Prejudice in Frankenstein
It is safe to say that people of all time periods, no matter age or location, are prejudice. Judging someone solely based on looks seems to be as natural, and almost involuntary, as blinking one’s eyes. The idea of prejudice has plagued the human race for generations on end, even with today’s attempts to teach people to be more accepting. Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley expresses this universal idea of prejudice based on appearance multiple times in her novel, Frankenstein. Throughout the novel Shelley includes the theme of prejudice.
The character being prematurely judged repeatedly is the monster. Victor, the monster’s very creator, is the first character to judge the monster based on his looks. First, he describes his creation as a “catastrophe” before he takes “refuge in the court-yard belonging to the house which [he] inhabited. ”(Shelley 37-38). This happens directly following the bringing of life to the creature; which shows that even Victor, the monster’s own creator, is not immune to judging it based on only its looks.
If Victor cannot give the monster a chance to prove that he is peaceful, then how does any other character stand a chance to oppose the inevitable prejudice? Victor’s response is immediate fright based on the visual features of the monster that he describes in the paragraph following the bringing of life to it. How can we expect different from other characters is the first thing Victor did was examine the visual aspects of the creation in order to judge it? The next example of when prejudice is used against the creature comes when the it is looking for food and shelter.
The monster comes across an open hut and, in need of food and shelter, enters and there is a man inside who “turned on hearing a noise; and, perceiving [the creature], shrieked loudly, and, quitting the hut, ran across the fields with a speed of which his debilitated form hardly appeared capable. ”(78). Terror overcame the man who was in the hut before trying to find out anything about the monster, like if he was lost or in search of something. It is natural for someone to be frightened in the man’s position but reacting to such an extent is definitely a result of the judgments that he drew from the monster’s different appearance.
It is possible that if instead of being terrified and running away the man decided to be more hospitable, then the monster could have proven himself to be peaceful and learned from the man. This potential better outcome is just one way that Shelley hints that without prejudices the world could be a better place. Following the creature’s departure from the hut, he searched again for more food and came across a very nice cottage and decided to enter. The monster described this to Victor by saying “I had hardly placed my food within the door, before a child shrieked, and one of the women fainted.
The whole village was roused; some fled, some attacked me, until, grievously bruised by stones and many other kinds of missile weapons, I escaped to the open country. ”(78). This is just one more instance that exemplifies the fact that prejudice, especially based on appearance, is present everywhere. An entire village of people ganged up on one individual because his appearance was different than theirs. This was also one more opportunity for people to take in the monster and instead of corrupt him with ideas of violence, show him kindness and hospitality.
Being prejudice is a character trait that humans are plagued with and none are immune to. Mary Shelley expresses her dislike of this idea throughout her novel using the creature as the victim of all this judgment. Was Mary Shelley judged often based on her looks? Or if not then why does she find it a big enough of an issue to include in her novel? As answers to these questions are found it only becomes more apparent the importance of prejudice in Frankenstein.