One of these factors could have been Science. At the time there were many ‘discoveries’ being made in science. Shelley along with many people with fascinated by the discoveries being made at the time, but she also was acutely aware ‘Of the inherent dangers of the scientific quest which could so easily sacrifice humane means, perhaps humanity itself, in the quest for knowledge and power.’ This is shown in Frankenstein’s ambition to create another being, even at his death: – ‘I have myself been blasted in these hopes, yet another may succeed’.
The Legend of Frankenstein started in a large villa in Italy. Lord Byron, the entertaining host that he was, suggested to his three guests (Shelley, Percy Shelley and Polidori, Byrons’ Physician) that they should tell ghost stories to scare each other. Shelley tried hard, but for many nights she could think of no story, until one night, in a dream, it came to her: – ‘I saw … the pale student of unhallowed arts kneeling beside the thing he had put together. I saw the hideous phantasm of a man stretched out, and then, on the working of some powerful engine, show some signs of life, and stir with an uneasy, half vital motion.’
This horrifying image was the base for the whole novel. Her husband immediately encouraged her to try and continue the story, and thus Frankenstein was born. Despite the many immoral and wicked acts the monster commits, we can sympathise with him at several points during the novel. Although the monster perpetrates many ‘unforgivable’ crimes, we find a need to sympathise with him, because what he has already suffered in his short life. Most of the evil acts the monster perpetrates are in revenge for his suffering, or are completely accidental, like for example the death of Justine in Chapter 8.
In Chapter 5 the monster is described by his creator, Frankenstein, as a ‘wretch: – ‘How can I describe my emotions at this catastrophe, or how delineate the wretch whom with such infinite pains and care I had endeavoured to form?’ The monster is hated from the beginning of his existence. This neglect, which continues throughout the novel, is the main reason the monster resorts to violence so much in the novel.
Victor assumes, along with most people in the novel, that because the monster is hideous in appearance it must only be capable of evil. This helps create an initial sympathy for the creature from the reader, because the one person responsible for it rejects it. We find out later in the novel that Victor’s immediate hatred and disgust for the monster is unfounded, and that the monster is an intelligent being, and deserves to be treated the same, regardless of appearance. When we read chapters 11 and 12 we see that the monster is just as vulnerable as anyone else, and we see that Victor’s actions in chapter 5 are wrong. When we read these chapters we see the monsters point of view, and we sympathise with him because of the way he has been treated by not just his creator, but by society itself.
After the monster is rejected, he wanders for a while, before finding a small hovel to live in. Nearby there is a family, called the De Lacey’s. The monster studies the family from the hovel, only venturing out at night, to scavenge for food. He discovers that the oldest member of the family, named as De Lacey, is blind. The monster hopes he can build a friendship with the old man and be accepted by the rest of the family. Things do not go well for the monster, and just as he gets into conversation with the old man, Felix, the son of De Lacey walks in and sees him. He is, yet again judged on appearance, and it is assumed by Felix that he must be there to harm his father. Therefore, on instinct Felix attacks: –
‘Felix darted forward, and with supernatural force tore me from his father, to whose knees I clung: in a transport of fury, he dashed me to the ground, and struck me violently with a stick.’ Again the monster has suffered cruelty, and been cast out of society as a reject. At this point in the novel we are very sympathetic to the monster, which seems to be alone in the world, with no one to care for his needs, even a conversation with another being. We now see that the monster is aware of his difference, his ‘monstrosity’, from observing the De Lacey’s. He knows he is different and it is proven to him on the entrance of Felix and the others, on their entrance into the house.