In past and present, society has always put an emphasis on external appearance as opposed to inner personality. As a result, social classes are formed, such as upper and lower, wherein members of each class must uphold the norms defined by the prestige of the class. Upper classes are deemed to be perfect, as they contain the wealthy and the beautiful. This class distinction is heightened in Gothic literature where emotions and the persona of the characters are externalized. Emotions are literalized as characters, supernatural phenomena, and the protagonist and antagonist roles.
Victor Frankenstein’s upbringing in a perfect society ultimately led to the destruction of his life which coincided with the lives of those emotionally close to him. Victor was raised in an atmosphere where beauty and physical appearance define one’s quality of life. This superficial way of life results in a lost sense of morals and selfishness, which in turn produces a lost sense of personal identity. This can cause a feeling of failure and resentment in the later stages of life which, in Victor’s case, can be externalized into a form of hatred directed toward himself.
Victor was born into an upper class family, and experienced a pleasant childhood. … during every hour of my infant life I received a lesson of patience, of charity, and of self control, I was so guided by a silken cord that all seemed but one train of enjoyment to me. (Shelley, Frankenstein, P. 33). However, the Frankenstein’s were mainly concerned with physical appearance. Victor’s father married Caroline because of her exquisite beauty, and Elizabeth was adopted into the family, also because she was beautiful.
Victor was also a product of idealistic education; the explicit goal of this form of education is to make a contribution to civilization. For Victor, the contribution would be the study of life sciences and the formation of the soul; however, he had no one on his side encouraging him and supporting his educational involvement. As a result of this childhood, Victor is left with no sense of inner beauty. His disillusionment with parenthood, especially mothering after he lost his mother to scarlet fever, led to post-partum depression and neglect.
He experienced the burden of loneliness by living in a superficial society and did not have the character to cope with it. For Victor, parenting had become an issue of possession, ownership and self-exaggeration. The issue of parenting soon became an obsession with power. This need of power led Victor to create what he believed would be a beautiful human being. But he failed to see that combining the most beautiful human features does not necessarily create a beautiful human being.
He was inspired by scientists who … cquired new and almost limitless powers… (Shelley, Frankenstein, P. 47). Victor sought this unlimited power to the extent of taking the role of God. He not only penetrated nature, but also he assumed power of reproduction in a maniacal desire to harness these modes of reproduction in order to become acknowledged, respected, and obeyed as a father. While bringing his creation into the world he was himself alienated from society, and isolated himself from the community. Isolation and parental neglect cause viciousness within man.
Because of his upbringing, Victor had no sense of empathy, and therefore could not realize the potential harm he was creating towards himself and his creation. The sole purpose of his project was an attempt to gain power, but instead of power Victor realized that a morally irresponsible scientific development could release a monster that can destroy human civilization. Victor Frankenstein is in many ways more monstrous than the monster he created. Victor and his creation demonstrate a thesis-antithesis correspondence wherein they reflect opposite character traits.
Victor has no sense of empathy or compassion, whereas the monster, although hideous and rejected by society as an outcast, has a warm heart and learns the value of love. The monster is a physical allegory of Victor’s unconscious desires and ambitions and the inability of man to escape the monster within. But Victor denies the similarities between himself and the monster, and also denies the relationship between them and condemns the monster. He shows complete hatred toward the monster but only has himself to blame.
By denying his relationship with the monster, he also subconsciously denies the monstrosities that he has done. Resentment builds up in both the creator and the creation to the point that total hatred consumes them both. Victor becomes overwhelmed with hatred when he has himself to blame for losing the ones he loved. An unloved creation seeks revenge on an indifferent creator: Remember that I have power, you believe yourself to be miserable, but I can make you so wretched that the light of day will be hateful to you. You are my creator, but I am your master… (Shelley, Frankenstein, P. 62).
Both cease to live with troubled hearts in a troubled society. People are defined by their environment and how they react to their environment. Environments that appear to be perfect on the outside may very well be the cause of misery in man’s life because one must be able to cope with their environment. Victor could not cope with his environment and lashed out at the world by trying to attain power. However, things do not always go as planned, and sometime this may be beneficial. One should not judge by external appearance alone. It is what is on the inside that counts.
Had Victor Frankenstein been taught ethics such as this, his life, as well as the lives of those he loved, could have been saved. Also, the life of the creature could have been free of pain and hatred. The monster is a symbol for the outcasts and rejected of society. He is also a reflection of Victor, meaning that Victor was also considered an outcast. The reality of an animated object reflecting something that one does not want to see, combined with being alone in the world, is enough to drive man mad. The monster, in some ways, creates a harsh reality for Victor. Either love what you create or be destroyed by it.