The Creature as Child in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein Essay

The Creature as Child in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein Essay

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The Creature as a Child in Frankenstein

 
    Imagine an eight-foot-tall, misshapen human child. You might complain that this is contradictory - but do it anyway. Imagine some sort of humanoid being with the mind of a human child in an eight-foot body, green with a nail in its head if you want. This is what Frankenstein's creature is. Frankenstein's creature is mentally a child, and we see its evolution through traditional child development in the course of its narrative. But the creature is the only member of its species, and therefore its narrative can be taken to represent the history of an entire species - the creature's first experiences can be viewed as an amalgam of creation myths.

 

If we choose to view the creature as an individual, and consider its growth from child to adult in that manner, the obvious choice is to look at the creature's relationship with knowledge. The creature seems to crave knowledge, as is evident from its explorations at the beginning of its narrative. This craving for knowledge is what makes it human; this is especially characteristic of children, who know very little and have a large vacuum to fill. Like any human being, the creature gains its knowledge by its senses - thus, it figures out how to use its sense before doing anything else. At the beginning of its narrative, we see the creature's utter naïveté about the world, as it looks at the moon: "I started up and beheld a radiant form rise from among the trees" (Shelley 99). Significant here is the creature's lack of initial comprehension of the world, just like any human child.

 

Continuing with the thread of human development, we see the creature's acquisition of language. The creature most craves this sort of knowledge:...


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These parallels between the creature and a developing child help to explain many of the mysteries of the book. As we see, the creature goes on a terrible killing spree. There are two reasons for this. First, the creature desires revenge for its isolation. But it seems that the creature is also not aware of its own strength - it is easy for the creature to accidentally commit a murder. What two-year-old would not dream of this power? The creature's identification with mythological figures has some fantastic aspects - children fantasize incessantly. This makes sense. The creature, being new to the living world, is chronologically a child - physically strange as it might be, we can only expect it to act its age.

 

Works Cited

Graves, Robert. The Greek Myths. Vol. 1. Baltimore: Penguin, 1955.

Shelley, Mary. Frankenstein. 1818. New York: Signet, 1994.

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