The Reflection of the Creator Within the Creation 

          Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus, written by Mary Shelley, stands as a prominent pillar of gothic horror since its original creation in the 19th century. With adaptations still sprouting from the text, society can’t help but acknowledge the illustrious tale of the man who made a monster. The story tells of Victor Frankenstein, a man who succeeds in giving life to his own creation formed from sections of cadavers. Rather than the beautiful creature that he imagined, it turns out to be quite the unsightly being. Shunned by both his creator and society, the vengeance of the creature is shown through bloodshed. The relationship between “Doctor” Victor Frankenstein and the so-called “monster” is a topic that could be discussed for years to come. Within regards to the duality of man, the parallel between Frankenstein and the Wretch progresses much farther than simply symbolizing the best and worst within each other. Rather, the reader can truly see how the creator lies within the creation. In this sense, the Wretch is a physical manifestation of Frankenstein’s raw desire for companionship. 

          Despite what Victor Frankenstein would hate to hear, the Wretch is birthed directly from his own desires. This graphic manifestation of longing is allowed physical form through Frankenstein’s very own repression. Neither his father nor his best friend serves as much relief from the expectations of society in which his repression begins to fester. His father, Alphonse Frankenstein, “was respected by all who knew him for his integrity and indefatigable attention to public business” (Shelley 17). His respectability and virtue are what Victor is expected to be, and that is quite a strenuous enterprise to be placed on one’s shoulders. His childhood best friend, Henry Clerval, is exactly what a young man should be. Frankenstein takes note of his dear friends’ enticing qualities, “He was a being formed in the ‘very poetry of nature.’ His wild and enthusiastic imagination was chastened by the sensibility of his heart. His soul overflowed with ardent affections, and his friendship was of that devoted and wondrous nature that the world-minded teach us to look for only in imagination” (145). Sociable and keen, there is not much more to look for in a man. This is not to say that Frankenstein and Clerval hold no similarities, with childhoods intertwined such as theirs, they’re bound to share attributes. Clerval “loved enterprise, hardship, and even danger for its own sake” (23). The stubborn quality of ambition clearly shines through, a concept to which Frankenstein is no stranger, for ambition is what drove Victor to the creation of the Wretch. In a sense, Alphonse Frankenstein is what Victor should’ve been, and Henry Clerval is what Victor could’ve been. 

          Elizabeth Lavenza throws quite the wrench into the machine of the repression of Victor Frankenstein. Adopted by the Frankenstein family, she blossoms alongside Victor, holding the affectionate nickname “cousin”. This negligence of the term “sister” and “brother” is quite purposeful on the part of the parents, for the intention all along was of their marriage. Caroline Frankenstein, the mother of Victor, makes this intention quite clear to her children. With her dying breaths she professes, “my firmest hopes of future happiness were placed on the prospect of your union’” (28). The relationship between Elizabeth and Victor is one that has been horribly tampered with, irreversibly damaging Victor’s perspective of companionship. His subconscious spares nothing in regards to the state of affairs, especially when paired with giving life to an amalgamation of once-dead bodies. Succeeding in his accomplishment of animating a corpse, his ill state steers him to bed, but not without vivid nightmares. He recounts “I thought I saw Elizabeth, in the bloom of health, walking in the streets of Ingolstadt. Delighted and surprised, I embraced her, but as I imprinted the first kiss on her lips, they became livid with the hue of death; her features appeared to change, and I thought that I held the corpse of my dead mother in my arms” (44). All things considered, Victor Frankenstein is troubled by this concept of companionship and, quite frankly, afraid. Rather than confront this turmoil, he impels it to the corners of his mind. 

          This desire for untampered companionship manifests itself in Victor as an aspiration to play God. He believes that this “new species would bless me as its creator and source; many happy and excellent natures would owe their being to me. No father could claim the gratitude of his child so completely as I should deserve theirs” (40). The relationship between a creator and their creation is one that cannot be meddled with, for it’s such a pure thing that no entity could come between. Unfortunately, that’s not quite how it works out for Frankenstein. So horrified of the wretched being he gave breath, he abandons it forthwith and falls ill. The Wretch, alone and forsaken, is subjected to the cruel hands of society. Tracking down his creator, he presents a proposition. He declares that Frankenstein “must create a female for me with whom I can live in the interchange of those sympathies necessary for my being’” (134). He holds the simple desire of companionship, the very thing that Victor longs for. 

