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The Outcast in Frankenstein

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is a classic horror fiction about the creation of a monster and the events surrounding it. The novel evokes emotions of both sympathy and dismay, particularly for its characters and the loneliness they each feel. In this novel, isolation is a state of which the person is or wants to be secluded from companions and is either abandoned or rejected from taking part of everyday society. Victor, on the one hand, is a man who secludes himself from society to take part in his own work and experiments. On the other hand there is the Creature who, abandoned by his Creator, wants nothing more than to find a companion and to be accepted. In addition, there are characters such as Walton and Elizabeth who have been in a position of loneliness and present a parallel to the Creature. By analyzing Victor and its creature, as well as the other characters in the novel, it is evident Mary Shelley created these characters to not only be outcasts but also demonstrate the consequences of such a seclusion. She illustrates through her characters the inherent desire of being accepted and the tribulations involved with being an isolated figure in society.

The first amongst these characters is Victor Frankenstein, the lonesome and troublesome man who goes to University and embarks on an experiment that was bound to change his life and all existence. From the beginning Victor had an inherent desire to create something new, something worth devoting his time and concentration to; Victor wanted a companion. Even when he was a young boy, the introduction of Elizabeth as a sibling and playmate was something Victor took to be his right – someone who could accompany him always. He is evidently a taker, someone who desires things and people for his own selfish reasons and egotistical ideals. He demonstrates this through the taking of and the later abandonment of Elizabeth. “‘I have a pretty present for my Victor – tomorrow he shall have it.’… I interpreted her words literally and looked upon Elizabeth as mine – mine to protect, love and cherish.” (Mary Shelley, Frankenstein, 37) As he aged, Victor continued to explain his lack of friends and the beginnings of his isolated character. Victor separated himself from people and became fascinated with science and his advanced experiments. He had no desire to connect himself to the outside world as he spent all his days with Elizabeth and only attached himself to one of his friends from school – Henry Clerval. “It was my temper to avoid a crowd, and to attach myself fervently to a few. I was indifferent, therefore, to my schoolfellows in general.” (39) The next occasion where his seclusion from society is evident, was when he embarked to University and began to share his interest in certain aspects of science that were not talked about at that time. Even his professor would look down on Victor’s ideals, and this lack of understanding eventually persuaded him to begin the research for his creation. During this experimental process, Mary Shelley makes it clear that Victor completely ignored any outside connections and almost became a monster himself with the way he did not eat or take care of his appearance. Ironically, Victor is pushing away the people around him in order to create the creature; a companion. This presents a man who wants to accomplish the creation of another being, but at the same time rejects the people in his life. Victor isolated himself again when he, to fulfill the wishes of the Creature, began to work on a mate for it. His work was done alone and his anguish was experienced alone. Mary Shelley presents through Victor, a character so tied up in his selfish desires, that he can ignore his peers for an extended period of time without the slightest remorse. His companionship came from just a few, all of whom perished throughout the novel because of Victor’s selfish creation. Victor creates what he wants and allows everything around him to be destroyed. He is the epitome of the isolated figure who does not care for companionship and can quickly abandon the friends, or his creature, at any given moment for his own benefits.  At the end of Victor’s downfall it is clear that he desires to be friends with no one, for all his previous friendships had led to misery.

