Idealism often blinds individuals from the truths of society, thus leaving them vulnerable to the sharp realities that they may face when they encounter the judgments of their surroundings. When one’s sense of self is rooted in idealism, their entire worldview can be altered by the harsh realities of a corrupted society, thus leading to the deterioration of one’s character. An individual’s complete faith in their ideals blinds them to the truth; the hope and love that the individual once had is replaced by feelings of bitterness and rejection. In Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein Victor Frankenstein’s monster is a natural product of his environment – an innocent being who exudes only positivity and heartwarming affection – turned a monstrous outcast who is abhorred by everyone he faces. From the moment of his creation the monster was cast to live as his own desolate being, absorbing every emotion he faced, until he was forced to face the reality of his own This novel highlights how society acts a sedative to any purity and an influence in every devastation.
Idealism and truth are two conflicting ideals, both able to entirely change any individual’s values and beliefs. Shelley describes the monster as isolated and completely cut-off from any “human” connection. After he is faced with immediate disgust from his creator, the monster flees to the woods where he sees the DeLacy family and their complete devotion to one another, he knows not of any emotion. This cottage in the woods became a source of emotional refuge for the monster. From his hovel, he becomes infatuated with how they talk, how they laugh, and how they love. When recalling his winter activity, watching the DeLacy family, he explains, “The gentle manners and beauty of the cottagers greatly endeared them to me; when they were unhappy, I felt depressed; when they rejoiced, I sympathized in their joys.”(102) From his state of complete isolation, he accepted any emotion as a definitive definition of the truth and was robbed of any opportunity to challenge these beliefs. Many individuals live lives in which they are constantly sheltered from any danger, protected from any adversity and robbed of the opportunity to learn the meaning of reality. These are the individuals who often times have an outlook on life that mirrors a utopia, a society where no one is harmed, everyone gets exactly what they desire, and citizens treat one another with kindness. Because of these unrealistic standards held by these individuals, the truth of the surrounding society takes them aback and forces them to shift their optimism to realism.
When an optimistic individual is received with disdain and disgust, feelings of bitterness and hopelessness may arise – just as Frankenstein’s monster felt when he was rejected by the DeLacy family. Confidence had built itself within the monster after months of watching the cottagers, never challenged by any doubts or belief that these people could offend. This zeal was quickly extinguished by the family’s disappointing reception to this willing companion. His character alone was charming enough to gain the trust of the blind father who resided in the cottage, listening to the monster speak – but it was when the rest of the family witnessed his disfigurement that he was cast back out into the woods and felt the true consequences of his previous naivety. The monster, previously living off of his ideals, then felt foreign feelings of “rage and revenge” (123) and explained how he could have easily killed the inhabitants of the cottage he once admired and adored. Rejection, alone, does not live in the ideals of any individual, but rather it is a great fear of many. The mere thought of revealing any part of themselves, and having society abhor them is terrifying – this fear only amplified by the superficiality of expectations. The expectation of beauty and uniformity is one that brings comfort to society and when these standards are broken, the discomfort drives individuals to deny the divergent. The effect of this exclusion can drive the scorned individual to seek revenge on those they once sought after for companionship, driving them to abandon all positive values and replace them with corrupted beliefs of hatred. When the hope of acceptance is left unfulfilled, rejection becomes an anchor for hostility and violence.
Individuals are introduced to this world as pure and benevolent beings, untouched by any corrupted ideals and driven only by good intentions. The monster is created with the mind of an innocent child who seeks only for a companion to share his love and admiration for life. It is when he repeatedly faces abhorrence does he change his perspective on society. After his many attempts at finding a shred of decency amidst the harsh judgements, the monster ultimately settled for complete hatred towards all that shunned him. When his creator refused him a companion, this became the point at which he abandoned all hope for satisfaction and expressed that revenge had overtaken his need for even “light and food” (155). As individuals repeatedly face a series of disappointment and unfulfilled ideals, the truth of their situation twists their mind towards a different type of satisfaction – the satisfaction of making others feel the pain and anguish they have experienced. The idealism no longer resides in the hearts of these people; rather it is overtaken by harsh realities. Not only does this damage one’s existence, but it effects everyone who comes into contact with the individual. The negativity exudes from every pore that previously emitted only goodness and light. As seen through Shelley’s monster, every value that was once held dear by the corrupted individual are dismissed in wake of new, tainted beliefs.
Mary Shelley uses the monster as an object of hope and ideals that must face the severity of society. In Frankenstein, Shelley illustrates the idea that if an individual relies solely on idealism to base their character upon, the truth of society uproots these disciplines and replaces them with unrelenting hatred. In other words, individuals must open themselves up to every emotion, pleasant or otherwise in order to thrive in a corrupted society – if not, they risk having every value they held to be true sacrificed at the hands of judgement and rejection.