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Frankenstein: To what extent does the behaviour of mankind shape the creature’s attitude to life?

By wheatleysj Dec 08, 2013 1036 Words
To what extent does the behaviour of mankind shape the creature’s attitude to life? Pg102-151
One feature of the behaviour of mankind is the capacity for knowledge and the creative use of it. An example of this is literature, and the creature is exposed to this through the three books he finds in the “wood”. It is clear that these three books, which the creature considers to be a “prize”, have a great effect on him, but it is not so much that behaviour of man which is required to produce these books, than the behaviour of man which is presented in the contents of the writing, which shapes the creature’s attitude to life. The significance of these books for the creature is that they provide an explanation for the actions and emotions of men and women which he has already seen at first hand, as well as for those he can only read about. This enables the creature to have a more profound understanding of life as a concept and a preoccupation, and thus he is able to consciously and subconsciously construct an attitude to life which is the cause for his ensuing actions. The other significance of his access to written text is that it facilitates the opportunity to him of not only understanding the language, but learning how to express himself, speak with reason, and construct an argument. As Peter Brooks writes, “As a verbal creation, he [the creature] is the very opposite of the monstrous. He is a sympathetic and persuasive participant in Western Culture.” While I agree with this idea which is vital for the effectiveness of the creature’s plea for “acceptance” from his “father” and for Victor to “consent” to his “request”, I believe there is, on the other hand, something monstrous in the way that such eloquence, logic and persuasiveness comes from the mouth of such a “hideously deformed and loathsome” creature.

The creature has a predominantly negative attitude to life as a result of his most frequently encountered example of the behaviour of mankind being that of rejection and oppression. His first introduction to this human reaction is in the way in which his “creator”, someone who is “bound by ties only dissoluble by the annihilation of one of [them]”, abandons him almost immediately. The creature is fully aware of the fact that the only man with whom he has any connection and the only person through whom he may enter the society of mankind, “hate[s] and spurn[s]” him; knowing this causes him to feel “misery”, and as he tells Victor himself, this “misery made [him] a fiend.” His second exposure to this human response is from the villagers who “attacked” him and left him “grievously bruised by stones”. This is his first confrontation with any man other than his creator, and so it confirms in his mind, which at this point is still in the ingenuous period of infancy, that all men act in the same malicious and inconsiderate way. The creature’s reflection on “the barbarity of man” again leads to him feeling “miserable”. What is more relevant is that this “misery” which he experienced, soon “gave place to a hellish rage”, after a similar situation. This time, however, the injustice in the behaviour of mankind is far more pertinent. “As yet [the creature] looked upon crime as a distant evil”, but when his act of saving a young girl’s life is followed by being shot in return by her companion (he who should be most thankful for the selfless deed), his negative perspective of man becomes much more real and immediate, as is evident in his reflection, “This was then the reward for my benevolence!”. Shelley highlights this new, progressed outlook in the anger which is induced in him, and this resentment leads him onto the far fiercer and more brutish attitude to life of revenge: “Inflamed by pain, I vowed eternal hatred and vengeance to all mankind.” The consistency of the “vice” with which the creature is treated accentuates the effect which the examples of the “benevolence and generosity” of man have on him. Through observing the cottagers’ kind and loving interaction with each other, and through reading of men such as Werter, whom he describes as “a more divine being than I had ever beheld or imagined”, the creature is exposed to the idea that man indeed has amiable qualities and the capacity for acceptance; he tells Victor that these “new images and feelings… sometimes raised [him] to ecstasy”, and this shapes his attitude to life as he now has a strong motivation to be included in the compassionate interaction of his “protectors” and society: “inciting within me a desire to become an actor in the busy scene where so many admirable qualities were called forth and displayed.” This “ardent curiosity”, similar to that of Walton and Victor, leads to him “resolv[ing] to undergo” the meeting with De Lacey, for which he states that he “required kindness and sympathy”, similar again to Walton’s need for “the company of a man who could sympathise with [him]; whose eyes would reply to [his].” What is ironic here is that there is no man “whose eyes [could] reply to” the creature’s, but the creature is astute enough to first approach a man “whose eyes [cannot] reply to” anything or anyone. And therefore I disagree with Peter Brooks’ idea that “sympathy is on the point of creating the Monster’s first entry into the social chain”, in that I believe it is more the simple fact of good fortune (that there is a blind man in the house) which provides the creature’s opportunity for interaction. For, as is revealed in the reaction of the other cottagers, no amount of sympathy can neglect the hideous deformity of the “ugly wretch” that is the “monster”.

It is this fact that shapes the eventual attitude to life of the creature: his desire for communication and a sense of belonging, hindered by the rejection from mankind, leads to his attitude that he needs and demands a companion of his type and complexion, if he is to be “happy and contented.”

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