Like man at birth, the creature at his creation is a tabula rasa, enveloped in darkness and fueled by primal instincts until, inch by inch, he begins discovering the world around him, in both its human and its natural forms. It is then, at his most infantile stage of life and discovery, that the creature’s humanity is at its rawest and most profound, bubbling and taking shape beneath his unnatural shell.

Soon after the creature takes up residence next to a family living in a cottage, he forms a connection to them not by idolizing the beauty of their lives, but by witnessing the humble sadness that surfaces from time to time:

“They were not entirely happy. The young man and his companion often went apart, and appeared to weep. I saw no cause for their unhappiness; but I was deeply affected by it. If such lovely creatures were miserable, it was less strange that I, an imperfect and solitary being, should be wretched. Yet why were these gentle beings unhappy? They possessed a delightful house (for such it was in my eyes) and every luxury; they had a fire to warm them when chill, and delicious viands when hungry; they were dressed in excellent clothes; and, still more, they enjoyed one another’s company and speech, interchanging each day looks of affection and kindness. What did their tears imply? Did they really express pain? I was at first unable to solve these questions; but perpetual attention and time explained to me many appearances which were at first enigmatic.” (102)

The creature seems confused by this dimension of pain in human existence, one that he had never before considered. His  sympathy for the family is an especially thought-provoking one due to its primitive and naïve nature. He feels it despite his lack of understanding; he is unable to see “[any] cause for their unhappiness”, yet he is “deeply affected by it”. This is a turning point for the creature: Before stumbling upon their humble abode, his only interactions with mankind were marred by the human ability to inflict pain. And, at the beginning of his silent existence next to the family, he saw only peace, beauty, and music. This realization, then, that pain can find its way even into the hearts of those whom he fears and revers, gives him pleasure as much as it confuses and disturbs him. “If such lovely creatures were miserable,” he says, “it was less strange that I, an imperfect and solitary being, should be wretched.” Thus, their pain is his momentary salvation: he recognizes his connection to humankind, and is no longer so miserably alone. This passage thus reflects Edmund Burke’s theory in A Philosophical Enquiry that “…we have a degree of delight…in the real misfortunes and pains of others…if [sympathy] was simply painful, we would shun with the greatest care all persons and places that would excite such a passion.” (42-43)

A source of tension arises, of course, when we consider that he is, at this point, the only one who acknowledges his own connection to the family and to society at large. While at first, sympathy empowers him as a being in the sphere of human existence, the element of human interaction is missing, and the heightened sense of awareness of his own suffering is left to fester and deepen in the face of rejection by society. If we look carefully at the role of nature in the creature’s narrative, it would seem that the text foreshadows this tension from the beginning. To both Victor and the creature, nature always seemed to represent solitude, a separation from society; but while Victor sought refuge in this solitude, the creature feared it. Throughout his days spent alone in the mountains, his only source of joy was the light – the moon, the sun, the fire – that warmed him and saved him from the oblivion of night. In a particularly powerful moment, the creature discovers fire for the first time: “In my joy I thrust my hand into the live embers, but quickly drew it out again with a cry of pain. How strange, I thought, that the same cause should produce such opposite effects!” (97) Similarly, the joy he feels basking in the glow of human company and connecting to human beings seems at first to assuage his despair, but as he inches closer and closer to a society that will not accept him, his sense of fulfillment is paired to an inevitable sense of loss and pain when he is left in solitude once more, an eternal solitude that contradicts, as Burke puts it, “the purposes of our being…”(40). Eventually, the sense of something missing overpowers and poisons the victory of something gained, serving only to augment his isolation and rage as the novel goes on.  Perhaps, then, he would have been better off in the darkness.

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