          The reflection of the creator within the creation is glaring in regards to Frankenstein and the Wretch. They both ache so desperately for companionship, and that is what Victor despises so vigorously of the being he made. The combined nature of repression and the burden of society leaves him with hatred for a wish as simple as intimacy. Within his creation, he sees his own wish of camaraderie that led to the birth of this wretched creature, and that is what he hates more than anything. While Frankenstein never fully comes to terms with this reflection, the Wretch does not allow him to push it away. Denied a mate from his creator, he bitterly exclaims, “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” (119). The Wretch was created because of Frankensteins’ desires which he so desperately represses, causing the fruit of his labors to appear as grotesque as he believes his hankerings to be. 

          The raw manifestation of desire is no pretty thing especially in a society that expects perfection. The crude grotesqueness of it is not spared on the appearance of the Wretch. His very own creator is horrified by his physical characteristics. Frankenstein recounts, “I had gazed on him while unfinished; he was ugly then, but when those muscles and joints were rendered capable of motion, it became a thing such as even Dante could not have conceived” (44). The Wretch is not spared from his creator’s sentiments. He asks, “Why did you form a monster so hideous that even you turned from me in disgust?” (119). Needless to say, Frankenstein finds his creation so deformed because he is able to see himself within it, and that makes his desires harder to push away. The Wretch not only encounters this disgust from his creator but from the rest of society. Any of his attempts to interact with another being is greeted with screams or attempts of murder. This does quite a deal on his psyche, and this idea of disfigurement is internalized. He remarks that his  “increase of knowledge only discovered to me more clearly what a wretched outcast I was. I cherished hope, it is true, but it vanished when I beheld my person reflected in water or my shadow in the moonshine, even as that frail image and that inconstant shade.” (119-120). These reactions are what drive him to act on his impulses, truly becoming the monster that everyone believes him to be. Something such as desire is supposed to be beautiful, but in a society where it is shunned, it turns into something far more unsightly. 

          With the creation of the Wretch, Victor Frankenstein is forced to directly confront these desires for companionship. Regardless, he continues to deny them. His feeble attempts to try and repress these yearnings end with him referring to himself as a wretch. In conversation with his worried father, he avows that he, “a miserable wretch, [is] haunted by a curse that shut[s] up every avenue to enjoyment” (144). Rather than attempt any sort of resolve, or at the very least acknowledge these desires, he chooses to wallow in self-pity and isolation. His desire, or the Wretch, is not happy with this decision. He angrily exclaims, “Remember that I have power; you believe yourself miserable, but I can make you so wretched that the light of day will be hateful to you. You are my creator, but I am your master; obey!” (157). Frankenstein is at the mercy of the Wretch as a man is at the mercy of his desires. This repression leads to not only the death of Victor Frankenstein, but of many of his loved ones, and of course, the Wretch. Their game of chase is brought to an end by the death of Frankenstein, and his creation greets his body with a proposal of closure. The Wretch utters, “He is dead who called me into being; and when I shall be no more, the very remembrance of us both will speedily vanish” (212). With the death of the creator, the creation falls into line, and the life of Victor Frankenstein and all of his desires arrive at an end. 

          To better understand the argument, let it be compared to The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson. Notoriously known for its themes of the duplicity of human nature, it can easily be connected to the reflection of the creator within the creation. Henry Jekyll is known as a benign and well-respected scientist in London. Tired of repressing “evil” urges, especially for a gentleman of his stature, he attempts to separate the good and evil within man. This results in the creation of Edward Hyde, his alter ego that refuses to accept accountability for his immoral and impetuous actions. Jekyll shares in the pleasures of Hyde, he is able to act as wickedly as he desires without the fear of a ruined reputation. He admits, “Jekyll (who was composite) now with the most sensitive apprehensions, now with a greedy gusto, projected and shared in the pleasures and adventures of Hyde” (Stevenson 84). Originally, Jekyll is able to control his other-self. But, as his life of duplicity continues, he begins to lose jurisdiction. Within his final confession he writes, “At that time my virtue slumbered; my evil, kept awake by ambition, was alert and swift to seize the occasion; and the thing that was projected was Edward Hyde” (79). Finally at his wit’s end, he himself “brings the life of that unhappy Henry Jekyll to an end” (96). 

          Victor Frankenstein and the Wretch can be considered two parts of a whole in the same way Henry Jekyll and Edward Hyde can be. Observing Frankenstein’s mental descent, he begins to use the word “wretch” to describe himself, especially in comparison to the rest of humanity. While talking to his father, he remarks, “‘How little do you know me. Human beings, their feelings and passions, would indeed be degraded if such a wretch as I felt pride.’” (Shelley 175). In the same way that Jekyll holds a festering guilt for the desires – and therefore actions – of Hyde, Frankenstein carries the Wretch’s crimes upon his own back. For Frankenstein is the creator and this creature was born from his own yearnings, the very same way Hyde is born from Jekyll’s desires. This comparison can be extended to their deaths forbye, “‘That is also my victim!’ [the Wretch] exclaim[s]. ‘In his murder my crimes are consummated; the miserable series of my being is wound to its close!’” (209). Looking upon his creator’s cold body, he exhibits an understanding that the death of his creator brings death upon himself. Much in the same way that the death of Jekyll brings the death of Hyde.

