QCQ-02 for English 420: Victorian Monsters by Andrea Aufdencamp
“The different accidents of life are not so changeable as the feelings of human nature. I had worked hard for nearly two years, for the sole purpose of infusing life into an inanimate body. For this I had deprived myself of rest and health. I had desired it with an ardour that far exceeded moderation; but now that I had finished, the beauty of the dream vanished, and breathless horror and disgust filled my heart. Unable to endure the aspect of the being I created, I rushed out of the room…” (page 60)
Victor Frankenstein rejects and abandons his creature as soon as it opens its eyes and takes it first, convulsive breath. I feel empathy and sorrow for the reborn. And I wonder what causes Victor’s immediate repulsion as soon as the creature stirs to life. Victor narrates previously “who shall conceive the horrors of my secret toil, as I dabbled among the unhallowed damps of the grave, or tortured the living animal to animate the lifeless clay?” (page 57) And he also says, “I gazed on him while unfinished; he was ugly then; but when those muscles and joints were rendered capable of motion, it became a thing such as even Dante could not have conceived.” (60, 61)
Literally in the blink of an eye, Victor goes from realizing a dream to bitter disappointment and “breathless horror and disgust”. Shortly thereafter he has a nervous breakdown. It’s difficult for me to buy into the idea that appearance alone is the cause of such a visceral reaction, given what Victor has been up to over the last couple of years.
In a manner, the creature is Victor’s child. A physical, living reflection of him, or rather of his dream of renewing life. Could it be that Victor’s rejection of the monster is also a rejection of himself? Or of reality? For what we refuse to look at can be ignored, reduced and forgotten.
We know that Victor was no stranger to the macabre. His dream is maintained while he “collected the instruments of life around” him. That is, objects he could control. Yet Victor’s feelings change the instant the creature is imbued with life. Life cannot be controlled.
Shelley, M. W., & Smith, J. M. (2016). 4, 5. In Frankenstein: Complete, authoritative text with biographical, historical, and cultural contexts, critical history, and essays from Contemporary Critical Perspectives. essay, Bedford/St. Martin’s.