Showing Kindness towards a Monster – Analysis of Frankenstein

When Mary Shelley wrote the story Frankenstein, it is very likely that she received a lot of critical feedback at home. That is not to say that everyone in her personal life must have criticized her for writing such a dark novel, but, her husband Percy Shelley was also a writer of note and it’s very likely that he had some opinions—positive and negative—to share about her work. He is quoted as summing up the moral of the story by saying, ““Treat a person ill, and he will become wicked; divide him a social being, from society, and you impose upon him the irresistible obligations [of] malevolence and selfishness.” In his estimation, the point was that mistreating someone will naturally lead that person to internalize the wrongness and/or neglect and as a result, by nature, he would become a monster. This seems to be the outcome for the Creature in Frankenstein. A serious lesson can be taken away in regards to ethics; is the “creator” or father of a person or thing responsible for the way that person or thing turns out? How obligated is a person to take care of, nurture and guide the fruits of their productions, or their own offspring?
Some of Victor Frankenstein’s actions immediately following his experiments which result in the “birth” of the monster are surprising and could even be interpreted as unethical. When Victor first comes across whatever formula he conceives to create life, he says, “The astonishment which I had at first experienced in this discovery soon gave place to delight and rapture,” (54). As he is recounting the story to Robert Walton, he explains that he had been hard at work in his lab for a very long time, trying to prove to his father and other mentors that his ideas about the origins of life are valid. But the part of his story that is puzzling to me at this point is the absolute lack of application or thought of ethics in his situation.
Victor seems to be an intelligent man. He is a scientist and he surrounds himself with other thinkers. However, he doesn’t seem to apply much thought to the potential consequences of his actions (in his experimenting). In school, one might assume he would have studues Humanities and/or the “Classics.” It seems likely that he probably had read or heard of the story of Prometheus, the god who makes men out of clay, and then later steals fire from Zeus (king of the gods) and gives it to man. What Prometheus did not do before he bestowed this gift on man was think through the potential negative consequences. He never thought that his beloved little creatures (men and women) running around on earth might have fatal accidents with fire, or even use fire violently against one another in acts of war. And when the people eventually did these things with his gift, Prometheus was shocked and then crestfallen.
The same thing happens with Victor. Though he’s finally unlocked the secret of life that he’s been searching for, he fails to have the foresight to know that if he does “animate” some living being—if he assembles a man and then ignites the “spark of life” in him, this could have potential bad consequences for that living being and, indeed, for all of humanity.
But, no. Victor takes no time at all to consider any bad scenarios. He goes straight to work, hastily assembling the man from parts stolen from cemeteries and biology labs. And then he does something even more irresponsible. As soon as he is done and he brings to life his hideous Creature, the thing is too much for him, and he abandons it. Yet another poor move on his part, ethically speaking. To be truly ethical in this situation, Victor should have immediately stepped up and taken full responsibility for the Creature. He had an obligation to attend to its needs, or immediately destroy it. But he doesn’t. He doesn’t do anything to try to stop the monster or curb its actions. Instead, he abandons his lab. He takes to his bed. He allows the strange, brand-new, and seemingly lonely Creature just to wander around on its own with no guidance or authority. This was extremely irresponsible.
Without guidance, the monster goes on to its own devices. Victor is weak and terrified. He spends a good amount of time in bed. He further acts unethically when the monster kills his brother, William (70-71). He doesn’t tell the family and the court the truth about the monster he has created. Although he has the power and opportunity to save Justine from execution, he fails to do this, too (82).
Finally, in denying the creature his one wish—for a companion—Victor fails in the greatest way ethically. He owes it to the monster to provide him with some companion, as the monster says this is the only way to assuage his grief at feeling horribly and unjustly exiled from the human race. It is a fairly easy to accept result, then, after Victor has not upheld any of the obligations he had to this thing of his own invention, that the monster would turn on Victor and murder everyone who was close to him. As Percy Shelley summed it up, this “person” who longed for closeness and companionship, who wished to be part of society but was denied turned bitter from his rejection. Perhaps if he had been shown kindness by society, been embraced by people, or given a friend or a mater by Victor, he might not have ended up the terrifying, murderous, monster that he was doomed to be.


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