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Influence of Prejudice in "Frankenstein" and Its New Form Nowadays

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Words: 2868 |

Pages: 6|

15 min read

Published: Jun 12, 2023

Words: 2868|Pages: 6|15 min read

Published: Jun 12, 2023

Table of contents

  1. Definition and the Use of Word 'Prejudice'
  2. What Prejudice is Can Help Truly Understand the Story of Frankenstein (the Creature)
  3. Bullying as the Modern Form of Prejudice Faced by Viktor
  4. Works Cited

What themes are explored in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein: or, The Modern Prometheus, and how do these themes apply to the modern day? Prejudicen in the story of Frankenstein - what it means, what it is like, and how it affects the characters in the story - is one of the major themes explored throughout the story. As part of the plot of the story, the Creature was often judged negatively due to his appearance as opposed to the content of his character. The Creature had good in him and showed an ability to love, to be selfless, and to care for others. Despite this, the Creature was a victim of unjust hatred and discrimination founded in prejudice over his appearance which, over time, corrupted him and turned him into the monster that everyone accused him of being from the beginning. The story of the Creature is a reflection of how many people go about their day to day lives. People who are loving, caring, and selfless can also be corrupted due to being treated unfairly and unjustly by peers, colleagues, or other members of society. This unfair and unjust treatment often comes in the form of bullying, which can lead to downward spiraling mental health. People who are victims of discrimination because of existing prejudces against them. Prejudice against individuals and against groups of people is the largest social obstacle that modern society needs to overcome. To overcome this obstacle, society at large needs to develop an understanding of what prejudice is, the forms it can take, and the negative effects and consequences it can have.

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Definition and the Use of Word 'Prejudice'

Prejudice has multiple definitions that are either more appropriate or less appropriate in different contexts and have slightly different meanings and definitions associated with them. Prejudice as a noun means “an unfair and unreasonable opinion or feeling, especially when formed without enough thought or knowledge”. In the context of being a noun, prejudice can refer to opinions or feelings about groups of people, such as racial groups or people with a different sexuality. This is especially true in terms of minorities or historically disadvantaged groups of people. This is the first and most common definition of prejudice that is used, but it also has some lesser used definitions.

Still as a noun, prejudice can also be used in the context of “without prejudice to something”. In this context, prejudice means “a decision or action … to a right or claim (especially legal action)” and “is made without an effect on that right or claim”. An example of this definition in action would be to accept someone’s apology without prejudice to any legal action in the future. This would mean that whatever reason the apology was for could not be the basis for future legal action because the apology was accepted without prejudice.

The opposite of this definition applies when the phrase “with prejudice to” is applied. It usually applies in the context of rights and means “if a decision or action is made with prejudice to a right, you have lost that right”. This definition in action would be if a child predator was convicted with prejudice to his right of ever being near a school again. He no longer has the right to be there because he is a danger to the children. These definitions are solemnly used in most people’s day to day lives, but prejudice even has definitions in other parts of speech.

Prejudice can be used as a verb when someone or something prejudices something else. In the context of being a verb, prejudice can mean to “have a harmful influence on” or “influences you (or someone else) unfairly so that you form an unreasonable opinion”. The former definition could be in the context of someone’s chances of getting a promotion going down because they were late to work. The latter could be someone only hearing one side of the story and forming an opinion about the other person involved, even though that someone did not listen to both versions of events and said opinion could be based on wrong andor incomplete information.

The final part of speech where prejudice can be used is as an adjective in the form of the word prejudicial. The definition of prejudicial is “harmful or influencing people unfairly”. An example of this definition could be a government investigation into a prominent individual, group of individuals, or company, thereby, causing the one being investigated to suffer reputational harm in the public eye. This reputational harm can happen regardless of what the result of the investigation is and before the investigation is complete. These definitions and uses are all the ways in which prejudice and its forms can be used, but one can learn more by focusing on the history of the word prejudice.

