By Mahealani LaRosa

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Although one may not think it, colonialism and racism are rampant in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. The most obvious examples of this are through the scenes involving the monster, but also through the story of Safie, the Muslim migrant lover of cottage-dweller Felix. Both of these characters are essentially isolated and discriminated against for being different than what society deems normal. Throughout the novel, the creature is pushed away by society, literally “attacked… bruised by stones and many other kinds of missile weapons” (98) when he tries to enter the world of humans. Undeterred by his horrific treatment, he “longed to join them” (101) and continues to watch the cottage-dwellers to “discover the motives which influenced their actions” (101). Although he is beaten and chased and cast away by people, he still wants to know why. He wants to understand what makes him different, asking himself  “Who was I? What was I? Whence did I come? What was my destination?” (115) to better comprehend the reason he is seen as lesser than man.

The chief difference between the creature and Safie is that although she is different than the cottage-dwellers and the other European citizens of the novel, she is somewhat more accepted than the monster. Felix was “ravished with delight…. every trait of sorrow vanished from his face” when he sees Safie for the first time. Although Safie has “a language of her own” she somehow still manages to make all of the cottage-dwellers overcome with “ecstatic joy” (106). She manages to make the humans happy, while the creature makes the humans scared and angry. What is the difference between these marginalized people?

Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o wrote a book called Decolonising The Mind in which he explains that language has the power to define individual identity. Those who are oppressed, like the monster and Safie, must learn to use their own language, not the language of their oppressors. This does make sense in Safies case. She spends weeks stumbling to learn the language because she feels the need to be internally colonized in order to truly connect and understand Felix and his family. However, the creature is never born with it’s own language. It is created in the middle of its life, without anything to call its own. It is kind of ironic how fast the creature picks up the language though. The monster says it could “imitate almost every word that was spoken” while Safie “understood very little” and “conversed in broken accents” (108).

I think that the creature uses Safie’s letters to ‘prove the truth of it’s tale’ because it strengthens this idea that they are both internally colonizing theirselves. While the creature does it in a more blatant way, easily picking up on the language and speaking eloquently, while also longing to be a part of society, Safie demonstrates this idea more. She is accepted and loved by this family, technically a part of society, but she will never be understood because of where she comes from. She stifles her own language, therefore stifling her own growth as a human, to be loved by people who tell her that her life will be better with them. She is free to become whomever she chooses, but society has enforced this idea in her brain that in order to be truly accepted she must be like everyone else and internally colonize herself.