This work is my M.A. thesis supervised by Dr. Vivienne Westbrook at National Taiwan University.
To date, the majority of scholars have framed the creature in Frankenstein as a monster. By focusing on a single embodiment, scholars have neglected the monstrous aspects pervasive in the novel and ignored the fact that Shelley’s creature actually reflects nineteenth-century Britain. This thesis argues that there is no monster, and Shelley’s intention was to display the monstrosity of her own society –– not to write a monster novel. Through a textual and historical analysis, this thesis will elucidate the spiritual, physical, mental, and social monstrosities within Frankenstein.
Shelley addressed the monstrosities of her society through the creature, nine of which have been selected for this study and assorted into three categories: three spiritual, three physical and mental, and three social. The first three monstrosities connect the creation of the creature, his soul, and the science used to create him with the theological debates of the period regarding Christian resurrection, the status of the slave’s soul, and the changing status of science in Shelley’s era. The three physical and mental monstrosities address the creature’s hybridity, strength, and mental acuity as a reflection of monstrous births, and Shelley’s own experience with human frailty and mental instability. The last three monstrosities examine the role of animals, women, and family in the novel, and how the creature reflects these various aspects in the context of how Shelley experienced them in the nineteenth-century. All nine monstrosities appear to reflect upon Victor’s creature to make him seem more monstrous, but the creature is actually the mirror of a monstrous society and not an embodiment of monstrosity himself.
Keywords: Frankenstein; Monstrosity; Monstrous; Mary Shelley; Eighteenth-century; Nineteenth-century; Britain