Was The Creature Developmentally Disabled?

One could argue that the creature from Mary Shelley’s 1818 novel, Frankenstein, is a character suffering from psychosocial impairments. Developmentally, psychosocial skills are gained in childhood, and some issues can be worked out with therapy, preventing further problems in adulthood. The creature in this novel had no childhood to develop through. The creature was thrown into existence, with the appearance of an adult man, never given the chance to learn like natural born humans do. “The psychosocial approach looks at individuals in the context of the combined influence that psychological factors and the surrounding social environment have on their physical and mental wellness and their ability to function.” (Wiki). While most children have the pivotal early years to observe language and appropriate behaviors, the creature did not. In order to understand social situations and or environments the creature had a lot of catching up to do. This psychosocial barrier with natural humans, causes the creature much distress because he struggles to find belonging. Because of his developmental impairments, he suffers much throughout the novel, but that gives readers the opportunity to learn so much from him.

A common debate among readers is the humanness of the creature. I would argue that, despite his unnatural origins, the creature is the most human of all the characters. I am not going to try to define the word human. Though I will say, he is the most real, raw, genuine portrayal of a human in the novel. He is deeply connected to his emotions, always trying to think with reason, and simply wants to be accepted. I might be biased, because in some ways I can relate to the creature. In certain situations I find it difficult to understand things sometimes, in social settings I struggle to keep up, and I’ve never been able to maintain friendships easily. However, I think this is what makes him seem so human, he is relatable. People with impairments or disabilities need to be portrayed as relatable, as it increases understanding for how they exist in the world. “The term “human” occupies a central place in disability studies because people living with physical, sensory, intellectual, or psychosocial impairments have so often been deemed to be not fully human or even animals with human faces.” (Gabbard) While the creature is often thought of as a monster or demon, he is still composed of human parts, and feels human emotions. The creature should not have been rejected because of his appearance, or because he did not understand everything. He should have been given a chance, but that was not in his fate.

There are many examples throughout the novel supporting the theory that the creature was developmentally disabled. This quote from chapter fifteen is a great example; “I sympathised with and partly understood them, but I was unformed in mind; I was dependent on none and related to none.” (Boss). That line was spoken by the creature, and reveals how he feels about himself mentally and socially. This stands as great evidence of his psychosocial impairments. One could even argue that he was aware of them, but did not have the vocabulary to be able to articulate how he felt. Yes, he did read some books, and learned to speak through observation, but he surely was not reading about mental health. In the time while he was preparing to meet the DeLacey family, could be considered his developmental stages. “Besides, I found that my understanding improved so much with every day’s experience that I was unwilling to commence this undertaking until a few more months should have added to my sagacity.” (Chapter 15) Natural born children develop skills over the first few years of life, hitting important milestones along the way. They are given the chance to learn along the way. The creature, seen by others as an adult man, was expected to already know how to function properly by others. This is even expected of developmentally disbled or impaired adults in reality, and is an ableist viewpoint. To function properly is as vague a term as the word normal, as should not be forced on anyone. Brains that work differently should be accepted already. I think Mary Shelley was trying to say something like this with her character. She seemed tired of ableists when she wrote this, and I believe there is plenty of evidence for that in her writing. Mary Shelley also “believed that misrecognition creates monsters out of those who are negatively labelled as such.” (Knight). Which is why it is so very important to understand disabled people and learn to treat them properly and fairly because that is what all humans deserve.

There is a poem written by John Keats called “On Seeing Elgin Marbles”, that I believe incidentally does a great job at describing how the creature feels in the novel. Reading the poem through the lens of disability, one can relate it to how the creature felt of his existence. “Such dim-conceived glories of the brain bring round the heart an undescribable feud; So do these wonders a most dizzy pain-”. (Keats). To translate, a person with psychosocial impairments struggles to fully understand their world, which can cause heartache from rejection. Thinking about his troubles bothers the creature, it hurts his heart so to speak. This poem was not written about the novel, rather it was the author’s response to seeing a famed statue. However, it is intriguing how, perhaps the feeling the creature felt, are universal feelings. If a statue can bring about those feelings for the poem’s author, and the creature felt the same way once upon a time, then is that not proof of how relatable Shelley’s creature truly is? Did she write him as a disabled character so that likewise people could find some comfort in representation. Possibly.

