Tag Archive: perception


Sympathy and Sight

Passage: pg. 120, paragraph starting with, “The old man paused…”

The passage I’ve selected is during the conversation in which the creature is pleading to the old man De Lacey and trying to persuade him to lend him a hand. This passage is particularly important in highlighting sympathy, or the lack thereof, that exists in Frankenstein.

The creature has passionately begged old man De Lacey to be a friend to him. De Lacey, who is blind, evaluates the Creature’s arguments and, after careful consideration, agrees to help the Creature. Noticeably, when he makes his decision, there are multiple words that indicate his hesitation.

“The old man paused

“I perhaps may be of use”

“There is something in your words”

After evaluating what the Creature is asking, De Lacey comes to the conclusion that, “it will afford me true pleasure to be in any way serviceable to a human creature.” He reaches this conclusion out of his sympathy for a fellow man, in that he is able to understand the situation presented and feel emotion towards another member of his species. Unfortunately for the Creature, he does not fall in the realm of human beings and thus, when it is determined that he is not a human creature, he no longer garners the sympathy that blind De Lacey initially offered.

Interestingly enough, in Burke’s writings on sympathy, he makes continual note of how mankind naturally possesses sympathy for other men. If you take Burke’s writing to be absolutely literal, it becomes clear that there exists no sympathy for beings of another species, such as the Creature. And again and again in Frankenstein, we see that a continual lack of sympathy towards the Creature, consistent with Burke’s writings.

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“Life, do you hear me? Give my creation life!”

Gene Wilder’s, well, wild invocation in Mel Brooks’s “Young Frankenstein,” added to the crazed look on his face helped establish the insanity of Frankenstein’s character in the movie. This of course follows the same mythos that the general public knows the story by: insane Dr. Frankenstein becomes an engineer of human life, attempting to create an artificial being. In at least two movie adaptations, he is assisted by a hunchbacked Igor and together they are successful, with the iconic “It’s alive!” being heard in both that I am familiar with. Then the stories diverge, with the common one ending with a final confrontation where the monster is burned to death. The 1994 movie is the closest to being an accurate representation of the book, with only a few plot points diverging.

There are elements of the true story within the commonly known version (though, how else would it still remain a version of the story), but they are incredibly stretched to adapt to the entertainment world. The original story’s main character is a man who is often depressed and/or ill, and a weak main character is rarely a boon for movies or pop stories. It is justifiable, then, to inject Frankenstein with more oomph – in the form of a mad scientist persona that makes him much more interesting than a fearful and almost paranoid man. In addition to this, it wouldn’t be as interesting of a movie if the prime antagonist isn’t evil, simply misunderstood and lonely. Yes, he is spiteful and vengeful, but these alone do not make a good villain for pop films, where morality is generally required to be very black and white.

In many senses, it is unfortunate that people are only familiar with these “inaccurate” versions of the story. But i am content to enjoy Mary Shelley’s version and let others seek the original story if they so desire.

hojoMad scientists are not about the messy work. What would be the point of killing off innocent people when you have the ability to create something that can do the dirty work for you? This is how I perceived the idea and the creation of the creature in the mind of Victor Frankenstein before reading the book. I believed that, like any normal evil genius, Frankenstein created the large male creature to terrorize Europe through the killing of several individuals. The creature was just a tool for executing the plans that Frankenstein had so carefully planned out. The real story however, crushed every hope I had of Victor becoming the next big villain.

There are so many facets to the story that have collectively destroyed my perception of Frankenstein and his creature. The biggest misconception I had was that Frankenstein and the creature were on the same page as it came to their plans. I waited so patiently for the evil laugh to spill out of Frankenstein’s mouth after his weapon was brought to life but instead I received squeals of panic. The creature and the creator were at no point on the same team and the Victor made sure the creature knew. This created a massive rift in my ideas because the creature was no longer a weapon for Frankenstein in my mind; the creature was a mistake.

The second issue I picked up on as it came to my ideas was that in order to create a killing machine that machine should not have the ability to feel. Feelings like remorse for example, affect those who do things and in this case, negative things. By creating a monster that had the ability to feel emotions, the monster was not designed to be a cold hard killer. While it is true that the monster killed several people, his reasons for those killings were entrenched in his rage for his creator who had neglected him. He did not kill because he was told to but because his emotions, a very human quality, got the most of him. Frankenstein never intended to create an evil monster because he himself was not evil, so the monster was given human emotion. No weapon of destruction should have emotions because they would then feel bad about the destruction and this is how the creature feels at the end of the novel.

