The Nameless Child
The monster in Mary Shelley’s 1818 novel, Frankenstein, is often erroneously referred to as Frankenstein, and yet the creature is never given an actual name in the novel. Frankenstein’s creation is given many titles but each serves only to impel him towards the evil his visage insinuates to his creator.
When Frankenstein began his work he fully believed he was creating a human, perceiving himself “father” to the “child” he was forming (Shelley 33). Frankenstein envisioned this child bringing him glory, selecting “his features as beautiful” and ensuring his “limbs were in proportion,” and yet at the moment of awakening, he calls his newborn a “catastrophe” (35). Frankenstein’s creation is quickly demoted from child to “miserable monster or “dreaded spectre by his repulsed father (36, 39). Frankenstein’s response to the creature as it rouses is “breathless horror and disgust” rather than parental love (36). The newborn is abandoned, “confused” and overwhelmed by the “strange multiplicity of sensations” he experiences (70); he has no parent to lovingly guide him in how he should act and is instead left to traverse his new world alone.
When Frankenstein’s brother is murdered the scientist heads towards his hometown “dreading a thousand nameless evils,” and yet only one evil remains nameless throughout the novel (48). When Frankenstein encounters his progeny in the icy mountains, the creature tells him he “ought to be thy Adam; but I am rather the fallen angel” (68). The creature’s education regarding a creator’s responsibilities comes from John Milton’s Paradise Lost, read not as an epic story, but as “a true history,” a textbook to how a creator and his creation should interact (90). In Paradise Lost, Adam was “guarded by the especial care of his Creator,” unlike the creature who was left nameless and abandoned by his creator (90). The creature aligns with Milton’s Satan, who portrays himself in Paradise Lost as being “outcast” and “exiled” by his Maker, replaced by “his new delight / Mankind” (4.106-107). Satan was filled with “ire, envy, and despair” by his supposed desertion, as the creature was left in a “state of utter and stupid despair … [with] revenge and hatred fill[ing] his bosom” by his rejection (4.106, Shelley 97). The creature’s abandonment and his creator’s designations therefore cause the murder rather than his appearance.
Frankenstein distinguishes his creation only as a “filthy dæmon” (50), an “abhorred devil” (69), a “wretch” (67), a “vile insect” (67), a “fiend” (102), a “villain” (121), a “filthy mass” (103), a “hideous enemy” (132), and a “fiendish adversary,” which could hardly inspire a child towards good (137). Frankenstein tells Captain Walton that the creature was born evil, and yet it is perhaps more accurate he was expected from birth to do nothing but evil due to his hideous visage. Frankenstein may have called himself the true “murderer of William, of Justine, and of Clerval” because he created the creature, but he might rather be designated as murderer because he failed to educate his creation to be anything other than a dæmon when he failed to name him as his child and give him the name Frankenstein (127).
Shelley, Mary. Frankenstein. Ed. J. Paul Hunter. New York: W.W. Norton &, 2012. Print.
Milton, John. Paradise Lost. Ed. David Scott. Kastan and Merritt Y. Hughes. Indianapolis: Hackett Pub., 2005. Print.