          This connection between the two stories can be better understood if the two creations are compared. On one hand, they share a rather grotesque appearance. Mr. Einfield, a friend of a friend of Jekyll’s, speaks of his first impression of the infamous Mr. Hyde. He remarks, “There is something wrong with his appearance; something displeasing, something downright detestable. I never saw a man I so disliked” (Stevenson 10). Within the same vein, Captain Robert Walton, the arctic explorer who receives the privilege of hearing Frankenstein’s journey, recounts his first impression of the Wretch. He writes,  “Never did I behold a vision so horrible as his face, of such loathsome yet appalling hideousness” (Shelley 209). These alter-egos of desire are not of appealing appearance, for crude yearning is nothing of that sort. It’s raw and unfiltered, the pleasantries of aesthetics are not painted on such beings. Especially under the glaring gaze of society, these entities of desire are forever cursed with the appearance of deformity. In addition, their creations harbor similar feelings from their creators. Within seconds of the birth of both Hyde and the Wretch, neither is observed in a terrific light. In his final letter, Dr. Jekyll recounts his thoughts when he first observed Hyde in the mirror. He writes, “And hence, as I think, it came about that Edward Hyde was so much smaller, slighter, and younger than Henry Jekyll. Even as good shone upon the countenance of the one, evil was written broadly and plainly on the face of the other. Evil besides (which I must still believe to be the lethal side of man) had left on that body an imprint of deformity and decay” (Stevenson 78). Frankenstein’s reaction does not fare much better, for as soon as his creation breathes life, he can’t help but abhor it. He asserts, “How can I describe my emotions at this catastrophe, or how delineate the wretch whom with such infinite pains and care I had endeavoured to form?” (Shelley 43). Their creators think so lowly of their creations because they can see themselves within them.  

          Additionally, comparisons can be made between the two creators. As is present in any good ethically-questionable scientist, Jekyll and Frankenstein are brimming with ambition. Not only ambition, but these men border on playing God. Jekyll fantasizes of the notion of separating what he believes to be the two halves of man, he “had learned to dwell with pleasure, as a beloved day-dream, on the thought of the separation of these elements” (Stevenson 75). Prospects involving the psyche are controversial to discuss, let alone tamper with. Dreaming of the severance of good and evil, Henry Jekyll has no problems tinkering with the mind. Frankenstein is no stranger to controversial experiments, going as far as exploring the bounds of reanimation. He claims, “Life and death appeared to me ideal bounds, which I should first break through, and pour a torrent of light into our dark world” (Shelley 40). Frankenstein believes that his actions are for the betterment of society, and dreams of a world where life can be renewed. These aspirations are what allow the physical manifestations of their desires to form. Furthermore, the two of them share a rather complicated relationship with their creations. Henry remarks “Jekyll had more than a father’s interest; Hyde had more than a son’s indifference” (Stevenson 85). Yet, a few pages later, he declares, “That child of Hell had nothing human; nothing lived in him but fear and hatred” (90). Victor Frankenstein stands in similar water. After hearing the Wretch’s story, he admits that “for the first time, also, I felt what the duties of a creator towards his creature were, and that I ought to render him happy before I complained of his wickedness” (Shelley 89). Yet not long after, he exclaims to his creation, “Begone! I do break my promise; never will I create another like yourself, equal in deformity and wickedness” (157).  They abhor what they have created yet can’t help but hold some sort of interest in them. No one can truly hate something that is a part of themselves. 

          In regards to the discussion of the duality of man, the relationship between Victor Frankenstein and the Wretch is far more complicated than simply symbolizing the best and worst within each other. Rather, the Wretch is a physical manifestation of Frankenstein’s desire for companionship. Throughout his life, he’s forced to repress this simple yearning due to the expectations of society and the seemingly perfect image of his peers. When his creation is forged, he abhors the reflection that he sees. His continued subjugation leads to misery, and ultimately, the demise of himself and his desire. This concept can be seen – and compared – within The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. The novel Frankenstein clearly shows how much the creator truly lies within their creation. 



          Shelley, Mary Wollstonecraft. Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus. London, Lackington, Hughes, Harding, Mavor, & Jones, 1818. 

          Stevenson, Robert Louis. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. London, Longmans, Green & Co., 1886.