With reference to chapters 11-16, trace the development and change in character that the monster undergoes.
The structure of Frankenstein begins as an epistolary, narrative story by Robert Walton to his sister (Mrs Saville) in England. Walton’s letters tell us that he is exploring, searching for what lies beyond the North Pole and that he longs for fame and glory. Walton and Frankenstein connect in this novel as they both seek and have a thirst for knowledge. For Walton it is his exploration, for Frankenstein, it is to discover the secret of life.
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Walton’s letters announce the discovery and rescue of a stranger – Victor Frankenstein. This is another connection between these two characters because when Victor is found he tells Robert Walton his story (this is after the monster has told his story to Frankenstein) and of course Walton passes on his version to his sister. This shows an elaborate series of frames because Victor’s story is embedded within Walton’s. However, the innermost embedded narrative in this novel is the story the monster tells to Frankenstein as this is in the central part.
Shelley has been very clever writing this novel because within it there are several stories and several points of view within the telling of these stories. Walton, Victor and the monster each tell their own stories.
From the start of the monster’s narrative (Chapter 11) he is, from birth constantly developing at a rapid pace. He is similar to a human being in a way that he cannot remember his first moments of life. However, his differences are alarming because he can vaguely remember his discovery of sensations and his awareness of senses. Also, the short time it takes for the monster to distinguish between these senses is quite remarkable. The first sensation in the monster’s memory is when light hits his eyes when he awakes, but how it becomes dark when he shuts his eyes.
This is an early sign of the first confusion and helplessness he feels. From birth, he works from natural instincts and so he is more animal than human, this is until he discovers emotion. The first emotions the monster endures are fear, (‘I felt half-frightened) pain (‘pain invade on all sides, I sat down and wept’) and pleasure (‘A gentle light stole over the heavens and gave me a sensation of pleasure’)
A few days after the monster’s birth he discovers exactly how his senses work and after this, he expresses his feelings (he does this by groaning) for the need to learn a language. He longs to communicate with people and to be rid of loneliness. He fails to express his feelings because his own voice scares him. The monster’s rapid development continues when he becomes able to think and learn, by now he relies less on instinct and is now more human than animal. An example of the monster learning is when he becomes aware of time by using the moon’s cycle after he has spent fourteen days in the forest. Indications of his thinking ability is how he reasons through logic. (The fire provided comfort and heat but when he touched it he ‘let out a cry of pain’) This quote proves how experience has helped the monster avoid pain again and how he is able to sit and think about how to overcome other problems he faced such as how to light a fire.
Shortly after this stage in the monster’s life he has first contact with man (an old shepherd) He is shocked by the shepherd’s disgusted reaction and cannot understand why he fled and why he didn’t seem to be welcome in the hut. The monster becomes enchanted by the appearance of the hut (owned by the fleeing shepherd) and is amazed by how this building can ‘penetrate snow and rain’ and how it kept anyone inside sheltered and dry. He describes this hut as ‘Pandaemonium appeared to the daemons of hell after their sufferings in the lake of fire’. This hints that the monster can read and has read ‘Paradise Lost’ which we later find out in Chapter 15. (This quote is a reference to ‘Paradise Lost’ by John Milton) Inside the hut the monster tastes various foods such as bread, cheese, milk and wine, he disliked wine showing us that he is still developing all the time. (like a child with acquired taste)
After leaving the hut the monster has his second encounter with man, he arrives at a village. (the village represents human community) He sees this as his chance to gain companionship and so approaches some houses until he hears their reaction. The monster became the cause of ‘shrieking children’ and a woman fainting. The surrounding men attacked him in fear, due to his extreme size and ugliness. The monster seems to be completely innocent when he ‘fearfully took refuge in a low hovel’ after being viciously assaulted by ‘stones and other kinds of missile weapons’. (At this time the monster had never seen himself and so knew nothing of beauty) He then, did not understand why humans acted as barbarians towards him.
So soon after this monster was created by Victor Frankenstein he felt fearful of the society of man and tedious to why they attacked him in the first place. This makes the reader feel sympathetic towards the monster because to us he does not seem to be a monster at all! At this point in the story, the reader is surprised how their previous view of Frankenstein and the monster in this story are so different. We then wonder who the real villain in the story is.
