Society was the real villain in Frankenstein

What is a monster? Let’s try and find out

A monster is most often defined as a “large, ugly, and frightening imaginary creature.” Most often in literature the main character of the story is a good guy, a man or woman who goes against evil to destroy a villain or monster. And yet despite the fact that the creature in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is a quintessential example of a monster, big, ugly, unnatural, it is in fact Victor, the main character who is the true monster. But can we really dismiss his creation as no monster? I don’t think so.

Victor is the one who wished so much to create unnatural life that it ultimately led to the deaths of everyone he loved so dearly.

Some people argue that the creature is the monster of the story based upon the way he looks, he fits the criteria sure but Frankenstein is a novel about the inner reality of a soul, it is a story about how the actions not the physical appearances of people make them monsters or not.


Yet in most analysis of the text the creation is referred to as Frankenstein’s monster, that is his most common label. After all his description is horrifying, “His yellow skin scarcely covered the work of muscles and arteries, his hair was of a lustrous black, his teeth of a pearly whiteness; but these luxuriance’s only formed a more horrid contrast with his watery eyes, his shrivelled complexion and straight black lips.”

This is a classic example of judging a book by its cover. We, just like the society in the book only see the scary and monstrous aspects of the creature and did not think to judge him by what he was on the inside, within that most horrifying of extremities. Someone who is newly born cannot be evil, they do not know right from wrong, they do not understand the world around them.

The creation is shown to be fascinated with the world, with nature specifically, “I started up and beheld a radiant form rise from among the trees. I gazed with a kind of wonder. It moved slowly, but it enlightened my path.” This is the moment when the creation shows his curiosity for the first time, by allowing us to heart his wonderment through his own words Mary Shelley shows us that he is not a monster, he’s more accurately a child.

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We are even shown that he is capable of being good by performing helpful deeds such as gathering wood. It is quite clear that if he had been taught and nurtured he could have been brought down the right path and found his place within society.

At one point he takes a families wood cutting tools and brings them back an ample supply of firewood, an act of pure kindness, “I discovered also another means through which I was enabled to assist their labours. I found that the youth spent a great part of each day in collecting wood for the family fire, and during the night I often took his tools, the use of which I quickly discovered, and brought home firing sufficient for the consumption of several days.”

At his most basic the creation has a personality that cares for others and craves their acceptance within their lives. And yet no matter how many acts of kindness he performs nobody is willing to accept him within their society, he is always judged by his looks alone and not by his deeds or actions, “he dashed me to the ground and struck me violently with a stick.”

Those were the actions of a family the creature had grown to love from a far, the family he would chop wood for secretly so they never went cold, and yet they were terrified by what they saw, they could not bring themselves to look past the outside to the kind hearted person within.

Mary Shelley gives us the false impression that the creation is the monster of the story, but of course that is not true. Victor is a selfish man whose rejection of his creations leads to his own demise and that of his family, he is the monster of his own creation, he is the true villain.

When the creature is first born his introduction into our world is cruel and unforgiving. His creator, and more rightly father, is horrified by him and abandons him immediately, which for a being of new life is terrifying.

This was not a creature born evil, he was simply a product of Victors unwillingness to accept the truth about his experiement. He tries to reach out to other people, to find the comfort and companionship he should have had from Victor. All he ever wanted was to be accepted, and his one true chance at that was taken cruelly away from him when Victor destroys his companion, “The wretch saw me destroy the creature on whose future existence he depended for happiness, and with a howl of devilish despair and revenge, withdrew.”

It was this harrowing death that pushed the creature to his breaking point. Throughout his entire life he had never known one single act of kindness, he had known only disgust and hatred, based on nothing more than his appearance.

The creature deals with Victor in kind and kills his beloved wife Elizabeth.

Something can not be created evil. It is the surroundings and environment within which they are raised that ultimately influence their behaviour. And we see first hand the creature turn from a kind hearted individual into a killer.

Shelley shows us quite clearly that people focus too much on whats on the outside and forget to look at whats on the inside of another person.


Victor was a reckless monster driven by his own passion and ambition, instead of truly thinking about the ramifications of his actions he focused on his desire to be famous.

When Justine is accused of murder Victor stays silent, he doesn’t tell the truth and take responsibility, he allows another to take the fall, and when the creature threatens him on his wedding day he thinks not of Elizabeth but of himself.

Victor describes his own creation as an animal, he never once looks at it as if it were human. But he’s not the only one to reject him.

The creatures entire life is filled with societal rejection and hatred, and we are able to understand, though not justify, his extreme actions in retribution, after all it is societies fault that he is led to the actions he commits.

When he is on his own the creature is a kind individual, he saves a little girl from drowning and he helps a family survive the harsh winter. But he is not seen as the hero he is but as a monster, and it is that fear and hatred leads to the creation of a monster to rival his creator.

The creation certainly did not wish to be born to be evil, he did not wish to be born at all, yet so many literary experts say that simply because of Victors horrible actions his creation is not a monster, as if excusing his actions. They are both monsters, they are both evil, why cannot that be so? Society turned the creature into a monster but I argue it did the same for Victor. He sought approval and fame, shallow things yes but things that society encourages and rewards. They were both corrupted by the same thing, the views of others.

Why not check out this other essay of ours

An exploration of the Vampire and its Sexuality

Vampires have enjoyed something of a renaissance in modern literature and one of the main reasons for that is the sexual nature of what is otherwise a monster from the depths of mankind’s nightmares

Author: Jamie Hall

Writer, avid book reader and procrastinator extraordinaire.

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