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How did the authors make the reader sympathise with ‘monstrous’ characters in both ‘Frankenstein’ and the ‘Watchmen’

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How did the authors make the reader sympathise with ‘monstrous’ characters in both ‘Frankenstein’ and the ‘Watchmen’?

In both ‘Frankenstein’ and ‘The Watchmen’, ‘monstrous’ characters are portrayed as isolated beings with their own anxieties and problems. These two elements are described differetly as the narration changes, showing the readers different perspectives of the same thing. Even though their characteristics make it obvious that they are ‘better’ than ordinary human beings, they still make the reader question themselves whether they are really more superior and powerful. By making the reader think in these ways, the authors are trying to make the reader sympathise with the characters, thinking more about the various elements of the stories in order to read them in more depth and detail.

Firstly, the theme of isolation. In ‘Frankenstein’, when the story is told from Victor’s point of view, the creature is described as a vicious, evil being who kills everything in sight – “those victims whom you have so diabolically murdered!”. The author uses very powerful language to emphasise Victor’s hatred towards the creature – “wretch”, “filthy demon”. These words give an impression of how horrible the creature is to Victor and causes the reader to feel the same way. At this point, the reader will sympathise with Victor. But when the character narrating changes, the reader’s perspective changes as well. The creature portrays himself in a completely different way, saying how he is isolated by absolutely everybody around him, including his own creator, due to his different and hideous appearance. “Was I, a monster, a blot upon the earth from which all men fled and whom all men disowned?” He is made up of different parts of various corpses stitched together – the reason behind this gruesome background of the creature is that three of the author’s children passed away in infancy during the course of writing the book; she was utterly mournful and wished she can bring the corpses of her children back to life by replacing their body parts with healthy ones, thus the use of this idea in the book. From the moment of birth, the creature has always been unwanted. He is treated like a monster. “Some attacked me, until, grievously bruised by stones.” The author uses very strong yet easy to understand references to emphasise the creature’s isolation - “Satan has his companions, fellow-devils, to admire and encourage him; but I am solitary and detested.” By saying that even Satan, the leader of the devils, has company, the reader will get an even better idea of the creature’s isolation. The reader will start to understand why the creature has turned out the way he is as well as his motive behind all the murders. Though the reader knows about the horrible crimes he has committed, the reader cannot help but sympathise with him. These two opposing descriptions and perspectives contribute in causing the reader to sympathise with the creature even further, because they can relate to the reasoning behind his actions.

The way the creature’s superiority and power are portrayed in ‘Frankenstein’ is thought-provoking as well. When the reader views the creature’s characteristics from Victor’s perspective, he is clearly faster, stronger and greater than humans – “thou hast made me more powerful than thyself; my height is superior to thine; my joints more supple.” – it is easy for him to murder them. But is this true superiority and power? When the creature takes over the narration, the reader will start thinking differently - he may be better than them, but unlike them, he is all alone in the whole world; he receives neither sympathy nor love, which is what he is longing for. “All men hate the wretched; how then, must I be hated, who am miserable beyond all living things!” Even if he uses his power to attack people, that will lead to his further isolation. In short, he cannot get what he wants by using his superiority or power. The author uses very powerful rhetorical questions to emphasise the discrimination as well as the lack of power the creature is facing – “Am I to be thought the only criminal, when all human kind sinned against me?” By describing himself as the lone victim in the whole world, it causes the reader to feel a pang of guilt for thinking of him as the criminal, sympathising with him. A powerful being with such a powerless side; this big contrast causes the reader to sympathise with the creature even more, because the reader realises that he is not very different from normal human beings and can relate with him.

Furthermore, the creature has his own anxieties and problems that are different from the humans around him in ‘Frankenstein’. When the reader views him from Victor’s point of perspective, he is seen as a monster with no trace of sympathy in his heart – he is a monster with murder as his only motive. “I live in daily fear, lest the monster whom I had created should perpetrate some new wickedness.” But when the creature takes over the narration, the reader’s view on him changes completely. He is initially very gentle and caring; he likes to provide others with love, and longs to receive the same treatment. But due to his hideous appearance, he is despised by everyone he meets. “I had hardly placed my foot within the door, before the children shrieked, and one of the women fainted.” He loathes the fate he is faced with – he wants to be loved, but nobody is willing to accept him. At first, even after this harsh treatment he receives, the creature still did not want to hurt anyone due to his gentle nature and belief that someone will someday accept him wholeheartedly. But gradually, his perspective changes as his treatment gets worse – he finally accepts the fact that he will never be loved and it is meaningless to continue being the gentle-natured being he was. “If I cannot inspire love, I will cause fear!” Out of hatred and loath toward his creator that brought him his misery, he set out upon his revenge, killing Victor’s loved ones one by one. The author uses very simple yet powerful phrases to emphasise the creature’s problems – “I am malicious because I am miserable.” By using the surprising connection of being “miserable” to “malicious”, the reader will see the internal damage caused by the people around him, therefore sympathising with him. The reader will have a bigger understanding on why the creature turned out the way he is and the reader cannot help but sympathise with him even more than before. These two contradicting perspectives contributes in causing the reader to feel this way.

