The stereotype that our culture has developed about Frankenstein’s monster is one of simplicity: he is either a misunderstood creation, or a killing machine that is to be feared. However, my reading of Frankenstein changed this because, for the first time, I saw the Creature as both. He is learned, intelligent, and reasonable, and yet he brutally kills Elizabeth and Henry Clerval. The amazing thing is that by portraying both sides of the Creature, Shelley makes him distinctly human.

When Frankenstein looks into the eyes of the monster and remarks “if eyes they could be called”, the implication is that he sees no soul in the being that he created. Perhaps the emptiness he perceived was just a reflection of his own eyes, for he is the immoral, hollow man who ¬†abandoned his best friend and his true love in the pursuit of perverting the laws of nature. The creature, in fact, does have something there. He is not violent by nature, and becomes well-read and educated. When he confronts Frankenstein again, his initial reaction is not one of violence, but of love — he asks for a wife. When he acts violently, it’s in moments of temporary rage and passion similar to any other human being. And when Frankenstein deprives the Creature of its one request, the creature vows to have his vengeance in the same manner that people have for thousands of years.

Most telling of the Creature’s humanity is his deep remorse for the death of Victor Frankenstein. He realizes that all the destruction he wrought has brought him no peace. He understands now that he has fallen from virtue, from the creature that was “once filled with sublime and transcendent visions of the beauty and the majesty of goodness.” His tragic fall is parallel to every other fall from grace that man has experienced. When Robert sees him drift into “darkness and distance”, the Creature leaves the novel as a human being, not a monster.

I used to look at this iconic photo and fear the Creature. I saw the wrinkled skin, and the shadows under his eyes, and the painful bolts protruding from his neck and my heart would race. Now, I see not only the fear; the wrinkles on his face are that of an old man, wise and learned. His worn jacket is that of a middle-class man, warm-hearted and caring. And the radiant darkness that his eyes project is that of the lonely man, who wants nothing but to be accepted as an equal.

Maybe it’s high time we stop calling him the Creature.