“A mighty pain to love it is,
And 'tis a pain that pain to miss;
But of all pains, the greatest pain
It is to love, but love in vain.”
― Abraham Cowley
With a term as ambiguous as ‘Monstrous’, I find it helpful to refer to the conception of the word. The word ‘monster’ derives from Latin: Monstrum, an abnormal manifestation, usually organic, that was taken as an indication that something had been disturbed within the natural directive. The word usually connotes something ‘evil’; a monster is generally ethically repugnant, physically and in some cases, (though perhaps not Frankenstein) psychologically revolting, and perhaps a phenomenon of nature. The root of ‘monstrum’ is ‘monere’—which does not only mean to warn, but also to instruct, and forms the basis of the modern English demonstrate. Thus, the monster is also a sign or instruction. This benign interpretation was proposed by Saint Augustine, who did not see the monster as inherently evil, but as part of the natural design of the world, a kind-of deliberate category error.
In this way, is Frankenstein’s creation a monster at all? He’s definitely an organic and abnormal manifestation, but does he indicate or presage towards future tumult within the societal order? In fact, it could be said that he in fact is a tabular rasa with which Shelley encourages the deliberation on the established order inherently flawed from within. He calls it ‘the strange system of human society’ where a ‘man so powerful, so virtuous, and magnificent’ can become ‘yet so vicious and base.’ This defined as ‘Monster’ is so far from ethically repugnant and psychologically revolting that he ‘could not conceive how one man could go forth to murder his fellow.’
It could also be argued that there isn’t really an answer. The bizarre connexion between Frankenstein and his creation has been given the term a ‘doppelganger effect’, where a living being has a supernatural double effectively haunting him. It has been written that Shelley...