Victor Frankenstein's Mad Experiment: The Evolution Of The Creature’s Character
The novel Frankenstein is a classic story. The popular version tells the tale of Victor Frankenstein’s mad experiment gone wrong as he creates a terrifying monster that ultimately leads to his demise. But it is the underlying message that Mary Shelly conveys in the novel itself that is quite interesting. The creature is created and though severely deformed, is truly innocent. He shows goodness and kindness in his early days of creation, but he is met with the harsh bruatily of society. They only see his external appearance and judge him accordingly. It is rooted in human nature to judge based on physical appearance and identify and stigmatize the “other” in society(Lancaster 134)The monster is automatically labeled as evil and monstrous because of his external appearance. Loneliness and despair due to the alienation the creature receives from mankind leads to him becoming a violent murderer and monster. In contrast however, Shelley redefines true monstrocity. As conveyed in the novel, Victor Frankenstein’s rejection of the monster contributes to the evolution of the creature’s character. But Shelley also conveys a message in his actions. Victor’s nature of obsession leads to the creation of the creature. Through various interactions shown by the main characters, Mary Shelley illustrates both the power of nature, through the fall of Victor Frankenstein, and the power of nurture, through the fall of the creature. Shelley uses Victor’s hasty judgement and immediate discardment of the monster to demonstrate not only the irrationality of Victor’s actions, but how they shaped the monster’s character.
For centuries, there has been extensive controversy on whether inherited genes or environmental factors can be attributed to the development of one’s personality, behavior, intelligence, and ability. While it is inherently clear that physical characteristics are by nature, hereditarily passed while individual character and manner is controlled by nurture. Both nature and nurture play dominant roles in Frankenstein. The concept of nature is explained by the biological qualities that organisms inherit at birth. Personality and character is formed in early life making it difficult to change later. Eye color, hair type, skin pigmentation, and certain diseases are all an example of inherited genes. These characteristics have led to speculation as to whether psychological characteristics such as behavioral tendencies, mental capacity, and personality attributes are implanted at birth. Philosophers support this claim suggesting that certain developments in personality are inborn, they happen regardless of environmental influence. In the novel, Mary Shelley addresses the conflict of nature: are children the product if their natural genetic material? She first addresses this through Victor Frankenstein. Frankenstein describes himself as being born “a Genovese” to a family that is highly distinguished. He then explains that his ancestors, for generations, held highly esteemed jobs and continues to describe his family with words such as “integrity” and “honor”. The powerful word choice Shelley uses to describe the Frankenstein family and their prestigious placement in society suggest that they have an innate ability to lead and control in dominant roles. This history is a part of who Victor is and being no exception to his prestigious heritage, he finds himself victim to his nature. His constant thirst for glory and power, much like the power that succeeded him, becomes an uncontrollable force. Victor wants to obtain power similar to God. He wants something that he can possess and have absolute control over. This is shown when he works tirelessly to create life, something that he alone can be praised for achieving. In spite of his character, Shelley makes it a point to show that Victor was brought up in a nurturing home. In the novel, Victor states that his father was devoted, both to his education and his children. Victor was raised privileged with parents that adored and supported him. This affection showed no bounds as Victor was even gifted a present in the form of Elizabeth Lavensa, who he too saw as his possession. This attributes to the idea that Victor viewed people as objects that he could retain and dispose of at his will. Later in the novel, his parents arrange his marriage to his adoptive sister which objectifies her yet again. The repetition of objectification creates the lack of human empathy that dooms him. Although his upbringing was pleasant origins, his nurture could not compensate for his urge to achieve obtaining a position of power, resulting in the monsters creation. Victor’s strong desire to discover the unknown overruns the nurture from his childhood. He truly believes that he must test limitations at any cost. The creation of the creature can be viewed as exceeding the limit of scientific exploration, leading to the deterioration of his mental health and alienation from his once-beloved friends and family. He also displays immoral actions such as grave digging and standing idle in the case of Justine Moritz’s execution. His motivation is not driven to contribute to benefitting society, but for self-glory. In addition, Victor’s extreme hatred and relentless pursuit to destroy his creation, his “child”, futhers the development of his unnatural and monstrous character considering the role parents are naturally programmed to nurture and care for their children. Shelly makes it clear that nature is the corrupting agent in Victor’s life.