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One can see similarities between monsters decline into homicidal tendencies and other homicidal persons. Homicide and suicide are often closely linked. Those that have suicidal thoughts are often prone to homicidal thoughts as well. In the case of the monster, he desperately wants to end his own life, and also, to seek revenge against the one who brought him this misery. Homicides followed by suicides are seen mainly in the type of relationship that exists in families and other close partnerships (Liem, Postulart, & Nieuwbeerta, p. 99). Once the person has committed murder, they know that inevitable dire consequences are likely to follow. Rather than face these consequences, they will often commit suicide. The hopelessness that led to the homicide becomes even more hopeless once the act is committed.
The positive correlation between homicide and suicide is a well-documented phenomenon (Bills & Li, p. 837). Major depression is present in a majority of suicide attempts following a homicide (Barber, Azrael, & Hemenway, p. 285). Mental illness is present in most fratricide cases, these symptoms are accompanies by a tendency towards impulsiveness, and family stress and strife (Bourget & Gagne, p. 531). Much more is known about the connection and pathway that leads to homicide and suicide than was known in Shelley's time. However, she managed to paint a classic case of an at-risk person for committing such acts.
The monster and Victor both demonstrate the key hallmarks that are precedents to homicides and suicides. In a sense, the guilt that Victor feels for creating the deformed "child" will eventually lead to a similar depression and despair that are seen in the monster. Victor demonstrates maternal feelings when her "child" misbehaves and commits a heinous act. Victor expresses guilt for the actions of his "child." Both Victor and the monster sink into homicidal/suicidal depression. The only difference is that Victor sees a way out. If he kills the monster, he will be in the clear. The monster never sees a way out, he will always be a monster that will be persecuted and hunted like an animal. Victor sees homicide as a way out, but the monster sees it as a means to seek revenge before the end of his own life. The monster knows that he will be hunted and probably killed for his actions, he may see homicide as an eventual means to suicide, thus ending his misery.
Another factor in Victor's psychology is that during the time of Shelley, the birth of a disfigured child, stillbirths, or children that were not otherwise seen as 'perfect' was seen as a sign of God's punishment for a sin. To have a disfigured child was viewed with contempt, accusation and disdain by the whole of society, as it was a sign of sin and internal impropriety (Warnicke, I Hoak, p. 31). To purposefully create a disfigured child, such as the monster was unthinkable. It was to play God and any consequences suffered by Victor would only be regarded as his "just punishment" for his acts. He could expect no mercy or pity from society, but rather contempt and rejection for his actions. He realized this as soon as the monster came to life. He felt that the only way to rectify the situation and to restore his own sense of morality was to kill the monster, thus "fixing" his earlier sins. As long as the monster still walked about the earth on a murderous quest, he would be morally responsible for them, along with the monster. In Victorian eyes, this would be his eternal punishment for attempting to "play God."
The Nameless Beast Within
Another facet of the monster's psychology is that he is never given a human name. A person's name is seen as sacred, a representation of their place within humanity. To be denied the gift of a name is to be denied acceptance into the human race. For the monster, it was the ultimate symbol of his destiny and the lonely life that he would live. Without a name, he would always be destined to a place lower than human. Even animals had names, but the monster would never have a name, setting him aside from all other life on the planet. To have a name is to have value and to be recognized among humanity for the being within. A person considers the utterance of their name to be the most beautiful song in the world. The monster would never hear this beautiful song.
The monster remaining nameless also has an effect on the rest of the world around them. To kill another human being is a sin, an unthinkable act for a moral person. However, to kill a nameless animal for human consumption or use is acceptable, for the most part. One of the key distinguishing features between an animal that is considered livestock and one that is considered a "pet" is whether is has a name or not. Pets are typically afforded some of the same privileges as humanity, living in the house, love, attention, affection, and other more human treatment. Livestock to be killed for meat seldom is afforded these privileges. The name of an animal is an indication as to their status in the human world. For a person, a name is a basic right, one that is given at birth to every human that is born. It is as unthinkable to deny a human the basic right of a name as it is to kill a person.
A name is the most valuable possession of humans and those privileged animals that have one. This name gives them access to other basic human rights. For an animal, this may simply be the right to live out their natural life span. The Frankenstein monster is never given the basic right of a name. This not only has an effect on his personality and perception of himself as an outsider, but it gives others the license to treat him as less than human as well. Although he is an articulate, well-educated human in every respect, he will always be as nameless livestock. His homicide would not be considered murder, but will go down as killing vermin such as a rat or dangerous animal. If Victor succeeds in killing the monster, he will be seen as a hero, rather than a murderer, thus rectifying the guilt surrounding its creation.