From his hovel, the monster notices a nearby cottage occupied by the De Lacey family. He observes them cautiously from a safe distance as he now recognises man’s potential to be cruel. This shows us again that the monster is constantly developing, and experiencing a variety of different emotions, such as love. Love is portrayed in ‘Frankenstein’ after he watches the daily routine of the De Lacey’s (through a small gap in the wooden panes, previous to where the window was. This is a sign that they were not very wealthy). He discovers the sound of music through the old, blind man playing his recorder. This enchants him and he begins to admire this family. After this point his mixed emotions are so strong when watching Agathe and the old man, so strong that he cannot bear to watch the family anymore. (the music touched his heart and he felt a mixture of both pain and pleasure with love) He gradually learns more about them and increases his intelligence while doing so. He knows that they live in poverty and so his admiration grows for them, also for their wonderful appearance, as he is unaware of ugliness and deformity. He shows a caring side of himself when he became devoted to help the De Lacey’s by cutting wood. ‘This monster’ becomes generous, helpful and intelligent. He also decided to ‘satisfy himself with berries, nuts and roots’ instead of eating tastier food that they ate. This implies that this so called brute was also thoughtful.
The monster’s narrative tells us that he is determined character who would do anything to belong, he attempted to learn the English language to hopefully reason with the De Lacey’s and make them realise that he wasn’t a wretched evil brute but a kind-hearted being. He was doing well until he saw his reflection in a pool of water. This part of the story (Chapter 12, page 109) is significant in tracing the change of his character because he was mortified with his appearance and became miserable. He now knew entirely why he was hated in the previous village; it was for his monstrous, alien appearance. He became aware of all the racial prejudice in the world and realised that this was the source of all his problems. Knowing this made the monster bitter at man, however he still thought of the De Lacey family as wonderful and still he wanted ‘to restore happiness to these deserving people’.
Other experiences the monster undergoes during Chapter 12 are his first realisations of the four seasons. This happens when he found that different flowers grew at different times of the year. This is another example of his developing intelligence.
The next vital point in the development and change of the monster is the arrival of Safie, an Arabian woman not knowing the English language. This immensely profited him because during Safie’s stay with the De Lacey’s she began to take lessons to speak English. The monster therefore also learned the language at a rapid pace. Also in Chapter 13 we see a very sensitive side of the Monster when he is describing the nature surrounding him. (‘innumerable flowers, sweet to the scent and the eyes, stars of pale radiance among the moonlight woods’) While Safie remains in the De Lacey household the monster begins to learn more about human nature, especially involving the love between a man (Felix) and a woman (Safie). He could not believe the ecstatic joy that Felix was in when meeting Safie, when before he seemed to be so miserable. He realises that they were both ‘affected by different feelings’, Felix by the way ‘his cheeks flushed with pleasure’ and Safie by how she ‘wiped tears from her lovely eyes.’ The monster observes more involving human nature when he heard ‘of the difference of sexes and the birth and growth of children’, he also heard of the different relationships between humans such as mother, father, brother and sister. This is the first stage of his life when he asks himself, ‘where are my friends and relations?’ To his recollection he has had no one to care for him and remembers nothing before his first account in his narrative story. He genuinely questions what and who he is and so again we feel sympathy.
The monster emotionally develops from what he learns of human nature, this occurs when Safie sings to Agatha and the old man. This deeply moves him as her voice ‘at once brought tears of delight and joy from his eyes.’ He described the music as ‘a rich cadence, swelling or dying away like a nightingale of the woods’.’ His reaction to her singing again brings out his sensitivity.
The monster while constantly developing his knowledge of English, (now with the help of Safie’s lessons) still longs companionship with the De Lacey’s. He feels that he needs to be part of this ‘wonderful family.’ Although he understands that he has been previously rejected and seen as an ‘ugly wretch’, he believes that the power of language can overcome the deformity of his face.
However much he hopes that he will be accepted, he still remains conscious of his previous encounters with man. The monster remains fearful of how the De Lacey’s’ will react to him.
The next part of the monster’s narrative (Chapter 14) relates little to himself but his knowledge increases of the De Lacey’s history, before they moved to Germany. The monster discovered such information from several letters written from Safie to Felix. Here we find that he has learnt more skills, the skills to read and write. The monster later decides to copy these letters himself to bring truth to his tale, for Victor Frankenstein. From these letters we learn an awful lot about the De Lacey’s, such as that previously they led wealthy lifestyles in Paris. He learnt that their wealth was lost when a Turkish merchant was condemned to death for becoming obnoxious towards the French government. This affected the De Lacey’s because Felix vowed to help the Turk escape and did so. (In return he was offered a reward but he declined; however he agreed to marry the merchants daughter, Safie) When learning from the De Lacey’s he also confirmed the relationship between the family. The old man is known as De Lacey and is father to Felix and Agatha. It was of course illegal to do this and so this resulted in the De Lacey’s being exiled. Knowing all this improved the monsters understanding of why the De Lacey’s seemed so unhappy and he now fully realised the poverty they were in.
