I decided to publish my short essays on the readings from the Fantasy and Science Fiction: The Human Mind, Our Modern World course syllabus. The course started on the 1st of June and finished on the 14th of August. The essays were supposed to be around 270-320 words a piece. Today, I publish the essay that I wrote after reading Mary Shelley‘s Frankenstein – or the Modern Prometheus.
* These are my views and interpretations only
Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein or The Modern Prometheus is, to me, an example of the inversion of the well-known ‘ugly means evil’ trope.
It all starts with Victor Frankenstein wanting to create life, a being. He assembles this being and then brings it to life. But when the creature actually lives, Victor is horrified by the ugliness of his creation. (Which, in itself, is already strange, because he assembled it. So the ugliness shouldn’t really have been a big surprise. He worked on the creature for a very long time, so it’s weird for him to never have noticed.)
He is scared of the creature, because of its ugliness. That is the only reason for his flight out of his apartment that night. The creature didn’t try to hurt him, it had merely taken a breath. But by being horrified at the creature’s appearance, Frankenstein doomed his creation. Victor doomed the creature to a life of pain and loneliness and eventually rage and murder.
The creature only truly becomes a monster after being in contact with other humans – whilst being unprepared for such contact and their shallowness – as they too perceive his ugliness as a sign of evil and attack him. No matter how much he tries to do good (helping out that poor family, saving the young girl from drowning) he is always misunderstood and attacked for his trouble. No good deed goes unpunished indeed. It’s quite understandable for the creature to become angry with humanity and especially with his creator. He’s not the villain from the start, he’s the victim who eventually decides not to take it any more.
All people – and especially Victor – ever see is his ugliness. They can’t and won’t look past that to his eloquence and his kindness. All they see is a monster. And by treating him like one, he had no choice but to become one. Their inner ugliness created Frankenstein’s monster.