Victor's insane obsession with the secret of life may have stemmed from his own unresolved maternal relationship. Victor lost his mother at an early age, depriving him of the affections and lessons that are taught to a child by the mother. Victor proclaims that his creation of the monster was blind obsession with science, but his reactions to the monster's actions point to a deeper need for a maternal relationship. Victor shows motherly instincts and reactions, even motherly rejection of his deformed "child." To study the relationship between Victor and the monster is like reading a textbook on homicidal and suicidal tendencies.
The road from sanity to the insanity that embraces both Victor and the monster in the end of the book is a slow progression, marked by certain landmarks along the way. It is easy to pinpoint the monster's transition from a potential candidate for the human race to a murderous, revengeful beast. We discussed many parallels between the psychology of the monster and serial killers. The actions of the monster are more a result of his environment and the reactions of the world around him than of his own personality.
The monster had a dream of becoming integrated into human society, but soon realized that this would never come to pass. Hopelessness progressed to the point of no return, with no hope for human companionship or compassion. The monster demonstrates many of the basic human desires of any other person. He wishes for conversation, companionship, and acceptance. His downward spiral demonstrates what happens when the human spirit is denied these most basic emotional needs. The monster is testimony to the beast that lurks within all of us, if we are denied our emotional needs.
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Bills, Corey and Li, Guohua. "Correlating homicide and suicide." International Journal of Epidemiology. 34.4 (2005). 265-280. 7 Aug 2009
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Bourget, Dominique and Gagne, Pierre. "Fraticide: A Forensic Psychiatric Perspective." Journal
of American Academy of Psychiatry Law. 34.4 (2006). 529-533.
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Her list includes the following: culture / Nature reason / Nature male/female mind/body ( Nature) master/slave reason/matter (physicality) rationality/animality ( Nature) human / Nature (non-human) civilised/primitive ( Nature) production/reproduction ( Nature) self/other At first glance, this list seems to capture the basic groupings and gender associations that are at work in Mary Shelley's novel. The Creature exemplifies animality, primitiveness, and physicality, whereas Victor represents the forces of civilization, rational production, and culture. Victor is part of a happy family
Frankenstein & Romanticism How Romanticism is Demonstrated in Frankenstein In less than six years, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein will be 200 years old. This novel, indicative of the romantic period, is a compelling narrative with numerous themes and vivid imagery to consider. In the context of romanticism, Frankenstein is a worthwhile piece of literature to examine. Literature and art of the romantic period is characterized with an emphasis on intense emotional reactions, specifically
However, he also chooses isolation in his desire to explore the North Pole. And yet, to Brannstrom, the character of Robert Walton balances Victor Frankenstein who deliberately chooses to isolate himself from society and the creature who longs to belong to society. According to Brannstrom, "Walton is someone who can strive for distinction but at the same time turn back when his actions might harm others." Tied to the theme
It has "… taken on a life of its own independent of Mary Shelley's text, and indeed even independent of certain parts of her narrative." (Goodall 19) This has resulted in film and stage play versions of the novel. The reason for this continuing popularity lies largely with the relevance of the themes; particularly with regard to the theme of man 'playing God' through his application of scientific knowledge and
Frankenstein and Enlightenment The Danger of Unregulated Thought in Frankenstein Mary Shelley's Frankenstein; Or, the Modern Prometheus, considered by many to be one of the first science-fiction novels written, is rife with anti-Enlightenment undertones. Shelley's novel, first published in 1818 and republished in 1831, examines the roles of science and religion, and provides a commentary on the dangers of playing God. Considering that Mary Shelley was the daughter of two prominent Enlightenment
Frankenstein's creation of the monster is rendered as a kind of horrific pregnancy; for example, where a pregnant woman expands with the child she is bearing and usually eats more, Frankenstein wastes away during his work, depriving himself "of rest and health" (Shelley 43). Rather than expressing any kind of paternal (or maternal) love for his creation, Frankenstein recoils, as "breathless horror and disgust filled [his] heart" (Shelley 43).
Finally, it is worth briefly mentioning that even if there were some inherent quality to human beings that existed prior to experience and influenced their personality and behavior, then the monster's experiences would seem to suggest that this human nature is inherently violent, cruel, and petty, rather than representing the kind of pure ideal suggested by Victor. In Mary Shelley's novel Frankenstein, the idea of nature vs. nurture is explored