The Unnamed Monster in Frankenstein

    When it comes to Mary Shelley’s masterpiece Frankenstein, we are inclined to associate the title with the monster in the novel. In fact, “Frankenstein” is the surname of the protagonist Victor Frankenstein, who created the horrible creature. The monster itself has never had a name.

        A name is of great significance for someone or something because it is related to one’s identity. Additionally, since everything in the world lives and depends on one another, a relationship comes to exist. The interaction of different relations thus form the society. That is, when a human is given a name, he receives an identity, then has family and belonging group. He begins to form relationships with others and a society forms. Thus, names are with regard to the society. In the novel, Frankenstein’s monster has never been given a name ever since his creation. The creator, Victor Frankenstein, doesn’t seem to think of naming the monster he creates, either. He even calls him “monster” and “ugly wretch”. As a result, the monster has no identity, he doesn’t belong to any group, and he isn’t with respect to any social relation. He cannot be seen as a member of the society even though he is alive and actually exists on earth. This is so-called “social death”.

Although Frankenstein’s monster is of no harm to anyone, he is isolated. Rather than his dreadful appearance, it is being not born with a name that keeps him away from others. To enter the human society, he has to build his own identity, which means he must have a name. That’s why he tangles with Victor Frankenstein, not solely for revenge, but also in pursuit of his name.

The turning point takes place after he learns the name “Frankenstein” in the encounter with William, the little brother of Victor. Upon seeing the monster, William is so frightened that he invasively calls him “monster” and “ugly wretch” as his brother once does. He even calls “Frankenstein”, trying to terrify the horrible monster to protect himself. In this scene, the significance and power of a name is apparently seen. William calls the name of his family in danger because he believes the name can prevent him from threats. Moreover, it is showed that his name “Frankenstein” must be of reputation and very influential at that time. Yet, for Frankenstein’s monster, he has no name to defend him. He only has himself. Hence, strongly threatened not only by the little boy but also by the name “Frankenstein”, he makes the resolution to take revenge for himself.

The pursuit for Victor is the process for Frankenstein’s monster to find himself. Victor is the creator, like a father begetting a child; there’s no doubt that he should be responsible for the monster’s life. More importantly, he should give his creature a name, but he doesn’t reach it. Consequently the tangle between them, which claims lots of innocent lives, keeps on for many years until the death of Victor. The ending proves what Frankenstein’s monster has done is all in vain. He still has no name, he cannot build his identity, and he has never really been in the society. He says, “My work is nearly complete. Neither yours nor any man’s death is needed to consummate the series of my being…” (Shelley, 222) Frankenstein’s monster leaves nothing in the end, but an ever-lasting sorrow.

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國立中央大學英美語文學系系友會

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