A monster or a child?

The story that the monster tells to Victor is full of scenes calculated to make both Victor and the audience feel compassion for him. Told by an extremely biased narrator, it is not the scenes of blatant “woe is me” oration that strike a chord in the listener. Anyone who goes on and on about how badly they’ve been mistreated is bound to get odious after a while. Thus, his melodramatic, self-sorry laments of “Why did you form a monster so hideous” (pg 144), “cursed creator! Why did I live?” (149), and “I am malicious because I am miserable” (156), do very little to excite sympathy.

Rather, it is in the moments of unthinking narration, when the monster forgets himself and reveals truths about his character, like the Duke in “My Last Duchess”, when he is able to rouse his audience to real compassion. His blind adoration for the cottagers, whom he calls his “protectors” (137), is childish and endearing. He worships these “superior beings” (131) for their grace and gentleness, and aches at their misery. Although their troubles are above his head, like a parent’s over a child’s, he naively imagines “that it might be in [his] power to restore happiness to [those] deserving people” (131).

All of these explanations of his feelings serve to remind the reader that he really is a child, having just been created a few years prior. It is difficult to feel harshly against such a childlike character, so full of good intentions and innocence, and so pitifully disgusted by his own looks. It is heart-wrenching when he mentions that despite his “despondence and mortification” at his own appearance (130), he is still able to forget about it at times and find joy in the beauty of nature and people he loves. Anyone who has ever been self conscious about their appearance knows how hard it can be to forget about it and find enjoyment in your surroundings, so it is touching to hear the how the monster struggles to forget his looks and enjoy himself.

These are the moments when the reader is most convinced that the monster deserves compassion. Victor, also, seems to have found compassion during the cottage narration, as he points out that even his steady, deeply-fixed anger “died away while he narrated his peaceful life among the cottagers” (156). However, Victor seemed primarily moved by the revelation that the monster is in fact “a creature of fine sensations” (157), capable of feeling complex emotions besides simple monstrous rage and cruelty. Indeed, the key idea that he is emotionally still a child, and moved by unschooled, immature childlike emotions, does something to explain why he struggles with controlling his anger and his strength later in his story.

 

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