Frankenstein: Appearance And Acceptance Essay, Research Paper
Reliance on Appearance and Dependency upon Acceptance in Mary Shelley?s Frankenstein and Today?s Modern World.One of the main themes in Mary Shelley?s Frankenstein is the importance of appearance and acceptance in modern society. In today?s society, and also in the society of Frankenstein, people judge one often solely on their looks. Social prejudice is often based on looks, whether it be the color of someone?s skin, the clothes that a person wears, the facial features that one has and even the way one stands. People make snap judgments based on these and other considerations and they affect the way that they present themselves to one, and also the way that the treat the judged person. In Frankenstein the society of that time is much like our own today. It is an appearance based society, and this is brought to the forefront by the extreme ugliness of Victor Frankenstein?s monster to a common human being.
On of the most blatant parallels in Frankenstein and today?s modern world is that of racism. These parallels are shown from the very first moments of Frankenstein?s creature life. One of the first things Victor says about his newly alive creation is that ?His yellow skin scarcely covered the work of muscles and arteries beneath;? (Shelley 42) and he viewed his creation with ?breathless horror and disgust…? (Shelley 42). Here one finds that like the vast majority of people then and today, Victor notices the color of his creatures skin first and judges it to be horrible. Also in this novel, the example of racism is again brought to our attention with the history of the cottagers. Safie?s father, a Turkish merchant living in Paris, was sentenced to death for a crime he did not commit. The reason for this injustice is clear, the reason for it is ?…that his [the Turkish merchant] religion and wealth rather than the crime alleged against him had been the cause of his condemnation.? (Shelley 107). Obviously, if this foreign merchant had been a good Catholic Frenchman he would not have been sentenced to death. We today can see numerous examples today of racism in the justice system, think of Louis Riel being hung because he was a Metis, and also think of the modern classic novel, To Kill a Mockingbird in which a black man is unjustly sentenced in a racist southern town. However, in one of the biggest acts of hypocrisy and treachery, the same Turkish merchant shows his true racist self when he plans to leave Italy with the daughter he had promised in marriage to the Frenchman that saved his life. It seems that although some progress has been made throughout the centuries, racism still exists and ?colors? our vision of other people. (Pardon the bad pun.)
Another similarity in the novel Frankenstein and today?s society is that of snap judgments based solely on appearances. Doctor Frankenstein himself does this throughout the book. He shows this when he ?…selected his [the creature?s] features as beautiful.? (Shelley 46). This shallowness is shown again when he accuses the monster of the murder of William?s murder, rightfully of course, but the point is that he accused the monster of a horrible deed just because of his horrible appearance. Even the monster makes snap judgments, in the case of the cottagers he viewed the old man as a man with ?…a countenance beaming with benevolence and love,? (Shelley 93). This was not a negative opinion, but yet it shows the creature?s use of appearance to judge people. Even the blind old man would use looks to judge people, if he could. He seems like a nice man who would think of a person?s true nature to judge them when he says to the monster ?…there is something in your words which persuades me that you are sincere.? (Shelley 119). His true nature is shown when he say to the creature ?I am blind and cannot judge of your countenance…? (Shelley 119). Perhaps the worst reactions and judgments produced is those of people who initially saw the creature. The old man in the hut when ?…perceiving me[the creature], shrieked loudly, and quitting the hut, ran across the fields with a speed of which his debilitated form hardly seemed capable.? (Shelley 90). Numerous accounts of hate of the monster just because of his frightful appearance follow this, including the villagers throwing rocks and driving away the monster (Shelley 91), the crushing blow to the creatures emotions when Felix drove him away (Shelley 119-120) and final straw before the creature turned against humanity, when the man shot the monster after he had saved a girl?s life (Shelley 126). How very little has changed since then! Today when one is driving in our own fair city, Prince George, one sees a native man late at night and automatically assumes that he is a drunk. Or perhaps on seeing an older woman in high fashion dresses, one soon thinks he stuck up solely on her looks. In a more extreme example, think of the movie The Elephant Man where an extremely disfigured man tried to fit into mainstream society and ends up in a carnival, and later as a medical showcase. But deep inside Jerry Merrick, as the elephant man was then called, is an ideal citizen, caring and virtuous. Lastly closer to home, in any given public high school, one instantly and almost unknowingly classifies students into separate categories of Prep, Pothead, Jock, Cowboy, Skater, Slut, Goth, and other classifications as well. If one tries getting acquainted with these people, it is often find that they are, like Frankenstein?s monster, are very nice people.
One more need that unites our society with that in the novel Frankenstein is that of one?s, whether that one be human, wolf, or monster, need for acceptance into society. I draw the clich? of the lone wolf as our first example. Wolves thrive in packs, much like human beings, and being a lone wolf means a hard and often short life for that animal. After being driven for the main pack, the lone wolf will often lock the strength of a pack to kill big game such as moose and caribou, and soon the lone wolf will die, usually in 1-6 months (National Geographic, September 1994 Issue). People, and monsters are just like wolves in this way. In Frankenstein, the monster seeks acceptance from humans almost immediately upon getting his senses. He seeks the acceptance of the cottagers company and is envious of their happiness. The creature imagined that upon presenting himself to the cottagers ?…that they would be disgusted, until, by my gentle demeanor and conciliating words, I should first win the favor and afterwards their love.? (Shelley 99-100). After the total rejection of the monster by Felix and his family, the creature then seeks the of another of his kind. He demands that the Doctor must ?create a female for me, with whom I can live in the interchange of those sympathies necessary for my being.? (Shelley 130). Yes, the finest desire that the monster wishes is someone like him that he can talk to, and share his time. Today, I believe that nothing has changed, if something has, it is toward more dependence on other for acceptance. People today rarely go out by themselves on hikes, to the movies or the like. No, they crave the company of a group like themselves, even if it is a group of only themselves, and one other. Indeed, acceptance is a major motivation in any person?s life.
Interwoven in societies threads are these basic principals, be they good are bad have always been evident to some extent in our daily lives, racism, prejudice, appearance, and the strong desire for acceptance. Throughout history down to today we are moved by these things, and perhaps nowhere is this nature of humans present and brought to one?s attention like in Mary Shelley?s Frankenstein.
Works CitedMary Shelley, Frankenstein, New York, New York, Bantam Books, 1991
Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird, Boston, Mass., Chelsea House Publishers, 1998
Harold Bloom, National Geographic, Sept. 1994, Washington, D.C., National Geographic Society, 1994
David Lynch, The Elephant Man, Los Angles, California, Paramount Home Video, 1980