The etymology of prejudice can reveal more about the word. The word originates in Latin and comes from the root judicium, meaning “judgement,” and the prefix prae-, meaning “in advance”. According to this use, the word praejudicium worked exclusively in the form of a noun and took the definition “judgement in advance”. The word then made its way to Old French, where it still was only used as a noun but with an additional definition to go with it. Under Old French, the word gained the definition of “harm or injury that results or may result from some action or judgement”. The word eventually made its way to Middle English in the form of “prejudice.” Since then, it has continued to evolve, gaining and losing definitions and parts of speech to eventually become the word used today in Modern English. 

What Prejudice is Can Help Truly Understand the Story of Frankenstein (the Creature)

The Creature was the victim of prejudiced discrimination caused by his unfortunate appearance. Even the Creature’s creator, Victor Frankenstein, was terrified of him and abandoned him as soon as he was created. Immediately after successfully bringing the Creature to life, Victor described it as a “catastrophe,” experiencing “breathless horror and disgust” filling his heart, and being “unable to endure'' what he created. He described the Creature as a “wretch,” having a “horrid contrast,” and “shrivelled complexion”. It was for these reasons that Victor abandoned the Creature. The Creature would henceforth be forced to survive with no assistance while simultaneously knowing nothing about the world he was just brought into. This task proves to be extremely difficult because no person is willing to help the Creature; rather, they either react violently or flee in terror.

In the earliest days of the Creature from Frankenstein, he was extremely confused, had no idea what was going on, and was a blank slate. The Creature described the events taking place immediately after his creation as being “‘confused and indistinct’”. He experienced a “‘strange multiplicity of sensations’” and could not distinguish between them. At this point in the story, the Creature did not have a personality nor character traits. He could not understand the idea of good and evil because “no distinct ideas occupied my (the Creature’s) mind”. This shows how the Creature began as a blank slate, highlights his confusion, and proves his lack of understanding of good and evil. He only had his basic survival instincts.

The violent and terrified ways people react to the Creature caused him to be forced to scavenge and steal what he needed in order to survive. After his creator abandoned him, the Creature had no one to support him in his state of confusion and he retreated to the forested area near Ingolstadt. He was “tormented by hunger and thirst” and ate berries to survive. He spent entire days searching and found a “few acorns” because food was “scarce”. He entered a hut he found in an attempt to gain shelter, but, upon entering, the old man inside “shrieked loudly” and fled the hut. The Creature stumbled his way into a random village and, almost immediately, the “whole village was roused” with some fleeing and others attacking the Creature who meant none nor committed any harm to these people. It was the Creature’s terrifying appearance alone which caused this reaction. This fear over the Creature’s mere appearance alone is why he received no help, why he had to survive on his own, and why he was struggling to simply not die.

The Creature, after learning and having some experience in the world, showed sympathy, love, care, and compassion, despite the unfortunate events of his life so far. The Creature found the family of cottagers and, after seeing the “gentle manners” of the cottagers, he “longed to join them”. The Creature discovered that the “uneasiness” of the cottagers was caused by poverty. Prior to this discovery, the Creature would steal food from the cottagers for his own survival, but “abstained” and found other ways to feed himself so as to not force the cottagers to go hungry. The Creature went above and beyond in helping the cottagers even though he had no obligation to do so. Specifically, the Creature chopped firewood for the cottagers to “assist their labors” and relieve Felix of the time consuming task. He undertook these actions for an “entire revolution of the seasons,” meaning that he had been watching the cottagers for about one year. This series of actions by the Creature proves his sympathy for the poverty of the cottagers, how much he loves and cares for them, and his compassion for helping others who are unfortunate. It highlights the good in the Creature prior to being corrupted by prejudice.

