Beautyis not always skin deep but the modern society has set some really unbelievableexpectations out of beauty standards. These odd standards set for beauty notonly make it challenging for the average person to meet the said standards, italso places immense pressure on people who have trouble dealing with their appearances.
Beauty and ugliness are social constructs since they have no absolute standingand only depend upon the relative importance placed by people on them. Sincethese standards are all contextual, therefore, a trait which might beconsidered attractive in one part of the world might not exactly be consideredbeautiful in other parts of the world. That being said, it is important toconsider that modern media, literature and art has also contributed to thepictures of beauty and standards set for beauty (Gigante, 2000).
Themes like “black” have been setaside for ugliness and therefore all 15th century art depictingJesus Christ in Churches has depicted him as a white man with blond hair. Whilethis might not be his exact heritage or depict the way he actually looked,people have a “beautiful” standard to look up to for God. Beauty is subjectiveas well and classical works of literature often offer insight on many of thesaid subject (Gigante, 2007).
Frankensteinby Mary Shelly is one of the earliest works of fiction that have focused onhorror and the grotesque and therefore explored themes that have never beenexplored before so freely. It was one of the first books that depicted thereactionary nature of “ugliness” imposed on a person. It basically dwells onthe premise that all of Frankenstein monster’s actions can be interpreted asreactions on him being chased by society and disgusted by society on only thebasis of his looks and external appearance. The monster has no real say in theway he was born or the looks he was given, and in that aspect, he can almost beconsidered human. Human being also have no such choice in these matters (Gigante¸2000). That being said,it is also equally important to consider what choices have led to human beingsconsidering “ugliness” and the factors that are associated with the saidugliness as well. We see that uglinessis basically “change” and “difference”.
Whenever people are confronted withchange in looks or appearances that they have not encountered before, they areprone to consider it as hostile and perhaps it is part of the human nature. Butthe complex structure of human society and the communities we have establishedrequire more than just the human “fight-or-flight” reflex. These human beingsrequire more effort in their acceptance of physical traits to be trulyclassified as beings with a higher social order than mere animals.Throughthe story of Frankenstein, Mary Shelly has exposed the modern society and whatit stands for. She has chosen the vessel of Frankenstein’s monster to depictthe harshness of society in accepting difference and even though the monsterwas a living, conscious being with the capability of intelligent thought andmaking good/bad choices, the hate imposed by people on him because of hisdifferent appearance led him to a very dark place (Gigante, 2007). He felt cornered because of the hatefelt by him due to his looks and thus was forced to react in anger. This angerwas not at people but a self-disgust that was caused by the reactions of thesepeople.
The actions of the monster in the story can be back-tracked to hissimple want of human interaction and love (Raj, 2015).Thethemes explored in this story are the contrast of inner beauty and outerbeauty. While we would like that Shelly wanted to say that outer beauty doesnot necessarily mean inner beauty, we see both contrasts. The monster ishideous on the outside but all the guy ever wanted was somebody to love andcherish and it would be wrong to hold it against him. So at this stage, hisinner beauty is not because of his outer beauty but rather an independentvirtue. On the other hand, in the cases of Elizabeth, Safire, Felix and Agatha,all of these people are inherently good people and beautiful on the outside too(Hatch, 2008).
Therefore,Mary Shelly did not place a contrast here between Frankenstein and thesecharacters. But what she has tried to highlight through the story is how theactions of society can mold even the simplest of people into committinghorrendous crimes and being evil. Society itself creates its outcasts anddecides its deviants, but when the classification is as shallow as being basedon mere looks, then the classification is the cause of the said deviancy in the”monster”.Itis also interesting to note that Mary Shelly has named the creature “monster” andin the course of the story, the context of the meaning changes. Even the writercalls the creature monster on the basis of his looks initially, his gaunt face,and the pale deathly expression of the creature is also quite telling (Bernatchez, 2009). Buteventually, even the actions of the creature justify him being monstrous andthis brings up an ethical dilemma (Hatch,2008). Is it okay to discriminate when the said discrimination provesright in the end, or must be always give people the benefit of the doubt beforedeciding on their deviancy. It is yet another topic that needs to be exploredto truly understand the problems associated with this kind of humaninteraction.
Conclusion Thehuman society has set some very harsh standards for beauty for itself and quiteoften we see people being marginalized on the basis of the said standards. Inorder to meet better perspectives on the said subject, it is important to haveclarity in regards to what the society considers deviant and whether facial appearancesalone can truly tell about the inner beauty or ugliness associated with aperson. Furthermore, the essay also highlights the importance of beingindiscriminate to prevent the outliers of society falling towards the dark endof the spectrum.
ReferencesGigante,D. (2000). Facing the ugly: The case of Frankenstein. Elh, 67(2),565-587.Hatch,J. C. (2008).
Disruptive affects: shame, disgust, and sympathy inFrankenstein. European Romantic Review, 19(1), 33-49.Gigante,D. (2007). Facing the Ugly: The Case of Frankenstein.
Mary Shelley’sFrankenstein, 67, 125.Raj, A.C. (2014) Frankenstein and Twilight: The Changing Perceptions of the Monster.Bernatchez,J. (2009).
Monstrosity, Suffering, Subjectivity, and Sympathetic Community inFrankenstein and” The Structure of Torture”. Science FictionStudies, 205-216.