Frankenstein- The Pain, Payback, and Pennance of An Evil Imp

Posted by on September 14, 2011 
Filed under ENGH 451-Science Fiction

In Tuesday’s class we discussed the subject of whether Frankenstein’s creation (let us simply call him “the wretch”) should be held accountable for his violent actions considering the circumstances of his creation and Frankenstein’s immediate abandonment of “the wretch” thereafter. In other words: Do we (our class) feel sympathy for this creature after having read this novel? Is this “wretch” considered human enough to be bound by the laws of ethical treatment toward others in society, or is he merely an animal who has gained a minimal amount of reasoning through being self-educated? While answers to these questions differed between members of our class, I believe there is more evidence to support our bestowment of accountability on “the wretch” than to dismiss his violent, vengeful actions as arising from ignorance.

My argument rests with my “in-class” reasoning for taking accountability’s side. “The wretch,” after spending time observing his supposed friends in Germany, acquired an unconscious sense of morality through learning of the reasons for their current status as outcasts in society. These people had stood up for what they thought to be right and just within the world through their freeing of the Turk, but they had paid the price of exile for their efforts. I believe “the wretch,” in having observed their plight, could identify with these people as they were outcasts longing to be held in society’s arms just as “the wretch” was an outcast-in-longing as well. “The wretch,” unwittingly gained a sense of compassion from this family’s experience, yet he chose to ignore this compassion by completing his task of destroying Victor’s life by way of murdering everyone Victor held dear.

“The wretch” acknowledges his decision to ignore compassion when he tells Walton, “I had cast off all feeling, subdued all anguish to riot in the excess of my despair. Evil thenceforth became my good” (241). “The wretch,” with this statement, admits he knows right from wrong and good from evil, yet he chooses to ignore good, and instead, replace good with evil. He naively makes the assumption that simply believing evil is good will allow his mind to be free from guilt over his vengeful acts toward his creator.

“The wretch’s” actions after admitting his foolish decision to think of evil as good reflect the high standard of accountability he is willing to hold himself. “The wretch,” before leaving Walton, tells him that, “the bitter sting of remorse may not cease to rankle in my wounds until death shall close them forever” (244). This statement shows how far he is willing to go to redeem himself of the deadly sins (wrath, envy) he has committed against humanity. He is willing to end his life in fire as penance for having become “a malignant devil” (242).

Is a creature who willfully acknowledges his sins and willingness to pay for them to be treated like an animal devoid of humanity? The answer is no because to do so only further strips “the wretch” of the precious humanity he is only able to achieve in death.

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