This post is directly inspired by Rose’s post, discussing the frustration of trying to define what it means to be human. You can check it out here.
If you were to ask most people who’ve read Frankenstein “Is Frankenstein’s monster human?” it’s reasonable to imagine that most people would answer with a hard no. After all, he is a monster, right? A demon, as Victor repeatedly calls him. He’s never even given a name. He’s crafted from parts of stolen corpses and infused with life by some mad scientist through means which we’re not made privy to. But is that enough to be considered inhuman?
As far as we know, he’s made of nothing but corpses. There’s no mention of machines or other accessories required to keep him alive by my memory. Sure Victor uses some chemicals to help him out, but most of us have pumped chemicals into our system at some point or another. He’s just a parts bin special of human bits, sewn together. I myself have been sewn together once or twice, and I don’t think that nullifies my humanity.
Just an aside, but if Victor Frankenstein assembled the monster from normal human parts, how did he end up with an 8 foot tall creature? Like, surely the parts should match up and create a normal sized human right?
Anyway, like I was saying. So far, I’ve established that Frankenstein’s monster is made of human bits, as we all are. Maybe those parts were procured in a less than conventional method, but hey. Organs are donated from dead folks all the time these days, and I don’t consider the recipients of those organs to be inhuman. So that can’t take him out of the running for being a human. What other differences lie between us and him? There are obviously the circumstances of his birth/creation. We all know where babies come from so I don’t think I need to cover that. But Frankenstein’s monster is a tad different. We’re never told what exactly Victor did to bring the monster to life. It’s one of those things authors intentionally leave out of stories to be frustrating, like the briefcase in Pulp Fiction.
If the movies are a trustworthy source (which they aren’t) we can assume that Frankenstein’s monster was brought to life via a massive electric shock. While this sound a bit silly, there is credence to this sort of thing at least being on Mary Shelley’s mind when she wrote the story. Galvanism was an enlightenment theory which thought that electricity could be used to create or restart life. Here is a wicked cool video on it’s relation to Frankenstein by the YouTube channel Vox.
So yeah, maybe Victor Frankenstein used a mixture of chemicals and electric shock to bring Frankenstein back to life? And if that’s the case, does that make him any less human? I don’t think so. Plenty of people are resuscitated with defibrillators, which shock peoples hearts into restarting. I don’t think having your life saved that way disqualifies you from being human. As such, I don’t think Frankenstein’s monster should be disqualified from being human for these reasons.
As far as I’m concerned, there is little which could be used to distinguish your average human from Frankenstein’s monster. In this little reflection, I’ve deliberately veered away from defining the term human. Because I don’t know how to, and also because that isn’t the point of this reflection. Instead, I’ve sought to take those aspects of the monster which seem to point towards him being inhuman and apply them to a context that we would consider human. If being resuscitated from death via electricity is human, then we can’t hold that against him. If being made of nothing but human cells is human, then the monster is human. Not to mention he’s fully conscious and sapient. I don’t know. The monster is human in my books.