In ‘The Watchmen’, there is a similar character who is portrayed as ‘monstrous’ and is also isolated. He is Dr Manhattan, a human who got caught up in an accident at work and transformed into a supernatural being. When the reader looks at him from the other characters’ points of view, he is assumed to have everything he wants due to his almighty powers, so he is not thought of as a lone wolf. However, the reader’s perspective changes as the narration changes. From Dr Manhattan’s perspective, the reader sees that he is indeed isolated – although not completely isolated as the creature in “Frankenstein”, most people still fear of his appearance as well as power which enables him to do anything he wants, anytime he wants. Some even claim that he is an almighty being, a ‘God’. “I don't know what you are. Nobody does… they say you can do anything, Jon. They say you're like God now.” Thus he is kept at a distance. Despite this, he has a few people whom he can call his comrades and even his lover. This is the main reason why he is not described to be as solitary as the creature in ‘Frankenstein’. However, he is still seen as a weird person even by his companions. “You’re messing up my mind Jon! Sometimes I think you’re messing everything up!” His appearance, power, perspectives… all of these elements are of great difference to the normal human being. He is still isolated more or less by his comrades and lover. Therefore, the reader can conclude that he is a lone being in the world, just like the creature in “Frankenstein”. The author uses short but meaningful sentences to emphasise the isolation of Dr Manhattan from other humans – “A live human body and a deceased human body have the same number of particles. Structurally there's no difference.” By showing that he thinks live and dead humans are the same, the reader can see his isolation from other people, thus sympathising with him. Perfect but isolated; this use of language and contrast in views cause the reader to realise that even perfect beings have problems like normal people, thus sympathising with Dr Manhattan. For the reader who has watched the movie adaptation beforehand, the book is much more detailed and will make a lot of things that were unexplained in the movie make more sense.

The way Dr Manhattan’s power and superiority are portrayed in ‘The Watchmen’ is similar to the method used in ‘Frankenstein’. When the reader looks at his characteristics from the other characters’ viewpoints, he is clearly far superior compared to normal humans. “With someone like you around, the whole situation changes. You can do anything.” But the reader’s perspective changes as Dr Manhattan takes over the narration. Although Dr Manhattan is treated like a celebrity and is shown to be treasured by high authorities, on the flipside he is swung around by media and is used frequently as a crime fighter as well as a war-stopping machine. “The newspapers call me a crimefighter, so the pentagon says I must fight crime.” Is he really more superior than other human beings? This question will surely go through the reader’s head; he does have superior physical powers, but he is not using them for himself. These are all similar to the portrayal of the same theme in ‘Frankenstein’. Also, even though Dr Manhattan has the ability to perform anything in the realm of the human imagination, the only times he ever uses his power excessively are when he is ordered to by the government in various battlefields against his will. (The story shows Dr Manhattan participating in the Vietnam War which was a major conflict in American history. This inspired Alan Moore to include this in the text.) “The morality of my activities escape me.” If there is no will behind his own power, is he really considered more powerful? This is another question the reader will think about. By providing the reader with these queries, he will start to view Dr Manhattan as a relatable character, judging by how powerless he is under the pressure of society. Also, the author uses short, strong sentences to emphasise his lack of power – “We are all puppets, Laurie. I'm just the puppet who can see the strings.” By describing him as a puppet who can only see the strings but cannot do anything about it, the reader will clearly see his lack of power, sympathising with him. The reader will also begin to understand the burden he carries despite being the “perfect” being, causing the reader to sympathise with him even further.

Similar to the portrayal of the creature in “Frankenstein”, Dr Manhattan has his own anxieties and problems as well. When the reader views him from other characters’ points of perspective, as I have mentioned above, he is seen as a perfect being who can do anything he wants to at anytime at all, so it is assumed that he has absolutely nothing to worry about. “They say you’re like God.” However, the reader’s view changes as Dr Manhattan starts narrating. Dr Manhattan wants to continue living life as a normal person after the accident, but he finds that it is an impossible task. The accident had become a traumatic experience for him, as seen from how he is separated from mankind both physically and mentally as a result. The author uses the stucture of comic strips to show signs of his traumatic after-effects – mixing up and showing a lot of his life memories in just a couple of pages (a very short span of time), which is scientifically proven to be common in trauma victims. Furthermore, rumours have spread around that if anybody spends too much time with Dr Manhattan, he or she will be infected with cancerous cells. Due to this, the media starts portraying him negatively, resulting in other people to view him in the same way as well. “Tell me, do you think you gave Ms. Slater cancer by sleeping with her?” These elements prevent him from living an average life, much less be accepted into society as a normal human being. These forms of discrimination is portrayed similarly with the creature in ‘Frankenstein’. Perfect, yet imperfect; the two contrasting views cause the reader to sympathise with Dr Manhattan, because the reader will see that Dr Manhattan is not all that different from normal human beings.

In conclusion, even though both authors used similar methods to make the reader sympathise with ‘monstrous’ characters in both their books, I believe Mary Shelley did a better job of doing so. This is because she first portrays the creature as a horrible, menacing creature, then portrays him as a pitiful, solitray being – by making him both the villain and the victim, the reader cannot help but understand the reason behind his change, causing the reader to sympathise with him a lot easier. On the other hand, Alan Moore’s Dr Manhattan is portrayed as a superhero from start to finish and though the reader understands the changes he had to undergo through his background stories, it is more difficult for the reader to sympathise with him as much due to the fact that he does not care for the most part. Therefore, Mary Shelley has been more successful in making the reader sympathise with the ‘monstrous’ character in her book.

Band 6, 40

Assured critical response to text and task. Sustained and developed writers’ ideas and attitudes, giving confidentm convincing interpretations using respective evidence. Confident consideration of possible links or comparisons between the texts. Assured consideration of the significance of contexts.

Did not analyse the aspects of language and structure in detail. Too many words.

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