Would you rather kill 100 puppies with your bare hands or one human baby with your bare hands?
This blog post is entirely speculation as I by no means can say that the human experience is something that can be easily put into sentences and rationalized – or is in any way universal – but, for my purposes, I will speak from observations I have made and try to make sense of them.
Perspective plays a major role in how one would answer that question; cynical teenagers who see the approaching end of the planet might say one option while a mother who spent months developing their own kin might say the other. When a form of this question was asked on Reddit, the responses varied while being intermingled with humour (Cruella de Vil made an obvious appearance). The most relevant response to the discussion I want to have comes from user: Blu_Phoenix who chose to kill the puppies justifying it by saying: “[k]illing people is just too much” and that “[people] are more valuable than puppies.” When prompted further by another user who questioned if humans are, in fact, more “valuable” she responded with: “[h]umans are capable of much more, live longer, and can make a difference. Of course dogs can too, but it’s just not the same.” As humans, our accomplishments seem to be far beyond what other species – dogs in this situation – can do; as conscious beings, we are aware of this “fact” thus judge others accordingly. Questions of this nature – which by formation are meant to be difficult and thought-provoking – try to determine what each person answering finds to be more important because wouldn’t you save the thing that has the most value in your opinion? As a species, it should be that you put the greater importance on keeping members of your own group safe; this Reddit post shows both answers to this question thus showing how the survival of one’s species isn’t the only thing that is considered when making the choice – although, this question has not been put into practice for obvious ethical reasons and we cannot definitively say that people will act how they say they will act.
Bringing this in context to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, the Creation treads the line between being human and not depending on the reader and their interpretation. This brings up the question: what allows a human to be classified as a human? As established before, species identification can be a major influence in making a choice to the first question asked. In my opinion, the Creation, in all aspects except his physical form, is a mere human child. Thus, this begets the question: would you rather kill 100 puppies with your bare hands or the Creation with your bare hands?
If this question was proposed to Victor, the answer would be quite clearly against the existence of his “demon.” While looking back at the actions of the Creation the answer does seem justified, I would argue that this would be the stance Victor would take from the moment the Creation took his first breath. Why is that the person who gave the Creation life in the first place, also one of the first who would take it away? While I might not be a mother, I do have one; when I asked her the question of killing 100 puppies or one baby, her response was filled with confusion (mostly in regards to why I was asking such a question) but still in favour of the human life. Mothers, who spend months developing life within themselves and/or spend years continuing to raise them, would have an obvious response to the prospect of having that taken away. Even if you consider people who have raised puppies, if they have raised a child, they are more likely to feel a deeper emotional connection with the one that they directly put into existence. This brings me to emotions, something that I can’t claim to have real expertise in other than saying they exist. They play a significant role in how individuals will react to situations and how they respond accordingly.
Victor fits the first bill that most mothers do: spending a lot of time developing their “child” – two years in Victor’s case. He, however, fails with the second part: the emotional connection. Despite the mental and physical strain that came with his studies into reanimating life, he fails to exhibit any true desire to remain with the person he brought into existence – even when considering all the time he had invested. This, I believe, plays into the idea that individuals will protect and support those they feel a connection with. Victor’s opinions about his creation are more negative than anything else and thus he refuses to connect with him because of the implications that doing so would cause. He refuses to accept the responsibility that came with his pursuit of knowledge and is, therefore, willing to forfeit any recognition he would’ve gotten in return – which speaks magnitudes as his whole desire in the sciences was to distinguish himself amongst his peers. He chose to avoid both the praises and criticisms that would come from people being aware of what he had done because he didn’t want to be associated with his creation at all. He saw the Creation as a poorly-done painting and refused to sign the work because it was not the masterpiece he had intended it to be.
I have looked at it from Victor’s point of view; now, let’s take it to the reader’s view. While I can not speak on behalf of all readers, I can speak about myself. I was sympathetic to the Creation as I read Frankenstein based on the choices made by Mary Shelley both in terms of plot and diction. As a framed narrative, elements of each individual narrator are bound to be lost through each subsequent retelling – especially the Creation’s tale which is told to Robert Walton by Victor. This, however, is overcome in part to Frankenstein at parts choosing to be sympathetic to his abandoned creation and allowing his own flaws to be apparent. Therefore, even though the narration is bound to be biased, evaluations can still be made in trying to answer the question presented in the first paragraph. The idea of connection has been discussed in conjunction with this question in terms of Victor denying his connection because of the acceptance that entails – specifically those concerning his responsibilities – justifying the answer I have presumed him to pick in this hypothetical scenario. The same connection does not exist for me in terms of this situation as I have not created the Creation or anything similar to it (due in part to the fact that it is a fictional book and I have neither the skill nor the desire to attempt such a thing).
For me, my sympathies arose from identification and I believe Victor’s did as well. For the purposes of this idea, I am taking the Creation in his most basic form – the day he came into existence – and using the experiences he told Victor about as a way to judge potential. The question of what makes a human a human is one that seems simple but when trying to classify the monster it becomes more complex. In my belief, a defining characteristic of humanity is awareness beyond just the physical world and trying to understand what that means. The Creation is definitely aware. He recognizes his own unnatural existence and does attempt to address it in a way that seems rational to him: get his creator to make him a woman similar to him as to stop the judgment he faced from others. While flawed in his ventures to get what he desired, it is reminiscent of a child trying to get what they want – albeit with a bit more muscle and means to try to get it. By making the Creation more intelligent, Shelley only continues to build on the identification I had created. He is persuasive and vulnerable in his story and, overall, human. He, for me, was not too different from myself – and Victor probably felt the same way as he heard the story. The Creation was able to have complex thoughts and feel while being able to articulate those very well. In my mind, it would be an injustice to take his chance to live because of the nature of his arrival on Earth; at the end of the day, he existed like a human. He existed like me.
I wonder how user: Blu_Phoenix would respond to the question I proposed because the Creation is definitely “capable” and could make a difference beyond those of the puppies that would be spared with the Creation’s death. Now, I propose this same question to you: would you rather kill 100 puppies with your bare hands or the Creation with your bare hands? There are no wrong answers because even my answer flip-flops depending on the day. If you want to take it up a notch: would you rather kill the Creation with your bare hands or a human baby with your bare hands? And, in these situations, do believe yourselves strong enough to kill the Creation if that is the choice you want to make. Justifications can be made using any stage of the Creation’s life.
(I don’t know how I ended up on this topic – this really wasn’t the route I was planning on going on yesterday. I guess I will do my wrath essay one day, maybe.)