Marc-Joelitza Montgomery is a writer at BHSEC, Cleveland-West. She is a recipient of the 2018 Achievement Award in Literature.
To be emotionally healthy is something we all strive to be. We all have our own individual ways of achieving it. A common way is to stray away from toxic things. Whether it be toxic people, relationships, or ideas, being in emotionally dangerous positions is something many fear. But what one person views as toxic could differ from another individual’s view. We might define toxic relationships in our own ways. But what if to reach a healthy state of mind required that one watch a beloved suffer for one’s own good. What if putting someone else through a toxic relationship was necessary for someone to achieve a sense of belonging. In Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, the Creature strives to be emotionally healthy after all the damage Victor Frankenstein and other humans have done to him. Sadly, for the Creature, the only way he could be emotionally healthy is by weakening Victor’s emotional health. Both the Creature and Victor partake in an unending cycle of chasing and running from each other. Many scholars view this relationship as toxic, leaving the unexplored idea that such a relationship is toxic only for Victor and beneficial for the Creature because of the attention he gains for the sake of his emotional health.
Frankenstein narrates moments in which Victor and the Creature’s relationship is toxic only for Victor. From the beginning, Victor realizes that the amount of attention he gives to the Creature is not healthy for himself, so he decides to break ties. During this time, Victor’s life seems to be coming together in terms of the restoration of his emotional and physical health. He begins to re-build bonds with his family and friends. His life suddenly is flipped upside down when the Creature enters Victor’s life again, seeking love and attention. Like the first time, Victor rejects the Creature for his own emotional health. Consequently, the Creature decides to destroy everything Victor has loved. In a devastating scene, Victor mourns, “My life, as it passed thus, was indeed hateful to me, and it was during sleep alone that I could taste joy” (147). After all the tampering the Creature has done with Victor’s life, Victor finally feels his lowest. The Creature makes Victor feel so miserable that it dries out all the joy in Victor’s life, leaving him with absolutely nothing but the sweetness of sleep. Victor now is left with no choice but to pursue an unhealthy relationship. Chasing after the Creature in the woods, Victor exclaims, “Never will I omit my search, until he or I perish” (147). Being left with nothing, Victor feels he has no choice but to dedicate himself to this toxic relationship until death do them part. Victor is clearly unhappy. From studying his side of the relationship, we see it is toxic for him because of the things and people he loses.
While the relationship is toxic to Victor, the Creature benefits from the relationship because of the attention he gains in the process. After being emotionally and physically neglected by Victor and thus forced into an endless journey seeking love and affection, the creature reverses the game by luring Victor to him. As mentioned, the Creature eliminates everything Victor has ever loved, resulting to Victor having only the Creature left. Seeking out the Creature in the woods, Victor remarks, “Sometimes, indeed, he left marks in the writing on the barks of the trees, or cut in stone, that guided me” (147). It is obvious that the Creature set clues for Victor to follow him, which shows the Creature was purposely leading Victor only to him. Instead of chasing Victor, which clearly does not work, the Creature cunningly reverses the roles so Victor would chase after him. The Creature knows Victor does not want anything to do with him, but by ruining Victor’s other relationships he manages to trap Victor in focusing on him. At some point in a toxic relationship, someone breaks. Victor, no longer able to keep up with the Creature, dies. The creature feels unimaginable grief over Victor’s death and explains his intentions to Robert Walton: “For whilst I destroyed his hopes; I did not satisfy my own desires. . . . They were for every ardent and craving; still I desired love and fellowship” (160). The Creature leads Victor to his death unintentionally. The Creature admits that his doings are to “satisfy his own desires” which are to become loved and accepted through Victor’s fellowship or attention. From the Creature’s point of view we see that he orchestrates such a relationship to meet his needs for belonging, so great are they that he cannot fully perceive the effects his needs may have on Victor.
Shelley’s novel explores the different perspectives of a complicated relationship. Although Shelley provides reasoning why the relationship may be beneficial for the Creature, I am left wondering whether the relationship is actually toxic for him as well. The Creature may have yearned for a relationship with another individual so much that it imprisons him: he becomes chained to pursuing love from someone who will not love him back. Considering that negative relationships are very frequent today, I wish for people in a relationship to consider both their own emotional health and that of the other individual. I also wish for people to recognize that we are all broken and lacking in some area. Relationships can be worked out in a healthy way for everybody when we do not run from or chase each other; when we do not make the same mistakes Victor and the Creature do.