Who Is the Monster in Frankenstein? - Character Traits & Analysis

Who Is the Monster in Frankenstein? - Character Traits & Analysis
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  • 0:04 Creation of a Monster
  • 0:36 Who Is Frankenstein's Monster?
  • 6:23 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Terri Beth Miller

Terri Beth has taught college writing and literature courses since 2005 and has a PhD in literature.

This lesson examines the character of Frankenstein's monster, centering upon the question, 'Who is Frankenstein's monster?' The lesson considers the many ways that the character of Frankenstein's monster should be understood and the positive and negative attributes that make the monster such a complex and controversial figure.

Creation of a Monster

The monster in Mary Shelley's masterpiece, Frankenstein, has spurred fascination and debate ever since his literary debut in 1818. The fearsome brainchild of his then 20-year-old author, the monster has been both revered and reviled, loved and loathed. But, like all good monsters, he defies simple categorization and labels. At once sensitive and savage, the monster embodies all that is best and worst in humanity.

Who Is Frankenstein's Monster?

So, who is Frankenstein's monster? First and foremost, he is the abandoned child. At its heart, Frankenstein is the story of parental neglect in the extreme. The brilliant doctor foolhardily rushes into his creation, intoxicated by the thought that he alone might discover the power to create life from nothingness.

But when his creature does, indeed, live, Dr. Victor Frankenstein is repulsed and appalled. The creature is deformed and menacingly powerful, and Frankenstein, in horror, casts him out into the streets. There, the creature, for all intents and purposes an infant, is driven into the forest by the horrified townspeople who attack or flee from him at first sight.

Through a slow and painful process, the monster begins to learn to use his senses to see, hear, and touch and then to supply for his bodily needs for food, warmth, and shelter. It is only by hiding in a hovel and watching the daily life of a family, the DeLaceys, that he gradually learns to speak and, eventually, to read. Here, he also learns of relationships between families and, in particular, of the love and the duty of a father to his children, a duty the monster's own creator/father so callously repudiated.

Frankenstein's monster is also the frustrated bridegroom. The monster is, perhaps above all else, lonely. Indeed, despite the rejection of his creator and the brutality of the townspeople scarring his first encounters with the human race, the monster wants nothing more than a family, nothing more than to connect with and be accepted by others.

As he hides in the home of the DeLacey family, watching the blind father with his son and daughter, he dreams of joining them; dreams that someday his sensitive nature, fierce intelligence, and good heart will enable them to overlook his many deformities and love him in spite of outward appearance. However, when he tries to reveal himself, the family drives him away with even greater brutality than he had encountered from the townspeople.

Embittered, the monster determines he can never be accepted by the human race and vows vengeance, killing Frankenstein's young brother, William , and framing Justine, a beloved servant, for the act. He then confronts his creator and promises to make peace with humanity, but only on one condition: that Dr. Frankenstein create a creature as deformed as the monster, one to be the creature's companion in his isolation, far removed from the hatred of humanity. Only this will satiate the monster's rage, only this will bring peace, because only one like himself can offer him an end to solitude and scorn.

Frankenstein's monster also acts like an angel (or demon) of vengeance. The complexity of the monster lies in the excesses of his traits: on the one hand, he possesses the capacity for profound love and loyalty. Indeed, we find at many moments greater compassion and tenderness in the monster than in his creator; where the monster weeps at the death of his creator, the idea of the monster's death brings only joy to Frankenstein.

And yet the monster also exhibits a capacity for unspeakable, inhuman rage and envy. This rage vents itself in the systematic destruction of Frankenstein's family. In this, the monster might be seen as the appalling outcome of one's foolish choices, rash decisions, and the hubris that drives ambition. After all, Dr. Frankenstein had sought to play God, and in so doing, he unleashed the powers of hell.

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