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Victor Frankenstein and His “Monster; ” an Inspiration to Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

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Victor Frankenstein and his “Monster;” an inspiration to Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

When reading Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, if one pays attention to the gaps and inconsistencies of Victor Frankenstein’s narration of the events, one may begin to question the existence of Frankenstein’s monster, and come to realize Victor Frankenstein is really the monster. This isn’t how most would interpret the events that transpired in the book, but the possibility of Victor Frankenstein being the monster he fears, is entirely plausible. This Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde comparison is not as farfetched as one would initially think; there is enough evidence, contradiction of events, gaps, and inconsistencies in Victor Frankenstein’s narrative for an astute reader to connect the dots to reach such a conclusion.
Victor Frankenstein, who is relating his tale to Captain Walton after being rescued in the Arctic, is sure that the creature he created actually existed. However, it is plausible to conclude that Victor never actually brought life to his creature, but had gone mad whilst attempting it. How did Victor become the monster he feared? Perhaps the exposure to hallucinatory chemicals he used while attempting to bring life to his creation, or because of overbearing stress, or his failure to succeed in his experiments. These elements, likely combined with Victor’s own awkward social failings, led Victor to experience a mental breakdown, go mad, or develop a split personality. In this scenario, the real monster was simply a portion of his broken mind, and in his madness all of the evil he does he attributes to "the miserable monster he created” (Shelley pg. 35). Frankenstein’s monster is only a part of him, and after his transformation anything that the monster said to him, could be in his mind, everyone the monster killed could have been killed by Frankenstein himself, the letters could be written by him, etc.
The monster in Frankenstein is an echo of Victor’s own desires to be a normal person. As Victor delves deeper and deeper into his dark, and arcane scientific experiments, he notes his own mental state rapidly deteriorates. Victor states, during his attempt to create the monster, he did so in a maddened state, and goes into great detail on his own mental state and his great desire to create the monster. However, Victor’s description of the process of creating the monster is fleeting and lacks detail…. Victor merely mentions the monster came to life and was hideous, so he then fled his apartment and only returned a while later to collect his belongings. This demonstrates that Victor’s own mental state was a more persistent and significant factor to Victor than the success of giving life to his creation.
“Victor demonstrates the paradoxical nature of narcissism, where self-love exists with self-hate, and fragile self-esteem results in a sense of entitlement. In addition, Victor pursues fantasies of unlimited power and glory with a pleasureless, monomaniacal intensity. He experiences the profound depression often accompanying a narcissistic disorder: dejection, loss of interest in the external world, inability to love, and a lowering of self-esteem, culminating in an expectation of punishment. It is as if he has internalized a poisonous object, the Creature, who is now consuming his heart” (Berman).
Although Victor was “forceful and profound” (Reed), above all else he desired a clear mind, unattached and free from bad memories and thoughts; he was constantly tormented. Victor, while being born into the social elite, was kept on the fringes of society, likely due to his own aggressive and sexually depraved tendencies, and tormenting inner demons. Victor hoped to free himself from his torments, so he could finally find his place in society and gain acceptance. So, too, the monster seeks only to be a regular person, accepted by society, however, the monster is viewed as too different or hideous to fit in and is cast aside by his creator and society. In this manor “the Creature embodies Victor Frankenstein's monstrous sexual and aggressive passions” (Berman). And it is this monstrous part of himself, which Victor rejects, attempts to cast aside, and tries to escape from.
After Victor’s breakdown, the monster can be viewed as a part of Victor's own split personality. While in the mindset of the monster, he is seeking to be a normal person and envies Victor. Meanwhile, Victor seeks to escape the monster, which is in reality Victor’s own monstrous tendencies and thoughts; this is represented by Victor’s continual fleeing from the monster.
