Throughout the second volume of Frankenstein, Mary Shelley uses irony and dictation to illustrate the extent to which physical appearance rules the human race.

Frankenstein’s creature seems to bring out the worst in humanity. Human beings abhor the creature for his mutilated appearance, instinctively assuming since he is “ugly”, he is evil. The manner with which human beings treat the creature proves that no matter how rational the human race believes itself to be, it is still instinctively driven and shallow.

This is reinforced throughout the creature’s narrative, as he never gets a chance to reveal his true nature to other beings, due to their initial reaction of his physical appearance. The creature, unaware that his physical appearance is an unconquerable barrier, asserts:

“when they should become acquainted with my admiration of their virtues, they would compassionate me, and overlook my personal deformity”.

Through the use of words such as “deformity” and “virtues” Shelley reinforces the creature’s ugliness, as well as his benevolence. This quotation also shows the difference between the creature and human beings. He believes an individual’s character should outweigh looks, whereas human beings will only consider a person’s interior once they have accepted their exterior.

The one man who treats the creature with compassion rather than hostility is a man who is blind. The blind man himself remarks:

“I am blind and cannot judge of your countenance, but there is something in your words which persuades me you are sincere” (136).

Ironically, the only human being in the entirety of the novel who truly saw the creature for who he was, was a man who could not see at all. The blind man symbolically suggests that while human beings are able see, visual appearance will forever rule their judgement.

Furthermore, once the other cottagers who live with the blind man return and see the creature, they strike and drive him away. One cannot blame the cottagers for their reactions, as instinctively they felt inferior due to the creature’s size and fearful for the blind man.

What reveals the true nature of human beings is the fact that after their initial shock the cottagers did not even try to understand the situation or the creature. That proves instinct overrode rationality, as the blind man was not hurt and the creature was kind to him. Nevertheless, the cottagers soon left their house forever.

Parallel texts:

Shakespeare’s Othello presents a similar situation. The tragic character Othello is of high status and an honorable man, whose eloquence is unmatched. Despite his amiable qualities, many characters cannot see past the fact that he is a black man.

Othello is subject to much discrimination and verbal abuse. For example, Iago exclaims,

“Even now, now, very now, an old black ram/Is tupping your white ewe” (1.1.97-98).

This racial slur references the stereotype that black men were hyper-sexual and animals, Whereas Othello is the opposite.

Both the creature and Othello were innately good creatures with benevolent intentions, but were unfairly treated due to their physical appearances.

The tragic irony of Frankenstein is that the creature only wanted to love and be loved. Victor’s failure to recognize this, due to the creature’s visual appearance, leads to his demise.

If you enjoyed this post and want to read more, please consider subscribing!