How is Frankenstein's monster depicted as an anti-hero?

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The term "antihero" normally refers to the protagonist of a literary work. The typical heroic protagonist is portrayed as a larger-than-life figure with many admirable qualities. In traditional heroic epic, the hero is an aristocrat who is strong, physically attractive, and morally good and who, through his virtues, triumphs over various obstacles. The antihero is normally a protagonist who does not conform to the conventions of heroic epic. The antihero can be a despicable character, as the narrator of Dostoevsky's Notes from Underground, or sometimes simply a realistic and fallible person, such as Holden Caulfield in The Catcher in the Rye.

Because Frankenstein's monster is not the protagonist of the novel, he is not normally considered an antihero. Instead, Victor Frankenstein, as a flawed protagonist, is closer to that role. Although Victor has many of the external attributes of the hero in that he is a handsome, wealthy, intelligent aristocrat, his moral failings make him in certain ways almost more monstrous than his creation.

The monster plays the role of an antagonist in the novel, not a hero. However, just as Victor is a flawed and thus unconventional protagonist somewhere between hero and antihero, similarly, the monster is not really a traditional villain and is portrayed sympathetically, more as a victim than as a force of evil. The monster obviously lacks the characteristics of a hero, being physically repulsive, not of noble lineage, and not a model for emulation, but because he is not the protagonist of the novel, he might better be described as a sort of "anti-villain" than as an antihero. Readers are led to pity rather than revile him.

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In literature, a hero is defined as a person who accomplishes great deeds for the sake of the greater good through his or her bravery, courage, intelligence, skill, or ingenuity. A hero typically overcomes some sort of adversity in order to earn honor or glory. A hero is normally admired for his or her achievements or characteristics. An anti-hero is the opposite of a hero; an anti-hero lacks the qualities to be considered a hero, but is nevertheless central to a story's action or plot. In Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, Frankenstein's monster (often mistakenly referred to as "Frankenstein") is a tall, ugly creature who could be considered an anti-hero.

An anti-hero often has a fatal flaw. The monster's flaw is his rage at his exclusion from a society that he desires to join. He, as a somewhat sensitive creature, attempts to fit into society frequently. He is not accepted, and many of the acts he commits—like murdering Frankenstein's friends—are acted out of revenge on Frankenstein, who he blames for his isolation.

If the monster was a hero, he would not seek revenge but would rather continue to try to seek acceptance through good deeds. The monster commits many crimes and does not use any of the qualities a hero uses in order to make the world better. Despite this, the monster in Frankenstein could actually easily become a hero—as he fluctuates between being the protagonist and antagonist throughout the novel, based on the perspective of the narrative.

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A common trope of Romantic literature was the child as a hero. Poets such as Wordsworth presented children as having a privileged insight into the world around them, possessing an almost mystical wisdom that gradually faded over time during the transition to adulthood.

Much the same could be said of Frankenstein's monster. He remains very much a child of nature throughout the book, a creature whose innocence allows him to see the world in a totally different light from that of his supposedly more mature and sophisticated creator. The Monster's innocence may lead him to commit many unspeakable acts, yet it also allows him to provide a kind of running commentary on Victor's moral failings. The Monster behaves abominably because he doesn't know any better, but what's Dr. Frankenstein's excuse?

The Monster could also be interpreted as a Byronic (anti-) hero in that he stands alone, far removed from the boundaries of respectable society; asserting his unique identity instead of allowing himself to be subjected to the petty rules and regulations that so often crush the individual spirit.

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There are certainly ways in which one might argue that Frankenstein's monster lacks conventional heroic attributes.  In Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, Frankenstein's monster is willing to kill innocent people to exact revenge on his nemesis and creator, Victor Frankenstein. Killing William, a child (though kind of a poorly behaved one), and Justine, Henry, and Elizabeth, all innocent people, makes the monster seem more like an anti-hero.  Heroes are supposed to uphold the innocent and good and defend them from harm; the monster kills them to prove a point and isolate his creator because Frankenstein's monster believes he, the monster, has been forced to live in isolation due to his creator's decisions. Although the monster begins his life as a benevolent and good creature, and though he remains kind for a long time despite the terrible treatment he receives from everyone he encounters, the monster eventually chooses to live for revenge. Revenge that compels one to murder innocent people is never appropriate hero behavior. 

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Is Victor Frankenstein an antihero?

The short answer to this is no, Victor in Shelley's Frankenstein is not an anti-hero.

Anti-heroes usually get the little things wrong, but the big things right.  They may not be polite and fit into society and may not think like society does (they are nonconformists), but they possess a higher sense of justice than others.  When it matters and counts, anti-heroes do the right thing. 

An anti-hero may also be a rogue, but will be a charming rogue--at least to those he wants to charm. 

Victor is good at the little things.  He is polite and respectful and studious--he probably would have made a great husband (which doesn't matter in this novel, because his wife is killed).  But he gets the big things wrong, the things that really matter.  He fails to take responsibility for his creation.  He fails to nurture his "son" as a father should.  He creates life then neglects it.

The creation of life might serve as an instance of "bucking" the system in his day, and make him an anti-hero, except that he doesn't take care of what he's created and he causes tragedy.  An anti-hero is ethical when it counts.  Victor is not. 

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