The Rule of Three

This post isn’t really related to the dystopian themes of this blog but I wanted to shake things up…

Countless studies have been conducted to determine what makes a person want to kill. Is it genetic? Is it mother nature’s doing? Or is it years of abuse? The answer varies from person to person, and there may not be a definitive answer. This deduction becomes harder to prove, especially when dealing with a creature that was man-made and technically a blank canvas. I’m rereferring to the monster from Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. He was driven to murder his creator’s family just to stick it to him, the psychology behind why he did it could be questioned. Maybe he wanted Victor to suffer the same lonely life he was, or that if he couldn’t be loved then Victor deserved to be punished. I’m not getting into those factors of why he may kill but some of the other more complicated ones. According to an article written by Berit Brogaard called Making of a Serial Killer, she outlines some major factors considered by many studies when deducing the motives behind a serial killer. The one that was proven true in the most cases was brain structure, certain parts of the amygdala showed decreased activity, this is linked to that fact that most serial killers are psychopaths and the amygdala is the emotion control center. It is no secret that psychopaths can’t develop normal emotions and relationships, and this may be the cause of that. Another large factor is genetic inheritance, that same article stated that approximately 60% of psychopathic traits among killers were inherited, also meaning they couldn’t have been avoided. Finally, the third factor is childhood and social upbringing. I always thought the worse the childhood the more the monster but as I learned the list for serial killers with totally regular, abuse-less childhoods are larger. Ted Bundy is a prime example of this. Now time to apply this to the monster from Frankenstein and try to figure out what made him snap.

The monster as we know was made in a lab and created to be a blank canvas but then was ultimately abandoned and left to navigate the world alone. Basic human instincts kicked in and left the creature able to survive until he found a place where he could live mildly unharmed by nature. The creature endured many awful things including the abandonment by Victor and abuse from villagers who didn’t appreciate his presence. I would like to get one thing clear; the monster did show signs of being a psychopath with his meticulous planning over the years, lack of emotional empathy toward his victims (especially with the conscious framing of Justine), and his dedication to the horrors he was inflicting on Victor. Now as I break down his situation in relation to the three things that ultimately make a murderer, I see some parallels and differences. The one factor that can be immediately removed is the genetic inheritance, the monster was pretty much made a blank canvas as I mentioned before so it is very unlikely that genetics played a factor here. The most possible of the three is the disfiguration of the brain, it is possible that during the creation of him, Victor manhandled the brain leaving the amygdala misshapen or harmed. This could cause that emotional center of the brain to be skewed and render the creature unable to feel as bad for the things he’d done, as well as not being able to read the situations and control what he’s feeling. This creates aggressive behaviour, which in the creature’s case led to killing three people. Arguably the most important factor pertaining to the creature’s case is his social upbringing, this factor is the most solid piece of evidence found in the book. The creature faced physical harm from villagers when they discovered him, which caused him to bleed and he suffered mental trauma from this as well. I mean, wouldn’t you? Lastly, Victor was like his father, and imagine being left by your father right after you came into this world and he was all you had. These experiences have a heavy impact on your life and these things can eat away at you especially when you witness loving families every day. I’m no expert but by judging everything based on what I read in the book the monster experienced gut-wrenching events and had a possible malfunctioning brain structure, and all these things can be found amongst serial killers worldwide.

These patterns surrounding this ‘rule of three’ in serial killers, whether they are fictional or real help psychologist better determine who may be likely to kill. As more analyses, studies and knowledge are released to the world, predicting and solving crimes may become a lot easier. As the answer probably doesn’t lay in a 300-year-old book doesn’t mean it’s a good place to start. Looking outside the box just maybe what we need to find a definitive answer once and for all.



Brogaard, Berit. “The Making of a Serial Killer.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers,

Shelley, Mary Wollstonecraft. Frankenstein, or, The Modern Prometheus. Titan Books, 2014.

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