Malorie Palmer<br />ENG 210 Final<br />December 16, 2010<br />It Simply Is Not “Socially Acceptable…” Or So They Say<br />...
Frankenstein and Social Acceptance
Frankenstein and Social Acceptance
Frankenstein and Social Acceptance
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Frankenstein and Social Acceptance

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Frankenstein and Social Acceptance

  1. 1. Malorie Palmer<br />ENG 210 Final<br />December 16, 2010<br />It Simply Is Not “Socially Acceptable…” Or So They Say<br />In our society today, physical appearance is a prominent issue. Who is too thin, and who is too fat? Who is too short, or who is too tall? Who has a terrible haircut? Who has freckles or blue eyes or blond hair or goes tanning too often? All of these questions surround us in our day-to-day lives, and it becomes a bit crazy. This focus on the outward appearance, however, is not just in our society, nor is it just in our time period. Other societies around the world and all throughout the span of time have had this same social issue. This can be easily perceived in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Throughout the book there are instances where social acceptance is based solely on physical appearance. Elizabeth is evidence of this, as is, more obviously and blatantly, Victor Frankenstein’s “monster.” <br />Page 43 in Frankenstein first gives credit to the idea of social acceptance and physical appearance. Caroline Frankenstein visits the humble home of a peasant man and his family, and she finds that one of the five children, a little girl, of the household is unlike the rest. In fact, the first wording for Caroline’s assessment of the situation is that “there was one which attracted [her] far above all the rest.” It goes on to say that the girl “appeared of a different stock.” She was thin, fair, and had golden hair and blue eyes. The narrator, young Victor Frankenstein, goes so far as to refer to her as “of a distinct species, a being heaven-sent.” All of this praising description occurs at just a glance upon the little child, even before she has spoken a single word. The situation progresses in a manner that affords Caroline Frankenstein to take the young girl, Elizabeth Lavenza, under her care, for it would be a shame and a disgrace to leave such a beautiful child “in poverty and want, when Providence afforded her such powerful protection.” In other worlds, she was pleasing on the eyes, so she “deserved” better than to live with scarcity. <br />Our next proof of the link between social acceptance (or lack thereof) and physical beauty (or lack thereof) begins on page 60 and continues on to the next page of the novel. Here, Frankenstein describes his creature and his own reaction to what he has accomplished. Again, before the subject of description has spoken a single word, Victor makes a judgment upon it. He describes the monster’s features with negativity, speaking of his “watery eyes,” “yellow skin,” and “shriveled complexion.” He claims “horror and disgust” consumed his heart at the realization of what he had done, and he says that the creature was “ugly” before it had been completed but, once finished and given life, was “a thing such as even Dante could not have conceived.”<br />More confirmation for this argument comes through the reaction of the De Lacey family to the monster on page 121, through the reaction of civilians on page 125, the reaction also of William on pages 126 and 127, and the description by Walton on pages185 and 186. In the pages preceding the reaction of the De Lacey family, the creature speaks with Mr. De Lacey, the blind man, and having learned quite well how to speak, is accepted by the man. Without the gift of sight and the curse of judgment upon the physical presence, the man “sees” the creature in a way he has not yet been seen nor will again be seen. He places no judgment upon the way the creation looks but on the sincerity in his voice and the knowledge he conveys through his speech. Being seen in this new light does not last long for the monster, though. The other members of the family soon return home, and upon first sight of the monster, one faints, one runs away, and the other beats him, leaving not a moment for explanation, second impressions, or proof of good or bad character. In the next scenario, Victor’s creation saves a young woman who slipped and fell into a river and attempts to revive her. The young woman’s male friend comes upon the situation and, without a second thought, tears the woman from the creature and runs away in fear. The monster pursues the pair, and the man shoots him. The man knew nothing of the situation, and judged it all based on the creature’s size and exterior lack of beauty or likeness to himself. Then there is the reaction of little William, who happens upon the monster where he has hidden himself for the night. Upon seeing the monster, William covers his eyes, screams, and calls the creature a “monster,” an “ugly wretch,” and an “ogre,” and claims that the creature wishes “to eat [him] and tear [him] to pieces.” This exclamation comes even after the being insists that he does not intend to hurt William. Finally, there is Walton’s reaction to the monster, even after having heard the entire stories of Victor and what the monster told Victor. Though Walton calls upon the monster to stay, his first reaction is of horror, and he says that he had never seen “a vision so horrible as his face, of such loathsome yet appalling hideousness.” <br />Through all of these examples, one can see that the entire plot revolves around the idea of social acceptance and physical appearance. It begins with Elizabeth and ends with the monster. These characters even develop as they do based on the social reaction to the way that they look. Elizabeth, young and of rare beauty, is much loved and protected. She is taken care of and brought up in a wonderful home based solely on her looks. The monster, on the other hand, is rejected by his creator and by all of society because of his looks. Not a single person who can see him trusts him or gives him the benefit of the doubt. All of this easily feeds into our own personal reactions to beauty today. Frankenstein is a perfect example of what societies all over the world today do to the people within them, and it is practically a warning of what can happen. In truth, we have even seen it happen, and yet we continue on with our destructive ways. We have suicides and school shootings from those that are picked on and bullied. Yet we continue to show our young girls altered pictures of too-thin models and teach our young boys that they need to be strong with a six-pack, the result being anorexia and diet pills and steroids and low self-esteem for otherwise wonderful people. Frankenstein may not have been intended as a message to future generations to stop the insanity, but it sure could have been. So who is too thin, and who is too fat? Who is too short, or who is too tall? Who has a terrible haircut? Who has freckles or blue eyes or blond hair or goes tanning too often? The real questions, though, are a little different, a little more important. Who has heart? Who gives a little more when they have little to give in the first place? Who helps you pick up your books in the hallway or tells you to have a nice day when they hand you your cup of coffee? Who made a difference in someone else’s life today, and why isn’t that what society is making a major focus? <br />

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