For a long time, the monster observes the cottagers, and although they know nothing of his existence, he even comes to view them as ‘friends’. By the fact that the monster, even after man has treated him so barbarically, still finds compassion for these ‘lovely creatures’, simply by watching them go about their day to day routine, Shelley is trying to convey to the reader the sense that the monster is in fact a kind and forgiving being, thus gaining their sympathy even more.
It is even suggested that the monster falls in love with the young woman – ‘the gentle manners of the girl enticed my love’. The fact that the monster shows such compassion must also have been a way in which Shelley would hope to gain reader sympathy for him, especially because of the fact the woman would, in reality, be terrified by him. During his period of observation, the monster learns many things about the cottagers, including their language, routine, and the fact that they are actually incredibly impoverished.
It is also during this period that he first see’s himself, as he catches sight of his reflection in a ‘transparent pool’. Among the words the monster uses to describe his feelings when he first sees himself are: ‘terrified’, ‘despondence’ and ‘mortification’. This event, and the language in which he describes it, conveys his feelings of despair at the fact that he now realises why people hate and fear him. This gains much sympathy from the reader as they empathise with him, and pity the fact that he cannot change these things about himself.
All throughout this part of the monster’s narration, the reader feels the sense of his longing to join the cottagers growing and growing, at one point he says: ‘I formed in my imagination a thousand pictures of presenting myself to them and their reception of me. I imagined that they would be disgusted, until, by my gentle demeanour and conciliating words, I should win their favour and afterwards their love’. This longing builds and builds until eventually the monster finally decides to explain his situation to the blind man, whilst his children are away.
At first, this meeting goes according to plan, with the monster’s graceful way of speaking quickly charming DeLacy, and gaining his instant sympathy as the monster describes how he wishes to ‘claim the protection of some friends, whom I sincerely love’. The fact that DeLacy cannot see the monster, and sympathises with his story – ‘something in your words persuades me that you are sincere’ – is perhaps Shelley trying to make the reader believe that apart from the way he looks, the monster is the same as an ordinary human.
During his conversation with DeLacy, the children of the cottage come home. Felix, the young man, instantly attacks the monster. This anti-climax evokes much sympathy from the reader, as they have just read about how much the monster loved and admired the family. Shelley has the monster tells of how his ‘heart sank within [him] as with bitter sickness’, helping the reader to empathise with the monster as he is ‘struck… violently with a stick’ by a man whom he hoped would show him kindness and understanding.
This point in the novel shows the monster start to reproach his own creation, and wish harm on his creator: ‘Cursed, cursed creator! Why did I live? ‘. This explains the monster’s later revengeful actions towards Frankenstein, for example the murder of his brother. In fact, after the horrible experience in the cottage, the monster becomes sick with despair, and tells of how ‘from that moment I declared ever-lasting war against the species, and more than all, against him who had formed me and sent me forth to this insupportable misery’, thus further explaining the monster’s motives for his revenge.
However, even after this vow of hate, the monster still rescues a small girl from drowning, showing even more compassion and forgiveness, only to be shot by the rustic whom she had ‘playfully fled’. The monster’s, reaction to this, is one of outrage, and it is most probable that the reader’s reaction would be similar. This is certainly a point in the novel at which the monster’s hate for mankind is at its greatest. However, because of the fact that Shelley uses the monster to recount these events, it means that the audience is able to empathise with him and understand the reasoning for his later criminal behaviour.
At the very end of the novel, during the narrative of Robert Walton, the captain of a ship, who comes across Frankenstein at the beginning of the novel on a voyage of discovery to Antarctica, the monster is stood crying over the dead body of his creator, who has died from an illness that he had been suffering from since meeting Walton. He begs the forgiveness of his creator: ‘Oh, Frankenstein! Generous and self-devoted being! What does it avail that I now ask thee to pardon me? ‘.
Even after all the wrongs that Frankenstein has committed against the monster, the fact that he still mourns his death shows that the monster is indeed, a very compassionate and loving being, furthering the readers sympathy for him. Even when the monster is told by Walton that the death of Frankenstein was due to the monster’s lust for revenge and retribution, the monster replies that ‘he suffered not in the consummation of the deed… Not the ten-thousandth portion of the anguish that was mine during the detail of its execution.
He is speaking here of the murder of Frankenstein’s friend, Henry Clerval, whom after Frankenstein destroys the “wife” that he had agreed to create for the monster after hearing his story, the monster murders out of revenge. He goes on to say that ‘my heart was fashioned to be susceptible of love and sympathy, it did not endure the violence of the change without torture’. All of this shows the monster’s reasoning behind his actions, but it also shows the remorse and pain that he feels, thus making the reader sympathise still, as they learn of his internal torture, and heartbroken state.
The deliberate structuring of her novel, with the monster’s narrative being placed between that of Frankenstein’s, and Robert Walton’s forming a frame around the two, is also a way in which Shelley creates sympathy for the monster. Firstly, the fact that the monster even has a narrative instantly helps to create reader sympathy, by emphasising his humanity through allowing him to express his thoughts and feelings to the reader.
The narrative also contains important events which, if there were no narrative by the monster, would not have been included, such as his rejection by the cottagers and his rescue of the drowning girl. The fact that the monster’s narrative is placed at the mid-point of the novel, also helps to draw sympathy from the reader as they are encouraged to form a positive opinion of him earlier on, as they learn his thoughts and feelings.
It the monster’s narrative had been placed at the end, then the reader may have already formed too much of a negative opinion of him. I feel that Shelley thought it important for the reader to realise, that all the hate that the monster has gained for mankind throughout the novel, was all taught to him by man, and man’s treatment of him. Every innocent venture in which he set about was always made into a negative experience by man’s unfair and judgemental views of him.
Shelley is perhaps conveying through the novel, the message that the monster was not born an evil being, but it was mankind that made him a devil, causing him much physical and mental pain, thus turning him into the monster that he became. Another of Shelley’s motives for writing the novel, may have been for it to serve as a warning to those scientists who were unconcerned by the potentially dangerous consequences of their work, thus explaining her reasons for wanting the reader to feel sympathy for the monster, rather than the natural philosopher, Victor Frankenstein.
This would certainly explain the use of Robert Walton, as he turns around his ship at the end of the novel, after he realises that the voyage he is embarking on, is dangerous for himself and his men. One more possible motive may have been to teach people the very old, yet nevertheless important lesson, of not “judging a book by its cover” as throughout the novel, the monster is judged solely by his appearance.
In conclusion, ‘Frankenstein’ is a novel that holds incredibly relevant lessons for modern and 19th century readers alike. Mary Shelley obviously wanted to create sympathy for the monster and I believe she does so well.