Despite the Creature’s goodness, love, care, sympathy, and compassion, he still was not welcome anywhere due to his appearance. The Creature, in an attempt to finally live with the cottagers, revealed himself to the blind De Lacey. In the only conversation the Creature ever had with someone who could not judge his appearance, he rejoiced that De Lacey had risen the Creature “from the dust by this kindness” and that De Lacey was the Creature’s “best and only benefactor”. The other cottagers, who could see, returned and were, just like all others, terrified of the Creature’s appearance. Agatha fainted, Safie fled, and Felix attacked the Creature. The very Creature who had been secretly helping them the past year. The Creature was forced to flee, although he could have destroyed them all. This shows the effect appearance has on all that interact with the Creature.

The Creature was good - until the prejudiced, unjust, and unfair treatment corrupted him and made him bitter. The Creature recounted to Victor that “despair” only began to take hold after the Creature returned to the cottage after his initial rejection by the cottagers and overheard Felix describing the “dreadful circumstance” and “horror” of the Creature’s presence The Creature’s downward spiral continued as he attempted to make his way towards Geneva. During his journey to the home of his creator, the Creature witnessed a girl fall into a “rapid steam” and saved the girl with “great labor” from the stream and “endeavored” to “restore animation” to her. The man that was with the girl shot the Creature. The Creature angrily described the blow as being his “reward” for his “benevolence”. This was the final straw. This was the moment when the Creature “vowed eternal hatred and vengeance to all mankind”. The Creature, having been consumed by despair and hatred, wanted revenge because of the way he had been treated - including by his creator. The Creature had the goal of making Victor as miserable as possible. The Creature killed Victor’s brother, William Frankenstein. The Creature framed Justine, an innocent girl, for the murder of William, which led to her death. The Creature murdered Victor’s best friend, Henry. The Creature murdered Victor’s wife, Elizabeth. Victor’s father died of grief after Elizabeth’s murder. The Creature was only happy upon the death of his creator, Victor. The path the Creature took from benevolence, to his mistreatment, to his spiral into hatred and violence is akin to the path many people go through because of bullying.

Bullying as the Modern Form of Prejudice Faced by Viktor

Bullying is a form of prejudice. The definition of bullying is “the behavior of a person who hurts or frightens someone smaller or less powerful, often forcing them to do something they do not want to do”. Bullying is intentional, repeated, and has a clear power imbalance. People may be bullied because of their race, sexuality, age, sex, gender identity, appearance, or some other difference. All of those examples are inherent character traits that the victim has no control over and are prejudiced in nature. One who bullies for these reasons, by this definition, is acting in prejudice against the victim. Bullying can be verbal, social, or physical. Verbal bullying can include teasing, name-calling, taunting, and threats. Social bullying can include intentionally and maliciously leaving special individuals out of group activities, spreading rumors, and intentionally embarrassing someone in public. Physical bullying can include hitting, kicking, spitting, pinching, tripping, pushing, stealing items, breaking the victims things, and making rude gestures. Bullying is usually founded in prejudice and can take many different forms.

Bullying can have a multitude of negative effects. It is a scientific fact that “psychopathologic behavior, including social problems, aggression, and externalizing behavioral problems is a consequence rather than a cause of bullying experiences” and that bullying is a “common precursor” to violence. Individuals who are the victims of bullying are 3.9 times more likely to have social problems, including: Anxiety, feeling of depression, continuously worried about everything, social immaturity, dependency on adults, obsessive behavior, compulsive behavior, aggressiveness, withdrawing from social activities, misbehavior, self-uncontrolled behavior, and self-overcontrolled behavior. Victims were also 4.9 times more likely to be aggressive, including the odds of being frequently involved in fights. Boys who were frequently bullied were almost 8 times more likely to take suicidal actions while girls who were frequently victimized were almost 4 times more likely to take suicidal actions. Suicide and depression rates are yet another way prejudice destroys its victims. The link between prejudice and bullying and the link between bullying and the consequences of said bullying is indisputable and proof of the detrimental harm prejudice can have on society.

