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MONSTROSITY AND THE MULTI-DIMENSIONAL OTHER IN MARY SHELLEYS

FRANKENSTEIN
SAMPRITI SINGHA ROY
Post Graduate Scholar of English, University of Hyderabad, Gachibowli, Hyderabad, India

ABSTRACT
Told in the technique of an epistolary tale, the story revolves around the woeful narrative of a young idealist
Genevan student of natural philosophy (science) at the University of Ingolstadt, who stumbles upon the secret of infusing
life into matter, and creates a living thing out of an assemblage of bones from charnel houses, which ultimately leads to his
ruin and subsequent death.
The novel comes with an introduction where Mary Shelly avows that Everything must have a beginning,
to speak in Sanchean phrase. Invention, it must be humbly admitted, does not consist in creating out of void, but out of
chaos; the materials must, in the first place, be afforded: it can give form to dark, shapeless substances but cannot bring
into being the substance itself. This foreword impels us to consider, in a somewhat distorted manner, the idea of the
Creation myth. Victor Frankensteins monster proclaims, You are my creator but I am your master, highlighting the
paradox against the backdrop of the Romantic era, when science was, as portrayed in the novel, was somewhat unnatural,
and considered an alienation from Nature-both within and without.
Beginning with Robert Waltons letters to his sister, which provides us an insight into his character as well,
which precedes Conrads The Secret Sharer in his search for an other in the company of a man who could sympathize
with me, whose eyes would reply to mine. The idea is essentially Romantic and Modern where the Self seems to be
quantified by the sympathy and compassion of an Other. We see the same feeling reiterated in Frankensteins monster
speech when he attempts to justify that My vices are the children of a forced solitude that I abhor, and my virtues will
necessarily arise when I live in communion with an equal.
Religion is momentous in Frankenstein. The narrative abounds in Biblical references as well as heathen allusions.
Other than the conundrum of the Creator and the Created, it is imperative to note that not unlike the fallen angel Lucifer
who rebels against God, the monster considers Frankenstein his archenemy for whom he swears inextinguishable
hatred as he identifies himself with Satan- I considered Satan as the fitter emblem of my condition, for often, like him,
when I viewed the bliss of my protectors, the bitter gall of envy rose within me. The fire equation can also be linked to the
fact that the narrative is subtitled the Modern Prometheus, and the inextinguishable fire-like disposition what fuels the
quest is appropriated with Prometheus stealing of fire from the heavens.
The idea of the Orient and its mysteries are reiterated throughout the novel, giving us an insight into the
Romantic imagination with respect to the other worlds, so to say, which is not necessarily heathen but different and exotic.
Obstinately linked with the idea of the Orient is the desire to fit in. Frankensteins monster resolves
at least, not to despair but in every way to fit myself in for an interview with them which would decide my faith.


BEST: International Journal of Humanities, Arts,
Medicine and Sciences (BEST: IJHAMS)
ISSN 2348-0521
Vol. 2, Issue 8, Aug 2014, 55-60
BEST Journals
56 Sampriti Singha Roy
Intermingled with the idea of the fitting in is the idea of society, which disparages difference. The monsters face
wrinkled into contortions too horrible for human eyes to behold is shunned and hated by all mankind because of his
hideous appearance. Society abhors him and by the end of his narrative, he avows that he abhors society too.
The idea of monstrosity which I intend to explicate with reference to these contexts is born out of the idea of the
unnatural. The other-worldly, the hideous, the fiend, the devil- all these are ideas of distortions. There is a subtle hint of
the use of electricity in the creation of the monster which further heightens the idea of the unnatural, and therefore
monstrous.
KEYWORDS: Problematic and Ironical, Shapeless Substances, Creature Conjures
INTRODUCTION
Mary Shelleys Frankenstein begins with an introduction where the author avows that Everything must have a
beginning, to speak in Sanchean phrase. Invention, it must be humbly admitted, does not consist in creating out of void,
but out of chaos; the materials must, in the first place, be afforded: it can give form to dark, shapeless substances but
cannot bring into being the substance itself . This foreword impels us to consider, in a somewhat distorted manner, the
idea of the Creation myth. The consideration is problematic and ironical, especially for the Creator himself since he fails to
understand the consequences of his action. We find a strong biblical allusion in this context. According to the archaic
model of Victor Frankensteins narrative, transcendence is equivalent to transgression.
