Study Guide

Frankenstein Compassion and Forgiveness

By Mary Shelley

Compassion and Forgiveness

Chapter 12
The Monster

These thoughts exhilarated me and led me to apply with fresh ardour to the acquiring the art of language. My organs were indeed harsh, but supple; and although my voice was very unlike the soft music of their tones, yet I pronounced such words as I understood with tolerable ease. It was as the ass and the lap-dog; yet surely the gentle ass whose intentions were affectionate, although his manners were rude, deserved better treatment than blows and execration. (12.18)

The monster reasons that his inner nature should be the basis for people’s judgment of him, rather than his coarse but harmless outer features. He relies on a compassion that is present only in himself. This faulty assumption sets him up for disappointment.

Chapter 16
The Monster

At this time a slight sleep relieved me from the pain of reflection which was disturbed by the approach of a beautiful child, who came running into the recess I had chosen, with all the sportiveness of infancy. Suddenly, as I gazed on him, an idea seized me that this little creature was unprejudiced and had lived too short a time to have imbibed a horror of deformity. If, therefore, I could seize him and educate him as my companion and friend, I should not be so desolate in this peopled earth.

Urged by this impulse, I seized on the boy as he passed and drew him towards me. As soon as he beheld my form, he placed his hands before his eyes and uttered a shrill scream; I drew his hand forcibly from his face and said, "Child, what is the meaning of this? I do not intend to hurt you; listen to me."

He struggled violently. "Let me go," he cried; "monster! Ugly wretch! You wish to eat me and tear me to pieces. You are an ogre. Let me go, or I will tell my papa." (16.25-27)

The monster hopes that a young child will not yet have formed such biases against a being based on appearances. Again, his naive presumptions set him up for disappointment.

This was then the reward of my benevolence! I had saved a human being from destruction, and as a recompense I now writhed under the miserable pain of a wound which shattered the flesh and bone. The feelings of kindness and gentleness which I had entertained but a few moments before gave place to hellish rage and gnashing of teeth. Inflamed by pain, I vowed eternal hatred and vengeance to all mankind. (16.20)

Although the monster is compassionate, he learns that others are not. The world is indifferent at best, and hateful and mistrusting at worst.

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