Last Updated on October 24, 2018, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1062
Extended Character Analysis
The creature is the product of Victor Frankenstein’s labors, a shockingly ugly, eight-foot-tall being assembled and animated from dead tissue. Victor designs him to be beautiful, a higher version of the human form. However, after seeing the creature’s ghastly visage for the first time, Victor flees in disgust, and the creature is left alone in the world. However, despite the creature’s repulsive appearance, Victor has apparently succeeded in creating a superior being; the creature is faster, stronger, and more resilient than the average human, and he shows himself to be articulate, rational, and capable of deep emotional reflection.
After Victor abandons him, the creature flees into the woods and begins reverently observing the De Lacey family. He educates himself using one of Victor’s journals and a bag of abandoned books that he finds in the woods, which contains Paradise Lost, Plutarch’s Lives, and The Sorrows of Werter. These novels shape the creature’s understanding of the world and allow him to construct a sense of self. Guided by Milton, the creature compares himself to both Adam and Satan: created to be the first of a new species like Adam but rejected by God and living in wretched misery like Satan. Increasingly aware of his own loneliness as a result of his newfound literacy, the creature endeavors to befriend the De Laceys by approaching the blind patriarch. However, his intentions are misinterpreted by the rest of the family, and they attack him. Disillusioned, the creature endeavors to confront his creator and arrives in Geneva, Victor’s hometown.
During his journey, the creature attempts to save a young girl from drowning. However, an observer mistakenly assumes that he is attacking the girl and shoots him with a gun. The creature then vows vengeance against all of humanity, realizing with bitterness that his appearance will bar him from ever obtaining the love and acceptance he craves. This event marks the beginning of his murderous escapade, as he subsequently arrives in Geneva and murders Victor’s younger brother, William. Having given up finding companionship with humans, the creature petitions Victor to create a mate that is like him. However, when Victor reneges on their agreement, the creature seeks revenge and begins to systematically kill everyone Victor loves.
One of the central questions regarding the creature is whether he is an evil and unnatural villain destined to perpetuate destruction, an innocent victim of Victor’s experimentation and subsequent neglect, or a complex blend of both. From Victor’s perspective, the creature is a remorseless villain who is out to commit endless “mischief” against humanity. By this interpretation, the creature’s unnaturalness renders him inherently wicked. This reading is supported by the creature’s murders of Victor’s family and friends, as well as his torment of Victor. By the end of the novel, the creature has become an evil, villainous figure whose only purpose is to inflict the same misery on his creator that he himself has experienced.
However, despite his capacity for violence, the creature proves capable of deep, insightful thought and shows genuine remorse for his actions. Seen in terms of these qualities, the creature is more akin to an abandoned child than a heartless villain. Abandoned by his creator, attacked by the De Laceys, and falsely accused of murder after his attempted rescue of the little girl, the creature lives a life of rejection and isolation. His quest for love and affection proves fruitless, so he ultimately seeks out the only form of attention he can get from his creator by inspiring Victor’s hatred.
Yet another interpretation unites the creature’s villainy and victimhood. This reading posits that proof of the creature’s humanity lies in his ability to simultaneously be both victim and villain. Just as Victor is both a villain to the creature and a victim of its revenge, the creature is also a nuanced character. After Victor’s death, the creature laments to Walton that every villainous act he has committed weighs on his conscience. In requesting that Victor make a companion for him, the creature states, “I am malicious because I am miserable.”
Unlike Victor, who denies his own culpability in the creature’s misery until the end, the creature has no illusions regarding his own wickedness. He knows that his actions were unforgivable and does not seek to justify them, but he laments that the injustices of his life led him to perpetuate evil. His desire was never to do harm, but he cannot escape the fact that he allowed his bitterness to overwhelm him; this aligns him with the tragic hero archetype, a role both he and Victor fulfill in their separate ways.
An alternate reading positions the creature as less of an independent agent and more of an extension of Victor. By this interpretation, the creature represents Victor’s punishment for pursuing forbidden knowledge. The creature, then, is symbolized by the eagle sent to pluck out Prometheus’s liver day after day.
As he works on the creature, Victor isolates himself and grows sickly. After successfully reanimating the creature, Victor is horrified by the creature’s ghastly appearance and seeks to return to the innocent, loving embrace of his family and friends, rejecting science entirely. However, at every turn, the creature decides to follow Victor, and works to inhibit his happiness he murders the ones Victor loves when he does not give the creature compassion or companionship. The creature serves as a constant reminder of Victor’s transgressions against nature and robs him of the material happiness he may have obtained had he not arrogantly trespassed against the laws of nature.
Regardless of which interpretation one uses, the creature and Victor are inextricably linked. For the creature, Victor is an object of both reverence and rage. For Victor, the creature is an object of both disgust and guilt. Neither is wholly innocent, and they both die miserable deaths. However, the final injustice in the creature’s cruel life is that for all his efforts to render Victor as lonely and miserable as himself, his creator still has a friend left to mourn him in the form of Robert Walton. The creature, left purposeless and empty after Victor’s death, sets out to end his own life so as to dissuade anyone else from trying to replicate Victor’s mistakes.