He invests his presumptuous deed with the aura of a primal sin against nature and what is natural. But what he
fails to realize is that his Creation has taken the position of a fallen angel just because he, the Creator, has turned away
from it, rendering the Creation myth problematic. Victor Frankenstein is thus the central misreader of the narrative and
hence the chief victim of the texts irony. The humour in the irony tends to be particularly cruel when we consider the fact
that whenever he thinks he is addressing the supernatural powers that oversee his destiny, his Creature conjures up.
We can see a contrasting parallel in the authors opinion about her Creation. Mary Shelley spoke of her novel as her
hideous progeny, but still admitted her affection for it as it was the offspring of happy days. Victor Frankenstein
fails in this respect. The failure cannot however be attributed to his singular self, but to collective social consciousness of
the Romantic period which I intend to explicate later in my essay.
Body
It is however unjust to absolve the Creator of the sin of not being responsible for his own Creation.
The Creature, who has become a social outlaw, clearly shows traits of a humanist moral dignity. It is rather the Creator
here who is flawed with the problem of theodicy, which means that an omnipotent being has to take responsibility for its
creation. Here, though Frankenstein cannot totally be portrayed as an omnipotent being as we can in the course of the novel
see how he is being coerced and dominated by the monster, yet the creation a conscious choice of his. Trying to justify his
actions, the creature says that he intended to reason. This passion is detrimental to me, for you do not reflect that you are
the cause of its excess. P.B. Shelley makes a similar argument in his unpublished essay Essay on the Devil and Devils,
from which he quotes for his Defence of Poetry. Maybe this is why Victor Frankenstein makes sure the monster does not
have any audience.
He himself relents to listen only when forced by the monsters murderous activities. This desperate desire of
hiding what he himself thought will make A whole new generation of species will thank me, though problematic,
is central to the narrative because of its social consequence. In this context, we should consider the fact that in the
Monstrosity and the Multi-Dimensional Other in Mary Shelleys Frankenstein 57
Romantic Age, the ideas of Child in Nature and the eighteenth century The Man of Feeling as hero-figures were replaced
by those of the Gothic Villain and the Noble Outlaw or the Romantic Rebel hero. The difference between the rebel
hero and the Gothic villain being the fact that the latter was conscious of the social rules he was transgressing
and acknowledged the evil he caused, whereas the former rebelled the existing social codes and questioned them for the
purpose of reformation. Frankensteins monster embodies both the types of the rebel hero and the villain, and by the end of
the Chinese-box narrative, we feel the same for Victor Frankenstein himself. This brings us to two representative figures in
Romantic Literature that was interchangeable in their representation. One is that of Prometheus, who belonged to the pagan
world and the other was Satan, taken from Christianity. What is remarkable though is that both of them opposed the order
and limitations imposed upon them. Though Prometheus falls due to his will to do good to the human race, which is
different from that of Satan, who pledges to avenge God by corrupting his most precious creation- humankind,
yet the Romantics found similarity between them due to the presence of their rebel selves. P. B. Shelley says in his
Defence of Poetry, Nothing can exceed the energy and the magnificence of the character of Satan as expressed in
Paradise Lost.
It is a mistake to suppose that he could ever have been intended for the popular personification of evil. Milton's
Devil as a moral being is as far superior to his God as one who perseveres in some purpose which he has conceived to be
excellent in spite of adversity and torture is to one who in the cold security of undoubted triumph inflicts the most horrible
revenge upon his enemy, not from any mistaken notion of inducing him to repent but with the alleged design of
exasperating him to deserve new torments. In the novel, the Monster is repeatedly referred as the arch enemy or Satan,
and the subtitle of the novel endows Frankenstein with the title of the Modern Prometheus. This brings us to
interchangeability between the creator and the created. Thus the two psyches seem to be one and the same. The monster,
with its face, wrinkled into contortions too horrible for human eyes to behold is an outlaw because of his appearance
while his creator is a pariah because of the rash ignorance which I (he) had let loose upon the world. The constant
identification with the Other recurs throughout the novel. Walden, in his mercenary quest of exploring the wild sea and
unvisited regions is exhilarated to meet what he thinks is his other, a savage inhabitant of some undiscovered island, but
a European. But he is happy while Victor Frankenstein sought to avoid the wretch going at great lengths to hide what he
himself calls his abortive creation. The difference in the respective attitudes might also be relegated to the fact that
Waldens friend was European.
