Page 102: “They were not entirely happy…which were first enigmatic.”

One aspect of Burke’s theory of sympathy is focused on the sympathy one feels in regard to the distress of others. He states that we feel a delight, which in this case is the absence of pain, in the tragedy of others. This “delight” is what prompts us to take interest and aid our fellows, instead of fearing the same fate and abandoning them to their own devices. Of course, we are unaware of such perverse motives with Burke stating, “…and the pain we feel, prompts us to relieve ourselves in relieving those who suffer; and all this antecedent to any reasoning, by an instinct that works us to its own purpose, without any concurrence.” This inborn instinct however, is very much absent in the Creature. Although he does experience feelings of sympathy for the impoervished family, he is at a loss as to explain the feeling. He attempts to rationalise and investigate the source of his sympathy, something Burke claims is an instinct and something people do not engage in. We see the similarities to a human in his ability to experience these emotions, yet his awkwardness and wonder in the experience alienate him further from us.

The passage selected focuses on the scene in which the monster is first made aware of the unhappiness that the DeLacey family are experiencing. He is surprised by his empathy for them, with their intense emotions deeply resonating with him. Yet, this sympathy does not come naturally to him,as he tries to justify these strange, alien feelings. We see this through the repetition of his questioning, “What did their tears imply? Did they really express pain? I was at first unable to solve these questions…” This quote also reveals a theme of rational versus emotion. The creature, lacking in true comprehension for human suffering, is frustrated with his fruitless attempts  to answer these questions. His sympathy is tainted with the sense of logic and justification, a mix which Burke argues, is not characteristic of human sympathy. Additionally, the rapid questions create a sense of tension for the audience, his distress in the unresolved matter almost palpable. This tension lends to detracting further from the creature’s sincerity in his empathy, making it seem more like an inquisitive reaction rather than true sympathy.

This passage highlights the creatures ability to feel a pale imitation of sympathy ( judged by Burke). The creature seems to react to the emotions he sees rather than experience a true empathy for the DeLaceys. His aggressive repeated questioning lends a strained quality to his concern for the DeLaceys, which in turn undermines his genuine concern for them.

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