Michael Delahoyde, PhD

Professor of English

Frankenstein Commentary

FrankensteinCommentary Melissa Alles
Frankenstein is basically a story about ascientist who constructs a being with more soul than its creator. Few parts of this story may be construed as frightening in theclassic sense. Even the scene in which the living, breathingcreation of young Victor stands by his bedside, while understandablystartling, evokes compassion more than fear. “His jaws opened,and he muttered some inarticulate sounds, while a grin wrinkledhis cheeks. …one hand was stretched out, seemingly to detainme….” His actions suggest reaching out, a desire for contact. Frankenstein’s immediate judgment of his creation as a “wretch,”a “miserable monster,” is cruel, hardly befitting onewho has given life to another. I have tried to imagine a beingso horrific to behold that it would so completely revile me eventhrough the most innocent of gestures. The fact that his “yellowskin scarcely covered the work of muscles and arteries beneath”is helpful, but it just is not enough. It takes sheer maliceand destructive will to put me off, but even that does not cutit in this book; when Frankenstein’s “monster” surrendersto his anger and hurt, I cannot help but feel that it is justified.

What I find truly disturbing in this taleis Frankenstein’s reaction to virtually everything, particularlyhis repeated assertions that he, while accepting responsibilityfor everything that happens to his family to vainly glorify hissuffering in his own mind, is guiltless. The man simply enjoyspondering his own tragedy. He is completely self-involved, moreinterested in the wretchedness of his own fate than any dangerposed to his family or the insensitive wrongs done unto his creation. Frankenstein brings his sorrow upon himself, yet at every opportunityhe is either crashing about declaring his intention to kill thebeast he formed, while still failing even to engage him at everyencounter, or indulging in some self-gratifying loss of consciousnessand/or clarity combined with fever that lasts anywhere from afew moments to several months.

One thing I wonder is whether the angry villagersand others find the giant man so terrible because he seems deformed,or because his appearance suggests a malevolent nature and theyimmediately fear for their lives. He is constantly attacked withoutcause; if people were truly fearful that he was this maliciousbeast intent upon and fully capable of rending them limb fromlimb, would they really engage him? Or do they somehow believethat his strangeness is the result of some evil and thereforehis very presence is a danger? Perhaps it is his innate differentnessthat repels them. People as a general rule are not known fortheir tolerance, much less acceptance, of “other.”

I also found interesting (not to mention abit nauseating) the fondness of Walton for Frankenstein. Waltonis a man who is so desperately lonely that he finds value in thecompanionship of the half-demented Victor, yet he still has nosympathy for the plight of his friend’s creation. This guy spendshalf his letters to his sister talking about how he yearns forone who will understand him, yet takes the first available opportunityto condemn Frankenstein’s monster for his actions, even havingthe audacity to call him a “hypocritical fiend.”

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