Perceptions are made by everyone daily. It is a part of our lives. This example of my shattered reality however, brings to light the saying that one should not judge a book by its cover. In this case of this actual book, I used what I commonly see in other stories to determine the relationship between Frankenstein and his creature and the book proved me otherwise.

When I first read Frankenstein in high school, what struck me most about the novel was that the monster is not named Frankenstein, indeed, he has no name at all. After reading it a second time, what has struck me now is that Frankenstein is not about the monster. It is not about Victor Frankenstein. It is not about Clerval, or Elizabeth, or Felix and Safie. Frankenstein is, on a deeper level, about the way personal histories intertwine, the way the lives of people far removed from each other, ultimately culminate in one story. It’s about interrelation, not a monster.

Boris Karloff Frankenstein (1931)

The frame narrative sets the story up to cause characters removed from each other to affect one another. If Mary Shelley had chosen to write Frankenstein without the addition of the creature’s encounters at the cottage, discovering language, and Felix and Safie’s story, we would only know the flat story of Frankenstein. His creature would be an auxiliary character to further Victor’s development. What Shelley gives us instead, is a tale woven from separate angles. The creatures journey and intellectual growth change the readers perception of the character, and in turn, the reader’s perception of Victor. The purpose of the nested stories is to show that they are all essential to the understanding of the narrative; each story, from the inside out, changes the way the next layer is told, approached by the reader, or understood. The story is not really about a monster. The story is about people, and the ways in which our lives radiate out from ourselves to affect each other.

Stereotypes are a by-product of our tendencies to try to group ourselves into different categories, typically based on certain recognizable features that are generally associated towards a person/group. Perceptions, either positive or negative, result from such features, and in Frankenstein, it is the Creature’s outward physical appearance which is his most prominent feature. His revolting appearance, which fosters negative perceptions and stereotypes, bars him from being accepted by anyone, including I the reader, but a humanizing conversation with his creator changes my perception of him completely.

Ever since I can remember, I’ve always assumed several things regarding this novel; one of which was that the Creature had a name and it was Frankenstein and another being that the Creature was ugly, evil, and monstrous. Pop culture (hello, Halloween season!) has infused within me the typical routine stereotypes regarding the Creature, which made him pretty one-dimensional to me, due to a lack of any deeper insight into his true personality. Well, regardless of such insight, the Creature is horrifyingly hideous, with its “yellow skin [which] scarcely covered the work of muscles and arteries beneath [as well as] his shriveled complexion and straight black lips” (Shelley 60). The sheer ugliness causes Victor to immediately form a strongly negative perception of the Creature as one to be fearful of, and the stereotype that he is a potential killing machine grips Victor. In fact, after he finds out that William was murdered, he comes across the Creature lurking in the area very close to where the murder took place. Victor’s stereotype towards the Creature is instantly validated, even without the presence of any hard proof.

In Victor’s mind, the Creature is devoid of emotion and any semblance of humanity, and is continually focused on wreaking havoc and horror. This dehumanization sprang forth through the initial perceptions that Victor developed based on the Creature’s outward physical appearance, but the Creature eventually has a powerful conversation with Victor that displays the former’s humanity and makes the latter look cold and unfeeling. The Creature confides to Victor that he is miserable due to his isolation and that, at the very least, all he wants is acceptance from Victor, his creator. Still stuck on his firmly ingrained stereotype, Victor rejects the Creature several times while the Creature never gets violent nor develops a temper of any sort; rather, it is Victor who gets livid and threatens violence towards his creation. Perception, as evidenced by the above scene in the novel, does not always equal reality, and the stereotypes that result from certain perceptions can be downright inaccurate, hurtful and harmful. I really felt bad for the Creature during his conversation with his creator and my views on him changed in a heartbeat. Despite his repulsive appearance, captured effectively (yet stereotypically) by this picture:

Boris Karloff Frankenstein (1931)

A true reflection of the kind of danger the Creature really poses is likely pictured here:

The above picture is the Creature in doll form. Here, while it still looks hideous, it is reduced to a minor, harmless (minus the arms and legs on its feet) little plaything. It is obviously someone’s creation and its outstretched arms can be symbolic of a desire to be accepted. This desire, which was clearly articulated by the Creature in the novel, displayed a very human side of him that I never thought existed due to prior stereotypes.