When reading Volume II of Frankenstein, especially the creature’s monologue, I was reminded of a discussion topic that I have been confronted with multiple, multiple (yes, that many) times. I’m talking about the debate on nature versus nurture. You know, where they talk (primarily) about gender and sex and if gender is taught or born with? Like how girls grow up to play with dolls and boys play with mud and if that’s something that always happens or is pushed upon them by society.
Anyway, what I’m getting at, is how evil Frankenstein’s monster actually is, and if it’s really his fault.
Now, before I get into this, I just want to say that it drives me absolutely nuts that the monster does not have a name, so to make my life easier, I’m naming him Bill. Just for the purpose of blogging, of course.
In our reading for Tuesday, we went over the scene in the novel where Frankenstein brings Bill to life and how he’s immediately frightened and terrified of Bill. This was because of his appearance; Bill’s looks scared him but he really didn’t give Bill a chance at all. Granted, if I saw an eight-foot-tall, yellow-skinned, basically glow-in-the-dark-white toothed being, I’d run for the hills, too. But come on, Mr. Frankenstein, you made him, at the very least you could’ve given him a chance. This, right off the bat, gives us the impression that Bill is an evil being.
However, then we’re finally really introduced to Bill, and he tells Frankenstein his story. We learn that Bill isn’t evil at all. He greatly admires and cares for the family that he finds in the woods. After finding out they need firewood, he even goes as far as “[taking their] tools… and [bringing] home firing sufficient for the consumption of several days.” (Shelley 128) Basically, he’s going out to do hard labor to make the Felix and his family’s life easier. Bill also has a will to learn, and manages to learn the French language by studying the family and the books he finds. All of this, he does so he can eventually befriend them, which he tries to do eventually (on page 146).
This attempt at befriending the family does not go as well as he hoped, to put it lightly. While De Lacey is kind to Bill, because he cannot see him, the rest of the family is not. Bill tells Frankenstein: “Who can describe their horror and consternation on beholding me? Agatha fainted; and Safie, unable to attend to her friend, rushed out of the cottage. Felix darted forward, and with supernatural force tore me from his father.” (Shelley 148) Immediately upon seeing Bill, the younger family members freak out and run, just like Frankenstein did upon seeing him for the first time.
Now, by nature, in my opinion, Bill is a kind “person,” and I use that word loosely. He has no intention of harming anyone, all he wants to do is be accepted. However, that’s not a possibility for him, due to his appearance (once again, don’t judge a book by its cover, right?). This realization makes him so angry, that he “declared everlasting war against the species.” (Shelley 149) While that is a rash decision, I can see where he’s coming from; you try being so kind and caring to a person, just to have them scream when they see you and run away. Can’t be a fun feeling.
And even after Bill declares war against humans, when he sees a woman fall into the stream, he still rescues her. Bill says, “I had saved a human being from destruction, and, as a recompense, I now writhed under the miserable pain of a wound, which shattered the flesh and bone.” (Shelley 153) After his kindness, he gets shot by a man who only sees his appearance, immediately assuming he’s a cruel monster. Even the little boy, William, instantly accuses Bill of being terribly evil without knowing him. After which, admittedly, Bill does kill him.
What I’m getting at, is that Bill was a kind being by nature, but he was forced to see himself differently. If someone continuously tells you that you’re something, even though you’re not, you’re going to eventually believe them, and act that way. To throw in an example; if someone repeatedly tells me that I’m angry, even though I’m perfectly fine, eventually I am going to get angry. This is what happened to Bill, as well. The fact that everyone saw him as a terrible monster, turned him into one. It’s almost as if he didn’t have another choice.