The True Evil
– Frankenstein Essay, Research Paper
The True Evil
The ability of committing evil is within every human being on earth. It is how we overcome these urges to use this evil that defines who we are. In Mary Shelley s gothic novel, Frankenstein, evil is portrayed in many ways through Victor Frankenstein s actions. Victor s irresponsible actions and selfish nature are the true evil in the novel. He shows his irresponsibility and selfishness towards the monster, his family and the knowledge he gains.
Throughout the novel Frankenstein, the monster is depicted as being wretched and evil, whereas Victor is looked upon as being brilliant and creative. When looked upon more carefully, it is revealed that it is really Victor s actions that are evil. Victor creates a monster knowing that it will be different from other people. When the monster comes to life, Victor does not give it a chance to prove himself worthy and this is his first sign of irresponsibility:
“For this I had deprived myself of rest and health. I had desired it with an ardour that far exceeded moderation; but now that I had finished, the beauty of the dream vanished and breathless horror and disgust filled my heart. Unable to endure the aspect of the being I had created, I rushed out of the room and continued a long time traversing my bed chamber unable to compose my mind to sleep.” (p. 42)
It is seen that Victor ran away from the first sight of his creation. He did not own up to the responsibility of being the monster s creator. If Victor had in fact acknowledged that he was the creator of the monster, then maybe the destruction that lay ahead could have been prevented.
Victor also shows his irresponsibility towards the monster when he pretends that he does not exist. He refuses to come to terms with the fact that he is the creator of the monster and that he has certain duties towards him. Victor does everything in his power so he can forget the monster s existence. This shows great immaturity on his part:
“When I was otherwise quite restored to health, the sight of a chemical instrument would renew all the agony of my nervous symptoms. Henry saw this and removed all my apparatus from my view. He had also changed my apartment for he perceived that I had acquired a dislike for the room which had previously been my laboratory.” (p.52)
Victor believes that by changing his surroundings and re-arranging his belongings he can forget about the monster s existence. It is important for him to realize that by being the creator of the monster he is held accountable for what actions the monster might make in the future. The relationship between Victor and the monster is such of a dog and it s owner. If the dog were to bite someone then it is the owner who must take responsibility for his actions. By trying to forget his problem, Victor comes across as being extremely cowardly.
Victor does not give the monster a chance to redeem himself and does not want to listen to what he has to say. The monster asks Victor to make him a companion with whom he can relate and live with. Victor agrees, but at the last minute breaks his promise. This shows his irresponsibility because he knows the consequences that will follow. Victor should have taken any opportunity that he had, to try to fix the problem that he created. By breaking his promise at the last minute he shows that he makes extremely rash decisions and does not think of the consequences:
“The monster saw my determination in my face and gnashed his teeth in the impotence of anger. Shall each man cried he, find a wife for his bosom and each beast have his mate, and I be alone? I had feelings of affection and they were requited by detestation and scorn. Man! You many hate, but beware! Your hours will pass in dread and misery and son the bolt will fall which must ravish you from your happiness forever ” (p. 152)
The monster promised Victor that he would disappear if he kept his promise of making him a companion. By breaking his promise Victor brought out a devil from inside the monster. Victor should have trusted the monster in hopes that the horror would stop, but instead Victor made the problem worse. In the last line of the above quote, the monster refers to a “bolt.” This parallels how Victor s obsession began with a bolt of lightning. The monster seems to be telling Victor that “you will end with what you began.” Perhaps if Victor had shown the responsibility and duties he had towards the monster, he would not have had to suffer as much as he did.
At the beginning of the novel, Victor s family is very important to him. As the story develops, Victor forgets about his responsibilities towards them. He is extremely negligent when it comes to dealing with his duties. His obsession with his work and creation consumes him to the point, that he does not even bother to write to his family about how he is doing:
“You have been ill, very ill, and even the constant letter of dear kind Henry are not sufficient to reassure me on your account. You are forbidden to write-to hold a pen; yet one word from you, dear Victor, is necessary to calm our apprehensions. For a long time I have thought that each post would bring this line, and my persuasions have restrained my uncle from undertaking a journey to Ingolstadt” (p. 49)
Elizabeth writes to Victor and it can be seen through her letter that Victor did not even have the courtesy to write to his family about his health and well being. Victor is so preoccupied with his discoveries and experiments that he forgot his duties as a son and cousin.