Author’s Note: In this essay, I am arguing that the creature from the novel Frankenstein has psychosocial impairments. I wrote a blog post relating to the idea not too long ago and thought it was a good idea to expand upon with my paper. I have used some of my sentences from my blog posts before which made sense to me. Part of this paper was also research, as I had to find credible definitions and also use some quotes. I am worried there are parts where I struggle to articulate myself well. I don’t know if I explain my ideas well either, but I tried to be clear. I am wondering if this is enough length wise, or should I look to add more paragraphs in future drafts. My purpose in writing this is to show readers that it is not only that the creature was desperate to find belonging because of his appearance, but mostly because he struggled to understand a lot due to his psychosocial impairments. I tried to use good supporting evidence, quotes from the book, and from online sources. While writing this I struggled to keep one train of thought so to speak. I’d find myself talking about his disabilities but then ramble onto other similar topics. I also found I had to be concise or it would just seem like nonsense on the page. I ended up also including stuff about Mary Shelley, which I think helps the argument I am making. I wanted to write this properly, without being insensitive or offensive in any way. I hope I was able to do that. I think that is one of the reasons I didn’t want the essay to be too long, it would have given me more room to mess up. I have no idea what type of content to add to make this paper any long. It is frustrating me a lot to try to reach the word count on this paper. I feel like I already wrote everything I was thinking and now I am drawing a blank. I feel like this paper sounds stupid, I’m not confident in it at all. Maybe my idea is good, but I feel like I explained it badly. I know I could add, like more quotes, but that seems repetitive to me. And if I add research, I feel like it would also be repetitive and or would be stuff people already know enough about. Like I said I want to make it longer, another thing is that I just can’t find the energy or the motivation to keep writing. This assignment has been on my mind for a while, thinking about it more just makes me tired. I tried to sound like I knew what I was talking about in this paper. I hope it doesn’t sound strange. Anyways, all feedback is accepted, thanks for reading.

Sources Cited

Boss, Judith. The Project Gutenberg ebook of Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. 1993. Updated

2020. Web.

Gabbard, Christopher Dr. “Human”. Keywords for Disability Studies. 2015. New York

University Press. Web. 

Knight, Amber. “Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Disability, and the Injustice of Misrecognition”.

Disability Studies Quarterly. University of NC, Charlotte. Nov 4, 2020. Web.

Keats, John. “On Seeing Elgin Marbles”. The Poetry Foundation. Chicago, Illinois. 2021. Web.

Wikipedia. Psychosocial definition. Edited Feb 21, 2021. Web. 

4 thoughts on “Was The Creature Developmentally Disabled?

  1. This is a very insightful reading of Frankenstein. I like how you highlighted the monster as a person with a disability and used that to explain his character. You made some very important points. You noted “that despite his unnatural origins, the creature is the most human of all the characters.” This is a very interesting point. Its true that as I read through the story I felt sorry for the monster in ways I didn’t for the other characters. He was very pure in the beginning of his story. He just wanted what we all want: food, shelter, and companionship. However, he was denied of that because he was different.

  2. I had a similar thought to this while reading Frankenstein. At the point in the novel where the perspective changes from Dr. Frankenstein to the monster, we get our first glimpses into the monsters mind. The monster describes himself in a very childlike way. He isn’t able to speak, his first vocalizations coming from mimicking the birds. He doesn’t know what fire is, thrusting his hands into it to get warm (a situation very much alike to a child touching the stove for the first time and learning that it burns). So, yes, I do think it is fair to read the monster as developmentally disabled. He does, however, do a good job catching up, being able to speak well by the end of the novel. Though he is never accepted as fully human, and that’s the key there.

  3. I love your take on the creature, this project is very well put together and a very interesting read! Your bit in the beginning about how the creature is almost the most human out of everyone else in the book is something I also thought He is very in touch with his emotions and introspective and more relatable than Victor or any of the one-dimensional women. I also think agree that there are a lot of references to the creature being developmentally disabled and you really fleshed it out in a thorough and convincing way. Great job!

  4. This project was very thoughtful and detailed and I think the length was just right! I like that you didn’t just discuss the contents of the book of Frankenstein but also what Mary Shelley’s intentions seemed to be. This gives the reader more to think about and helps them understand how the monster was supposed to be perceived and why.

Leave a Reply