Doctor Frankenstein: Hero, Villain or Something in Between? Essay
Heroism generally has been associated with qualities such as courage, determination, self-sacrifice, and risks taking. Heroes are known to have qualities beyond human capabilities; hence are seen as superhuman: someone between God and human always referred to as a demigod.
Moreover, a hero is most of the time seen as reflecting the ideals of the community or a country and as a person who has performed a thing that other people have not achieved, but they wish they had. Mostly, heroes are known to engage in extraordinary and unique actions.
Heroes may be noticed while still alive or long after they have passed away. The way they conduct themselves is always perceived as a source of moral teachings or even institutional legends. However, it is recognized that heroism lies in the eyes of the beholder, meaning that one person may view someone as a hero, yet in the eyes of another, that person may not be a hero.
On the other hand, a villain is usually a character in a novel, film, or in real life who is usually devoted to causing wickedness and heinous crimes in a novel, film, or in the society. Some villains may have powers beyond human comprehension, but they use them to cause havoc in the society; hence very few, if any, would wish to emulate their wicked tendencies.
Thus even though they may engage in extraordinary and unique actions, the only thing that villains can inspire in the people in society is to rise up and defeat such characters. Villains are like heroes, they may be alive or dead, but their deeds are still noticed and institutionalized.
Frankenstein’s Ambiguous Personality
Due to the thin line that separates a hero and a villain, many characters in the society and even in films or novels may be considered something in between. This is because their actions do not qualify as heroic or heinous. In Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus by Mary Shelley, Doctor Victor Frankenstein stands out as neither a hero nor a villain; he is something in between.
Some actions of Doctor Victor Frankenstein are heroic, while some of his deeds are heinous. Even though he sets out to find and destroy the monster that he created, he knows that the challenge he is facing is much great. This is because the beast he created murdered his own brother William.
It calls for the courage that is only seen in heroes for a man like him to face such a creature so huge and that he confesses frightful (Mary, 180 – 190). However, all this rage, confusion, and fear of the monster would not have occurred if he had not abandoned the beast he created.
The heroic courage that Doctor Frankenstein shows in his futile attempt to destroy the monster in greatly driven to exert revenge for the death of his brother. The courage that epitomizes heroes is not driven by feelings but is inborn. This is why heroes are born courageous if not, the courage builds in them not from the urge to exert revenge but from the urge to defend the society from the evil, which makes them villains.
The heroic determination, self-sacrifice, and risk-taking of the doctor can be quite inspiring to many. Still, understanding the reasons behind such a show of heroism, one would conclude that Frankenstein is no hero but just a man out to correct the mistakes he made in his quest to form something unique.
He studied and achieved his childhood dream while at the university. This is where he achieved his childhood dream of making a natural wonder by developing a secret technique to fill lifeless bodies with life. When he finally achieved this, the resulting creature became his worst enemy killing people close to him like his brother William, his wife Elizabeth Clerval, his brother’s nanny, Justine, and his father.
After all the grief that his creation gives him, he vows to pursue the monster until one of them finishes the other. He is determined and risks his own life by facing a monster that the first time they met for a duel defeated his hands down. He even decides to stay outside and wait for the monster while his wife Elizabeth sleeps remains safe in the house. This shows how determined he was to kill the monster (Mary, 145 – 200).
However, all show of heroism is driven by the urge to correct his mistakes earlier. Heroes’ determination, self-sacrifice, and risk-taking tendencies are not driven by the urge to correct their mistakes but to protect society. Hence, he is just trying heroically to defend himself and the society at large from his monster.
All in all, Doctor Frankenstein may pass as a hero or a villain for that matter, depending on the observer since the definition of a hero is ambiguous. It depends on each and every critic of the life and times of the doctor. Indeed the manner in which he tried correcting his mistakes was heroic; he showed superhuman courage, determination, and self-sacrifice character that ought to be emulated by many.
However, the motive behind his actions was not born of a hero, but of a man being remorseful for the mistakes he made by first creating a monster and then abandoning it. Moreover, the fact that he could fathom the idea of making a phantom, an extraordinary creature for no apparent reason, makes him a villain.
Mary, Shelley. Frankenstein or The Modern Prometheus: The 1818 Text (Oxford World’s Classics). New York: Oxford University Press, 1998.
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