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Human dreams of achievement, recognition, wealth and the pursuit of happiness often bring misery, rejection, irresponsibility, unethical choices and sometimes death. Attempting to fulfill those dreams can bring arrogance that blinds our vision to reality and the choices made eliminate right and wrong from our hearts or minds. In Frankenstein, the monster learns to be human by reading, The Sorrows of Young Werther, written by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. "Must it ever be thus, -- that the source of our happiness must also be the fountain of our misery?" (von Goethe, Book I, August 18). Frankenstein went beyond the boundaries of science when he believed he had the power to replace God as the creator.
Frankenstein's monster, as if a baby reaching out to his mother for the first time, reaches out to Victor as he is transformed from a lifeless body to a breathing human. Imagine being sewn together from patchwork body parts and brought into this world because a brilliant man's arrogance to achieve beyond what any other scientist or doctor had, then rejected by that creator. "The different accidents of life are not so changeable as the feelings of human nature. I had worked hard for nearly two years, for the sole purpose of infusing life into an inanimate body. 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." (Frankenstein, p. 74). Victor, horrified by the creature's revolting appearance, attempts to save his reputation by abandoning the monster. Victor thought to himself, "I had gazed on him unfinished, he was ugly then, but when those muscles and joints were rendered capable of motion, it became such a thing as even Dante could not have conceived." (Frankenstein, p. 75).
The monster rejected by Victor is rejected by society as well. Imagine entering this world as an adult and not benefiting by a childhood full of mistakes, support, and years of learning experiences, like the society around him. His desire to fit into this world means he must gain knowledge, but from whom can he get this knowledge? The monster stumbles upon a shack attached to the De Lacey cottage; Mr. De Lacey, shares the cottage with his son, Felix; his daughter, Agatha; and, Felix's fiancée, Safie, who fled Turkey and joined Felix and his family. He discovered a family relationship based on mutual respect and benevolent love, he learned how to speak and to read as the result of Safie's efforts to learn English. Mr. De Lacy is blind, serves as a surrogate father to the monster and is the only person that does not judge him.
Emphasizing Victor's duties as a creator, the monster, uses a rational and emotional plea to convince Victor that he deserves and needs another being like himself who he can share his life. He vows revenge against Victor and takes his youngest brother, William, who is later found dead. He then frames Justine for the murder. Clerval, Victor's best friend and Elizabeth, Victor's fiancée are murdered because Victor reneges on his promise to create a mate for the monster. This leaves the monster lonely and abandoned again by his creator. The monster explains. "Everywhere I see bliss, from which I alone am irrevocably excluded. I was benevolent and good; misery made me a fiend. Make me happy, and I shall be virtuous again." (Frankenstein, p. 94).
With feelings of guilt deep in his soul, Victor vows vengeance against the monster for the deaths of William, Justine, Elizabeth and his father. The only way to absolve him of the responsibility for the monster's actions is to kill the monster, which is what Frankenstein sets out to do. He was responsible for the monster's creation and its actions, and he planned to be responsible for the monster's destruction as well.
According to Jason Putnam, the conflict between morality and science began when Frankenstein abandoned the monster. He gave no thought to the consequences of his actions. "He usurped the power of God by creating life, and then compounded his error by recklessly abandoning his creature. Without love and guidance, the creature was forced to become evil." (The Literary Magazine, June 1996) There is a moral obligation that Frankenstein ignored because he no longer wanted the responsibility after the monster came to life. With the ever-evolving advancements in technology, what boundaries should exist that prevent moving from the good of society to the evil put on society? When the boundaries are compromised society as a whole must accept responsibility.
Putnam further states, "People who are rejected as worthless by our society because they are ugly, clumsy, mentally retarded, or too different from their peers frequently use extreme actions to force acknowledgment of their existence. These acts might include arson, murder, theft, vandalism, and other senseless acts of destruction of violence. Like Frankenstein's monster, constant rejection breeds not compassion and understanding, but anger and hatred." (The Literary Magazine, June 1996). Society does question why there is so much violence in our world today, but the reality is, too much value is placed on beauty and the empowerment it gives. The violence perpetrated on others, by victims of rejection and humiliation can only lie at the feet of society. Society, like Frankenstein, did nothing to prevent the anger and alienation of other human beings.
Joyce Carol Oates states, "Frankenstein's behavior is preposterous, even idiotic, for he seems blind to the fact that is apparent to any reader-that he has loosed a fearful power into the world, whether it strikes his eye as aesthetically pleasing or not, and he must take responsibility for it. Except, of course, he does not. For, as he keeps telling himself, he is blameless of any wrongdoing apart from the act of creation itself." (Critical Inquiry, 1994). Human beings lack the ability to take responsibility for their actions; we need look no further than in the thousands of unfounded lawsuits filed annually in the United States. Many of these lawsuits are filed as a message that somebody needs to pay. There must be a society built on honesty, morality and truthfulness, not people who remain blameless no matter what they do.
Society can only learn when the inhabitants are willing to grow, accept responsibility, and end the misery that irresponsibility and ignorance create for everyone. Stop the Frankenstein's of the world, stop the misery they bring about. This is accomplished when everyone shows respect, concern, love and kindness to those they meet in their lifetime. These characteristics can be admired by humanity. The superficial scale that determines a person's value to society, such as what they look like, how intelligent they are, or how much money they have shows the arrogance of man. Frankenstein played God because of his arrogance and his need to be glorified, but instead, he brought misery to himself and those he loved. No one benefited by his scientific knowledge, and that is irresponsibility and the waste of a great mind.