Frankenstein – Polished Critical


The nature of motivations that direct an individual’s course of action.


Most of what humans do during their lifetimes can be explained thusly: emotion is motivation, and the actions that they take are a direct result of what they feel inside. Whether they derive from a dark place within, or from a fleeting hope that never comes to fruition, motivations are almost consistently the result of emotion — strong emotion, especially in cases where the resulting action may carry grave consequences. Victor Frankenstein is one such case where emotion drives motivation, then action. Inside of him lay a powerful emotional motivator, one that led him on the path to his own destruction, as well as the destruction of those around him. Though the action changed, the motivation remained the same throughout, only shifting into a different form of the same thing. First it was anger at the death of his mother, an anger that turned into motivation to bring her back, even if he may not have consciously known it. Blinded by his ideals, he formed a monstrosity, and the anger remained, only growing stronger. Now it fueled a desire to protect what little he had left, to keep it from facing the fate of his mother, to keep his grasp on what would soon be taken from him. In Frankenstein, the author, Mary Shelley, presents the argument that when an individual feels a burning emotion, it will most often spurr motivation to reach some goal, and the actions taken will reflect the nature of the feeling; this can end in tragedy, however, or carry grave consequences that may change the actions, but the motivation will always remain the same.

Victor was a broken man, torn apart by the death of his mother, and that strong prevalence of anger and discontent set a fire within him. His longing to create his monster was an attempt to ensure that he would never have to face the same emotion again. As a whole, his endeavor can be seen as an attempt to escape the strife that he was forced to endure at the passing of his mother, to stop his remaining loved ones from being taken from him. The studies that he read into reanimation “intrigued” him, more so on a subconscious level than on a conscious one, and that intrigue was fueled by his anger and his resolute desire to uncover the secrets of nature, to “become a god” to a new race of life that would never leave him, never pass beyond his control. Victor’s desire to become a creator, to spurn nature and its frailty, was an emotional response to his realization that life is not constant, and that deep-set emotion was the motivator behind his action. Those who have lost someone can feel this way; they want to do something about an event in which that they truly have no influence. The actions they take determine how strongly their emotion is. Victor’s action was to study and research, to learn from those who knew more than him in an attempt to unlock what was hidden, to become more powerful than nature itself, and to have complete control over life. In doing so, he committed horrible atrocities, going against his faith, against what society knew to be good. 

Later, finally seeing the result of his emotionally driven pursuits, Victor became frightened by his actions, the understanding of what he had created now dawning on him. He witnessed something that was wholly beyond his control. Fleeing from his apartment, he returned to Geneva, where he hoped his foolish actions would be forgotten, where he imagined he was safe. At this juncture, his emotions must have been in turmoil — the anger remained, but a confused helplessness must have also been present. He had fled, leaving his mistake behind instead of dealing with it rationally; soon after his return home, he witnessed the result of  his error, when his youngest brother was found dead in the garden. His motivation was anger still, yet his plan of action was now entirely different. Instead of seeking to create life, he now wanted to destroy it, finding that, regardless of his efforts to extend life, he had created something that had turned to violence. What had begun as an unlikely attempt at bringing his mother back to him, or at least to keep his remaining family with him, had gone entirely awry, and now another of his family was dead. Though he knew not that his monster had done it for certain, he convinced himself — or rather, his emotion convinced him — that his creation was the culprit. Instead of referring to it as his “creation,” he now called it a “daemon” and a “wretch,” disgusted by how it had turned against him. After hearing its story, however, his thoughts grew conflicted. Victor’s motivations became fragmented, and he lost sight of his course of action; he did not know whether he should listen to his creation, or spurn it. Both options seemed to lead to unsavoury ends. In times of strife, one can not help but feel disordered. Emotions can be muddled and motivations will be skewed, but the heart of the matter remains even still. Victor held that anger within him, and it soon grew stronger. 

After the death of Henry Clerval, which held no doubt as to the prime suspect, Victor’s course of action returned to what it had been: to kill the monster. His anger motivated him, now stoked by the murder of his closest friend, and that goal became his primary mission. Even as he returned to Geneva, threatened by the monster to beware his wedding night, he kept his goal in mind. Now, he had lost more than just his mother, and the regret of his actions was beginning to unfurl. Mary Shelley’s use of words such as “revenge,” “hate,” and “destroy” are insights into Victor’s emotion; the prevalence of them throughout the novel indicate how strongly these emotions drive him, and how every thought of his is fixed upon his monster. Primarily, they indicate that his motivation never changed — it was always anger — and even as the final members of his family were taken from him, he never lost that emotion. He resolved to hunt the monster for the rest of his life, or at least until he could kill it, to satisfy his need for revenge, to quell the anger that had driven him so far; he wanted satisfaction, to finally feel at peace, though broken as he was by now. People like Victor — those who are broken — with lives that seem so fluctuating and inconsistent often need to cling to something that can remain unchanging. Emotions such as anger can play that part, and even long after the proverbial ship has sunk, they can remain, just as strong as they were during the inciting incident. Victor’s death was no satisfaction, as indicated in his letters; even if he had passed, he still needed the monster to die. He needed the origin of his suffering to fail in its evasion of justice, and in the end, even though he was no longer there to see it, it did. 

People are driven by emotion, and the actions they take are a result of their emotion. Victor started as a man who was angry at the death of his mother, a man who wanted to arrest the flow of time and keep himself from having to face the same anger again. Later on, his motivations grew skewed with sympathy once he understood his error, yet his anger soon returned stronger than it had been. Though his course of action changed, every step he took was driven by the thing that motivated him constantly: emotion — or more specifically, anger. It is interesting to think about what people have done while being motivated by emotion. It is human to feel emotion, to spurn logic in favor of satisfying our inner desires, but sometimes, if not kept in check, our emotions become too powerful, and our actions reflect our inner lack of control. 

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