Victor Frankenstein is the OG Fuckboy

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley is the first book I read in full as a college student. My writing class, which was an interdisciplinary course, intended to think about science and writing together. That being said, I blasted through the book’s three volumes in under two weeks.

My mind was blown by the book, which probably has something to do with my fabulous professor and well-spoken classmates. But I was also so intellectually refreshed by my first collegiate reading experience because I was given the freedom to think about the book in any way I wanted. Instead of having a constant array of annoying “short answer” questions on the chapters to make sure I read them, we were simply expected to have thoroughly annotated and contemplated Shelley’s work. And contemplate, I did. I thought deeply about the main character, Victor Frankenstein, who creates a human being from scratch, known as the unnamed “creature.”

But in my first reading of this classic, my focus shifted to Victor Frankenstein, not his creation. That’s because I found a lot of contemporary resonance in the behavior and mindset of Frankenstein. He came off to me as the typical arrogant STEM guy with a low EQ.

Victor has natural rude fuckboy tendencies from an early age. His natural inclination toward science leads him to put down people who don’t, namely his adopted sister / cousin / future wife Elizabeth (don’t get me started). He writes about her, “While my companion contemplated with a serious and satisfied spirit the magnificent appearances of things, I delighted in investigating their causes.” Wow Victor, you’re so smart!

Then, when he reads fake science books, his dad calls it “sad trash” (burn) and says Victor should stop reading them. Victor, in his fuckboy arrogance, doesn’t listen, and wastes his adolescence thinking he’s going to be the next Isaac Newton when he was reading work by the alchemist Agrippa, a Roman consul whose ideas were over 1,800-years-old and total “sad trash.”

Victor’s narcissism and insistence on doing things his way obviously does not end well. Not wanting to include any spoilers, I’ll just say that the creature Frankenstein thoughtlessly creates doesn’t exactly turn out to be his best friend. This thoughtless and ethic-less obsession with scientific discovery sounds to me a lot like what still goes on in the science community. Birth control was tested on Puerto Rican women in the 1950s, and we have all seen what happens when big tech companies like Facebook and Google become so large and out of control that they become privacy risks for users.

People like Victor are notoriously condescending, and think they're superior to everyone because they can code or dissect a cell. They also usually think science is way harder and better than the Humanities, even though writing this third wave feminist analysis of a romantic classic published in 1818 is pretty grueling too. Really, both are necessary, and Victor and his fellow scientists could benefit quite a bit from considering how just or unjust their actions might be. 

Another contemporary (and old) issue in science is the treatment of women. The treatment and views of women in general in this book could be a whole other column, but we instantly see Victor’s tendency toward feeling like he owns women. When his mom adopts Elizabeth, she says she has a present for Victor. His response is: “And when, on the morrow, she presented Elizabeth to me as her promised gift, I, with childish seriousness, interpreted her words literally and looked upon Elizabeth as mine—mine to protect, love, and cherish.” Gross!

When he is nearing the time to marry Elizabeth, he writes that she was “thinner, and had lost much of that heavenly vivacity that had before charmed me,” even though in the next line he describes himself as “miserable and blasted.” At this point, Victor is skin and bones because he literally created a human being from scratch that is now threatening to murder his friends and family. But apparently, his wife/sister has to be in top physical shape for him!

The class I read this novel in was deeply interdisciplinary, and this approach should be taken to reading any novel or researching anything new in Biology, Biotech, Computer Science, Astronomy, and any other field.