LIT 3101 Assessment One. Frankenstein Extract 1, Volume II, chapter IV, P.85/86
Frankenstein’s creature attempts to integrate himself into society numerous times before he accepts that his physical defects and ‘ugly’ aesthetic appearance arouse fear in humanity; this separation from humanity forces him to discover alternative modes of integration. He “long[s]” to be part of civilisation yet he has been conditioned to recognise his dissemblance through victimisation.1 Therefore he “dares not” present himself to the cottagers, vowing to “discover the motives” behind individual relationships.2 In this essay I will argue that the Monster instinctively discovers the importance of language as well as the ability to manipulate language as a means of gaining companionship.
The purpose of the Monster’s narrative in this passage is to emotionally provoke Frankenstein so he consents to create another being as “horrible” as the Monster himself.3 Peter Brooks argues:
From his initial experience of language, the monster intuitively grasps that it will be important to him because by its very nature it implies the “chain of existence and events” within which he seeks a place defines the interdependency of senders and receivers of messages in that chain, and provides the possibility of emotional effect…4
In other words, it is language that holds the possibility of human interaction and thus human companionship. What the Monster observes and what Brooks suggests is that language relies on an ‘interdependency’ between individuals as one must ‘receive’ whilst the other ‘sends’. This notion is physicalized in the passage. Initially the Monster can neither understand nor speak language and therefore exists separately from humanity. He is confined to the outdoor space whilst the cottagers are able to enjoy the comfort of one another inside. The outdoors which the Monster inhabits is bestialised as he “lay on [his] straw” in a “hovel”; traditionally associated with sheltering cattle.5 The animal imagery that the monster adopts when relating his narrative demonstrates his self- classification as a “being” separate from humanity.6 Conversely, the family's cottage is associated with warmth, both physical as a result of the “fire” but also metaphorical due to the music played by the “old man…on his instrument.”7 The familial intimacy which derives from the “love and respect” the younger generation bestow upon their elderly companion heightens the sense of togetherness which the Monster is palpably distanced from.8 The separation between humanity and the Monster is furthered in the passage by the use of subject pronouns. The first person narrative structure lends to the Monster’s constant use of ‘I’ and consequently the cottagers are labelled ‘The boy’, ‘The Girl’, or ‘They’; never does the Monster indulge in ‘We’ or ‘Us’ when discussing the cottagers.9 The language therefore heightens the physical separation between the Monster and humanity. By learning the language he can eradicate the boundary that his aesthetic appearance has created.
1 Mary Shelley, Frankenstein (Hertfordshire: Wordsworth Editions, 1993), p.85.
2 Ibid., p.85.
3 Ibid., p.111.
4 Peter Brooks, ‘Godlike Science/Unhallowed Arts: Language and Monstrosity in Frankenstein’, New Literary History, Vol. 9 (1978), pp.591-605 (p.594).
5 Mary Shelley, Frankenstein (Hertfordshire: Wordsworth Editions, 1993), p.85.
6 Ibid., p.86
7 Ibid., p.86/ Ibid., p.85.
8 Ibid., p.85
9 Ibid., p.85.