“I, the miserable and the abandoned, am an abortion, to be spurned at, and kicked, and trampled on. ” In Walton’s final letter to his sister, he recounts these words that the monster speaks to him over Victor’s dead body. This eruption of angry self-pity as the monster questions the injustice of how he has been treated, compellingly captures his inner life and psychology. Giving Walton and the reader a glimpse into the suffering that has motivated his crimes. This line also evokes the monster’s final thoughts of being unwanted life, a creation abandoned and shunned by his creator.
Lawrence Kohlberg’s work in psychology helps explain the monster’s mental nature through his theory of stages of moral development. Kohlberg’s theory gives a detailed sketch of the monster’s development into a complex human being ultimately revealing the foundation of his final thoughts. Kohlberg’s theory of moral development is constructed of six complex stages that occur throughout ones life. The theory holds that moral reasoning, the basis for ethical behavior, has six identifiable developmental stages, each more adequate at responding to moral dilemmas than its predecessor.
Kohlberg’s six stages can be more generally grouped into three levels of two stages each: pre-conventional, conventional and post-conventional. Kohlberg’s research led him to believe that it is extremely rare to regress backward in stages, which cannot be skipped because each provides a new and necessary perspective, more comprehensive and unique than its predecessors but incorporated with them. The pre-conventional level of moral reasoning requires persons at this level to judge the morality of an action by its direct consequences.
The pre-conventional level consists of the first and second stages of moral development. The conventional level of moral reasoning specifies those who reason through judging the morality of actions by comparing them to society’s views and expectations. The conventional level consists of the third and fourth stages of moral development. The post-conventional level, also known as the principled level, consists of stages five and six of moral development. In this level there is a growing realization that individuals are separate entities from society, and that they may disobey rules inconsistent with their own principles.
These stages of development reveal the progression of the monster’s mental maturity. Kohlberg’s first stage of moral development is made evident throughout the creature’s experiences in the book. Stage one is obedience and punishment driven, individuals focus on the direct consequences of their actions on themselves. Frankenstein’s monster exhibits this type of reasoning when he encounters a fire during his travel. Using stage one reasoning he deducts that if he touches the fire he will be burned so logically, he shouldn’t touch the fire because the direct consequence of such an action is pain.
Another example is when the monster is in search of food and enters a hut. His presence causes an old man inside to shriek and run away in fear. The monster proceeds to a village, where more people flee at the sight of him. As a result of these incidents, he resolves to stay away from humans realizing that his presence scares them. As the story progresses so to does the monster in Kohlberg’s stages of moral development. The second stage of moral development is revealed through the monster’s selfish actions.
Stage two specifies on self-interest, in which right behavior is defined by whatever is in the individual’s best interest. This type of reasoning becomes evident within the monster when he kills William and frames Justine. The monster is only concerned of what will happen to him resulting in the death of an innocent, Justine. His selfishness also claims the life of Elizabeth as the monster is only concerned with getting revenge on Frankenstein. Lastly, when the monster asks Frankenstein to create a mate for him, he is completely oblivious to the horror and guilt he causes Frankenstein to suffer at his cost.
Stage three reasoning is soon understood by the monster through his constant observation of a dishearten family. Through observation, the beast is able to develop stage three reasoning and ascension into the conventional level. In stage three individuals attempt to live up to the expectations of society. Stage three reasoning may judge the morality of an action by evaluating its consequences in terms of respect and gratitude. By observing Felix, Agatha, and Safie the monster begins to understand happiness, love, and devotion.
Realizing at this moment that Victor abandoned him because he didn’t love or care for him. Felix and Safie’s relationship established the monsters unyielding desire for a mate to quell his loneliness. Attempting to become part of this society, the monster learns to speak and read but is shocked by his appearance when he catches his reflection in a pool of water as compared to the cottagers. Observing this small society gives the monster his understanding of how different he was from the rest of the world and his immense desire to become part of it.
By mastering stage three reasoning the monster is able to broader his view on society and enter stage four reasoning. In stage four, the individual is authority and social order obedience driven. Moral reasoning in stage four thus requires one to transcend individual needs for society. The monster exhibits this level of reasoning when he understands that his presence causes chaos amongst society. Whether it was his encounter with the old man in the hut, the villagers, the cottagers, and Frankenstein it became clear that he must be shunned from the world for the sake of ensuring peace.
This level of reasoning ultimately led to the monsters dream of running away with his bride to the South American jungles where they would never be found and finally live in peace. Ironically this level of reasoning leads the monster to realize that he is utterly alone in the world and will be forever miserable without a bride or entrance into society. Understanding the hopelessness of being assimilated with society and becoming truly alone in the world with Frankenstein’s death, the monster ventures into the artic to claim his own life.
Although the monster wished nothing more then to become part of society, his inability to integrate with it gives rise to level five and six reasoning. In level five and six reasoning the world is viewed as holding different opinions, rights and values. As an inevitable result all members of society are also separate entities with unique ideals, giving them the right to rebel against all principals that do not follow theirs. The monster gains such a high level of reasoning through his constant eavesdropping on the cottagers.
When he hears the story of how Felix and Safie met and how Safie ran away from not only Turkey but also her father to be with Felix, the monster begins to think on the post-conventional level. Felix’s willingness to risk everything for the sake of someone who has been unjustly punished and the one he loves along with Safie abandoning her life for Felix. This level of reasoning gives the monster the belief that because Frankenstein is responsible for his never-ending unhappiness by destroying his bride and abandoning him, he has the right to punish Frankenstein by any means necessary.
Ultimately resulting in the deaths of Henry and Elizabeth. Lawrence Kohlberg’s stages of moral development enable an understanding of the monsters mentality through an understanding of the foundation of his reasoning. Each stage sets the basis for a unique array of actions taken by the monster, giving in-depth analysis on his development. Through the monster’s experiences he gradually progressed through all the stages, evolving into a highly complex human being. Although Frankenstein’s creature only lived for a few years he advanced to stages of reasoning that most human beings never achieve in a lifetime.