One common way a perpetrator may bully a victim is name calling which the Creature frequently experienced. He was frequently called a “wretch” or described as “wretched,” along with other variations. The word “wretch” and its variations are used 64 times. It is used 19 times by others to describe the Creature and 12 times by the Creature to describe himself. It is also used once to describe the night the Creature was created. In exactly half of its uses, the word “wretch” and its variations are directly related to the Creature. This does not look at other words used like “monster,” “fiend,” “demon,” “devil,” or “ogre”. Fiend, by itself, is used another 41 times, which further demonstrates the idea that the Creature was made a victim by those around him. The idea of being a wretch has been internalized into the Creature that he consistently uses it to refer to himself. The examples of being abandoned by his own creator, the old man in the hut, the villagers, the family in the cottage, and the man who shot him in the woods show this opinion of the Creature in action. This is similar to bullying experienced in the real world and, likewise, it contributed to the Creature’s downward spiral into hate and despair.

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In conclusion, the social issue of prejudice and its effects on society are incredibly destructive and it is vital that the problem be overcome. This topic continues to be of major importance because of the wide ranging effects it can have. The definition of the word prejudice and the effects prejudice has on the Creature’s tell is a reflection of what happens in the real world with real people. The Creature began as good but was corrupted and became vengeful and spiteful from all the wrongs committed against him. The same prejudiced behavior can cause real people to become bitter, hateful, and spiteful. Prejudiced behavior can lead to bullying which can cause anxiety, depression, other mental illnesses, suicide, violence, social outcasting, and other negative outcomes. Prejudices on a societal level can lead to oppression - including explicit, implicit, and systemic - and political unrest. Society must continue to develop an understanding of what prejudice is and the forms it can take. People need to reconcile with any prejudiced beliefs they may have. In order to stop acts of prejudice people need to ask themselves what individual actions one can take to tackle this issue head on.

Works Cited

  • Arch Gen Psychiatry. “School Bullying and Youth Violence: Causes or Consequences of Psychopathologic Behavior?” Arch Gen Psychiatry, 2006, 10.1001archpsyc.63.9.1035. Accessed 2 December 2021.
  • Cambridge University Press. “BULLYING | definition in the Cambridge English Dictionary.” Cambridge Dictionary, 2021, https:dictionary.cambridge.orgusdictionaryenglishbullying. Accessed 2 December 2021.
  • Cambridge University Press. “PREJUDICE | definition in the Cambridge English Dictionary.” Cambridge Dictionary, 2021, https:dictionary.cambridge.orgusdictionaryenglishprejudice. Accessed 15 November 2021.
  • Cambridge University Press. “PREJUDICIAL | definition in the Cambridge English Dictionary.” Cambridge Dictionary, 2021, https:dictionary.cambridge.orgusdictionaryenglishprejudicial. Accessed 17 November 2021.
  • Klomek, Anat Brunstein, et al. “Childhood bullying behaviors as a risk for suicide attempts and completed suicides: a population-based birth cohort study.” Journal of the American academy of child
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Influence of Prejudice in “Frankenstein” and Its New Form Nowadays. (2023, Jun 12). GradesFixer. Retrieved May 20, 2024, from https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/influence-of-prejudice-in-frankenstein-and-its-new-form-nowadays/
“Influence of Prejudice in “Frankenstein” and Its New Form Nowadays.” GradesFixer, 12 Jun. 2023, gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/influence-of-prejudice-in-frankenstein-and-its-new-form-nowadays/
Influence of Prejudice in “Frankenstein” and Its New Form Nowadays. [online]. Available at: <https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/influence-of-prejudice-in-frankenstein-and-its-new-form-nowadays/> [Accessed 20 May 2024].
Influence of Prejudice in “Frankenstein” and Its New Form Nowadays [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2023 Jun 12 [cited 2024 May 20]. Available from: https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/influence-of-prejudice-in-frankenstein-and-its-new-form-nowadays/
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