Before we can apply Edmund Burke’s ideas on sympathy to Mary Shelley’s gothic classic Frankenstein, we  must first dissect Burkes complex writing on the subject. Burke’s complicated theories on sympathy far exceed the definition on the back of a 5th grader’s flash card. Burke identifies sympathy as mode of human connection. According to Burke, it is through sympathy that “we enter into the concerns of others; that we are moved as they are moved, and are never suffered to be indifferent spectators of almost anything which men can do or suffer” (A Philosophical Enquiry 41).

When Frankenstein re-encounters the creature for the first time since the creation scene, both Frankenstein and the creature must demonstrate sympathy in order to create a fragile bond between creation and creator. First, the creature expresses his sympathy through his attitude of self-loathing. The creature explains, “remember, that I am thy creature: I ought to be thy Adam; but I am rather the fallen angel, whom thou drivest from joy for no misdeed. Everywhere I see bliss, from which I alone am irrevocably excluded” (Frankenstein 93-94). The creature identifies himself as Satan rather than Adam to show his negative feeling about his own being.   This shared idea of the creature’s wretchedness is one of the only conneections that Frankenstein and the creture share. Here the creature is, as Burke explains, “enter[ing] into concerns” of his creator. Essentially, the creature has sympathized with Frankenstein through the realization of his own horrid nature.

The sympathy shown in this scene however is not exclusive to the creature, Dr. Frankenstein also exhibits sympathy during this scene. Frankenstein has the choice to ignore completely the requests of the creature and banish him to live in solitude in the ice caves, but he instead engages the creature. What allows Frankenstein to listen to the creature’s story is the sympathy and compassion he feels for his creation:

“I was partly urged by curiosity, and compassion confirmed my resolution. I had hitherto supposed him to be the murderer of my brother, and I eagerly sought a confirmation or denial of this opinion. For the first time, also, I felt what the duties of a creator towards his creature were, and that I ought to render him happy before I complained of his wickedness” (Frankenstein 95)

Sitting down to hear the story of the creature is the first real connection between Frankenstein and his creation. The diction in the passage provides evidence for the feelings of sympathy that Frankenstein feels for the creature.  The use of the words “urge,” “duties,” and “ought” shows that Frankenstein felt some sort of obligation to his creature. As Burkes idea’s of sympathy explain, Frankenstein refuses to be an “indifferent spectator” while the creature suffers.

In this scene, the creature and Frankenstein must sympathize with each other in order to make a not-so-human connection. The creature shows sympathy through his self-deprecating attitude, while Frankenstein shows sympathy by feeling obligated to sit down and listen to the creature’s story.

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