The most common definition of a ‘monster’ is that of an animal or human grotesquely deviating from the normal shape, behaviour, or character, yet the term could also relate to a person who excites horror by wickedness or cruelty; these terms are both applied within the novel, ‘Frankenstein’ by Mary Shelley. Possibly the most obvious links are: the first definition to the creation, commonly perceived as the ‘monster’, and the second to the creator himself, Victor Frankenstein.
Her strong literary background having two established authors as parents, leading her to be deeply involved in Romantic/Gothic literature, heavily influenced Shelley’s works. Most notably in the novel she inherits themes from ‘Paradise Lost’ by John Milton. This was her inspiration to write the dark and twisted tale of ‘Frankenstein’. In the novel the way monsters and monstrosity are depicted are through the descriptions of the characters. Doctor Frankenstein is described using unusual and inhuman adjectives. For example, ‘My cheek and grown pale’ and ‘my person had become emaciated’.
Pale is a word that we would refer to ill, or unwell, or even to that of death. This suggests slightly inhuman features of Victor, with the word ’emaciated’ suggesting shrunken and weak, emphasizing the imagery of death. Frankenstein conceals himself away and does not function with society as he states in his own narrative ‘I shunned my fellow creatures’. As human beings are social beings, who enjoy the company of others, it is unusual to ‘shun’ others; hence it is arguable that Frankenstein is being inhuman and in turn, more monstrous.
This phrase also suggests that Frankenstein has accepted his animalistic tendencies through the use of the word ‘creatures’. The way the creation is presented in the novel also portrays a sense of monstrosity as he is described as ‘yellow skin’, ‘horrid… water eyes, that seemed almost of the same colour as the dun white sockets in which they were set’, ‘ black lips’ and ‘shrivelled complexion’. These description are all not related to ‘normal’ human features therefore presenting the image of inhumanity and therefore beastly and monstrous.
These descriptions are further emphasised as they are placed juxtaposed in the text to that of ‘pearly white’ and ‘lustrous black’ which can be seen as more human and attractive features so therefore contrasting to the previous description making them stand out more. The overall effect of Shelley’s description displays a picture of inhumanity, as these are not features of a normal being emphasised through the contrasting portrayal. Another way Shelley presents the idea of monstrosity it the way the creation committed deadly sin (quite literally).
The killings of the innocent (Elizabeth and Henry) were, in his mind a justified act of revenge but under the strict Christian views at the time (age of enlightenment), this would have been highly punishable. The creation’s want for revenge was justifiable to a certain extent, but to the point of murder, it was not. This makes the creature look extreme and intimidating and therefore betraying what we would consider, a sense of monstrosity. Furthermore the creature’s killing of its creator, therefore some would say its ‘God’ (Frankenstein) shows a sense of heresy and trying to be above God. This can be considered a monstrous act.