What do Victor and his Monster hope to achieve by telling their stories?

One of the things that makes the story of Frankenstein so great is the use of story-telling in the book. Mary Shelley does a great job of changing the style in which she presents the story and it allows us to really immerse ourselves in the characters and their perspectives. The use of letters really makes the story and what the characters are saying more believable. Two great examples of this are the stories told by Victor to Walton and the Monster to Victor. While the idea of story-telling to convey past experiences remains the same in both instances the circumstances behind each story are very different. When we look at both stories we begin to see that while these two characters come from different pasts and experiences that lead to them needed to tell their story, the motives for telling them and the themes within their stories are very similar. When it comes to listening however, through his letters we see that Walton simply was a very lonely man looking for a companion who can match his intellect. Victor on the other hand, decides to hear out the monster because he feels guilty for what he and his creation has done and he wishes he had never created the monster in the first place.

The idea of the Monster eloquently telling his story shows that he is an emotional, talking, and sensitive almost human character outside of his grotesque appearance. At his core, he simply wants to be a part of society and not be seen as a monster.  This sense of belonging is a theme in both of these two stories as Victor too is isolated, but instead by his own ambition. Here is where we see a big difference between these two characters and their stories. Victor is someone who in his current situation solely because of his own power and his desire for knowledge while the Monster was simply an innocent soul thrown out into the world to fend for itself. The monster implores Victor to “remember, that I am thy creature: I ought to be thy Adam; but I am rather the fallen angel.” By comparing Victor to God, the monster heaps responsibility for his evil actions upon Victor, scolding him for his neglectful failure to provide a healthy environment.

Victor on the other hand, is found by Walton alone in the arctic. Victor sees a lot of himself in Walton and after some convincing, he decides to tell his story. I believe that he does this to offer some sort of warning to Walton. Victor realizing that Walton is going down the same path of obsession as him Victor recounts his tale in order to demonstrate his failures as a result of his obsession. I also get the sense however, that because Victor was never able to destroy his creation his story serves to warn others while at the same time imploring others to do what he could not. Similar to Victor, the Monster offers a warning of sorts by showing Victor that his fascination with Felix and Safie as well as their family comes from his desperate desire for Victor to accept him. For this reason, he asks for a female companion. He tells Victor that all of his evil actions have been the result of a desperate loneliness and in this way warns Victor that what has happened is his fault and it will continue unless Victor makes amends to the situation. This side of the Monster surprises Victor who now sees that what he has created in not only the result of some experiment gone wrong but is a living being with wants and needs who is now an intellectual threat. The monster continues to address Victor directly, throughout their conversation, keeping us in the moment of the storytelling and adding to the complicated structure of the novel. Quotes like “Unfeeling, heartless creator! You had endowed me with perceptions and passions, and then cast me abroad an object for the scorn and horror of mankind” serve not only to structure the story but also to demonstrate that the monster has a purpose in telling his story: he wants to elicit a reaction from Victor, a recognition of Victor’s responsibility for his disastrous plight. The monster’s account of the cottagers as kind and friendly reflects his desperate desire for companionship and affection.

The importance of language as a means of self-expression is expressed in these two stories. Each distinct narrative voice contributes to the novel’s woven web of allusions and biases. Here we see that storytelling in this story usually has a purpose behind it rather than simply recounting a past experience to a friend. Both Victor and the Monster are consumed by a search for knowledge that eventually leads them to their own isolation. The fact that both of these stories begin in arctic environments only furthers the idea that these stories are intertwined and the cold represents the cold shoulder or isolation of both of these characters.  In the case of the Monster, this realization comes from the idea that his appearance will never let him be a part of society. This isolation then leads to a desire for companionship. Both of these men however, are traumatized: The monster by Victor’s abandonment and Victor by his responsibility in two deaths. This drives both of them to seek to harm the other and make right the wrongs that have been done to them by the other.

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