Further on in the novel, William, Victor s youngest sibling, is killed by the monster in his revenge against Victor.. Unaware of the monster s doings, Victor reaches Geneva but comes to the same conclusion that the monster did commit the crime. Instead of confiding his revelations to his family he chooses to hide his secret. This shows great selfishness on his part:
“This speech calmed me. I was firmly convinced in my own mind that Justine and indeed every human being was guiltless of this murder. I had no fear, therefore, that any circumstantial evidence could be brought forward strong enough to convict her. My tale was not one to announce publicly; it s astounding horror would be looked upon as madness by the vulgar. Did anyone, indeed exist, except I, the creator, who would believe, unless his senses convinced him, in the existence of the living monument of presumption and rash ignorance which I had let loose upon the world? (p. 64)
Victor was firmly convinced that the monster had committed the crime. Instead of coming out and telling people what he knew, he kept quiet. He was more worried about what people would think of him and his story then about the innocent person who was being framed for the crime. Victor also shows his selfishness at Justine s trial. While listening to the testimonies of the witnesses, Victor is more concerned with his pain and guilt then he is about Justine s. He believes that his pain his more important then hers:
“I could not sustain the horror of my situation, and when I perceived that the popular voice and the countenances of the judges had already condemned my happy victim, I rushed out of the court in agony. The tortures of the accused did not equal mine; she was sustained by innocence, but the fangs of remorse tore my bosom and would not forgo their hold” (p. 69)
From the beginning of the novel Victor evolves as someone who cares about his friends and family to someone who becomes extremely self involved. He does not consider how other people are feeling and what they might be going through. All that matters to him is, his pain, his guilt and his problems. He does not even think twice that a girl is going to be punished for a crime that he had a hand in committing.
At the beginning of Victor s story he is very interested in many kinds of studies. Natural Philosophy becomes his drive and passion that leads him to create the monster. At such a young age, Victor is being led and directed by many different people. These people give Victor advice, but Victor only listens to the advice that he wants to hear. Victor begins his quest for knowledge by reading the theories of Cornelius Agrippa. His father advises that he should not waste his time reading these books. Victor does not listen, which in turn shows great disrespect and inconsiderateness towards his father:
“A new light seemed to dawn upon my mind, and bounding with joy, I communicated my discovery to my father. My father looked carelessly at the title page of my book and said Ah!, Cornelius Agrippa! My dear Victor, do not waster you time upon this; it is sad trash ” (p. 24)
Victor s father is only looking out for his son s well being and Victor just ignores him. Victor s rash decision making and “not thinking of the consequences” attitude, are beginning to reflect here. It continues to grow when Victor departs for the University of Ingolstadt. At the University, Victor encounters two professors, one of who is M. Krempe. He is the professor of natural philosophy and Victor is extremely excited to meet him. When Victor tells the professor about the books he had been engaged with, the professor gives him advice similar to that of Victor s father. Victor, again, does not listen and does what he pleases:
“The professor stared. Have you, he said, really spent your time in studying such nonsense? I replied in the affirmative. Every minute, continued M. Krempe with warmth, every instant that you have wasted on those books is utterly and entirely lost. You have burdened you memory with exploded systems and useless names ” (p. 31)
M. Krempe, like Victor s father, was only trying to help Victor. He should have taken the advice of his elders, of which he was lucky to have, and considered their point of view. Victor shows great disrespect when he blatantly disregards what these people tell him. Victor should have considered that these people know about life and that they only want the best for him. If he had listened to what they had to say and realized that they are right, then maybe he would have had a peaceful life instead of suffering the consequences.
The New Merriam Webster Dictionary defines responsibility as, “able to fulfill one s obligations” and “involving accountability or important duties”. Throughout the novel Frankenstein, Victor does not show responsibility towards his creation, family and his knowledge. By creating such a monster, Victor unleashed a beast that the world was not ready for and that he was responsible for. Many of the tragedies that occurred could have been prevented if Victor had shown better judgment and thought of other people in his life besides himself. All through the novel Victor broke promises, disrespected his elders and hurt the ones that were closest to him. This is the result of irresponsibility and selfishness on Victor s part, the true evil by which he was consumed.