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Comparison of Concept of Villainy in 'Frankenstein' and 'The Invisible Man'

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Villainy refers to the conduct of someone who is involved in committing disgraceful crimes. When one thinks of a villain, other synonyms come to mind: for example, sinner, criminal, and transgressor. Villains are used across literature as a plot device to help move the story along and catalyze to key events. They are meant to be a foil for the hero as they are meant to have contrasting personality traits. In ‘Frankenstein’ it is easy to conclude that the Creature is the antagonist and Victor is the protagonist on his way to hunt this villain down. Unexpectedly, however, Victor is arguably presented in the end just as much a villain as the Creature, he has made. In this way, he is similar to Griffin in ‘The Invisible Man’ as they both take ambition too far and turn it into greed and this results in them committing multiple crimes.

The presentation of villainy is continually subverted throughout each novel, through the lens of different characters. Physical appearance plays a crucial role in this image. The Creature is introduced to us through Walton’s eyes as he describes a distant creature who is of ‘gigantic stature’; this makes the Creature seem scary and confrontational from the outset. Next, we see the Creature through Victor Frankenstein’s eyes, when he is bringing the Creature to life. Shelley describes it as ‘dreary night of November’ Shelley has utilized this setting to show us the Creature in a negative light. Shelley then utilizes pathetic fallacy to convey the miserable setting again, the way that ‘the rain pattered dismally’ foreshadows the destruction and disconsolate events that are going to occur. When the Creature finally comes to life, Victor describes the creature to have ‘yellow skin’ and ‘straight black lips’, this ugly description constructs a picture of the Creature to look like a monster. This depiction of the Creature horrifies both the reader and Frankenstein so much so that Victor flees, his hostile reaction establishes his own creation as a villain, in his mind, from the outset. This view of a horrible looking monster being villainous is one that society will adopt too and therefore reject the Creature as well. In the same way, the first impressions of the Invisible Man encourage the reader to be suspicious of him. When he arrives at the inn he is shrouded in mystery as he is ‘wrapped up from head to foot’, so that no-one knows what he looks like. Unlike the Creature, the villagers think he could have been disfigured by an accident making them initially sympathetic. We see this mysterious nature again when he comments, “This room is really to be mine for my own private use”. The Invisible Man says this defensively, making it clear to see that he has a secret he doesn’t want anyone to find out. He wants to keep Mrs. Hall quiet and wants her out of his room. His negative reputation grows when he gets increasingly angry and insulting with the ‘simply humbugging’ of the carpenter that takes too long to fix the clock. This gives the impression that he is impatient, offensive, and rude. The idea of him having a secret is reinforced with the ‘extra payment’ he gives to the landlady of the inn when he causes any trouble. He snaps at her to put it down in the bill; he is paying her more money than necessary so that she leaves him alone and does not ask too many questions.

Identity is a crucial part of our psychological make up, yet this is a contested and complex issue in both novels. The Creature in ‘Frankenstein’ was abandoned at birth so therefore had to learn his own identity; as he explores the world without his creator, it is hard to know what to identify with. The Creature questions his identity, asking, “Who was I? What was I?”. The use of the word ‘what’ stands out as this is a hint to him knowing that he isn’t like other humans. Victor describes his appearance thus: “his countenance expressed the utmost of malice and treachery”. He is suggesting that the Creature’s terrifying appearance is evidence of his evil character, the Creature learns that people are terrified of his face and will judge him before he even speaks. The Creature is never given a name in this novel, he is simply referred to as ‘the monster’, ‘the daemon’, ‘the fiend’, and ‘the wretch’, these all have negative connotations so this could provoke the audience to feel sympathy for the Creature as he cannot be identified positively or with love. However, this sympathy could be short-lived as with hardly anyone knowing that this creature exists, he uses this to his advantage and commits crimes knowing he can’t be persecuted for it, showing his villainous side. In contrast, the identity of the Invisible Man is concealed. Wells opens his novel with “The stranger came early in February, one wintry day”. Wells utilizes the opening lines as he goes into details about the setting and the weather but fails to mention who this man is, or what his name is in order to create an air of mystery about him. We will not know the Invisible Man's name until chapter 7. Griffin tells Dr. Kemp, “I’m all here: head, hands, legs, and all the rest of it, but it happens I'm invisible”. This line has been utilized, as a key part of this novel is that no one can see Griffin until the ends and just like the monster, he uses his hidden identity to commit crimes as he knows he will escape detection. This links to the Jack the Ripper case which dominated the late 1800s, his identity was never found, allowing him to get away with his crimes just like Griffin in ‘The Invisible Man’.

