On the Crest of the Emotional Wave
In Plato’s The Symposium, a discussion between Socrates and another philosopher, Diotima, arises on how man tries to attain goodness. They agree that man loves what is good and pursues the love of good. The next section of their discussion deals with the function of love, which Diotima argues is procreation. Diotima says that procreation must be achieved in harmony, and that ugliness is out of this harmony:
“That is why Beauty is the goddess who presides over travail, and why, when a person in a state of pregnancy comes into contact with beauty, he has a feeling of serenity and happy relaxation…But, when ugliness is near, the effect is just the opposite; he frowns and withdraws gloomily into himself and recoils and contracts…but has painfully to retain the burden of pregnancy.”
Victor Frankenstein, as the creator of the monster, is the victim of exposure to ugliness. Victor has a violent reaction to the monster once it is first brought to life, as it causes “breathless horror and disgust.” (57) Victor in this point as well as other times during the novel has his emotions towards the monster control his action. The sight of the monster triggers these emotions, which can be described as out of control and rash. However, the monster seems more rational and calm than Victor during their only meeting. The consequences of Victor’s actions that result from his emotional impulses in contrast to the rationality of the monster shows that loss of control over one’s emotions leads to an overall loss of control. However, just as Diotima articulated, Victor still has to “retain the burden of pregnancy,” and the consequences arising from his decisions regarding the monster.
Victor is first seen losing control as a result of his emotions during the time when he first sees the monster coming to life. Victor’s retelling of his reaction to the monster that he had just brought to life is as such: “How can I describe my emotions at this catastrophe, or how delineate the wretch whom with such infinite pains and care I had endeavoured to form?” (57) It can be seen that Victor’s emotions clearly got the best of him during this time, as he can hardly illustrate the horror that he felt. Victor unmistakably makes the error of acting on impulse. “Unable to endure the aspect of the being I had created,” (57) Victor flies out of the room, leaving the monster to fend for himself in the confusion which is Frankenstein’s laboratory. Instead of thinking about the consequences his actions might have before he created the monster, Victor let his emotional need for glory and greatness get in the way of his rational thinking. Victor again had another chance to think rationally before he acted during the birthing of the monster, however he once again acts on impulse and emotion. He loses control over the situation and especially the monster. The monster’s escape, which could have been stopped had Victor realized he held the key to its control, set in motion what would occur next, including the monster’s murder of William. These events were a result of nothing more than Victor’s irrational responses to the situations in which he had no idea how to react.
A sharp contrast between the monster and Victor is seen in their first encounter, where the monster gains control, given up by Victor because of his emotions, through being rational. Here is Victor’s reaction toward the monster after he finds out the monster has murdered William:
“The tortures of hell are too mild a vengeance for thy crimes. Wretched devil! My rage was without bounds; I sprang on him, impelled by all the feelings which can arm one being against the existence of another. He easily eluded me and said- “Be calm! I entreat you to hear me before you give vent to your hatred on my devoted head.” (99)
Once again, Victor is seen acting before thinking. “Impelled by all the feelings,” he is not able to use his reason to control his emotion. Instead, Victor is hotheaded and seemingly flings his body in the direction of the monster in order to inflict as much pain upon the creature as he can. This action is unquestionably irrational, as violence is never the answer and Victor’s strength is certainly no match for the monster. Victor easily gives up control to the monster, as the only advantage he would seem to have over the monster would be his ability to reason, but his reaction is more animalistic than rational. Dissimilarly, the monster uses logic and reason in order to foster his purpose of his meeting with Victor. His calm approach to the situation sets the tone for his story and request of Victor. The monster in the first years after his creation observes the Delacey family. He sees that human beings rely on each other for support, love and sustenance. Once he learns of Victor’s hatred and disgust for him, the monster at first is angry. This anger, although not directly, leads him to murder William. However, the monster realizes that instead of acting on emotional impulse, he can make a rational request of Victor: the creation of a mate to love him and keep him company. Also, he reasons with Victor that he will never have to see him again, which is appealing to his creator. In addition, Victor did not really have a choice in the matter. Control can be viewed as the ability to have as many possible options and choices. The monster had left Victor with two, however one of them is unacceptable. The option of compassioning the monster and being its provider is the one immediately ruled out by Victor because of his strong emotions of hatred toward the monster. This leaves him with only one choice, which is to agree to create the monster his mate, although later he questions this decision.
Victor once again acts upon his emotions, as he has a vehemently negative reaction toward the monster’s appearance while creating the second monster. During the creation of the second monster, Victor sees the monster watching him: “As I looked on him, his countenance expressed the utmost extent of malice and treachery. I thought with a sensation of madness on my promise of creating another like to him, and trembling with passion, tore to pieces the thing on which I was engaged.” (166) The words “sensation” and “passion” show that Victor’s reaction to the monster is entirely emotional, as the vision of the monster brings about these feelings. Although he had been using reason to think about the consequences of creating another monster and his agreement to its creation is questionable, the only rational thing to have done would be to finish creating the monster. This way, he would not have to see the monster again and would not unleash the monster’s anger at him to an even greater extent. Victor did not trust the monster, as his appearance made the monster’s rational words and request melt away. Just as Victor acted so irrationally toward the monster when it was created because of its appearance, Victor once again lets this emotional response control his actions. This once again leads to bad consequences for Victor, as the monster murders his fiancÃ©e, Elizabeth. Victor’s emotional reactions to the monster continue to lead him to his downfall until his inevitable death.
Victor Frankenstein throughout the novel is seen grappling with the consequences of his determination and success in creating a perfect human being. Once it is created and brought to life, he realizes he has created nothing more than a monster. This immediately causes strong emotions of discontent with and hatred for the monster. He first tries to flee the product of his choices, however, this decision is very irrational. He loses whatever control over the monster that he might have had. When he is given another chance to gain control over the monster in their second meeting, his emotions of hatred for the monster return, as they are only even more kindled by William’s murder. While Victor gives up his control in exchange for rage, the monster is seemingly much more rational than Victor and certainly the calmer of the two. He is able to make a rational inquiry of Victor: create a mate for him. Victor does not really have a choice in the matter, as his emotions could not let him endure the other choice of compassioning the monster and being its provider. Once again, while creating the second monster, the appearance of the first one once again brings back strong feelings of contempt. He reacts immediately to his emotions, and decides to destroy the monster. This decision is also very shortsighted, as the monster had promised to torture Victor if he went back on the original promise. From this point, Victor loses all of his control over his life, as the monster kills his love, Elizabeth, and eventually leads to his decimation and death. The ultimate loss of control is reflected in the loss of control over one’s own life, and Victor reflects this. His inability to control his emotions toward the monster leads to his inevitable death.
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