Frankenstein is a novel about monsters, for monsters, written by a monster. This may offend some people, but the truth is that the darkness that lies within this novel and its characters are within each person that reads it. No one in this world is perfect; therefore, each flaw that exists within the reader should allow that person to connect and relate to each character on a personal level. Whether the story is describing Victor Frankenstein, his creature or Elizabeth, the reader is acutely aware of their shortcomings, for it has existed within themselves at one point, in some way. Its universality is also evident in its critique of society, which Mary Shelley crafts cleverly in this novel.
Shelley spares no rod in her critique of nineteenth century society, for not only does she cut quick and sharp, but she does so over a variety of matters. In chapter fourteen of Frankenstein, the tragic story of the cottagers that the creature has been observing comes to light. Corruption, pride, and xenophobia was the source of the beloved cottagers’ sorrow and poverty. According to the text, it was the Parisian way to judge and condemn people based on “religion and wealth rather than the crime alleged” (Shelley 110). Safie’s father’s otherness as a Muslim Turk in Paris, who was bold enough to vocalize his opinion, led to his fatal condemnation. This discrimination is continued and upheld in society to this day in a plethora of ways.
Many countries, communities, and societies have a conditioned prejudice towards people of differing appearances and beliefs to that of the majority in that area. There are thousands of examples worldwide where this can be observed, but one of the more recently discussed discriminations that exist are against transgender people in the United States. In June, policy from the White House was finalized “that would remove nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ people when it came to health care and health insurance” (Simmons-Duffin par. 1). Sex, according to this policy, is described as the biological assignment from birth, rather than a person’s internal identification. Though many may argue that this is a more accurate depiction of a person’s sex for medical purposes, it brings up more complicated issues in the discussion of medical coverage.
“Gender dysphoria,” or “distress caused by a discrepancy between the gender that a person identifies as and the gender at birth” (“Trump Admin…” par. 4), is a medically recognized condition that has medically-induced treatments, which were covered under the Affordable Care Act until now. This change was influenced by religious and political views that believe that the concept of transgender is ridiculous or conflicting to their beliefs, and see transexuals, people who have undergone a physical transition from one gender to another, as monstrosities. This change in policy not only makes the price of transitory surgery, a procedure that allows people to lead more mentally healthy lives, astronomical, but also bans medical coverage for transgender individuals for common conditions, such as diabetes, heart problems, and even regular check ups.
Many states and organizations have vocalized their outrage through lawsuits, but that doesn’t reverse the harm being done to people who identify as transgender. The government and parts of society have ostracized this group socially, but they took it one step further by attempting to exile and abandon them just as Victor Frankenstein did to his creation. Trans people are still American citizens that are part of the social contract between them and the government they live under. They exchange their compliance with the law for protection by the law, but now that their protections are gone, there is little that can prevent the outrage and chaos that will inevitably ensue. All peoples that have lost protection from their government have reacted this way throughout history and Frankenstein’s creation is no different.
Abandonment and rejection led the creature down a path of loneliness and shame. After revealing himself to the cottagers that he had taken a liking to and being rejected, he realized that he will never be accepted amongst humans. Even though they claim to be intellectual and knowledgeable, many humans lack the emotional intelligence and understanding to accept and care for the creature because of their xenophobic societal conditioning. The very people that were put into poverty because of the government’s fear of otherness ironically showed no kindness to another being’s otherness. Not only are humans rude to the creature, but even his own creator is actively seeking to kill him and remove his otherness from this world.
It’s disappointing and horrifying to see humans treat other beings in such cruel ways, especially when the differences between each person/being is not as drastic as many people like to make it out to be. Often, otherness is highlighted rather than likeness because hate is easy. It’s so much easier to have an enemy or idea to fight against rather than banding together to support and love each other. It’s easy to point the finger to another or blame a group of people. It’s hard to actually put work in to solve the problems that need to be solved. Victor takes the easy way out every time rather than accepting his responsibility as a creator and owning up to his wrongdoings. Even Elizabeth admits that she feels wrong for calling others monsters when she herself has done wrong. She knows she cannot cast the first stone, for she too is a monster in her own right. She is simply one of the few who are able to admit it.
In many ways, the novel Frankenstein can be boiled down to one word: monstrosity. It describes a creature that is thought to be a monster created by a monster named Victor Frankenstein, and the novel itself is like the monster it describes, stitched together by many different voices and perspectives. As a social critique, this novel elucidates the reality that higher knowledge and intellect does not always result in morality or justice as can be seen by the many ethical dilemmas weighed by each character and the way they respond to these dilemmas. These critiques also have direct relation and relevance to the issues surrounding transgender people and their access to medical care and coverage today. Although the circumstances relating to trans rights are not directly analogous to the creature’s, Frankenstein serves as an example of just how far this issue can worsen if left unresolved.
Shelley, Mary Wollstonecraft, and Diane Johnson. Frankenstein. Bantam Dell, 2003.
Simmons-Duffin, Selena. “Transgender Health Protections Reversed By Trump Administration.” NPR, NPR, 12 June 2020, http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2020/06/12/868073068/transgender-health-protections-reversed-by-trump-administration.
“Trump Administration Revokes Transgender Health Protection.” Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Times, 12 June 2020, http://www.latimes.com/world-nation/story/2020-06-12/trump-administration-revokes-transgender-health-protection.
© 2021 Writings by Z
Subscribe to get access
Read more of this content when you subscribe today.