Mary Shelley conveys the idea of monstrosity through the creature and Frankenstein. She does this emotionally, psychically and mentally. Monstrosity does not just mean a physical appearance it is also how you act behaviour wise. This is why Frankenstein and the creature come across as monstrous characters as they behave in an monstrous way; there actions also affect other people. Frankenstein shows he is monstrous by acting in a selfish manner throughout the novel. Whereas the creature has monstrous features but he also has a monstrous personality within him which is slowly unfolded as the novel progresses. The idea of monstrosity also plays a huge part in Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.
This is because like Frankenstein Dr Jekyll’s actions have an effect on other people. In Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde, Jekyll was merely experimenting on potions in his private laboratory and decided to drink the potion whereas in Frankenstein wanted to experiment on humans to create a new race for his own gain. This idea is used by Shelley to explore how Frankenstein wants to create a new species of his own, that will worship him. This is the first clue we are given by Shelley to recognise that Frankenstein wants to be god-like, so by creating a new race he will be able to be god to them. This led the characters in both novels to horrific consequences and drastic measures.
The monsters appearance is one aspect that portrays monstrosity physically. ‘His limbs were in proportion, and I had selected his features as beautiful. Beautiful! – Great God! His yellow skin scarcely covered the work of muscles and arteries beneath; his hair was of a lustrous black, and flowing; his teeth of pearly whiteness; but these luxuriance’s only formed a more horrid contrast with his watery eyes, that seemed almost of the same colour as the dun-white sockets in which they were set, his shrivelled complexion and straight back lips.’ This description of the creature is very gruesome; it describes him as a wretch. Frankenstein is emphasizing on the idea that he has created a catastrophe. Victor’s initial expectation was to create a normal being that blended into society, but instead he created the opposite. This is comparable with Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde as Enfield is asked to describe Hyde’s appearance to Utterson. ‘He is not easy to describe. There is something wrong with his appearance…’ he goes on to say ‘He must be deformed somewhere; he gives a strong feeling of deformity… he’s an extraordinary-looking man’. This description of Hyde is similar to Frankenstein’s description of the creature as both emphasise on how deformed and ugly the creature is.
Frankenstein’s actions are also very monstrous; as he knows Justine is innocent but still allows her to die. This monstrous action is portrayed in ‘Justine died; she rested; and I was alive. The blood flowed freely in my veins, but a weight of despair and remorse pressed on my heart, which nothing could remove’. This is selfish of Frankenstein, but through these words he expresses he is going through turmoil and feels sorry for himself. When Shelley starts the sentence with ‘Justine died’, it almost introduces the idea that Frankenstein is saying Justine’s death was inevitable, so he didn’t kill her nor did the monster, she just died herself. Dr Jekyll also has a selfish attitude when it comes to making the potion. ‘such as has made the happiness of many… my imperious desire to carry my head high, and wear a more commonly grave countenance before the public’. This shows that Jekyll did not think about anyone else or any consequences of making this potion, his intentions were to create it so that he could become famous in the public and be recognised for something.
Whilst Frankenstein is in this turmoil he has suicidal thoughts, this shows how desperate he is to get out of this darkness. ‘Often, I say, I was tempted to plunge into the silent lake, that the waters might lose over me and my calamities forever’. Frankenstein self-pity’s himself; he thinks he is the innocent one in all of this. This is a monstrous act because he isn’t thinking about what will happen to his family, he wants to free himself from the monster and the pain it is causing him. There is a sufficient link to Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde under then theme of suicide. However Frankenstein only has suicidal thoughts and does not have the willpower to go ahead with it whereas in Jekyll and Hyde they actually commit to suicide.
When Utterson and Poole force their way into Dr Jekyll’s laboratory and find Hyde twitching body in Dr Jekyll’s clothes, who had committed suicide after hearing Utterson and Poole forcing the door in an attempt to break into the laboratory. There is a valid difference here as Frankenstein merely has suicidal thoughts when he cannot deal with the consequences he has caused but has never committed to it, this helps us visualise his personality and make judgements on him. On the other hand Dr Jekyll results to suicide in an attempt to flea before his secret is revealed, here we can see that Jekyll actually had the power to make this choice. It is outrageous that the thought of suicide could even cross there mind as it is immoral and both characters look at suicide as the ‘easy way out’ of the situation they have found themselves in.
Shelley portrays Frankenstein to have so much hate for the creature that he even thinks about killing him. ‘I wished to see him again, that I might wreak that utmost extent of abhorrence on his head, and avenge the deaths of William and Justine’. Frankenstein wants revenge on the monster for all the heart-ache he has caused and for killing his loved ones. This is monstrous because Frankenstein created the creature, so it is almost like his child, but he wants to kill him.
Frankenstein and Dr Jekyll both go through self –isolation whilst experimenting on their disastrous creations. In Frankenstein it is clear that he attempts to detach himself for the public and stay indoors. ‘it was my temper to avoid a crowd, and to attach myself fervently to a few’. This proves that Frankenstein wanted to be isolated; it was his choice to stay away from people and only keep in touch with those he cared most about. However the monster is also isolate in the novel as he realises how cruel the world is to him; ‘hated and despised every country must be equally horrible’. The creature is hated by so many however his isolation is forced; he does not have the choice like Frankenstein. Dr Jekyll also segregates himself as he locks himself up in his laboratory for weeks on end. Self-isolation is a huge theme in both novels as: it becomes a dangerous habit for Frankenstein, Walton, the creature and Dr Jekyll.
Frankenstein’s overall attitude to life and dealing with the consequences of his action are monstrous. He decides that he is not going to tell Elizabeth about his horrific creation until they are married. ‘I will confide this tale of misery and terror to you the day after our marriage… there must be perfect confidence between us…I know you will comply’. Frankenstein has made this decision because once they are married she is bound to him. It is monstrous of him to afflict his lifestyle on a female. However during the 1800’s this was seen to be normal whereas the modern generation will see this as outrageous and immoral.
I conclude that Mary Shelley has conveyed the idea of monstrosity very clearly throughout Frankenstein, the language and structure has played a key part in this. Frankenstein’s mental evilness helps us to visualise the way in which Shelley wants to portray him as a character, and show that the way he thinks and reacts to situations that he is no more in control of is being evil, and going against everything he believes in. The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde helps to understand the idea of monstrosity and how it can be related in different characters