Perception of Idealism & Truth in Frankenstein
Discuss the idea(s) developed by the text creator in your chosen text about the significance of idealism and truth in an individual’s life.
Society’s perception of an individual will affect how one views life and how one’s identity is shaped. These perceptions often begin with those who surround the individual with society’s conventions in mind. Ultimately, how one is perceived in society will greatly influence an individual’s decisions in life, and determine one’s own perception of idealism and truth. This conclusion is reliant on the theory that idealism is the path of least resistance, whereas truth is a difficult and hard-won course. Idealism is dependent on the activity of the mind, and when ideals are formed, they are commonly unrealistic. Truth however, is a definite statement; one cannot change an obstinate fact. An individual’s perception of idealism and truth is demonstrated in the novel, Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley. The author shows how society’s perception of an individual, which is affected circumstantially by society’s conventions, determines one’s perceptions of idealism and truth. As a result, society’s perception of the “unnaturally created” Monster ultimately determines if he acknowledges truth, or continues to blindly cling to his artificial ideals.
Through the meeting of humans in the Monster’s life, the author implies that society’s perceptions of an individual determines one’s perception of idealism and truth. When the Monster is abandoned by his creator, Victor Frankenstein, he [the Monster] says, “But where were my friends and relations? No father had watched my infant days, no mother had blessed me with the smiles and caresses;…All my past life was now a blot, a blind vacancy in which I distinguished nothing. (101)” Due to the negative experience of his creator’s perception of his horrid appearance, it leads the Monster to be dejected, as he was abandoned by him when he was ‘born’. This invoked a sense of idealistic longing for companionship, and he begins to fantasize about creating relationships with the humans, despite the fact that he was rejected by his very creator. This demonstrates how an individual would make ideals for themselves, when faced with society’s negative judgement. When the Monster walks into a village, the people there scream in terror, and he is shot at by some men. Society’s perception of the Monster further invokes a sense of idealism. This is shown when the Monster discovers a lone cottage and the unhappy inhabitants inside, and is then almost ironically benevolent to the cottagers, despite his horrific appearance; secretly cutting firewood, and clearing land. He continues to hope desperately that in return for his kindness, the cottagers would become his companions. Despite mankind’s negative perceptions of the Monster, he continues to create the ideal of others accepting him . When one is scorned and not accepted by society, individuals create ideals for themselves. In other words, due to society’s perceptions of an individual, one will create an idealistic view of their life, to escape from the truth.
The society’s negative perception of a being who was unnaturally assembled leaves the Monster not only rejected by his creator, but also by mankind as a whole, invokes an ideal of companionship and acceptance. One may argue that the author implies that the perceptions of society of an individual shapes how one realizes truth or creates ideals. This is supported by the Monster’s actions; in order to quench his idealistic desire for companionship, the Monster decides to confront the blind man living in the cottage and desperately asks for his assistance in telling his [the blind man’s] children that he was a harmless creature; the“good spirit” (95) that had cut their firewood and cleared their land, hoping and clinging to the ideals of becoming their friend. This is shown when the Monster says, “I imagined that they would be disgusted, until, by my gentle demeanour and conciliating words, I should first win their favour and afterwards their love.” (95) However, the DeLaceys did not allow that to happen. Humans judge others based on appearances, which is implied when the blind man’s children catch the horrid sight of the Monster, he is beaten and driven out of the house, isolated. The very house that held his ideals, where he might be accepted and understood, despite his monstrous outside, had, in fact, rejected him in the same psychological way that his very creator rejected him as well. Both parties had given the Monster a desperate hope, both were disgusted by his very appearance, and both had not considered his benevolent nature. By looking at the Monster’s actions to pursue his ideals, Shelley implies that the favoured outcome – society accepting the Monster – is not to be expected when one chooses to idealize fantasy; a result of the influence of the DeLaceys’ perception of the Monster.
By using the the DeLaceys’ perception of the Monster, Mary Shelley illustrates the idea that society’s perception of an individual determines how one perceives idealism and truth. After the Monster’s so-called “protectors” drive him out of the house, he becomes angry. The Monster recognizes that after all his work to pursue his ideals of companionship and acceptance, he would always be abhorred, and would never be able to assimilate into man’s world. This is implied when he says, “But again when I reflected that they had spurned and deserted me, anger returned, a rage of anger, and unable to injure anything human, I turned my fury towards inanimate objects.” (118) Humans can change their attitude towards their ideals and can turn to the truth because of the perceptions of society. This is demonstrated when the DeLaceys’ perception of the Monster acted as a catalyst to realize the truthful reality: The humans would never accept him for who he was; they would never peer into his benevolent soul, and discover his desire for companionship.The Monster burns down the cottage, portraying him as just the “monster” he is depicted as, and not the pure and compassionate creature he idealizes for himself. By looking at the Monster’s failed expectations of his ideals, Shelley explores the idea that the perceptions of society of an individual develops and shapes their truthful identity.
The decision to choose between idealizing an impossible fantasy, and discovering the truth of oneself, is greatly influenced by society’s perceptions of an individual. This is demonstrated in the novel, Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley who uses the character of the Monster to portray that his meetings with humans, and the perceptions that go with it, his actions to pursue his ideals, and his experience against them, all influence his truthful identity. The significance of one’s identity holds great impact for all individuals, and helps one realize who they really are. By looking at an individual’s meetings, experiences, and their perceptions of society, one can see that these factors shape how one chooses to cling to ideals, or face and realize one’s truthful identity.