The history of the De Lacey’s is important in tracing the change of the monster because it altered his views on mankind. From their history he has developed a hatred for the crime system because of the trauma they went through when being exiled, all for (from his point of view) doing the right thing!
Later in the monster’s story (Chapter 15) he discovered three books in the neighbouring wood. These books played a vital part in the monster’s emotional development. For example the first story was called `Sorrows of Werter’, this was a tragic love story by a German author called Goethe. (1749-1832) It is a semi-autobiographical novel about the life and ultimate suicide of a sensitive artist who is helplessly in love with a woman engaged to someone else. (Published in 1774) This story developed the mind of the monster because he learned of death. This is a key point in the development of the monster because his sensibilities are expanded. He feels empathy for the character of Werter. The monster applies the story of Werter to his own feelings and condition but still realises he is different. (‘As I read however, I applied much personally to my own feelings and conditions’) This intensifies his sense of isolation and leads him to ask questions, again relating to his identity. (‘What did this mean? Who was I?’)
The second book he found was a volume of ‘Plutarch’s Lives. Plutarch (AD 50-125) was a Greek biographer. This book illustrates the moral characters of the ages through anecdotes (stories) about great things that they have done. ‘Plutarch’s Lives’ provided the Monster with the rudiments of the history, politics and religions of the world, this giving him more knowledge of the nature of man such as the good and bad sides of human nature. This book teaches the monster the cruelty of man and that man is capable of inflicting pain on others, especially of those that are alien or different. ‘Plutarch’s Lives’ has a very different effect on the monster than ‘Sorrows of Werter’, he learns ‘high-thoughts. He becomes raised beyond the misery of his own condition by stories of heroes of the past. Like Werter, he feels great empathy for the characters in ‘Plutarch’s Lives.’
The third book and possibly the most important for tracing the monster’s development is ‘Paradise Lost’. It is an epic poem by John Milton (published in 1674) based on the story of the creation as told in Genesis.
The structure of the poem is in Iambic pentameter and it does not rhyme.
‘Paradise Lost’ explains why the monster had earlier referred to hell when describing the old shepherd’s hut. Awareness of ‘Paradise Lost’ is crucial to understanding the monsters psyche as this is what motivates him to demand a female companion from Victor. The importance of ‘Paradise Lost’ when tracing the change and development of the monster is immense because during his narrative he is constantly linking himself with Adam although he knows he is different. Adam was perfect and loved by God; he was left abandoned by Victor without an ‘Eve’ to comfort him. He sees himself as ‘wretched, helpless and alone’, this making him think that he could possibly be connected with Satan, (another idea from ‘Paradise Lost’) this making him envious of mankind. While he links himself with Adam, he also connects Victor with God. He truly believes the Genesis story.
The reading of this story also controls the way the monster speaks. (‘Pandaemonium appeared to the daemons of hell’)
Another circumstantial discovery changed the monster dramatically when he found some papers in the pocket of a dress, which he took from the laboratory when he was born. He previously neglected them but now that he could read English he managed to understand them and realised that it was his creator’s journal, written during the four months he was being made. This journal infuriates the monster and so he calls Victor ‘accursed creator.’ He was sickened when he read ‘Hateful day when I received life!’ Reading this journal gave the monster an insight to what Victor Frankenstein was like and what he knew disgusted him. He asked ‘Why did you form a monster so hideous that even you turned from me in disgust? The notes made the monster learn how Victor felt when he realised what he had created. He now knows why he was abandoned at birth; it was due to the repulsion felt by Victor Frankenstein who he now deeply curses in the bitterness of his heart.
For the next few months his loneliness grows and he remains ‘solitary and abhorred.’ His only source of happiness lies with the De Lacey’s and so he talks himself into believing the family will accept him. The monster keeps postponing this visit because his reflection knocks his confidence and he loses hope. His feelings are constantly changing with his frequent daydreams for his prolonging need for an Eve and he is still always relating to ‘Paradise Lost.’ His ever-growing knowledge seems to haunt his mind because his deformity and wretchedness only becomes clearer when his intelligence increases.
As time passes, the season once again changes from summer to winter and so the monster paid more attention to the cottagers rather than his love for nature which enticed him during the summer. He notices that the De Lacey’s remain happy with Safie staying and that they seem better off, now with servants to help them with their daily tasks. The more the monster observed them, the greater the desire he had ‘to claim their protection and kindness which he saw himself worthy of. He still contemplates on his decision to request their love but he seems confident when he says, ‘The poor that stopped at their door were never driven away’ and so he knows that they should feel kindness and sympathy towards him. He plans how he will introduce himself and decides to enter the cottage when the old man is alone and gain his good will, hopefully resulting to be tolerated by the younger members of the family.
