Victor: Mary Shelly’s Beowulf
During my Heroes and Monsters of the North Sea Literature course, Professor Smith made the argument that the epic poem Beowulf was a tale that centered on humanity’s duality. To a more causal audience Grendel is the monster and Beowulf is the hero – no argument. However, the case is not as simple after a closer examination. Beowulf is a monster of pride. In the end it is inability to pass the torch that spells his doom.
Victor Frankenstein is the same in this aspect. I find this story so appealing because he is a character that makes an audience cringe at the amount of stupidity that fuels his actions, and yet he is relatable – more so than the creature. While the creature faces the world, his viewpoint steadily darkening, Victor grew up alongside a great childhood. His motives are selfish and his actions are sometimes irrational, but that only adds to why he is so relatable. While a gross generalization, it is reasonable to think that people who grow up with a happy childhood go on to live normal, productive lives. Victor simply takes it to the extreme. It is as if his normal childhood psychologically fueled this need to separate himself above the norm – to go above and beyond. After Victor creates the monster, regret sets in. But this only happens once his personal life is affected to such a horrible degree. A reader would like to believe that he or she would rise above such egotistical decisions, but it is a biological impulse to flee in the face of danger. Victor wants to save his own ass in layman’s terms. That mentality is human.
Then the creature confronts him. The creature leverages safety for a companion. Victor latches on the first chance he gets. He wants to stop the roaring wrath of the creature from affecting anymore of his personal life. But then his egotistical nature takes over. Instead of thinking about the safety of his family or the woman that he “loves,” he opts to save himself the embarrassment of being known for the creator of an entire race of demons. He disregards his own creation’s will for his own pride. In failing to complete one last scientific endeavor, he ends up getting burnt alive by the dragon so to speak.
This is why the two stories are great comparisons. Grendel and the creature are the traditional monsters – ugly and deformed. They represent a primal form. They represent ignorance. They represent what happens when arrogant individuals assume that what they see is reality. Beowulf and Victor represent the more reformed monstrosities, the kind that only humans can offer towards one another. Two sides of the same coin.