Sympathy for the Monster

One of the most compelling things about Mary Shelley’s original Frankenstein is that portions of the novel are told from the MONSTER’S point of view. The guiding perspective of the narrative switches among several characters — including both the doctor and his creation — and that switch of focus gives the masterpiece its allure.

Readers are drawn into the monster’s desire to be accepted into human society and, failing that, to convince — by any means necessary — the doctor to make him a mate. The tragic ending of the novel is pretty much inevitable from the start, but it’s still worth reading. The monster and his human creator are locked in a treacherous dance to the death when neither will budge from his position. (Sounds a lot like politics.)

In my opinion, the monster makes his case. He didn’t ask to be “created” and the intense loneliness of his existence is unbearable. While the doctor, supposedly a devoted man of science has suspicious motivations from the start. He is dead set on creating life and subverting every principal of his society and when he succeeds he is overwhelmed with what he’s done. Abandoning his unnatural progeny, he wants to simply walk away. But that’s not a viable option. The MONSTER is not a pet that he can leave by the side of the road. (Not that anyone should leave a pet by the side of the road —ever.)

Most of the movie versions are light on sympathy for the monster. Not, of course, my favorite Mel Brooks movie and the Elsa Lancaster bride movie, but most of the ‘villagers storming the castle’ movies show zero compassion for the monster.

All the more reason to read the original and choose your own side in the monster/creator debate!


  1. I really enjoyed your take on the monster. I never gave much thought beyond the fact that he was a monster and through no fault of his own created. Not quite human but made by man; and like man he feels. I am a huge fan of fantasy based genre and although Frankenstein falls under horror, I am intrigued. I have seen movies about the creature, including Young Frankenstein (one of my favorites) but have never taken the time to read the book. I think now is a good time, great blog you’ve gotten my attention…

    • Candy

      The original Frankenstein is a rich source for all sorts of writers — not only in the horror genre. My take on it is mystery/suspense story with comedic elements (“The Mary Shelley Game”) and, of course, there’s the full out comedy of Mel Brooks and the period costume drama/melodrama of many of the films that follow the original closely and full out horror of the ones that follow in the Boris Karloff tradition.

      Taking the Monsters POV is a fabulous way to turn a familiar story on its head. John Gardner’s novel “Grendel” does this by taking the story away from the hero Beowulf. I read it ages ago in college. It’s one of those books that opens eyes to the OTHER in literature.

      It’s interesting to me that Mary Shelley chose to do this in her masterpiece while few of the books that followed, took up the monster’s story.

      It’s MONSTER Time!

  2. Hi Candy
    I used to live just up the road from where Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein, in Marlow, Bucks. Was an inspired story, even though I’m not really a mad horror fan.

    • Candy

      Wow… I’m so jealous! What a wonderful local inspiration. It’s funny, but I see Mary Shelley’s work as a genre cross over as there is so much more there in addition to classic horror.

    • Candy

      Ego! Yes, that’s it ego run wild and then, when he succeeds, he runs away from his creation. Sort of like a young kid running away as a way of denying that he was responsible.

      Victor Frankenstein does feel guilty, he just figures that he can lose the source of his guilt by running back home. Ha! We know how that worked out.

  3. Has anyone noted that the good/mad doctor never gave the monster a name?
    Frankenstein is the name of the doctor, which gets tacked onto the monster by default. Even a ugly puppy gets a name.
    I wrote a silly poem once for Halloween about the monster undergoing therapy after many years of abuse by the local villagers.
    “Here I lie inside the lab, resting on my little slab. And now I take up my pen, reflecting on what might have been …”
    The big guy nails his problem in the last line when he remarks in a reflective moment: “I cite the doctor to his shame. Why did he never give me a name?”

    • Candy

      Yes, that has always bothered me too! It’s indicative of Victor’s attitude. It’s like he climbed the Mt. Everest of his profession and then said. OK. I can check that off my list, but never took into account that his creation was more than the reanimated frog in his earlier experiments.

      Of course that is also about the power of names. When you give a cow a name it makes slaughter time more difficult. Names imbue the named with power and individuality.

      Boy, Victor really was an ego grown out of proportion to reality!

    • Candy

      Thanks so much!
      I do love MONSTERS and I appreciate blog visitors leaving comments and interacting. Blogging, like other writing, can be very lonely.

    • Candy

      Join the club… we have sympathy for the monster as the underdog and that adds to our perspective on life.

  4. All the best monsters and villains evoke some empathy at least. Dracula is another lonely and tormented being in Bram Stoker’s book but I must adagree, the poor creature created by Mary Shelley is the ultimate lost soul. It’s a wonderful story especially when you think of the competition around her when she wrote it! There was the magnificant Lord Byron and the golden boy Percy Shelley, but who was unimpressed and wrote the best ghost story ever? Shelley’s apparently lovestruck and mundane little wife!

    • Candy

      I think Mary demonstrated a great deal of sympathy for her MONSTER, it’s the subsequent retellings (mainly on film) that jettison her natural empathy for the creature. Byron and Shelley had no idea of the talents of young Mary. She was still a teenager when she started the story that would have a legacy that resonates today.

      A brilliant book!


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