“I can hardly describe to you the effect of these books. They produced in me an infinity of new images and feelings, that sometimes raised me to ecstasy, but more frequently sunk me into the lowest dejection.” (Shelly 122). This quote is able to capture the essence of the books influence on the creature in Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein. The four books that influence the creature are Sorrows of Young Werther, Paradise Lost, Plutarch’s Lives and Victor’s lab journal. The books teach the creature about love, human society and creation but mainly how he will never be able to have those things because he is perceived as a hideous monster. That is why the quote fits so well because he was “raised to ecstasy” by the great new feelings he learned but “sunk to low dejection” because he knew he could never have what he truly desired.
The first book that the creature finds in the woods is Sorrows of Young Werther. Sorrows of Young Werther teaches the creature about love and how he will never be able to have love and also about the hardship of not having that love which he holds so dear. Sorrows of Werther is about a young artist who falls in love with a girl who is to be engaged. Werther is writing letters telling us of his deep lust for the girl but figures out he cant have her after this realization he must make a choice. Werther reasons that he must either kill himself the girl or the fiancée he chooses himself. After reading this book the creature begins to “[apply] much personally to [his] own feelings and condition”(123). The creature begins to relate to Werther about his lust for a love that he can not have. Just like Werther who is not able to have his love because of the engagement the creature is not able to have love because he is perceived as a hideous monster. These thoughts and beliefs prompt the creature to tell Victor Frankenstein that he is “alone and miserable” and tells Victor that he must create a companion “of the same species and have the same defects”(139). Because he knows he cant have the love he lust for he forces Victor to create love because he learned that love is a basic human need from the Sorrows of Werther. In addition to the female companion the Sorrows of Werther are able to instill some of the hatred of the creature towards Victor because he made him so hideous and miserable. The Sorrows of Werther were able to instill a sense of both bleak alienation and intense self-questioning for the Creature.
The second book the creature learns from is Paradise Lost. Paradise Lost teaches the creature about the relationship between creator and creation and about being an outcast in society. Paradise Lost is a story about creation of Adam and Eve and the Garden of Eden and all the good things. However the story is also about Satan and all of the bad things as well. The creature begins to relate to Adam in some ways like how he recognizes that he is the creation of Victor Frankenstein just like Adam is the creation of God. The creature begins to see that the similarities stop there and that “Like Adam, [he] was apparently united by no link to any other human being…[he] was wretched, helpless and alone. Many times [he] considered Satan as the fitter emblem of [his] condition (124). The creature then begins to see that because he is an outcast he is more like Satan. From these newly acquired beliefs the creature becomes more and more aggravated with Victor because he was not treated with dignity like Adam but was thrown aside and shunned like Satan. This also helps to instill the lust for a mate because God gave Adam a mate like him so why can’t Victor give the creature a mate as well. Paradise Lost teaches the creature that he is an outcasted creation much like Satan and not like Adam.
The third book that influences the creature is Plutarch’s Lives. Plutarch Lives teaches the creature about human society and the vicious nature of some of histories men. Plutarch’s Lives is a series of biographies of famous men and of war from the ancient Greek and Roman time period. The creature believes that from this book he has learned “high thoughts” (123). He learned of “men concerned in public affairs, governing or massacring their species” (123). These show that he had begun to learn about society and the way that humans interact. He is also thinking of how he will never be able to participate in that because he will never be accepted into society because of his looks. He also began to start and plan the “war against the species” (121). The war against the species is his war against humans just like the leaders in ancient times that massacred their species. Plutarch’s Lives thought the creature about human society and the art of war which he later used on the humans.
The final book that influenced the creature was Victor Frankenstein journal from when he created the creature. From the journal the creature learns of how he was created and how much Victor loved him until the day the creature was “born”. The journal consists of all Frankenstein’s notes from when he was making the creature. The creature after he reads how Victor feels about him he gets angry and says “Accursed creator! Why did you form a monster so hideous that even you turned from me in disgust? God, in pity, made man beautiful and alluring, after his own image; but my form is a filthy type of yours, more horrid even from the very resemblance”(124-125). The creature has taken what he has learned from Paradise Lost and applied it to in how God created creature beautiful and in his own image but Frankenstein made a monster he didn’t even love. This made the creature become increasingly more lonely and enraged and Victor for what he has put him through. The creature has become so enraged that “ [he] declared everlasting war against the species, and more than all, against [Frankenstein] who had formed [him] and sent [him] forth to this insupportable misery.” The rage from the books had built up so much in the creature that he began to kill to get even with Frankenstein who had put him through all of the troubles he has gone through. From Victor’s journal the creature is able to learn about his “birth” and become enraged and his creators abandonment.
In conclusion the books influence the creature in Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein in many ways. One way is that it teaches him about love, human society, creation and rejection. Another way that these books influence the creature is that they begin to instill many emotions in the creature because he is not able to have what he desires such as rage, revenge and dejection. The final way the four books that influence the creature is that it influences him to do many things, because he is unable to get the things he desires most, such as kill humans, desire another mate and wage war on the Frankenstein’s. The influence these books had on not only the creature but everyone the creature came into contact with is immeasurable but the influence these books had changed the lives of many of the characters in the book forever.