Chapter XIII: The Monster’s Struggle for Identity

At the end of Chapter XIII, Frankenstein’s monster seems to determine that he (he shall be used for simplicity; she and it are equally valid) is not a man: a monster perhaps, but not a human.

In his narrative to Frankenstein, the monster says, “I learned that the possessions most esteemed by your fellow-creatures were high and unsullied descent united with riches” (109). He seems to distance himself from Frankenstein’s “fellow-creatures” by his use of your as opposed to our. Perhaps this separation is self-imposed: the monster explains that he has no knowledge of his descent and further no possessions, so certainly no value if graded by the human rubric. As he goes on to note that he “is not even of the same nature as man,” however, it becomes clear that he would prefer to be one with mankind even if it meant being the very bottom rung. Although the differences he lists are in his favor – he is more agile, durable, and imposing in stature – this is not a happy epiphany: “Oh, that I had for ever remained in my native wood, nor known nor felt beyond the sensations of hunger, thirst, and heat!” Once again he is set apart from man by his “native wood;” he is not from a village or city or nation, but from the woods. He is driven to agony by his knowledge and awareness, elevated to heights otherwise reserved for humankind, and seems to resent his status as close but not close enough.

As the monster learns about human reproduction, the pain of this estrangement increases: “I heard of the differences of sexes; and the birth and growth of children; how the father doted on the smiles of the infant . . . But where were my friends and relations? No father had watched my infant days” (110). The monster’s lack of a creator, of parents, is lamented for more than just his lack of a noble ancestry; it is a primary reasons for his status as an outsider: “I had never yet seen a being resembling me.” These musings about his place in the world climax with the topic question of the chapter – “What was I?” The monster did not know then, but he will soon decide. He will decide that he is indeed, as he has been referred to throughout this blog, a monster. He will be forcefully rejected by his one hope for acceptance within humanity, and this denial of fraternity drives him to terrorize those that refused to give him a chance.

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