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Child Neglect And Maltreatment In Frankenstein By Mary Shelley

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How parental emotional abuse and neglect affect the cognitive growth and psychology of a child and whether neglect is the root of The Creature's actions. The Creature in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is a very obviously flawed character. He is prone to physical altercations, stalking, and murder, as the plot very obviously follows. But how did The Creature become this? What led a being that is suggested in The Creatures own words he had the potential of good but was taken down the wrong path In Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein the creature states “I ought to be thy Adam, but I am rather the fallen angel...” so in this essay the reader will examine, what could have caused this fall, or lapse? In this essay the answer is child neglect and maltreatment.

Dr. Martin Teicher writes in the book Childhood Neglect Is Associated with Reduced Corpus Callosum Area about what defines child neglect. Child neglect is the most common form of child maltreatment and Howard Dubowitz claims knowledge that it has many variations But is by most experts defined noeicher, Martint by rigid treatment factors but by the results in the child’s psychology. There are many different outcomes of child neglect but the most prevalent prevalent symptoms of child neglect come out through self-isolation, reduced cerebral cortex and cognitive functions. “The validity of the neglect measures was evaluated by examining their relationships with children's functioning at age 8”.

The reader may be wondering how this could play into The Creatures actions, not to give an excuse, but an explanation of his actions as he was a victim of Child Neglect. The Creature shows many worrying tendencies that could very easily be tied back to the neglect since “creation” he faced. In one section he states “Beware; for I am fearless, and therefore powerful.” His lack of fear, in his words, is very telling. Apathy is a trait very commonly found in victims of child abuse The Child Welfare Information Group states that a victim of neglect “Is overly compliant, passive, or withdrawn” showing less emotion or in extreme cases repressing fear all together. The Creature also lashes out in response to his lack of human connection via paternal figure, which could translate to feelings of worthlessness, being unlovable. “If I cannot inspire love, I will cause fear!”. Which, can be easily tied to his history of being maltreated. Not only this but his reduced language skills, his lack of motor control (unaware of his strength in the murder of William) could be proof that like many victims of neglect, his brain is being physically shaped by his experience with abuse. “Our results demonstrate a clear effect of timing of environmental enrichment on the brain electrical activity of children who experienced severe psychosocial neglect as infants and toddlers.” (Glaser). As the reader may infer these patterns are hard pressed to be coincidences.

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But how did Dr. Frankenstein’s actions lead to the victimhood of The Creature? At no point after his creation came to life did Victor treat him as human, let alone a son. He did not even share peaceful moments together in fact, he actively avoided The Creature in disgust “Сatching and fearing each sound as if it were to announce the approach of the demoniacal corpse to which I had so miserably given life'. Where The Creature longed for Victor to be a father figure, Victor saw The Creature as his own Beelzebub, a personal downfall, a heinous curse. It is no wonder then that Victor abandons his protege constantly avoiding him, until he pursues him only for vengeance. Unlike many abusers, Victor is not a reflective abuser, his actions are not influenced by abuse/maltreatment that he experienced growing up. Victor in fact reflects on his childhood with great nostalgia. This is a dark parallel to The Creatures birth and “childhood” in which he was abandoned at birth and then chased his father across the country, only able to capture his attention through acts of violence. In one experience, was supportive and well adjusted familial bonds and then in the other is neglect and disgust.

Reflecting on the book and relationships in it one may not be too extremely surprised by The Creatures actions. Though they are unacceptable reactions someone created into such a toxic strenuous emotional life, would be expected to have more violent tendencies especially after their “father” only responds/acknowledges their existence when these atrocities are committed. Obviously the addressing of the actions were not intended to stoke the fire, but that seems to be the result. In fact according to Les Picker victims of child maltreatment are so much more likely to go on to commit crimes that randomized nursing visits starting in infancy to check in on parents could reduce crime by 50% in estimated studies.

In conclusion all of the effects of neglect and maltreatment have led The Creature to become what he is known for today. Becoming a monster, but without the massive emotional disruption and physical shaping of his brain via neglect, he may never have become the feared being we know so well. Between his physical traits that would ostracize him from society and his environment of isolationism, he lashed out, seeked violence, and became apathetic. Without the neglect he experienced he may have been unrecognizable but because of Victor’s reaction to his protege that remains speculation.

Works Cited:

  1. Dubowitz, Howard. 'Defining child neglect based on child protective services data☆.' science direct, vol. 29, no. 5, May 2005,
  2. Glaser, Danya. 'Child Abuse and Neglect and the Brain.' Cambridge Journal, vol. 41, no. 1. google scholar, Accessed 20 Feb. 2019.
  3. Paanzer, A. 'The neuroendocrinological sequelae of stress during brain development: the impact of child abuse and neglect.' African Journal of Psychiatry, vol. 11, no. 1, 2001, Accessed 22 Jan. 2019.
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Child Neglect And Maltreatment In Frankenstein By Mary Shelley. (2021, July 21). Edubirdie. Retrieved December 6, 2023, from
“Child Neglect And Maltreatment In Frankenstein By Mary Shelley.” Edubirdie, 21 Jul. 2021,
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