the moment of creation, though, when he is confronted with the reality of his "hideous progeny," Victor runs away to the seclusion of the forest.  He abandons the responsibility he has to his own creation and to others with his flight.  It seems to me that Victor should not be allowed to escape responsibility for what his creation has done and his lack of loyalty to it.  Creation carries with it consequences and responsibility, things that Victor discards when confronted with them.  One can even extend this to Victor's understanding of the monster's need for companionship.  With an opportunity to humanize the monster and perhaps make it less of a danger to society when it requests him to make a companion, Victor suddenly strikes a position of moral authority in saying that he will not add another monster to society.  It is reassuring to see him assume this position of individual responsibility.  It might have helped for him to have taken this stance earlier, say when he was creating the first one.  In the end, I see Victor as a delinquent parent.  His intelligence and learned acumen should not be reasons for him to evade his responsibility for what he created and be held to some extent for what it did.  It is because of this that I see Victor as the real monster, and that who has no name must bear the brunt of his self- centered set of actions.

Lori Steinbach eNotes educator| Certified Educator

You only get one question, and it seems to me "Who is the real monster?" might be the most significant.  The Monster undergoes a dramatic reversal from the beginning of the novel to the end. 

While it's true Frankenstein's creation is a physically distorted and ugly being, he is not "born" with inherent monstrous tendencies.  He has a heart and a mind and feelings which are the initial driving forces for his actions.  Because of his hideous appearance, though, he is unable to find the friendship or comfort which will satisfy the yearnings of his soul.  In the end, these longings--as well as his bitterness and thirst for revenge, of course--cause him to become the same "monster" on the inside as he is on the outside.

Dr. Frankenstein, on the other hand, could be considered a "monster" on the inside.  He creates a fully functioning, complete, physical human being without any thought to the non-physical, emotional needs of his creation.  Once the Monster is animated, Frankenstein is repulsed by what he sees and can not hide his horror at his creation.  This fear and revulsion, coupled with  the scientist's lack of foresight regarding the consequences of his actions, trigger the chain of events which leave a trail of destruction whever the two of them go. 

Dr. Frankenstein sacrifices not only the lives of innocent people and those he loves in his pursuit of scientific knowledge, he also comdemns his creation to a life of misery and evil.  The Monster is not justified in his despicable acts; however, we do understand his motivations in a way we don't necessarily understand those of Victor Frankenstein.  In short, neither of them are sympathetic characters, and we ultimately see them both as monsters.

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