Since childhood we are taught to distinguish the good from the bad, right from wrong, the good from evil. We grow up listening to bedtime stories which always end with a moral so that it builds a sense of righteousness in us. I gotta say that these stories do help, I mean even a small kid can decipher when something is wrong or impartial or discriminatory. That being said, I would advocate one drawback of this denotative interpretation of right and wrong- Maybe we are so blinded by our idea of justice that we are not able to see what the real deal is.
I feel like discussing the same issue with the help of an example. We all have heard about the famous Frankenstein. The novel was written by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelly back in the 19th century.
In the summer of 1816, Mary Godwin, her lover Percy Bysshe Shelley, John William Polidori, and Claire Clairmont (Mary’s step-sister) visited Lord Byron in Geneva, Switzerland. The idea was to relax and enjoy the mild Swiss summer, but that summer was especially dreary. Unable to enjoy the outdoors, the group mostly read German ghost stories to entertain themselves. It was that reading sojourn that inspired Byron to propose
that the group write their own supernatural stories and see who could come up with the best one.
Byron wrote only fragments. Polidori really didn’t come up with anything, but came up with something later based on Byron’s ideas. Mary retired for the evening and had a dream of a corpse that came back to life. Based on that dream she wrote Frankenstein. Percy concentrated on facilitating his soon-to- be- wife’s story. She imagined it as a short story, and wrote the first few chapters in a relatively short time.
With Percy’s encouragement and editing, she fleshed out the story over the next year or so and turned it into a full-fledged novel.
Another amazing thing about the people associated with the novel is that they all died a tragic death.
Percy Byshe Shelley drowned in 1822. Lord Byron died in 1824 of what was likely a bout of extreme illness. John Polidori committed suicide in 1821. Mary made it out of the 1820s at least, but she died in 1851 of a brain tumor. All those who like drawing parallels might find it interesting that the only one from that fateful weekend to live a long life was Claire Clairmont: the only one who didn’t partake in the writing challenge.
Now, storytelling time. The novel is about Victor Frankenstein, yeah Frankenstein was not named by anybody he just got the name from his creator. So Victor was a man who was from a very tender age inclined towards the mystery of creation of human life and death. When he grew up, he went to university and there got seriously involved in the whole process of creation and death. He somehow mysteriously catches hold of the ‘ultimate truth’ of life and hence started his madness to create another human artificially. He collected body parts of the dead and compiled them into a seven feet giant figure.
Victor was so lost in his madness that he didn’t realize the grotesqueness of the monster till it opened his yellow eyes. Disgusted by the sight of his own creation, Victor lost his nerves and ran out of his laboratory abandoning the monster. Consequently the monster wandered in the forests as humans shrieked at his appearance. He was denied every ounce of love and care, though he was a harmless creature. Victor ran away from his responsibility of introducing his creation to the society and making him socially acceptable. Eventually after years of hatred and suffering the monster started avenging this rejection by Victor and the society. He swore to ruin Victor’s life by killing his beloved ones. So then began the lapse of Victor’s life when the monster one by one murdered Victor’s youngest brother, his best friend and his wife. Shattered by the same, Victor dedicated his life to kill the monster and eventually died in the pursuit of the same mission. The monster too feels bad for his actions and apologizes from the corpse of Victor and wows to kill himself.
So this was the brief of the novel. I just provided you the gist; the story has a lot more characters and parallel stories which makes it a must read. Focus should be drawn towards the justification of Frankenstein’s actions.
Let’s rewind a little and go back to the moment when the so called monster came into existence. He was unaware of the world and was mentally a baby. His creator ran away and loathed his existence. This was his very first experience with human encounter. Then when he stepped out in the city people shrieked and threw stones at him. “Hateful day when I received life!”I exclaimed in agony. “Accursed creator! Why did you form a monster so hideous that even you turned from me in disgust? God, in pity, made man beautiful and alluring, after his own image; but my form is a filthy type of yours, more horrid even from the very resemblance. Satan had his companions, fellow-devils, to admire and encourage him; but I am solitary and abhorred.”
All his miserable life Frankenstein craved for company. His whole life was an endless struggle for acceptance- acceptance from the society, acceptance from his creator. He searched for shelter from humans, but little did he know that humans provided aid to those who were not physically different. He never got a chance to indulge with the society as his gothic pretense made him socially unacceptable.
“The fallen angel becomes a malignant devil. Yet even that enemy of God and man had friends and associates in his desolation; I am alone.”
During the first read of the novel the reader is all sympathetic towards Victor as his misery is more relatable and prolonged. No doubt he lost a lot because of his creation but it is hard to turn a blind eye towards what he did to Frankenstein. Being his creator he owed some duties and responsibilities towards his concoction but all he did was detest and neglect him.
“Listen to me, Frankenstein. You accuse me of murder; and yet you would, with a satisfied conscience, destroy your own creature. Oh, praise the eternal justice of man!” It was Victor’s duty nurture his production, introduce him to the society and teach him the difference between right and wrong. Frankenstein was bereft of them all. The so called monster even assured Victor of peace and harmony if he was provided with a female partner, but afraid of the consequences of the same Victor refused to do so.
“I do know that for the sympathy of one living being, I would make peace with all. I have love in me the likes of which you can scarcely imagine and rage the likes of which you would not believe. If I cannot satisfy the one, I will indulge the other.” Frankenstein was ready to live in desolation if he was given a partner who would be like him and understand him. “I am malicious because I am miserable” This portrays his hunger for companionship and love. He could’ve matured into a decent social animal had he been guided by humans in the right way.
“My education was neglected, yet I was passionately fond of reading.”
“I could not understand why men who knew all about good and evil could hate and kill each other.”
He didn’t come to existence with a feeling of vengeance. He educated himself to understand the little delicacies of life, the wide spectrum of human behavior, the fragility of mortal life and the vices which resided in humans. “I was benevolent and good; misery made me a fiend. Make me happy, and I shall again be virtuous.”
Over all Frankenstein was a compassionate creature. His actions were driven by madness and hatred. “If I cannot inspire love, I will cause fear!” After Victor’s death he came to visit his dead body and wept bitterly beside it and vowed to kill himself, for his life too had now become meaningless and he now had no owner or creator and was just an orphan.
“Farewell! I leave you, and in you the last of humankind whom these eyes will ever behold. Farewell, Frankenstein! If thou were yet alive and yet cherished a desire of revenge against me, it would be better satiated in my life than in my destruction. But it was not so; thou didst seek my extinction, that I might not cause greater wretchedness; and if yet, in some mode unknown to me, thou hadst not ceased to think and feel, thou wouldst not desire against me a vengeance greater than that which I feel. Blasted as thou wert, my agony was still superior to thine, for the bitter sting of remorse will not cease to rankle in my wounds until death shall close them forever.”
Don’t take me wrong and construe that am turning a blind eye to the murders committed by him. My only agenda is to make you see the reasons behind the heinous acts. He became the victim of the shallowness of human behavior and the rigid idea of beauty. From childhood we heard stories of monsters and Frankenstein unwillingly and unfortunately became a living portrayal of the same.
So maybe all we need is a wide and liberal mindset of what is acceptable and what is not. We need to rediscover the idea of beauty and teach that not everything that appears grotesque is to be hated and detested.
Edited by Mrinaal Datt
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