Thursday, February 21, 2013

Who is a Monster?

As I was reading Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, I thought about the question-what defines a monster?
From the movies, we look at the creation as the horrible abomination. We label this new life created from grave yard pieces as the monster. Victor Frankenstein is the noble scientist; a victim of a science experiment gone wrong. This version is far from the vision of Mary Shelley.
But really, who is the monster? When he was first created, the creature was innocent and intelligent. He didn’t know that he was different. He was left alone by Victor who ran away from his responsibility to a new life. It was Victor’s treatment of him that created the angry and vengeful spirit-the monster was born from neglect. The creature became a monster in response to the reactions that his creator showed him. He internalized the horror
Victor started out to defeat death. He wanted to create a world where no one would die. Wow, I wonder how that’s going to turn out. He is a genius who has used his talent unwisely. Nature will see that he is punished for his vanity. Unfortunately, the innocent creation pays a high price for Victor’s mistake.
The dictionary isn’t much help. It just says a monster is any creature that is so ugly or monstrous as to frighten people. That’s not much help. That could describe anything. Also, ugly really shouldn’t be an aspect that defines a monster. Really, beauty is in the eye of the beholder which implies that ugly is too. Shouldn’t a monster be more universal than that? Monsters are all around us. They hide in the shadows. They try to blend into the background because when we see them-we will do something about them.
A second definition talks about a person who excites horror by wickedness or cruelty. Now, that is a definition that we can work with.  It is horrifying when a person goes out and causes random harm to others. We know a monster when we hear about them. But what if they are just frightened people making mistakes.  The Twilight Zone episode, “The Monsters are due on Maple Street”, comes to mind. The fear that the neighborhood felt had to be directed somewhere. Each event had to be blamed on someone. The person blamed had to be on the street. They couldn’t imagine that the events could be coming from an unseen force. Having someone to blame made them feel a little more in control.
Since we all can feel fear and act irrationally, do we all carry the monster within us?