Responsibility in Frankenstein

Dan Baird

Responsibility of Creating a Monster.

In Frankenstein, Victor creates a creature from parts of dead humans and brings it to life. However, his willing involvement with the creature he has created ends there. After he brings the creature to life, he was "unable to endure the aspect of the being [he] had created, and rushed out of the room," (42, ch. 5). He is scared of what he has created and runs away but the creature is his and he lets it run wild. Victor "clapped [his] hands for joy," when he sees the monster is not still in his apartment (46, ch 5). He discounts the fact that the monster is still alive and could go anywhere or do anything. Although he is the creator of the creature, he does not take responsibility for his creation and this comes back to haunt him later in the story.

Victor's brother was murdered by the monster, although nobody but the creature knows it yet. As a result, a family friend of the Frankenstein's, Justine, gets blamed. She says, "God knows how entirely innocent I am," (65, ch 8). If Victor had done the responsible thing and kept an eye on the creature, this would never have happened. As a result of this accusation, Justine, the family friend, is hanged. Victor now realizes that it is his fault that two innocent people have died. "William and Justine, the first hapless victims to my unhallowed arts," said Victor on page 71, chapter 8.

The next victim of Victor's irresponsibility is his dear friend Henry Clerval. After Victor refuses to make another monster for his first creation, the monster, it gets mad at Victor and kills his best friend in the entire world. In chapter21, Victor says to the dead body of Henry, "have my murderous machinations deprived you also, my dearest Henry, of life? Two I have already destroyed; other victims await their destiny..." He clearly states that it is his fault that his friends and family have been killed by his actions. "I am the cause of this- I murdered [Justine]. William, Justine, and Henry- they all died by my hands," said Victor in chapter 22. Later on, Victor would be able to add his wife, Elizabeth, and his father to the list of the people who die because of his actions.

In chapter 23, Elizabeth is murdered by the monster. When his father finds out about the death of Elizabeth, he falls into an illness and dies shortly later. Now the death count of Victor's irresponsibility is up to five people, all friends and family of Victor. Although Victor's irresponsibility is a main theme in this story, there comes a time when he does do the responsible thing for mankind as a whole. He refused to create a mate for the monster. "My duties to the beings of my own species had greater claims to my attention because they included a greater proportion of happiness and misery. Urged by this view, I refused, and I did the right thing and refusing, to create a companion for the first creature," says Victor in chapter 24. He gives a personal sacrifice of his family and accepts that by doing the right thing and not making another monster, he will be made miserable. However, his misery is incomparable to what could happen to mankind if he did make another creature.

Shelley, Mary Wollstonecraft, Douglas Clegg, and Harold Bloom. Frankenstein, Or, The Modern Prometheus. New York, NY: Signet Classics, 2013. Print.

Modern Connections of Responsibility.

Responsibility is even more important in today's world than it was in the time period of the story. Nowadays, we are held responsible for everything we do in the world. From our homework to paying the bills, we are constantly being told we have to do things. If we don't do them, we're held responsible. What does it mean to be responsible? It means to be held accountable for things that you do or don't do. If you are the cause of something, you will get recognized for it and it will be your duty to fix something you did wrong. Otherwise, anyone could do anything and they wouldn't get punished for it. If this was the case, the world would be full of criminals and cheaters because you could get away with anything.

Being responsible often involves doing things that you don't want to. Victor didn't want to deal with the monster, but that didn't change the fact that it was his responsibility. In life, you can't just ignore things you have to do. Just like how Victor continues to ignore the threat of the monster and that is the reason the death toll is so high, that parking ticket you got two months ago won't disappear. The fine will just keep increasing until you pay the new inflated amount. After spending an extra $45 on something that, let's be honest, wasn't your fault to begin with, you realize that it would have been much better if you'd simply payed the original $54 for parking in a fire lane (which wasn't clearly marked. The cop must've put the "NO PARKING- FIRE LANE" sign up when you went in for your morning coffee). Taking responsibility for your actions is seldom enjoyable but it must be done.
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