In the very act of composing a novel, a writer sets out on a quest, in many ways, to discover some fraction of their true self, whether large or small. Within each novel readers indulge in attempting to uncover these shreds of the authors actual feelings, motivations, and convictions. Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein has a plot that appears far from the world of Shelley, but a motif of self-discovery parallels Shelley’s own self-discovery in writing the novel. A certain level of self-discovery can be found in every single character in the text, divulging the true meanings of each character’s journey. Self-discovery aids many of the other themes of the novel along, such as, feminism, the usurpation of women, nature as a source of solace, the boundaries of science, and the importance of literature. These themes provide the entire core of the purpose behind Frankenstein with ardent self-discovery holding its own admirable importance. Self-discovery is especially riveting in Frankenstein’s creature, Walton, and the women in the novel.
The creature’s journey for self-discovery exemplifies Shelley’s ultimate purpose in highlighting the importance of such discovery in order to compel readers to search for the same. The monster grows and learns at an exponential and stunning rate, showing his capacity for growth right from the start.
I heard of the difference of sexes; and the birth and growth of children; how the father doated on the smiles of the infant, and the lively sallies of the older child; how all the life and cares of the mother were wrapped up in the precious charge; how the mind of youth expanded and gained knowledge; of brother, and sister, and all the various relationships that bind one human being to another in mutual bonds (Shelley 140).
This initial exposure to his innate differences exposes the monster to the true world. The monster learns and readily adapts to the stereotypes of male and female and family structures, although he is entirely apart from them. The monster’s self-discovery comes from an external source and involves contrast, not comparison. Then the monster begins to truly question his own role as he continues to pour through literature and exposure to the world.
I was dependent on none and related to none. The path of my departure was free, and there was none to lament my annihilation. My person was hideous and my stature gigantic. What does this mean? Who was I? What was I? Whence did I come? What was my destination? The questions continually recurred, but I was unable to solve them (Shelley 150).
This realization of his own isolation propels the monster to yearn for company, family, and affection of others, which will ultimately be his sole goal. His self-discovery continues to accelerate rapidly as his understanding of the human condition only continues to grow. The monster’s understanding of all around him is so perplexing and compelling, as he manages to master human expectations without realizing the pain to come.
Frankenstein’s monster then begins to face the harsh realities of his life, truly discovering himself and showing the importance of such determination. When the monster saves a girl from drowning, he is still seen as a menace and is shot.