On the complete contrast, Mary Shelley portrays the Creature to be an isolated figure that spends his life desiring a companion and friendship. The Creature is so rejected by society, so abandoned by Victor and the people he encounters, that he becomes filled with hatred towards everyone, particularly for the one who placed him into this terrible state in the first place – Victor.  The first abandonment occurred right after the “birth” of the Creature.  The Creature, born as a neutral being, with the same feelings as a newborn baby, had an instantly altered mentality. As Victor quickly flew the premises, the Creature woke up to find he was alone and deserted.  Because of this, the creature automatically felt unloved, with no sense of right from wrong. This is evident when the Creature meets with Victor and speaks with him for the first time, he says “Believe me, Frankenstein: I was benevolent; my soul glowed with love and humanity; but am I not alone, miserably alone? You, my creator, abhor me; what hope can I gather from your fellow-creatures, who owe me nothing?”  (103) He was not only abandoned by Victor, but also by society because they were frightened by him and ran away the moment the Creature made itself known. Also during the conversation with Victor, the Creature described the enlightenment that occurred as he watched the De Lacey family. With this, the monster learned the importance of love and family, which ironically made his isolation from people even more palpable. He watched as the family did selfless acts for each other in the name of love – things which the Creature never experienced or understood. As he took part in tasks such as gathering wood for the family and watching them continuously, he begins to feel like part of the family and describes himself as being happier than he has even been.  Although he is never directly thanked for his contributions, the Creature senses their happiness for this miracle that he created for them and although he is physically separated, he begins to feel a part of something, the feeling of being important to someone. “… I cleared their path from the snow and performed those offices that I had seen done by Felix. I afterwards found that these labors, performed by an invisible hand, greatly astonished them.” (117) With this, it is very apparent that the Creature is in a deep state of isolation. He is completely separate from the outside world and longs to form any kind of meaningful bond with others. The most pain was inflicted on the Creature when he attempted to connect with this beautiful family, but was completely rejected and beat down by Felix, as his gruesome appearance evoked fear and panic. “Why, in that instant, did I not extinguish the spark of existence which you had so wantonly bestowed? I know not; despair had not yet taken possession of me; my feelings were those of rage and revenge.” (138) The complete isolation he felt was what drove him to commit acts such as murdering William and later, Elizabeth and Clerval. Here, the figure of the outcast is not only longing for feelings of acceptance but is also a person who begins to despise the people who don’t include it. The Creature begins to demonstrate the consequences of not getting the acceptance and embarks on a different route: to conflict pain on others, particularly Victor. When the Creature was rejected by an innocent child he was enraged and opted to the satisfaction of seeking revenge against Victor which he later explains. “I too can create desolation; my enemy is not invulnerable; this death will carry despair to him.” (144)  The Creatures fight with being an outcast only advances when Frankenstein abandons the idea of making him a mate. Evidently, the Creature as an isolated figure took a different turn than that of Victor. Instead of pushing people away but later realizing he should have kept them close, like Victor did, the Creature fought continuously to have relationships with people but eventually resigned himself to the idea that he could not do so and turned to anger. The Creature as a figure of the outcast is one who struggles with being forced to be isolated from society and becomes trapped in a body which he despises. He is rejected or abandoned by everyone he encounters and leads a life of despair and loneliness. Any knowledge he gained merely made him realize how much of an outcast he really was and so had no means of gaining happiness but to make his creator suffer. The end of the Creature occurs with his encounter of Robert Walton and the realization that Victor is in fact dead. He then hides away to die in peace away from society and everything that had pushed him away from human existence. Despite this being the downfall of the Creature, Robert Walton sees him differently than others and through Robert Mary Shelley illustrates another aspect of being an outcast in this novel.

Robert Walton introduces the novel with letters to his sister, specifically mentioning his desire to have a companion out in the lonely sea. As he is voyaging to the North Pole, he expresses his longing for someone to share in his excitement. “You may deem me a romantic, my dear sister, but I bitterly feel the want of a friend.” (19) Merely just by Robert’s letters it is already evident that the isolated figure is a crucial part of this novel, for Robert is already alone in this adventurous trek to the North Pole with only his crew to speak to. The isolation of Robert is not an angry or selfish one; it is just another example of the human desire to be accepted and to take part in a relationship. Ironically, Robert Walton does not find this until he encounters the troublesome and dying Victor. Robert almost instantly finds a companion in Victor and he writes to his sister, “My affection for my guest increases every day. He excites at once my admiration and my pity to an astonishing degree.” (28) As Robert ironically refers to Victor as a “noble creature” he produces this friendship that fills his gap of loneliness. Robert is a very welcoming person, looking past his feelings of being an outcast and seems to be looking for anyone or anything to care about. He becomes enthralled in this tale that Victor tells him and it seems that this is exactly what Robert was seeking so as to forget his solitude on this adventure. In addition, at the end of the novel when Victor died and the Creature came to discover this, Robert did not act at all like the rest of society did towards this monster. Robert says, “I called on him to stay”, which is something the Creature dreamed that the De Lacey family, or anyone, would do. Unfortunately, it was too late for the Creature and Robert to establish any friendship as the distraught creature ran off to die alone.  This just illustrates how different Robert was from most and how through his lonesomeness he desired closeness with anyone. After the death of Victor the isolation Robert feels is different. He is outcast from his crew when he desires to lead them further towards the North Pole as opposed to back home, which they favored. However, Robert has a sense of confidence and assurance that doesn’t allow him to stop his adventure. In addition, there are two other characters in the novel that show signs of being outcast. Elizabeth, for one, was abandoned at birth and was alone until the Frankenstein family adopted her. She was later abandoned by Victor himself as he took to doing his own work over his visits with his dearest cousin. An additional outcast was Felix of the De Lacey family who is arrested and stripped of his fortune after the discrimination of his love, Saffie. Being the daughter of a Turk and a Christian Arab, the Creature explains to readers that Saffie was outcast and her father was imprisoned because of his culture.  These characters, although minor ones, are further examples of how Mary Shelly incorporates the idea of outcasts throughout the novel.

It thus becomes clear that the figure of an outcast is a crucial part of Mary Shelley’s novel.  Through the analysis of the characters in “Frankenstein” it is palpable that these characters are more than outcasts; they are people who struggle through being rejected, abandoned or just having the need to be loved and feel love. Victor, the Creature, Felix, Elizabeth and Robert all share a common conflict: they fight with isolation throughout their lives. Their battle with being rejected or being far from society creates feelings of remorse and sensitivity to each of the characters in Mary Shelley’s, Frankenstein. It is clearly evident that it was Mary Shelley’s intention to include many characters in her novel that were the embodiments of an outcast.

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