A person’s childhood could be the best or worst thing that’s ever happened to them; and it’s something a child doesn’t have much control over. Romantic’s believed that “childhood is good” and “causes the heart to soar” but that’s not the case for everyone as seen in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Although the Monster is not necessarily a child, he is still a new being that needed guidance and attention that he did not receive. Childhood affects a person’s whole life and the bonds formed with parents and their early learning experiences can take a big toll on the rest of their life. The Monster had no guidance and everyone he encountered ran away from him including his own creator. From the end of chapter eleven to the end of chapter fifteen, the Monster observed the family living in the cottage. He envied the way they love one another and asks himself “where were my friends and relations?” (Shelley 129). The Monster looked upon the cottagers as “superior beings” and “formed in [his] imagination a thousand pictures of presenting [himself] to them” (Shelley 122). This reminds me of a child looking up to his parents and being nervous to present something in front of him. In my own life, the pressure put on me to receive good grades always makes me nervous to see my parent’s reaction to my report cards which reminds me of how the Monster is afraid to present himself to the cottagers. The cottagers were the only figures that expressed love before the Monster’s eyes. Although the Monster saw good in these people, he knew that if he presented himself to them they would be afraid and run from him because this is what he had experienced in the past. This shows how past experiences like your childhood affect the rest of your life. Imagine you had just awoke to a new world and everyone who looked at you and then ran away; leaving you completely alone in a strange new place. The Monster felt this, and it made him lonely and increasingly angry for the rest of his existence.
Victor’s childhood was fairly opposite from the Monster’s. Victor even said, “No human being could have passed a happier childhood than [himself]” (Shelley 36). A caring and supportive environment increases a child’s chances of achieving better learning abilities. Victor proves this because he had a very good childhood and spoke of his parents as being “possessed by the very spirit of kindness and indulgence” (Shelley 36) and goes on to be an extremely intelligent scientist. Victor shows his intelligence from the start of his narration. Victor is a freethinker with his own opinions on many subjects, this may be why he doesn’t see the wrong in his scientific works. Jean-Jacques Rousseau, a philosopher from Geneva who was a tremendous inspiration to Marry Shelly’s Frankenstein believed that well-balanced, freethinking is crucial to the education of a child. Rousseau also believed that society corrupts children (or humans in general) and that once corrupted they will never return to their natural state. Victor says, “I feel exquisite pleasure in dwelling on the recollections of childhood, before misfortune had tainted my mind and changed its bright visions” (Shelley 37). I think this quote was inspired by Rousseau because Victor remembers the greatness of his childhood and thinks of how society is ruining his dreams. Victor’s father tells him that the alchemy he was so inspired by is “trash” (Shelley 38) which crushed Victor but since society said it was “old news” then Victor must move on to study the current science. This all happened to Victor in Chapter two which is before he went to university thus, Victor showed his interests and intelligence at a very young age, reflecting the benefits of his happy childhood.
Childhood may have a big affect on your intelligence but, intelligence isn’t everything. When characterizing someone you tend to think first of how they act and treat people, not how intelligent they are. A lot of your character traits come from your parents; so. if Victor’s parents were so loving and kind, why wasn’t he? Victor abandoned his creation but his parents brought in Elizabeth when she was in need of a good family. Victor had already been at school for over a year when he ran from the Monster, society may have corrupted him already. It is prevalent throughout the book that Victor never went back to his true self that we met at the beginning of his narration just like Rousseau’s theory says. Victor becomes detached from his family which seemed to be most important to him in his early years, he returns home only to leave again instead of marrying Elizabeth and even goes back to his shameful work. I believe it’s easy to forget your family morals when you’re away from home, I’ve seen it happen to a lot to people in University that go from being good kids to party people and they throw away their future.
Some people see Victor and the Monster as being alike, but I don’t. The Monster was given no guidance and shown no values and yet he knew he wanted a family to love and he didn’t care about being intelligent. Victor on the other hand, left his family and didn’t talk to them for two years and selfishly only cared about his studies. The Monster desires guidance because of the way DeLacey teaches the girl to read. The Monster increasingly becomes more human while Victor’s humanity decreases. Neglecting everything in his life and being self centred. When the Monster threatened Victor by telling him he would “be with [him] on [his] wedding-night” (Shelley 182) Victor assumed the Monster was planning on killing him and that he was the only one in danger. If Victor had taken a second to think of someone besides himself, he may have thought that his family could be in danger too. I think at this point Victor is really wanting to go back to his childhood when all was peaceful and happy.
“Importance of Early Childhood Development.” Brain Development in Children, www.aedc.gov.au/parents/the-importance-of-early-childhood-development.
“Importance of Early Childhood Development.” Encyclopedia on Early Childhood Development, Mar. 2011, www.child-encyclopedia.com/importance-early-childhood-development.
“Rousseau’s Philosophy in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein – 1227 Words.” Study Guides and Book Summaries, 6 Apr. 2017, freebooksummary.com/rousseaus-philosophy-in-mary-shelleys-frankenstein-19177.
Shelley, Mary Wollstonecraft, and Maurice Hindle. Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus. Penguin, 1992.
Shmoop Editorial Team. “Frankenstein Victor Frankenstein Quotes Page 1.” Shmoop, Shmoop University, 11 Nov. 2008, www.shmoop.com/frankenstein/victor-frankenstein-quotes.html.
Shmoop Editorial Team. “Frankenstein Life, Consciousness, and Existence Quotes Page 2.” Shmoop, Shmoop University, 11 Nov. 2008, www.shmoop.com/frankenstein/life-consciousness-existence-quotes-2.html.
Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, www.iep.utm.edu/rousseau/.
Foundations of Literary Studies: Reading Frankenstein Two Hundred Years Later, foundationsofliterarystudies.wordpress.com/tag/the-cottagers/.
Frankenstein — Articles, knarf.english.upenn.edu/V1notes/univers.html.