What Does It Mean to Be Human

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein embodies many of the concepts and philosophies of the Romantic era, which it was written in. The story is about a young scientist, named Viktor Frankenstein who creates a monster from the body parts of the dead. His intrigue in Alchemy and the concept of bringing the dead back to life, leads him to create a creature he immediately finds himself hating and feeling disgusted with when it comes to life. He abandons its creation, leaving it alone in the world as an abomination which is rejected and hated for its grotesque appearance. His creation, which at first he had hoped to be his greatest feat, leads to his downfall and a series of unfortunate events.

What’s beautiful about this book is that it poses the question of what is to be human? And we find the answers not only through Viktor but through the monster as well. The book starts off through the perspective of Viktor, and we see through his eyes how demonic like the monster is. But when the perspective shifts to the monster, we are able to see it’s true nature. Though it being a creature whose very existence can be perceived as a taboo, I still found myself sympathizing with it as it stumbled through the world alone, loathed by all, even its creator. And what’s fascinating about the story is that the most physically human between the two (Viktor, and the monster), I found myself disliking Viktor the most, for his mistreatment of his creation and his selfish and arrogant ways. Between the two I found myself finding the monster the most compassionate, while Viktor on the other hand inhabited the more negative aspects of what is to be human.

When you hear the name Frankenstein, you think of something evil, scary and monstrous. The story Frankenstein tends to be depicted as a horror story, which warns of what happens when nature is tampered with my mortal hands. But in my opinion, I find Frankenstein to be quite a sad book, where tragedy lurks in every chapter. By the end I found myself sympathizing for both Viktor and the monster. Though the monster was made up of various dead body parts, in a way it was still human. It was made of flesh, and had thoughts and a soul, it felt compassion. It was human, in a body that wasn’t very human, but it nonetheless showed aspects of human nature, just like its creator. By the end of the story I was able to see how similar both characters were, the anguish they felt, their desire to hold onto any bit of happiness, and their unfulfilled desires. At the end,  I was left pondering a new question, who was the victim? And who was the villain? Both could be held accountable for their crimes, but my heart couldn’t help but go out to the two tortured souls, whose loneliness and pain drove them to a life filled with hatred and regret.

I would highly recommend this book, a must read classic filled with vivid imagery, and a tale which forces you to consider, what it means to be human. And what’s most impressive about this work, is that it was written by a nineteen-year-old Mary Shelley, an impressive feat for such a young lady, especially during her time.