Playing God in Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

by Tom Carlton
If you are like me, you may have had a misconception of the true Frankenstein in this novel by Mary Shelley.  Naturally, you would have assumed he was the overgrown, green, repulsive-looking creature that wreaked havoc on society.  Rather, the young scientist, Victor Frankenstein, who created him, calls him "Monster" and "Wretch."

The creature, although hideous to look upon, is portrayed as particularly sensitive and desiring companionship with humans. However, he is injured by the immediate rejection from his creator and seeks to find friendship in others.  Unfortunately, he is never given the opportunity because of his frightful appearance.

These experiences cause animosity to grow within his heart.  He then acts on his revenge before appealing to Frankenstein to create a female companion for him in the same fashion he was created in order that he may have someone to share life with. When Frankenstein reneges on his promise, the creature resumes his wrath until it causes the untimely demise of Frankenstein, and eventually is the miserable end of the monster and his threat toward society.

This is such a tragic story in many ways.  For one, Victor Frankenstein is absolutely irresponsible because of his experimentation with life and the abandonment of the result.  As he conceals his troubles from everyone, he is concerned only with himself; yet, he knows the monster's capabilities and threats (including that his own family, friends, or others may be in danger). Why was he never proactive about stopping his creation before it was too late?

by Theodor Von Holst
Secondly, Victor has put himself into a precarious situation by playing God.  If he has created new life, isn't the monster considered human and, therefore, worthy of justice?  Does Victor have the right to extinguish that life according to his own will?

Thirdly, the creature generates pity because in the beginning he is able to: distinguish good from evil; desire what is right; display care and concern for others; and feel emotionally distraught when shunned by humans. However, he shatters this impression by responding to his pain and suffering with murderous violence.  How else is the reader to feel about the monster?

These are a few questions I had throughout my reading of Frankenstein.  I am glad I read it, however, because I know now whom Frankenstein is.  But I have always known that man "playing God" is never a good idea.


  1. I cannot say how many times I wanted to slap Victor...but it was often. This is a marvelous story, one that I think is a little bit lacking in the telling, but the conflict is so intriguing I still enjoyed it.

    1. The premise of the story is shocking, but well worth thinking about. So many moral implications! I loved it, too. But, yeah, people like Victor are dangerous; imagine if a good slap once in awhile would do them some good.

      I think I know where you are going with this, but out of curiousity, how do you suppose Shelley could have improved upon her narration?

    2. Well, if you'd read MY review, you'd know :)...I just felt there were some big gaps, or shortcuts Shelley took that really should have been developed more. The main one is the instantaneous loathing V.F. had for the creature; it isn't really explained. I think he should have come to this feeling gradually as he realized what an aberration and blasphemy it was. Numerous other shortcuts; that was the most glaring and disappointing to me.