While some argue that playing God and abandoning his creation qualifies Victor Frankenstein as the “real monster” of the classic novel “Frankenstein,” a closer examination reveals he is anything but.
Victor’s reasoning for playing God was far less sinister than critics would have you believe. Much like his misunderstood creature, Victor too found friendship difficult to come by. As a child, he accompanied his parents while they toured Europe until the age of seven when they settled in Switzerland. Victor, like many children who frequently move, was turned off from having meaningful relationships with potential friends he would be leaving upon his parent’s next escapade. As a result, Victor shunned crowds and attached himself fervently to his small circle of acquaintances consisting of his beloved family and friend Henry.
These stable figures in his life were not meant to last. At 17, his adopted sister Elizabeth fell ill with the highly contagious Scarlet Fever. Through his mother’s tireless efforts Elizabeth was saved, though in the process she contracted the illness and died. Seeing his mother doing the Lord’s work of caring for the sick and being rewarded with death would have made Victor feel betrayed by God and indifferent to the laws he would later overturn.
Until this point, Victor’s life had been relatively stable, but now, he had to confront the bitter truth that the few people who understood and loved him could be lost at any moment.
Victor carried this uncertainty with him to the university of Ingolstadt—a trip delayed by his mother’s death. As both a late-starter and foreigner to Germany, Victor was already at a disadvantage compared to his peers. Upon seeking the wisdom of his professor Krempe, Victor revealed he’d studied the long-outdated works of ancient alchemists. Krempe responded to the 17-year-old foreigner who had just lost his mother by scathingly remarking how anyone in their enlightened age could believe such nonsense, and that all of Victor’s studies were a waste.
After such heavy criticism, Victor sought to redeem himself by conquering death for the betterment of mankind. Fueled by the allure of discovery and the grief of a mother he couldn’t save, Victor poured himself into his research with the hope that his success would make him adored by those he could never connect with before.
It is only when Victor successfully reanimated his creation and saw its eyes that the gravity of his actions sank in. Eyes are commonly associated with the soul, and with his creatures being both watery, yellow and clouded suggested to Victor that his creation was horribly inhuman.
Victor fell into a turbulent slumber and dreamt of his mother’s rotting corpse in his arms, only to wake and find the 8-foot being reaching for him. All things considered, fleeing the scene to gather his bearings isn’t that farfetched.
When Victor returned in the morning, the creature had left on his own and Victor became senseless with a nervous fever for several months. During his recovery, the creature (full of hate from his negligence) murdered Victor’s little brother, William.
Upon Victor confronting him, his creation explained his inability to find companionship due to his appearance and demanded that Victor create a mate for him—or else he would destroy Victor’s remaining family.
This sob story of isolation is touching to the reader, but what proof did Victor himself have of its truth? All Victor had to go on was the words of his experiment created through unhallowed means and his brother in a coffin. The fact Victor could look past the creature’s crimes and agree to create the bride is being overly generous.
Yet the ramifications of creating a fully functioning female for the sole purpose of pleasing a man weighed heavily on Victor’s conscience. What if the bride rejected the creature and he went on a rampage? What if she, upset at being gifted to the creature before she was even born, wreaked havoc on humanity? What if they bred and created an army of superhumans?
Victor had every right to ignore these issues and create the bride to secure the safety of his family, but he put the world first and destroyed the half-finished creation. While this is terrible for the friendless creature—the risks were too high for any sane person to go through with it.
The creature’s ensuing vengeance destroyed Victor’s beloved family and forced him to chase the creature into the Arctic where he related his tragedy to Captain Walton. Victor was in full control of the narrative Walton (and the reader) received, but instead of painting the creature as evil and himself the victim, Victor acknowledged his creature’s humanity while admitting his own wrongdoing.
These are not the actions of a “monster,” but rather a teenager trying his best after an initial mistake. If you won’t judge the creature based on his appearance, don’t label Victor based on his worst mistake.
Charlene Pepiot is a junior studying English at Ohio University. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnists do not reflect those of The Post. Want to talk more about it? Let Charlene know by emailing her firstname.lastname@example.org.