Frankenstein: Monsters and Their Superiority

This essay has a total of 2146 words and 9 pages.

Frankenstein: Monsters and Their Superiority


I saw a creature, naked, bestial,
Who, squatting upon the ground,
Held his heart in his hands,
And ate of it.
I said, "Is it good friend?"
"It is bitter-bitter," he answered;
"But I like it
Because it is bitter
And because it is my heart."
- Stephen Crane

This reflects how both Grendel and Frankenstein must have felt during their lonely lives.
The monsters simply wanted to live as the rest of society does. However, in our prejudice
of their kind, we banish them from our elite society. Who gave society the right to judge
who is acceptable and who is not? A better question would be who is going to stop society
from judging? The answer is no one. Therefor, society continues to alienate the
undesirables of our community. Some of the greatest minds of all time have been socially
unacceptable. Albert Einstein lived alone and rarely wore socks of the same colour. Van
Gogh found comfort only in his art and the women who constantly denied his passion. Edgar
Allen Poe was "different" to say the least, consumed by the morose. Just like these great
men, Grendel and Frankenstein's monster do not conform to the societal model. Also like
these men, Grendel and the monster are uniquely superior to the rest of mankind. Their
superiority is seen through their guile to live in a society that ostrasises their kind.


Grendel, though he needs to kill to do so, functions very well in his own sphere. Grendel
survives in a hostile climate where he is hated and feared by all do to his frightening
physical appearance. He lives in a cave protected by fire-snakes so as to physically and
spiritually separate himself from the society that detests yet admires him. Grendel is
"the brute existents by which [humankind] learns to define itself" (Gardener 73).
Hrothgar's thanes continually try to extinguish Grendel's infernal rage, while he simply
wishes to live in harmony with them.


Like Grendel, Frankenstein's monster also learns to live in a society that despises his
kind. Frankenstein must also kill, but this is only in response to the people's abhorrence
of him. Ironically, the very man who bore him now searches the globe seeking the
creature's destruction. Even the ever-loving paternal figure now turns away from this
outcast from society. The monster journeys all over the world to escape from the societal
ills that lead everyone to hate him. He ventures to the harshest most desolate, most
uninhabitable place known, the north pole knowing that Frankenstein will follow.
Frankenstein does pursue his creation in hopes of pushing it to the edge of the world
trusting that the monster would fall off. At the same time, the monster leads Frankenstein
to the solitude of the icy glaciers in hopes of better explaining to Frankenstein how he
exists in society. The monster lives this way until his father's death, where they join in
the perpetual silent acceptance of death. Frankenstein's creation makes only a few
attempts to become one with society and almost gives up until he is accepted by the
captain. As the captain listens to the monster's story he begins to understand the
monster's plight. He accepts the monster as a reluctant, yet devoted servant to his
master. Although the monster does not "belong", he is accepted with admiration by the
captain. The respect that he has longed for is finally given to him as he announces his
suicide in the name of his father, the late Victor Frankenstein. On the other hand,
Grendel makes numerous attempts to assimilate into society, but society repeatedly turns
him back. Early in his life, Grendel dreams of associating with Hrothgar's great warriors.
Nightly, he goes down to the meadhall to listen to Hrothgar's stories of the thanes'
heroism, but most of all, he attends to hear the Shaper. The Shaper's stories are
Grendel's only education as they enlighten him to the history of the society that he
yearns to join. "[The Shaper] changed the world, had torn up its past by its thick gnarled
roots and had transmuted it, and they, who knew the truth, remembered it his way - and so
did [Grendel]" (Gardner 43). Upon Grendel's first meeting with Hrothgar, the great hero
tries to kill him by hacking him out of tree. "The king [Hrothgar] snatches an ax from the
man beside him and, without any warning, he hurls it at [Grendel]" (Gardner 27). After
being attacked by those he so admires, Grendel turns against them to wreak havoc on their
civilization. The more society alienates Grendel and Frankenstein's monster, the more the
two "creatures" come to realize the invalidity of "social heroism". As Grendel's
oppressors see it heroism consists of the protection of one's name; the greater glory of
their line; and most of all, their armor collection. According to Frankenstein's time, a
hero is someone who protects a lady's name; earns greater glory for themselves and their
country; and has a large collection of prestigious degrees to hang on their walls. Social
heroism is not a single event; it is properly defined as a "revolution". It is an
on-going, ever-changing series of "heroic" events. This "revolution is not the
substitution of immoral for moral, or of illegitimate violence for legitimate violence; it
is simply the pitting of power against power, [hero against hero,] where the issue is
freedom for the winners and enslavement of the rest" (Gardner 119). This revolution is
built on intimidation; the powerful in society oppressing the undesirables. "Murder and
Mayhem are the life and soul of [the] revolution" (Gardner 118).


This revolution is most evident in John Gardner's Grendel. In Hrothgar's meadhall, his
thanes are discussing the heroic revolution with the Shaper.


According to the Shaper:

.. . . the kingdom, those in power, pretends to be protecting the values of all people.
Supposedly, the revolution causes the kingdom to save the values of the community;
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