Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein explores the ethical boundaries of medical science. The word “Frankenstein” has entered the public consciousness as a monster. Many individuals mistakenly believe that “Frankenstein” does refer to the creation in the novel. However, it actually is the name of the scientist, Victor Frankenstein. In reality, Victor Frankenstein represents the monster in the novel. His creature, while often viewed as a monster, actually was only responding to the conditions of his terrible experience.
In the novel, Victor Frankenstein decides to explore the foundations of human life. He becomes obsessed with this thought. Victor acknowledges that he began to travel a dark road with his studies. He claims that “Chance—or rather the evil influence, the Angel of Destruction, which asserted omnipotent sway over me from the moment I turned my reluctant steps from my father’s door” led him to study natural philosophy (Shelly 31). As a youth, his father ensured that he received no education regarding supernatural events. Once at the university, he delved into these studies. He also developed a God-complex regarding his research. “A new species would bless me as its creator and source” (Shelley 39). He decided to create a being from the body parts of deceased individuals. However, upon achieving this accomplishment, he recoiled in horror at his work. He essentially abandoned his child.
Because of this abandonment, the creature was forced to deal with an unforgiving world. He was cold and hungry after his creation. The creature was horrendous in appearance and elicited fear from all he encountered. He is rightfully angry with Victor for bringing him to life and the rejecting him. If the “mother” of the creature would not love him, it is doubtful he would find any love or comfort in this world. The creature lashes out and kills Victor’s younger brother. William. Upon arriving in Geneva, Victor spots the creature and knows that the creature killed William. A servant of the Frankenstein’s, Justine, is found guilty of the murder, however. She is executed. Victor declared that she is innocent; however, he hesitated to share the truth regarding the murder, fearing the reaction (Shelley 64). He could exonerate her, yet chooses to not. Worse, he believes that he suffers more than Justine. “The tortures of the accused did not equal mine” (Shelley 69). Justine will be put to death for a crime she did not commit. While Victor is guilty of much, he likely could not know her pain.
When Victor is confronted by the creature, the creature pleads for a mate. He desires a companion so he will not have to live a life of horrendous solitude and despair. Victor, at first, agrees to this understandable request. However, Victor reneges on this agreement. When the female is nearly completed, he decides against this creation. Victor destroys the female, in view of the creature. The creature promises revenge on Victor. If Victor had not destroyed the female, it is likely that the creature would not have killed Elizabeth in revenge. Victor, therefore, is ultimately responsible for yet another death.
While the creature is responsible for two deaths, Victor is responsible for three. The creature killed William as a surrogate for Victor. He killed Elizabeth to ensure that Victor would experience the same loneliness and solitude. Victor created this life form and then rejected it, unleashing an understandably angry creature in the world. The world is not forgiving for those who look as horrific as the creature did. It was unlikely that anyone would befriend the creature long term. The creature was brought into a cold, lonely world and given a miserable existence. Then, even worse, the person who was responsible for this existence refused any chance of happiness for the creature. For all of these actions, Victor is properly the monster in this novel.
- Shelley, Mary. Frankenstein. New York: Bantam Paperback. 1981.