The monster carries out his plan on an autumn day when Safie, Agatha and Felix leave the cottage to go on a long country walk. The De Lecay’s servants had travelled to a neighbouring fair so he saw this as his perfect chance to introduce himself. He approached the cottage and his nerves were extremely high when his limbs failed him and he sank to the ground. However his determination prevailed and he knocked and entered the De Lacey’s household for the first time. He talks to De Lacey very politely and tells him of the friends of who he aims to protect, as he sincerely loves them. (Here he is talking with De Lacey but as if he is relating to another family) He tells De Lacey of his fears of becoming an outcast, which he could face if the family do not accept him. De Lacey replies to the monster’s comments about the prejudice’s against him and reassures him that men ‘are full of brotherly love and charity.’ De Lacey suggests to the monster that he should undecieve the family that he longs to protect. When the monster tells De Lacey that this family live nearby he offers to talk to them and assure them of the monster’s good nature. He willingly accepts this offer, thanks De Lacey and promises that he will be forever grateful. All things appear to be excellent for the short period the monster is conversing with another human until De Lacey asks; ‘May I know the names and residence of those friends?’ Frankenstein hesitated here and failed to answer ‘until he sank on the chair and sobbed aloud.’ His troubles grew when he heard the footsteps of the younger De Lacey’s. He seized the hand of the old man and begged for him to protect him from his family’s prejudice. Agatha enters and faints immediately. Safie ran out of the cottage without assisting her friend. Felix struck the monster violently with a stick. Instead of becoming enraged and fighting back his heart sank ‘with bitter sickness’. He left the cottage and escaped to his hovel. It seems he was right to believe himself to be an ‘outcast in the world forever.’
After the monster’s traumatic time with the De Lacey’s he experiences feelings of hate and revenge. (we see here how influential his interaction with human society is towards his emotions) His good nature earlier in the book seems to have vanquished until he is left more like Satan than Adam who he constantly related to. ‘I was like a wild beast that had broken the toils, destroying the objects that obstructed me and ranging through the wood with a staglike swiftness.’ Here he describes himself as an animal, he sees himself as other humans did. As he wandered through the wood he ‘wished to tear up the trees, spread havoc and destruction.’ However he was overcome with fatigue and so unable to do this, after declaring ever-lasting war upon human society, ‘I sank on the damp grass in the sick impotence of despair.’
After the anger had subsided the monster thinks about his situation, here he shows more development. His thoughts calmed him, he had decided that he was too hasty in his decision to leave the De Lacey family. The monster knew he had intrigued the old man and he believed his errors could be mended. After much thought his decision is to reapproach the cottage. After he had satisfied his hunger he made his way to the well-known footpath that directed the way to the cottagers household. He lay in his hovel waiting for the hour in which the family arose, the hour passed and they did not appear. However a while after the monster’s emotions had run high with worry and agonising suspense Felix approached the cottage with an unfamiliar man. (the owner of the cottage) They spoke regarding the leave of the De Lacey’s. Their reason for leaving was of course because of the monster’s appearance. ‘My wife and my sister will never recover from their horror.’
The monster’s reaction to this was of utter despair and he realised that his only link to the human world was now broken. The De Lacey’s depart from the monster’s sight forever and all he is left with are his previous feelings of hatred and revenge return, now much stronger. His mixed emotions overcome him and he cries from the remembrance of the De Lacey’s (‘When I thought of my friends, of the mild voice of De Lacey, the gentle eyes of Agatha’) A little later his anger returns again when he reflects on how the De Lacey’s abandoned him. He releases his fury by burning down the cottage, as he does so he dances round the flames with fury.
After the cottage was destroyed the monster searched for refuge in the woods. Again he lies alone with his thoughts, from his recollection he knew that his creator Victor Frankenstein had mentioned Geneva as his native town. He decided to travel and meet his cursed creator. He does this because he knows that Victor is the only person he could receive help from. Although he felt nothing but hatred for Victor, he was the only possible being who he may receive pity and justice from.
The monster’s travels were long and without anyone to help him the sun was his only guide. He walked southwesterly towards Geneva but he only travelled at night with the cover of darkness, as he remained fearful of human society.
The monster describes ‘Nature decaying around me.’ This emphasizes the time taken for him to travel to Geneva because the decaying nature represents the changing seasons from autumn to winter. The monster suffers from the cold without shelter. (‘and all within me turned into gall and bitterness) His current emotions are shown here and he describes his feelings of revenge always growing deeper when he finds himself nearer to Victor’s habitation.