Victor Frankenstein and the Invisible Man are both transgressors as they push boundaries, play God and go beyond the normal scientific experimentation. The 19th century in science saw the birth of science as a profession which both of these characters are interested in pursuing. In ‘Frankenstein’ the reader sees that Victor has always had a thirst for knowledge. As he tells Walton, “It was the secrets of heaven and earth that I desired to learn”. The verb ‘desire’ is utilized to put emphasis on his obsession of science and wanting to learn everything about anything. Victor feels like he is doing the right thing by creating new life that he gets so caught up he feels invincible. “A new species would bless me as its creator and source; many happy and excellent natures would owe their being to me”. This is what he hoped would be the outcome from his experiments. The verb ‘bless’ highlights how he wanted to be respected and adored, but he did not reflect on the responsibilities and duties that would come with it. This shows Victor’s self-interest and lack of regard for others. Victor has played God; he has created a being but instead of being proud he is horrified and abandons his creature. Likewise, in ‘The Invisible Man’ Griffin is also fueled by scientific theories that no man has solved. Griffin just like Victor becomes obsessed with a scientific experiment which plays God. He works out how to create invisibility, he sees a magnificent vision of all that invisibility might mean to a man: the mystery, the power, the freedom. Wells has utilized the rule of three to show the reader how excited Griffin is when this experiment of his work. If he achieved this, he would arguably be one of the most powerful men in the world with no one to stop him. Paul A. Cantor states that Griffin was “driven to his experiments by a fierce ambition in the first place, Griffin grows increasingly megalomaniacal once he becomes invisible. He thus takes his place in a line of literary portrayals of mad scientists that stretches back to Mary Shelley's Victor Frankenstein”. Griffins was hard worker and he wasn’t going to stop until he achieved his scientific dreams, however he took his gift too far and it resulted in his downfall.

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Throughout both novels we see Victor, the Creature and Griffin isolated either by choice or by society. In ‘Frankenstein’ Victor isolates himself in order to experiment with science, which has consequences. Victor believes himself ‘totally unfitted for the company of strangers’, which finally suggests an admission of wrongdoing and abuse of power. Victor is also isolated by grief as the only way he can come to terms with the deaths of William and Justine is to remove himself from the family sphere. He admits that “Solitude was my only consolation: deep, dark, deathlike solitude”, which also shows he cannot face his responsibilities. Shelley utilizes the rule of three and alliteration here by conveying that Victor is on the edge of despair: he is in an abyss and doesn’t see a way out. In ‘Frankenstein’, the Creature is also isolated through no choice of his own. This Creature was not born evil, but as a result of the alienation he feels from society he begins to feel hate, anger and a desire for revenge. The Creature cries out to Victor, “Was I, then, a monster, a blot upon the earth, from which all men fled and whom all men disowned?”. This rhetorical question shows how the monster reflects on his deformities and differences from man. He knows he is alienated from society for his appearance. This evokes sympathy from the reader for this helpless being and we start to see how Victor’s lack of responsibility is the real problem. The Creature also uses religious reference to convey his sense of isolation from his fellow men “Satan had his companions, fellow-devils, to admire and encourage him; but I am solitary and abhorred I was dependent on none and related to none”. Even the epitome of evil has friends and isn’t lonely, but the monster’s loneliness is particularly acute because he knows he will be rejected anytime he tries to reach out to anyone, since his size and appearance make him terrifying to human beings. Similarly, in ‘The Invisible Man’ Griffin first decides to isolate himself at the inn to try and work on reversing his experiment in order to re-enter society. After causing havoc in the village he hides with Dr. Kemp, where he admits to him, “I made a mistake in carrying this thing through alone”. One may argue that this shows that he regrets his choices that have led him up to this point - he would not have committed any crimes if he had someone to help him. It could also be argued that this suggests he feels it would have been easier to commit these crimes and get away with them, with a partner. His inability to reflect on the disastrous consequences of his decisions or acknowledge blame, points towards his villainy. This line is then juxtaposed with “Alone - it is wonderful how little a man can do alone! To rob a little, to hurt a little”. The adjective ‘wonderful’ shows us he thinks it is a positive thing to be alone and therefore conceal his crimes. The word a ‘little’ shows his careless, irresponsible side as he dismisses his crimes even though they hurt other people. Furthermore, Griffin declares “I was alone. In all my great moments I have been alone”. He has undertaken this whole journey alone, conducted his scientific experiments alone, his achievements alone and committed all his crimes alone. No one can understand him or relate to what he is going through, that could be the worst form of isolation: surrounded by people but always alone.

