With the emphasis on Mary Shelleys Frankenstein and with wider reference to The Picture of Dorian Gray, explore the concept of monstrosity in both novels.

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With the emphasis on Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and with wider reference to The Picture of Dorian Gray, explore the concept of monstrosity in both novels. In your answer make reference to critical opinions and the contexts in which Shelley and Wilde were writing.

Often the idea of being a monster comprises two categories – firstly physical monstrosity, which is typically defined as being large, ugly, deformed and frightening (in Dorian Gray – “the things of bestial shape and with hideous voices.”). The second category concerns being a monster internally – being ‘inhumanly or outrageously evil or wrong’. Both Shelley and Wilde explore the theme of monstrosity and its meaning in their protagonists, and the journey to monstrosity itself.

It can be argued that a monster is less of a fixed concept but something that society creates and which changes through time. Shelley explores this notion in Frankenstein.  The creature begins benevolent, although already deformed. He becomes monstrous and violent as a result of the way he is treated. So, is the creature already a monster at the start, or is external evil needed to complete the picture? Dorian, although human, is a monster ‘created’ by Lord Henry, and even the painting itself, if it is considered to be the monster, is ‘created’ by the artist, Basil.

In Wilde’s Dorian Gray, the protagonist is constantly and arrestingly beautiful. Even when his reputation is stained with rumours of scandal and sex, society continues to accept him because he is so beautiful. If a monster is defined as something that is rejected by Victorian society, then in this case, despite his pure evil, Dorian is not a monster, and therefore monstrosity is based on appearance alone. This would indicate that Frankenstein’s creature is what Wilde’s contemporaries considered monstrous. The Creature has an understanding of what causes him to be perceived as a monster – “I have good dispositions; my life has been hitherto harmless and in some degree beneficial; but a fatal prejudice clouds their eyes, and where they ought to see a feeling and kind friend, they behold only a detestable monster.” Dorian understands why he is hated by James Vane, but instead of experiencing genuine remorse for his actions at that time, he fears for his safety. He even uses his beauty to ‘prove’ he is not the monster Sibyl’s brother thinks he is.

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Shelley includes elaborate descriptions of the Creature, to explain why he is rejected by society. When the creature is created, Victor describes how he “selected his features as beautiful. Beautiful!” This shows that when the Creature turned out to be ugly, Victor saw it as a failure. His disillusioned tone implies that beauty is natural and desirable. He refers to the Creature as a “demoniacal corpse” – Victor views the Creature as the walking dead – which is the antithesis of all things natural. He reiterates this referring to him as “my own vampire”, which is ironic: he acknowledges his ...

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