The battle between emotion and common sense in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.
Emotional distress causes even the people society deems as good to make biased choices, depicting them as ill-willed. In Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, both Dr. Victor Frankenstein’s and the monster’s actions portray them as evil because their emotions overtake their reason. Ambition, loneliness, and fear cause the characters to focus only on their feelings and ignore their common sense.
Dr. Frankenstein’s ambitious nature initially acts as a positive motivator; however, when his zealousness overtakes all other thought, his enthusiasm acquires a negative fashion. When contemplating the monster’s completion, he quotes, “I deemed it criminal to throw away…those talents that might be useful to my fellow-creatures. When I reflected on [my] work…the creation of a sensitive and rational animal, I could not rank myself with the herd of common projectors” (156-157). By recognizing his “creation” as a “sensitive and rational animal,” Dr. Frankenstein admits that he creates a human-like being able to think and feel. His “reflect[ion]” of such reveals his rationality; yet his personality develops an ironically less human character when he refuses to acknowledge the monster’s right to happiness. The doctor refers to his “creation” as an “animal,” downplaying the monster’s humanoid qualities and blinding him to the fact that the monster is human too. As a scientist, Dr. Frankenstein “deem[s] it criminal” to waste his “talents,” as his ambition is to further the boundaries of science, that his discoveries “might be useful to my fellow-creatures.” He refers to other scientists as “fellow-creatures,” indicating his association and alliance with those like him; conversely, he treats his created human like an “animal.” This act of insensitivity characterizes Dr. Frankenstein as evil, when in reality he is merely overcome with ambition; his pride in his work gives him a sense of superiority, as he “rank[s] [him]self [above] the herd of common projectors.” Dr. Frankenstein’s usage of “common” indicates his condescension of others who fail to achieve his accomplishments. Rather than considering the implications of creating another sentimental being, Victor merely concerns himself with his place in the world of science. By refusing to acknowledge the humanity of the monster he created, Dr. Frankenstein appears heartless and evil.
In hindsight, Dr. Frankenstein acknowledges his loss of humanity from his obsession of the monster’s creation. He summarizes his regret and foreshadows his future as he compares himself to Satan: “…like the archangel who aspired to omnipotence, I am chained in an eternal hell” (157). When he designates himself as “the archangel who aspired to omnipotence,” Dr. Frankenstein collates himself to Lucifer, the head angel who overstepped his boundaries when he challenged God’s supremacy. Similar to how humans link their creator with divinity, the monster also initially associates Dr. Frankenstein with reverence. In the eyes of creature whom Dr. Frankenstein brings into existence, Dr. Frankenstein rises to the power of God. The phrase “aspired to omnipotence” directly relates to Victor’s ambition, which, like Lucifer’s, leads to his downfall. The word “chained” connotes the feeling of being trapped, as the doctor’s ardor and selfish dreams seal his own future. Through his self-depiction as Satan, Dr. Frankenstein regards himself as evil; thus, he shares the devil’s fate: in his ambition he is “chained in an eternal hell.” The doctor’s treatment of the monster results in the monster’s segregation from humanity, thus leading to his loneliness and destructive acts of rage.
The daemon’s failed attempt to join society results in his isolation, causing his deep desire to destroy mankind. Although he attempts to win the heart of the blind man, who cannot judge the monster through his appearance, the monster fails, leaving him detached from the community. In response to his emotions of hate, the monster decides to “[declare] an ever-lasting war against the species, and more than all, against him who had … sent [the monster] forth to this insupportable misery” (97) because he knows he does not and will not have any human friends. This “war” causes destruction to mankind because the monster kills anyone associated with Dr. Frankenstein. By inciting “war” through his hostility towards seclusion, the monster’s actions cause Victor and society to associate him with evil. “Ever-lasting” can refer to both the monster’s war against mankind and the monster’s interminable abhorrence. The “misery” refers to his inability to interact with humans, which is “insupportable” because humankind shuns him, thus exacerbating his loneliness to a degree unfelt by most members of society. The monster despises Dr. Frankenstein because the doctor “sent” the daemon “to this insupportable misery.” The use of “sent” reveals the monster’s unwillingness to leave civilization and portrays Dr. Frankenstein as the source of his unhappiness. The monster reluctantly calls for a “war” against mankind out of solitude. This call associates the monster with destruction and evil, causing Dr. Frankenstein’s fear of the daemon’s plausible annihilation of mankind. Dr. Frankenstein’s fear of the monster forces him to act with bias against the daemon’s happiness, delineating himself as heartless. His worry induces him to break his promise to the daemon, as he quotes, “I thought with a sensation of madness on my promise of creating another like to him, and trembling with passion, tore to pieces the thing on which I was engaged. 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” (121). Dr. Frankenstein regards his ethical promise to the monster with a “sensation of madness,” indicating his anxiety and disgust at the effects that such an obligation would produce. Although he realizes that creating a female counterpart for the monster is a moral act, he purposely “destroy[s] the creature on whose future existence [the monster] depend[s] on for happiness.” Despite the creature’s promise to be harmless, Dr. Frankenstein cannot overcome his dread of the monster’s violent potential because he realizes that the female also has the same capacity for savagery. Victor’s “trembling” indicates his trepidation of the possible future once the monster reproduces, leading him to “t[ear] to pieces the thing on which [he] was engaged.” Insinuated by his suspicion of his own creation, Dr. Frankenstein violently “t[ears]” the female daemon apart. The doctor’s classification of the female being as a “thing” reveals his abhorrence for the creature whom the monster “depend[s] on for happiness.” By depriving the monster of contentment due to his doubt and detestation of the creature, Dr. Frankenstein appears to be heartless. “Devilish” and “revenge” connote the monster with evilness, which leads Victor to fear for the future of mankind. Dr. Frankenstein sees the monster as “devilish,” inducing his bias against the monster’s need for contentment. These feelings of distrust and resentment, along with the actions that stem from them, act as the base of Dr. Frankenstein’s image of heartlessness.
Everybody experiences moments when recklessness takes over his mind, during which his feelings control his behavior. When strong emotions overrun common sense, they influence one’s actions in a selfish or negative manner at the expense of other people’s welfare. Any combination of aspiration, isolation, and fear mount inside a person’s head and causes him to willingly ignore the wishes of others to appease his own desires. Thus, each person should monitor his emotions carefully, before those sentiments consume his mind and lead to others’ harm.