Although tired, the monster did not rest. He still travelled daily through the falling snow and frozen waters and he is lucky when he discovers a map of the country. Even with the map he still often wandered miles wide of the path but his rage and misery helps him overcome his fatigue. With the map he soon found that he had arrived on the borders of Switzerland. Here the seasons begin to change again, ‘the sun had recovered it’s warmth and the earth began to look green.
We soon discover that the monster’s love for nature remains, even through his bitter and miserable feelings he allows himself to be revived by emotions of gentleness and pleasure. For a while his mood changes due to nature. The monster travels during the day and forgets his solitude and deformity and allows himself to be joyful. (‘by the loveliness of its sunshine and the balminess of the air. Now that it’s spring the monster journey becomes easier to bear.
The monster comes upon a path to the wood; he walks on until he arrives at its boundary that occupied a deep river. Unsure of what path to take the monster pauses and then hears the voices of a young child. A young girl runs past the monster while laughing but she slips and fell into the rapid stream. The monster rushes and after much effort he drags the young girl to shore.
After a few minutes, the monster is interrupted by a man (probably the man who the girl playfully fled) who violently forced the girl from his arm and fled. The monster was confused by this and followed the two until this man turned and aimed a gun at the monster. He fired the weapon and deeply wounded him. The monster sank ‘under the miserable of the pain of a wound which shattered the flesh and bone.’
After the monster had offered this friendly and brave gesture and was returned with a shattering gunshot wound he let out ‘a hellish rage.’ He ‘ vowed eternal hatred and vengeance to all mankind.’ After this the agony of the wound caused him to faint. He awoke and led a miserable life in the woods for several weeks while attempting to cure the wound that left his shoulder in great pain for a long while. He also suffered emotionally from the injustice of the infliction, which troubled him considerably. All he could do was vow ‘a deep and deadly revenge on the whole of human society that he hoped would compensate for the outrages and anguish he had previously endured.
After his wound had healed his journey continued, as he experienced the beauty of nature once again he felt little more than insulted. Insulted because he found he was so wrapped with rage and revenge he couldn’t even feel the enjoyment of pleasure from the bright sun or gentle breeze like he used to.
However two months from this point the monster arrived in Geneva. He rested in a hiding place and thought on how he should approach Victor Frankenstein. He lay asleep until a child awaked him. The monster suddenly naively thought of the idea to seize the child because he had lived too little a time to realise the horrors of deformity and educate him as his companion. He went through with this plan and seized the young boy, he responded by letting out a scream. The monster attempted to calm the boy by saying,
“Child, what is the meaning of this? I do not intend to hurt you; listen to me.”
The boy struggled violently and protested against the monster. He threatens to tell his father who is incidentally M. Frankenstein. The monster becomes filled with hatred and revenge, he tells William Frankenstein that he belongs to his enemy whom he has sworn eternal revenge for, making him the first victim the monster grasped his throat until he lay dead at his feet.
After the death the monster felt he had succeeded a great triumph and celebrated by clapping his hands. He now knew that he could hurt Victor by killing those that he loved and he increasingly wants him to feel the same misery he does. The monster seems to be constantly becoming more satanic.
He gazes at William Frankenstein’s body and notices a glittering necklace; inside it contained a portrait of Victor’s mother Caroline. For a few moments, the picture attracts him until his rage returns, remembering he has been deprived of the delights that such a woman could give because of his ugliness he changes his view of the portrait to one of disgust.
He takes the necklace and retreats to the area to find a secluded shelter. He enters a barn and found a woman lying asleep on a bed of straw. He approached her and tried to wake her, she stirred and he suddenly realized that if she awakened he might be blamed for the murder.
The monster decided to make the woman (Justine) suffer for what he has done. Thanks to the injustice he has seen in the world (e.g., Felix’s exile, the wrongful shooting of the monster) he was able to cause mischief by placing the portrait in a fold of Justine’s dress. We finally find out here what happened to Justine and that Victor’s family was right to claim that she would never harm William.
The monster’s narrative ends with him describing how he sometimes ‘haunted’ the place of William’s death just for a chance to see Victor or to think about ending his own life. His last few sentences are in direct conversation to Victor when he offers a deal. He insists on having a companion as deformed as he is so that she would not deny herself to him. He tells Victor that this companion must be of the same species and have the same defects. Throughout his embedded story one of the only things which have remained the same about the monster’s character is the need for a companion. He desperately needs an Eve.
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