The Role of Violence and Suffering in the Novel “Frankenstein”

The Role of Violence and Suffering in the Novel "Frankenstein"

The role of the violence and suffering in the novel “Frankenstein” is just an external manifestation of how a man will be driven towards violence when he feels desolate.  More than the aesthetics of physical distortion of Victor Frankenstein’s monster, what the novel really conveys is the idea of how “ugly and violent” we can get when we feel bad about ourselves and our surroundings.  In Shelley’s Frankenstein, the monster had no other positive experience than that of alienation and misery that led it to be vindictive and commit murder.

The tendency of how can man becomes violent initially manifested when the first monster confessed to Victor that he was the one who murdered his younger brother William.  In the monster’s confession, he told how desolate he felt by being alienated from society; that he killed the boy out of revenge.  The monster further confessed how miserable it feels to be alone and miserable because of his monster physique that even the family of cottagers who sheltered him that gave him hopes for compassion even drove him away.  To regain his sense humanity, the monster would like Victor to create him a female partner in order to regain his chance to reconnect with his humanity as a partner will no longer make him feel desolate and miserable.  Victor agreed to create the monster a partner and this is where the tragedy begun.

Clearly, this first instance of Victor Frankenstein’s meeting with the monster who killed his brother in the Swiss Alps demonstrated the precursor of violence.  That emotional suffering, more than the physical suffering can lead one to do unthinkable and monstrous acts.  The monster, being what he is, will be very hard to be inflicted with pain.  But what made things unbearable for the monster for him to be driven to revenge and murder is the feeling of loneliness and misery.  He knew this, and so he asked Victor Frankenstein for redemption to make him a partner for him to reconnect with his humanity.  This meeting of Victor Frankenstein with the monster illustrated that the feeling of alienation and loneliness can cause violence, as demonstrated by the monster.  This instance tells that when we have already reached the tipping point of our suffering, we can be driven to do extreme acts such as murder.

The monster’s predicament also tells us that “being like us” or what constitute “us” does not necessarily mean that one will be “of us” (Brown 86).   Victor Frankenstein attempted to create life but instead made a monster both in his creation and of himself.  An entity might be created into being by the assortment of parts but it does not necessarily mean that one will become a human being.  For being a human requires acceptance and a soul which the monsters in Shelley’s Frankenstein did not have.  Thus they were reduced to being monsters, driven by the feeling of desolation and revenge, and were monsters not only in terms of physical form, but also in action.  Victor Frankenstein’s uttered his despair to him of how he has made him “cursed, cursed creator! Why did I live? 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. . . when night came I quitted my retreat and wandered in the wood; and now, no longer restrained by the fear of discovery, I gave vent to my anguish in fearful howlings” (Shelley 103).

Shelley’s novel Frankenstein also reveals the flaws of human character as depicted in the character of Victor Frankenstein.  It revealed man’s tendency to become arrogant and to act like God when he already knows so much.  When Victor assented to the monster that he will create him a partner, he already assumed to have God like capabilities with what he knows about science.  As it was wrong in the beginning, a series of tragedy followed with Victor’s bride Elizabeth being murdered by the monster during their wedding night.   He became filled with revenge as what the monster was; that he became preoccupied about chasing the monster to avenge Elizabeth’s death.

The fallibility of human judgment that can lead to suffering and violence is also best demonstrated during the process of Victor Frankenstein’s creation of his second monster.  Even if he assented to create the second monster to give the first monster a partner, his judgment failed him when he suspected that he was being tricked by the first monster.  Again, this demonstrates human being’s capacity of subtle violence in the form of ill will and suspicion that led him to destroy the second monster.  Victor Frankenstein initiated the first violence against the first monster indirectly when he destroyed the second monster.  Worst, he aggravated the situation when he threw the remains of the second monster into the sea that led to a series of murders beginning with Henry, the person who nursed him when he was ill when he created the first monster.  What followed next was a demonstration how revenge fuels violence that even the creator of the monsters, Victor Frankenstein himself succumbed to it.

Man just cannot play God even if the intention to create life is well meaning.  As a creation himself, Victor would like imitate God but he just cannot do it because of his limited faculty being just a creation himself.  As a man creating another, “perfection is unattainable” (Kessler 147) and what Victor Frankenstein gave the monster is not life but just the experience of being created (Kessler 85).  The experience that Victor Frankenstein provided the monster was not factors that can be considered as a human experience because it is devoid of human connection and filled with misery, desolation and alienation.  There was no other way that his monster could turn out to be, but a monster, a flawed creation of a flawed creator.

The monster, being an assortment of parts of men, is an unhappy product of man’s inexorable nature and its heart is “a collection of the emotions that he has to be bear throughout his strange life” (Kessler 87).  It has no “center” or a soul because it failed to grasp the breadth of human experience that includes joy, happiness, ecstasy, that makes one a truly human being.  The monster had only a glimpse of hope of what it is like to be compassionate when the family cottagers took him in.  “Nothing could exceed the love and respect which the younger cottagers exhibited towards their venerable companion. They performed towards him every little office of affection and duty with gentleness, and he rewarded them by his benevolent smiles” (Shelley 82).  But even that hazy idea of hope and compassion was immediately extinguished when the same family who took him in drove him away.  One can only imagine what the monster felt when the only positive experience he had was taken away from him leaving him hanging and in pain.

There was no other way that Victor Frankenstein’s creation can turn out to be other than being a monster.  It only knew pain and misery which is a fertile ground for revenge.  Revenge, when unfettered by other positive human emotion, has no other way of expressing itself other than violence.  Shelley did not even mask this tendency with allegory to demonstrate how vindictiveness can lead to violence.  As “a grin was on the face of the monster he seemed to jeer, as with his fiendish finger he pointed towards the corpse of my wife” (Shelley 151), Victor Frankenstein, gave in to revenge and what followed next is revenge feeding violence leading to the further misery of both characters.

Works Cited

Brown, Marshall.  “Frankenstein: A Child’s Tale”. Novel: A Forum on Fiction 36.2(2003):147-175.

Kessler, Jeremy. “Creating Frankenstein”. New Atlantis: A Journal of Technology & Society Vol 25(2009):82-89 .

Shelley, Mary. “Frankenstein. The Pennsylvania State University Electronic Classic Series. 1818. Available at “>.  Retrieved on November 18, 2011.

Let's make that grade!