Frankenstein – Physical Appearance

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            The reaction of people to the appearance of Frankenstein’s monster reflects the importance of physical appearance both in Mary Shelly’s day and our own.  It is a sad fact that many people have an immediate judgment about others based solely on that person’s physical appearance.  We see it in all facts of life, especially in our own society.  Importance of physical appearance varies considerably between cultures and societies.  Our society is one of the worst offenders.  There is a definite discrimination between people judged as beautiful and those that are not.  At its most extreme, if one is not beautiful enough, they are seen as almost less of a person.

Or at least a person who’s feelings or opinions do not matter as much.  Mary Shelly recognized this and put this principle to work in her novel.  Frankenstein’s creation was born a sensitive, emotional and caring type.  But because of the way people judged him, he began to fit into the role he thought he was supposed to, that of a violent monster who cares nothing for the people that he hurts.

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            As Victor Frankenstein begins telling his tale of the creation of his monster, we learn that he never intended his creation to be so hideous.  It was to be the chief accomplishment of his career.  But when he was finished, and he looked upon his creation for the first time, he was disgusted by its appearance and flees the moment he has realized what he has done.  His monster, who is portrayed as a loving, compassionate “son” is confused by this and disappears.  Although he does not know it at the time, Frankenstein sentenced his creation to a life time of torment.

            As his monster roams the countryside, he comes upon various sorts of people, most of whom judge him on his looks.  He eventually comes across the home of a large family and finds residence in their shed.  While remaining unnoticed and observing the family, the monster learns how to use the language.  His caring nature persuades him to perform beneficial acts for the family and he decides to make his presence known.

            I find it interesting that Shelly wrote the story in such a way that the first person in the family whom the monster went to was the blind grandfather.  For the first time in his life, Frankenstein fells acceptance and kindness, but when the family sees him, frightened by his appearance, they chase him away.  This has a dramatic impact on the monster and at that point he decides that he must have revenge upon Victor and he sets off to find him.  Although not to this extreme, this scene represents much of what happens in real life.  If all people were blind, we would not judge people based on their physical appearance.  There are a multitude of stories about women who did not get a certain job because they are not attractive enough, or because they are heavier than average.  And although not acknowledged nearly as often, there are many pressures being put on men to fit a certain profile too, much more than in the past.

When Victor and his creation finally come face to face, there is not a violent battle for one another’s lives.  To the contrary, the monster gets Victor to understand all that he has gone through, and asks that Victor create someone with whom he can share his life.  He explains the hardship of a life in which people will not accept you because of your appearance.  Since it is apparent that the monster will not find love in the human realm, Victor agrees to create a new monster for Frankenstein to be with.

            Unlike Frankenstein, many people are able to shrug off comments about their weight and not worry so much about other people’s opinion of attractive they are.  Psychologically, it may be more beneficial to feel attractive and believe that you are, than it is to worry about how other people view you.  These people tend to succeed much more and by not allowing people’s opinions to get them down, are able to move on to greater things, and change people’s minds along the way.  If constantly worried about how other people view your attractiveness, you will dig yourself into a hole that it will be hard to get out of.  All people have different ideas of what beauty is, and one is bound to fail if their goal is to be beautiful for all people.

But there are also scientific reasons why physical appearance is important.  There are numerous studies that explore what role physical appearances play in the development of personality.  The idea is that, much like what is illustrated in the Mary Shelly’s work, that people form opinions about by what they see in a person physically, and respond to that person according to those opinions.  These people, who know they are being judged a certain way, tend to fulfill the expectations set upon them by the people judging their appearance.  Much like Frankenstein who, although born a compassionate individual, turned into a murderer because of the expectations put on him by his appearance.

Frankenstein illustrates many of the problems with judging people based on how they look.  Although it is impossible not to do so, certain segments of our society put too much emphasis on physical appearance.  This leads to many diet related illnesses and feelings of shame as people wonder why they can not fit a physical profile.  Individuals would be better to realize that their own attitude toward themselves is much more important than how others view them.

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