The binaries of the Self and the Other is implicit in the idea of the gendered Other. Victor Frankenstein describes
his mother as being sheltered by her father as a fair exotic is sheltered by the gardener, while Elizabeth was considered a
pretty present for him by his mother. The identities of the female characters are defined by their relationships with their
male counterparts. Thus, the monster promises to quit Europe forever if his demand for a female Creature who it
predestines will be his companion, is met. Waldens sister is never named but as Mrs. Saville. Elizabeth and Justines
only preoccupation is to keep the family happy, while old De Laceys daughter occupies herself with the household chores
and looking after her father. Only Safieis allowed some freedom in that respect, but then she is the heathen Other, the
daughter of a Turk and a Christian Arab, and she epitomizes The prospect of marrying a Christian and remaining in a
country where women were allowed to take a rank in society (which) was enchanting to her. Safie was also the outlaw in
that respect, execrated by her society. She, for her transgression, was left alone, unacquainted with the language of the
country and utterly ignorant of the customs of the world. In a similar way, Victor Frankenstein in his utter misery claims
to abhor the face of man. The monster, shunned and hated by all mankind is detested by society which disparages
difference, and by the end of the narrative, he avows that he abhors society too.
58 Sampriti Singha Roy
The Otherness manifests itself in multiple other features, one of them being the Religious Other. When placed
within the context of Christianity, the self is the righteous being whereas the Other is either the Fallen Angel
or the punished Adam. The other is constantly placed within a structure of sinfulness. What is curious about the
monster is that its Creator abandons it on the grounds of its hideous appearance, for which the Creator himself is to be
blamed. It is as if Frankensteins monster is born with the burden of the Original Sin but instead of finding company in the
humans to soothe my sorrows nor share my thoughts, is judged and hated by them. This alienates the Creature as the
humans play God here in their judgement of the monster. It is therefore of logical consequence that not unlike the fallen
angel Lucifer who rebels against God, the monster considers Frankenstein his archenemy for whom he swears
inextinguishable hatred. Pushed to the limits of the wretched Other, he considers Satan as the fitter emblem of my
condition, for those, like him, when I viewed the bliss of my protectors, the bitter gall of envy rose within me.
The fire-equation can also be linked to the narratives subtitle- The Modern Prometheus, as we see the inextinguishable
fire-like disposition that fuels the quest being cognate to Prometheuss act of appropriating fire from the heavens.
Prometheus with his act of stealing fire from heaven and giving it to the inhabitants of earth did not only bring the gift of
fire, but also brought with it the inclination to know in how many ways fire could be used. This inclination for knowledge
manifests itself most completely through the act of scientific research. Knowledge as a prohibited thing is also integral to
the Christian mythology through the symbol of the Forbidden Fruit. Science which is an a pursuit of objective knowledge
was termed as Natural Philosophy in the Romantic Era, and it was mostly a thing of personal endeavour.
Thus the products of science, though a product of knowledge was considered natural as it was yet to have a mass effect on
the society.
However, with the creation of a being like Frankensteins monster, science embarks on creating something
which poses a threat to society and brings science in direct contact with the populace. Thus it is like almost like one of the
modern killing machines which have gone out of the Creators control. It cannot be justified from the morality of science
or the morality of nature- which is also the law which is beyond human control. Thus Frankensteins monster, a reckless
creation of science, is not what it was originally envisioned by Frankenstein, and therefore unnatural in the context of
natural philosophy which is science, and also unnatural from the perspective of laws beyond human control as it has been
brought back from the dead and awakened into life without a balanced parenthood of both male and female.
This is heightened by the fact that all mothers, real and potential, die early in the tale. Frankensteins mother dies early,
leaving the family in Elizabeths care. Elizabeth, the mother of Victor Frankensteins potential child is killed off by the
monster, when his Creator denies him his demand of a mate, and hence a source to another potential generation.
In the absence of mother figures, the characters tend to seek solace in the naturalness of Nature itself. Considering
science as an enticement, Frankenstein, like Wordsworth, seems to be reminded of his light-hearted boyhood days
when The very winds whispered in soothing accents, and maternal Nature bade me weep no more.
Nature also acts as prognosticator. Victor Frankenstein internalizes the inclement of the weather when, at the time
of infusing the spark of life, the rain pattered dismally against the panes, and my candle was nearly burnt out Return to
nature as return to everything organic is heightened by Frankensteins journey undertaken to kill the fiend he
awoke into life. He is granted moments of sublime ecstasy that gave wings to the soul in the form of A tingling long-
lost sense of pleasure (that) often came across me during the journey. The escape is however short-lived, as he is cut loose
from his communion with Nature as he suddenly beheld the figure of a man, at some distance, advancing towards me with
superhuman speed.

