Where Does the Difference Between Word and Action Lie?

Following the recount of the Monster’s story in Mary Shelley’s ‘Frankenstein,’ the reader finds themselves quarreling with varying degrees of emotions and mental capacity that range from elation and desperate hope, to disgust and utter despair. These emotions invariably arise from the unfortunate actions that had been taken towards the monster as he attempted to fixate himself in a society that accepts him; where he might be considered a friend instead of a fiend. It is important, in the reflection of this portion of the novel, for one to consider a point that the monster himself relates as an enigma of the human race: “Was man, indeed, as once so powerful, so virtuous, and magnificent, yet so vicious and base” (Shelley, 135)? Just as we are told of the times where humans have been so kind and, in contrast, so malignant, so too does the monster witness first-hand the differences between a kind treatment and – more commonly – an unkind one. From these instances, Shelley shows how distraught one may become when treated unfairly; how the monster becomes a being of vengeance. Thus, the reader is forced to consider how the monster was treated and whether or not said treatment was rational and/or ethical. With careful consideration, the reader begins to notice how, in simple discourse/dialogue, the monster is met with fair treatment and consideration, but when an impulsive action is taken towards the monster, the action is almost always one of immoral status.

As mentioned in the closing of the opening statement, it is apparent that, when given the opportunity to verbally express himself, the monster is almost always met with agreeable treatment. The first notable mention of this phenomenon occurs when the monster decides to approach Mr. DeLacey, the blind elder residing in the cottage that the monster observes. Taking the time to relate the tales of his misfortune (through in an indirect manner), the monster is met with a degree of pity from the gentleman, who replies as such: “I am poor, and an exile; but it will afford me true pleasure to be in any way serviceable to a human creature” (148). Shelley passively shows us the folly of our ways by making a blind man the first to willingly talk with the creature. Here, the manner in which our monster composes himself with his dialogue shows him to be rather agreeable, as the elderly gentleman relates, thus he is treated in moral fashion. But, as will be revealed later, once the others return to the cottage and behold the repugnant appearance of the creature holding the man, they allow his appearance to control their behavior. One other example includes the moment where the monster has concluded the relation of his tale to Victor and beseeches his Creator to fashion a woman after his own design so that he might have a companion. Following his speech, Victor’s reflections on “the subsequent blight of all kindly feelings by the loathing and scorn of [the monster’s] protectors…concluded that the justice due [to the monster]…demanded that [he] should comply with his request” (159). Whether or not Victor creating another monster is considered moral, the method with which he came to the conclusion should be considered as such. Through dialogue, Victor came to the conclusion that the monster had experienced tremendous sufferings and was thus deserving of some kindness.

Following words, comes action, and, as is seen throughout the novel, action towards the monster is just about always bred by immoral impulse. We return to the scene at the cottage. Following the monster’s amiable interaction with the blind, elderly gentleman of the house, the younger family members arrive and immediately begin to take some sort of action against the monster. “Agatha fainted; and Safie, unable to attend her friend, rushed out of the cottage. Felix darted forward, and…dashed [the monster] to the ground, and struck [him] violently with a stick” (148). Fainting and running is perhaps, a more understandable reaction to perceiving a monster, but with no apparent harm having been done, we are conflicted with the consideration of whether or not attacking the monster is an appropriate action. Regardless what side should be taken on this, we have to approach this from the monster’s perspective, where we come to the conclusion that this is, in fact, a detestable response. The monster had already testified to his misfortunes and griefs, and is met ultimately with pain, as those who he held in such high esteem immediately attacked him without thought upon perceiving him. There was no attempt at dialogue between the two parties before fighting erupted. Almost immediately following this, the monster sees a young girl fall in a rapidly flowing stream. He saves her, but someone following her tore her from him and eventually shot him. Seeing a monster holding a young child rightfully would spark the thought that the child is in need of saving, but, again, from the monster’s perspective, he just saved a young girl’s life, and instead of being thanked or at least questioned by the person who came for her, he is shot. Granted, this is not a reaction by the DeLacey family or Victor themselves, people who were much more important in the monster’s life, and thus more influential, but it is an occurrence that is important in showing how unethical responses shaped the monster’s development.

The final conclusion comes down to an overall consideration of the history of mankind. Where misery has proliferated, we see unchecked action dominate. Where kindness and overall virtue are seen, peaceful discussion and calculated, beneficial actions have dominated. Mary Shelley shows that the treatment of this monster is no different. When people actually took the time to talk with and listen to the monster, he was met with more ethical, considerate responses. But when people allowed unchecked impulses to fuel their actions towards the monster, he was met with immoral responses. After experiencing a much greater degree of the latter, he thus becomes a creature of vengeance. With this in mind, the reader is forced to reflect upon their own actions in how they treat others. Rather than making immediate distinctions about someone, perhaps thoughtful consideration and dialogue can end in a favorable scenario that would otherwise be devastating.

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