The Creature, the Invisible Man, and Victor have all committed acts punishable by law, therefore in the eyes of many they are perceived as villains. Each man had different motives but what joins them together is the fact that every crime has a victim. In ‘Frankenstein’ many of these victims suffer from injustice. One of the many victims is Justine, who receives the fate of a criminal due to a miscarriage of justice as she was executed for the Creature’s crimes. Victor tells Walton that these events were a “wretched mockery of justice”, the powerful emotive words are utilized to convey his affliction on the matter. Another person to die at the hands of the Creature is William (Victor’s brother). Victor beautifully describes his brother: “sweet laughing blue eyes, dark eyelashes, and curling hair”. This description shows William as a happy young boy full of life which would make the reader dislike the Creature as he has taken that away, and envision how scared this small boy would have been seeing the huge monster. Victor comments on the situation as follows: “Thus, spoke my prophetic soul, as torn by remorse, horror, and despair, I beheld those I loved spend vain sorrow upon the graves of William and Justine, the first hapless victims to my unhallowed arts”. Victor feels responsible for the first time and this is show in the rule of three that Shelley has used, he created this killing machine for his own selfish needs and now the consequences have resulted in grave despair. Initially the reader can view the Creature as the villain, but one must also consider that Victor created him and then abandoned him so is therefore responsible for this creature's actions. There are likewise victims in 'The Invisible Man' due to Griffin's crimes, however in this case the victims receive some justice at the end of the novel. The main victims of this novel are the villagers as they deal with his constant torment. Griffin is running out of money to stay at the inn so he will have to steal it. His first crime was a burglary at the Vicarage: we learn he has stolen money as Mrs. Bunting exclaims to her husband that “the money gone”. This shows his villainous side as he gives no regard to who he steals from or if they need the money more, he only cares for himself. Another victim is Thomas Marvel who Griffin befriends, however, he was just “using that tramp as a money box and luggage carrier”. The derogatory term ‘tramp’ shows he looks down on this man and is just using him to benefit himself. He needs him though and this is shown when Marvel tries to leave, he threatens him “I shall twist your wrist again”, Griffin doesn't mind using the threat of physical violence to get what he wants showing to the reader he is a ruthless villain. In the last chapter of ‘The Invisible Man’ Griffin death is described as on a shabby bed in a tawdry, ill-lighted bedroom, ended the strange experiment of the Invisible man. The village band together to beat up Griffin as a form of revenge for the chaos he has created in Iping.

This leads us to question if society has shaped these men to commit crimes or if they are inherently evil. In the Victorian era, people with physical disabilities and deformities would be gawked at and mocked in freak shows and this is the same society that is disgusted by the Creature appearance resulting in him being rejected by society. To further the point of the Creature being ostracized when he tries to enter society Jane Thomas argues that in ‘Frankenstein’, “The Creature is born with more feminine instincts, he wants to look after the DeLacey family, he wants to be good, but it is society that makes him bad, the reactions he receives from other people turn him evil”. The Creature befriends DeLacey who was blind as he wants to help him, however when the rest of the family returns, they react badly and Felix ‘dashed’ him to the ground and struck him violently with a stick. This shows how quickly society will judge someone on their countenance alone, the blind man was willing to take him in and listen to what he needed but the others saw his hideous face and assumed the worst. In retaliation the Creature declared everlasting war against the species: if they were going to expect him to be evil, that’s what he would do. So, it is clear society imposes and constructs a monstrous identity for the Creature and it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy in some sense. By contrast, in ‘The Invisible Man’, the village at first welcomes Griffin. When he first arrives at the inn, he follows Mrs. Hall into the parlor “And with that much introduction, that and a couple of sovereigns flung upon the table, he took up his quarters in the inn”. Even though the arrival of him was mysterious, he was dressed head to toe in heavy clothes with his body wrapped in bandages, he wasn’t judged and was given a room straight away. It is not until petty crimes occur like burglaries that the villagers start to become suspicious of Griffin. Therefore, unlike the monster these crimes aren’t an act of revenge. This is clear as he was already committing crimes when he was younger. We find out that he stole money from his father to fund his research and that his father later committed suicide. He admits to Kemp that he did not feel a bit sorry for my father. He seemed to me to be the victim of his own foolish sentimentality. This highlights to the reader that he does not have any remorse for his actions, showing a more sinister side to him that he could have always possessed.

Overall, these three characters are different but what unifies them is obsession, resulting in their downfall. Griffin’s experiment is the root of his villainy, whereas the Creature was a victim of Frankenstein’s hubris. Society projects the label of villainy on the creature, however his obsession to be accepted caused pain and the ensuing rejection leads to revenge. It could be argued that Victor is the true villain as his obsession to play God resulted in displacing blame upon the Creature when his scientific dreams failed to live up to his expectations.

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Comparison of Concept of Villainy in ‘Frankenstein’ and ‘The Invisible Man’. (2022, December 15). Edubirdie. Retrieved March 1, 2024, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/comparison-of-concept-of-villainy-in-frankenstein-and-the-invisible-man/
“Comparison of Concept of Villainy in ‘Frankenstein’ and ‘The Invisible Man’.” Edubirdie, 15 Dec. 2022, edubirdie.com/examples/comparison-of-concept-of-villainy-in-frankenstein-and-the-invisible-man/
Comparison of Concept of Villainy in ‘Frankenstein’ and ‘The Invisible Man’. [online]. Available at: <https://edubirdie.com/examples/comparison-of-concept-of-villainy-in-frankenstein-and-the-invisible-man/> [Accessed 1 Mar. 2024].
Comparison of Concept of Villainy in ‘Frankenstein’ and ‘The Invisible Man’ [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Dec 15 [cited 2024 Mar 1]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/comparison-of-concept-of-villainy-in-frankenstein-and-the-invisible-man/
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