Victor’s sickness following the monster's disappearance, until he has returned to his home following the murder of his brother William by the monster, shows a lack of clarity in Victor’s tale. William's death, also “unmasks Victor's murderous feelings, his revenge on a family that metes out swift punishment to "hideous monsters"” (Berman). In the time between Victor leaving Ingolstadt and returning to Geneva following his brother’s death, his brother had been murdered and evidence had been planted on the maid. Due to Victor’s family status, this was enough for the maid to take the fall for what was possibly Victor’s own doing. Victor's whereabouts are never mentioned during this time, and he simply states that he and Henry were trekking through nature. The murder of Victor’s wife is also troubling, as she was strangled in the bedroom, and once again a close family member has been murdered and Victor’s whereabouts are never stated in detail.
Beyond the erratic, delirious, mental state of Victor, there little evidence of the existence of Frankenstein’s monster. Supposedly, the monster was detestable and of great size and stature. The monster was composed of human bodies from crypts stolen by Victor, and was described as “a wretch,” “a breathless horror” and “disgusting” (Shelley pg. 35). However, the monster in Victor’s tale is able to travel across a large portion of Europe without detection, and is only noticed when Victor is near. It is worth noting that in the account, there are very few sightings of the monster by anyone other than Victor, despite the great distances the monster traveled.
The first sighting is by Felix while in his house and the second by an Irishman who saw him sailing away from a murder on Victor’s boat. The monster is also mentioned saving a little girl from drowning in a river, and being shot by her father. However, no one in these instances ever accurately describes the monster, and these sightings could be contributed to Victor alone.
The only other time the monster is seen is by Captain Walton, at both the beginning and ending of the novel. However, the first time he sees him from afar on a sled, a couple of days before finding Victor. This could due to the Captain seeing Victor on two separate occasions, and due to both distance and the poor weather conditions, would have led Captain Walton to attribute one of these sightings to the monster.
The final time the monster is seen after Victor’s purported death, standing over his body. This is most difficult to disprove, as this is the only time both Victor and the monster are seen together. However, this sighting happened during a violent blizzard, while the crew was threatening to mutiny, with men dying on board, and food and supplies running low. It is possible that in this confusion, Captain Walton mistook a maddened crewmember standing over Victor, or possibly Victor standing over a dead crewman as the monster. In such conditions, it would be hard to verify for certain, and with the story the Captain had heard from Victor fresh in his mind, Captain Walton may have mistakenly attributed what he saw as a sighting of the monster.
The fall of Victor Frankenstein into madness and his multiple personalities fighting to destroy each other’s happiness is lost on Victor. He is either unwilling or incapable of realizing the atrocities he was capable of, and “he never fully comprehends his own failings” (Reed). “Frankenstein ends as the slave of his creation, impelled toward utter negation, but the Creature is no more free than his doomed creator” (Reed). In the end, only one side of Frankenstein triumphs, and Victor succumbs, either because of fear, fatigue, slipping completely into madness, or the final realization of the magnitude of atrocities he had committed. With Victor “gone,” the monster apparently taking over what is left of his mind, is never seen killing himself or dying, he simply jumps off the side of the ship, stating he will self-immolate in the arctic. This can be seen as Victor metaphorically dead, now considering himself to be the monster and only the monster.
When reading Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, one may not initially interpret the events of this novel in this manner. However, the next time you read the book, read between the lines and interpret the things that aren’t said, as much as the things that were. Combined with the many gaps and inconsistencies of Victor’s tale, it is plausible to conclude that Victor and his monster are truly one and the same; two personalities of the same man, tormenting each other out of jealousy, similar to Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

Works Cited

Shelley, Mary Wollstonecraft. Frankenstein. New York: Dover Publications, 1994. Print.
Keese, Andrew. "The Myth of the Monster in Mary's Shelley's Murder Mystery, Frankenstein." Journal of South Texas English Studies Vol. 2.Issue 2 (2011): 1-19. Humanities International Complete. Web. 12 Apr. 2015.
Baldick, Chris. "The Politics of Monstrosity." Frankenstein's Shadow: Myth, Monstrosity, and Nineteenth-Century Writing. NY: Oxford UP, 1987.
Berman, Jeffrey. ""Frankenstein; Or, the Modern Narcissus"" Berman, "Frankenstein; Or, the Modern Narcissus" The Pennsylvania Electronic Edition, n.d. Web. 06 May 2015.
Reed, John R. "Will and Fate in Frankenstein." Reed, "Will and Fate" The Pennsylvania Electronic Edition, n.d. Web. 06 May 2015.
Rieder, John. "Frankenstein's Dream." Rieder, John. Romantic Circles, July 2003. Web. 06 May 2015.

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