Monstrosity and the Multi-Dimensional Other in Mary Shelleys Frankenstein 59
Adding to the concepts of Religious Otherness and unnaturalness of the monster, is the attribute of the Oriental
Other as opposed to the Occidental Self. Words like Arab and Turk are often used in a negative sense, with epithets
like treacherous and ungrateful used against them. At the same time, however, we see Frankenstein, when disillusioned
with scientific studies, joining his friend Clerval in studying the Oriental languages and finding not only instruction but
consolation in the works of the Orientalists. Parallel to this we see another form of education that the monster goes
through. Whereas Frankenstein, in his troubled state of mind, joins his friend in studying topics that geographically and
emotionally distance him from the troubles in his own life, the monster comes across books that seem to echo his own
predicaments. Texts like Volneys Ruins of Empires, Miltons Paradise Lost, Plutarchs Lives and Goethes Sorrows of
Werter that the monster comes across stress to him his fallen-ness and sense of dejection, which is made clear when he
says, Increase of knowledge only discovered to me more clearly what a wretched outcast I was.Thus, we can see that the
Oriental body of knowledge serves as a medium of escapism for Frankenstein, and in his self righteous narratives about
Safie, he is also able to transfer some of his guilt conscience to the heathens.
For Victor Frankenstein, human identity is not itself until it is 'made up' in a restorative relation to another self.
Without the supplement of the other, humanity is unfinished and unfinished, weak and faulty. It is unrecognisable as
human until it is restored by the other's recognition, until the other 'lend[s] his aid' to complete the self's confection.
Till perfectionated, humanity is disfigured; or, in Frankenstein's terms, monstrous. In the same way that the monster
laments the deformity of [his] figure later in the text, Frankenstein represents humanity as a form of monstrosity, a mode
of the unmade, a form of the un-fashioned. Echoing the monster's own impassioned arguments for sympathetic relationship
later in the novel, Frankenstein hints that sympathy is necessary in order to un-monster the monstrosity of humanity itself.
Aristotle defines Monstrosity as, Some [offspring] take after none of their kindred others do not take after a human being
at all in their appearance, but have gone so far that they resemble a monstrosity, and for the matter of that, anyone who
does not take after his parents is really in a way a monstrosity, since in these cases Nature has in a way strayed from the
generic type. The novel thus gives voice both to parental anxiety and the anxiety of the child to conform to the codes its
parents have created. Mary Shelley faced both these obstacles as she had lost her first baby daughter just eighteen months
before writing the novel, and had also been disowned by her father. Her parents provided for her a benchmark of genius
which she was constantly apprehensive of not being able to live up to.
CONCLUSIONS
Frankenstein is thus a multi-faceted text. It bears characteristic features of the Romantic age and also is to some
extent very unromantic as it counters the Romantic ego. The text is based on reciprocity- of emotion and experience.
Though there is a desperate attempt to create boundaries between the self and the other on the basis of differences, we can
see that those do not remain differences all the time for the same features manifest both in the self and the other. The story
they tell is important to both of them for their actions to be justified. Thus just like Satan and Prometheus, The creator and
the created and the master and the slave- roles that are interchangeable in the novel, the narratives are also equally
pertinent to both Frankenstein and his monster in a confessional sense. It sounds almost like a confession of their sins, and
thus needs a hearing, as Victor Frankenstein says to Walden, Since you have preserved my narration, I would not that a
mutilated one should go down to posterity.
It is the novels stark definition of monstrosity through physical appearance and not through the acquisition of
knowledge that starts the catalyst for the corruption of the monster. The monster does not define itself as a monster; the
society does.
60 Sampriti Singha Roy
REFERENCES
1. Salotto, Eleanor. "Frankenstein and Dis(re)membered Identity." Journal of Narrative Theory, 1994: 190-211.
2. Shelley, Mary. Frankenstein. Delhi: Peacock, 2008.
3. Sherwin, Paul. "Creation as Catastrophe." Modern Language Association, 1981: 883-903.
4. Conrad, Joseph. The Secret Sharer. Queen St.: Watchmaker Pub, 2011.
5. Shelley, P.B. Shelley's Poetry and Prose. Delhi: W.W. Norton and Company, 2010