Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley is a complex novel that was written during the age of Romanticism. It contains many typical themes of a common Romantic novel such as dark laboratories, the moon, and a monster. Many lessons are set into this novel, including how society acts towards the extraordinary. The monster fell victim to the system commonly used to characterize a person by only his or her outer appearance. Whether people like it or not, society always summarizes a person’s characteristics by his or her physical appearance.
Society has set an unbreakable code individuals must follow to be accepted. Those who don’t follow the “standard” are hated by the multitude and banned for the reason of being different. When the monster ventured into a town”…monster had hardly placed his foot within the door …children shrieked, and …women fainted” (Shelley 109). From that moment on, he realized that people did not like his appearance and hated him because of it. If villagers didn’t run away at the sight of him, then they might have even enjoyed his personality. The monster tried to accomplish this when he encountered the De Lacey family. The monster hoped to gain friendship from the old man and eventually his children. He knew that it could have been possible because the old man was blind; he could not see the monster’s repulsive characteristics. But fate was against him and the “wretched” had barely conversed with the old man before his children returned from their journey and saw a monstrous creature at the foot of their father attempting to do harm to the helpless man. “Felix darted forward, and with supernatural force tore the creature from his father…” (Shelley 142). Felix’s action caused great inner pain to the monster. He knew that his dream of living with them “happily ever after” would not happen. After that bitter moment the monster believed that “…the human senses are insurmountable barriers to our union with the monster” (Shelley 153) and with the De Lacey encounter still fresh in his mind along with his first encounter of humans, he declared war to the human race.
The wicked being’s source of abhorrence toward humans originates from his first experiences with humans. In a way the monster started out with a child-like innocence that was eventually horrified by being constantly rejected by society time after time. His first encounter with humans was when he opened his yellow eyes for the first time and witnessed Victor Frankenstein, his creator, “…rush out of the laboratory…” (Shelley 56). Would this have had happened if society did not consider physical appearance to be important? No. If physical appearance were not important then the creature would have had a chance of being accepted into the community with love and care. But society does believe that physical appearance is important and it does influence the way people act towards each other. Frankenstein should have made him less aberrant if even he, the creator, could not stand his disgusting appearance. There was a moment however when Frankenstein “…was moved…” (Shelley 139) by the creature. He “…felt what the duties of a creator…” (Shelley 97) were and decided that he had to make another creature, a friend for the original. But haunting images of his creation (from the monster’s first moment of life) gave him an instinctive feeling that the monster would do threatening acts with his friend, wreaking twice the chaos! Reoccurring images of painful events originating from a first encounter could fill a person with hate and destruction.
We as a society are the ones responsible for the transformation of the once child-like creature into the monster we all know. The audience needs to know that our society has flaws and they must be removed before our primal instincts continue to separate and hurt the people who are different. With such a large amount of technology among us, some people may wonder why such an advanced civilization still clings on to such primitive ways of categorizing people.
Shelley, Mary. Frankenstein New York. Washington Square Press. 1995